God at Work
It is always thrilling to see how God transforms his people. In 1782, John Wesley wrote about difficult circumstances of his hometown Epworth. At that time the industrial revolution was under way. In his town four factories for spinning and weaving had been set up. Within these factories many people - young men and women, even boys and girls – were employed. Wesley describes their manner in this way: “The whole conversation of these was profane and loose to the last degree.” But Wesley started a prayer meeting, and a few of these workers stumbled into one of his prayer meetings, and they were suddenly cut to the heart. They immediately went out to gather their friends and bring them to the prayer meeting. You can guess what happened next. Wesley wrote: “The whole scene was changed. In three of the factories, no more lewdness or profaneness was found, for God had put a new song in their mouth, and blasphemies were turned to praise. Those three I visited today, and I found religion had taken deep root in them. No trifling word was heard among them, and they watch over each other in love. I found it exceedingly good to be there, and we rejoiced together in the God of our salvation.”
Our God is the same in 1782 and in 2016 today and forever. God is always totally himself. He still visits and changes his people today. Other powers change our feelings and emotions temporarily. When we read books or meet people, that may change us. But it doesn’t last long. However, God changes our very nature permanently. When we are touched by God’s grace and respond to it, we are not the same forever. This month we study about Joseph and his life. So far we have explored how God changed Joseph in different aspects of his life each week. In the first week we explored how God turned Joseph’s scars into stars (“Man of Sorrows”). In the second week how God trained and prepared Joseph to live in the presence of God all the time (“Man of Integrity”). Today we will explore how God’s grace changes Joseph’s very nature from inside out.
Grace, Grace, God’s Grace
When you use the word grace, what does it mean to you? How do you define the word grace? Basically, it simply means a free gift from God. It’s an unmerited favor of God. It is not something that we earn, but something that God gives to us out of love. It is not because we deserve it, but because God is gracious. Grace is the art of loving someone at their least lovable moments. God first loved us anyway. God loved us at our least lovable moments. While we were still sinners, God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us (Rom 5:8). When we experience God’s grace personally, we are cut to the heart. God’s grace just penetrates our hearts through Jesus Christ. Joseph experienced this. He experienced God’s grace in the very midst of adversity. When every available resource was gone (from his family, his master Potiphar, the chief jailer, to the chief cupbearer), Joseph found God’s favor. When he was the most vulnerable and the least lovable, Joseph experienced God’s grace. In the dark and horrible dungeon Joseph experienced the magnificent and indescribable love of God. And his very nature changed permanently. Not only did Joseph become a better person, but he became a new creation.
Grace and Humility
When we experience God’s grace, we are changed. There are several infallible signs of true transformation. We can find those signs in Joseph’s life. The first sign is “humility.” When Joseph stood before Pharaoh, Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.” Joseph said, “I cannot do it, but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.” So Pharaoh told Joseph his dreams. Then Joseph said to the king, “Your dreams are one and the same. God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do” (25). And he continued, “The reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon” (32). Joseph made reference to God again and again. God… God… God… God! As he was going through a 13-year dark tunnel, he clearly saw two things: his smallness and God’s greatness. At first, Joseph was so discouraged by his powerlessness. There was nothing he could do. In the dungeon he felt like he was forgotten by the world. But there he found Almighty God who was with him always. There he experienced God’s unmerited favor. There Joseph was transformed and became a humble man of God.
Grace and Gratitude
The second sign of true transformation in Christ is “gratitude.” When we are touched by God’s grace, we give thanks to God with a grateful heart. The Greek word for thanks is built on the word for grace: Charis becomes eucharistian. Grace and gratitude always go together. Joseph always wanted to remember God’s grace and express his gratitude to God. So he named his first child Manasseh, which means “God made me forget.” Every time he called his son’s name, he remembered God’s grace. “Yes, God made me forget all the pain and hurt I experienced. I am grateful.” When he had a second child, he named him Ephraim, which means, “God made me fruitful.” Again each time he called his second son’s name, he remembered God’s favor. “God made me fruitful though I didn’t deserve it. I am grateful.” Grace and gratitude go together.
In his book You’ll Get Through This, Max Lucado shares his story with us. Once he was about to check in for a flight. At that time because of a snowstorm flights were delayed and the airport was in turmoil. He arrived to a gate just in time. The attendant said to him, “Sir, I’m afraid there are no more seats in coach.” So Lucado was disappointed. But then the attendant said, “We are going to have to bump you up to first class. Do you mind if we do that?” Lucado was so glad. He enjoyed the wide seat with the extra legroom, good service, and good food. He was so thankful. But not every passenger was as grateful as he was. The person across the aisle from him was angry because he had only one pillow. That person kept complaining about insufficient service. He said, “I paid extra to fly first class. I deserve to have better service!” One passenger grumbled; the other was grateful. What’s the difference? The crank paid his first class seat. Lucado’s seat was a gift. On which side of the aisle do you find yourself?
Grace and Sacrifice
The third sign of true transformation we find in Joseph’s life is “sacrifice.” Joseph willingly sacrificed the right to revenge. Instead, he chose to take care of his brothers and their family members. He said to their brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children” (Gen 50:18-19). Joseph was able to give up the right because God’s grace was far greater than the sacrifices he had to make.
When we are touched by God’s grace in Jesus Christ, we give up anything for the sake of the gospel. Hudson Taylor, who endured great hardships in his lifelong mission work in
said when he was old, "I never made a sacrifice." What he meant was
that because God’s grace was so great, no sacrifice could be too great for him
to make for the gospel of Christ. While he was studying medicine, he chose to
live among the poor in the slums of China to prepare
himself for mission work in London .
Every day he had to walk a full four miles each way to get to the hospital. The
woman China loved refused to marry him unless he gave up his dream of serving
in Taylor . China gave up this relationship with tears. He endured many hardships including
arrests, insults, slander, and poverty. But he willingly gave up anything for
the sake of the gospel as if there were no sacrifice at all. Taylor
One time Rick Warren interviewed Bill Bright, Campus Crusade for Christ (C.C.C.) founder.
asked, “What is the secret of your effective ministry?” Bright
said, “When I was in seminary, I was just overwhelmed with God’s love for me.
While I was yet in my sins, Christ died for me!” One Sunday afternoon God led
my wife and me to sign a written contract to become his slave… And I must tell
you it’s the most liberating thing that’s ever happened to me.”
My prayer is that the same grace of God may touch our hearts and transform us,
so that we may become more like Christ – humble, grateful, and self-sacrificial
– for the sake of the gospel. “And Christ died for us all, that we
should no longer live for ourselves but for him who died for us
and was raised again” (2Co ). Amen. Warren
 Percy Livingstone Parker, ed., The Journal of John Wesley (Chicago: Moody Press, 1974), 378.
 “Humility,” Evangelical Catholic Apologetics, http://www.biblicalcatholic.com/apologetics/s20.htm
 Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections (Barbour Publishing, 2013), 126.