KEEP DOING WHAT’S RIGHT
by Eric Elder
When you’re going through tough times, it’s easy to let your guard down and justify doing all kinds of sinful things. If you need encouragement to keep doing what’s right, even in the midst of all the wrong that may be going on in your life, I’d encourage you read this message (or listen to the audio version that I shared with a group a few weeks ago). My message is based in part on a book by Max Lucado called, You’ll Get Through This, which a friend recommended to me as I went through some of my own tough times. You can find out more about the book at the end of today’s message.
Here’s a link to the audio version of my message…
And here’s the transcript…
I’d just like to share with you tonight a message from Genesis and talk to you about how to make it through. We’re going through this book this semester at Care Groups You’ll Get Through This by Max Lucado and talking about different segments about how to get through the things that you’re going through.
Tonight the topic is how to not get messed up, how to not blow it, while you’re trying to walk through difficult things. When difficult things happen to you, whether it’s through a death or a divorce or all kinds of issues that come against you, how do you keep on the straight and narrow? How do you keep from making things worse, from going from the frying pan into the fire?
And so tonight I just want to encourage you in this that you really can run this race well, and I want to help you navigate, as the Word of God has helped me navigate, through some of these treacherous waters. Let’s pray.
Thank You, Lord, for walking with us through these things. Lord, encourage us again tonight that we will get through this, and that You are with us as we go through it. Help us, Lord, not to make a bigger mess of the mess we’re in. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
We’re going to look at Genesis, chapter 39, looking at the story of Joseph. Joseph, if you know his story, he was sold by his brothers as a slave into Egypt and that’s not ever a good thing to happen. It’s never a nice thing to have your brothers sell you as a slave as a young man and to tell your father that you’d been killed and you were dead and break his heart in the process.
And then you get to Egypt and you have to live your life as a slave, with no freedom to do anything you want to do. You are at the mercy of whoever your master is. If anyone had a right to go out and party it up, live it up, be rebellious, Joseph did. He was “done wrong,” there’s no doubt about it.
But here’s what happens when he’s down in Egypt. He was put in charge of a household, Potiphar’s house. So he was a slave, but he was in charge of the whole household for Potiphar.
In chapter 39 of Genesis, starting in verse 6, it says:
Joseph was a strikingly handsome man. As time went on, his master’s wife became infatuated with Joseph and one day said, “Sleep with me.”
He wouldn’t do it. He said to his master’s wife, “Look, with me here, my master doesn’t give a second thought to anything that goes on here–he’s put me in charge of everything he owns. He treats me as an equal. The only thing he hasn’t turned over to me is you. You’re his wife, after all! How could I violate his trust and sin against God?”
She pestered him day after day after day, but he stood his ground. He refused to go to bed with her.
On one of these days he came to the house to do his work and none of the household servants happened to be there. She grabbed him by his cloak, saying, “Sleep with me!” (Genesis 39:6-12, MSG).
This is relentless. I’m just going to interject here. She’s saying, “Sleep with me! Sleep with me!” day after day after day. And when you’ve been through what Joseph has been through, and when you’re now in charge of all these other slaves and all the worries and all the duties that he had to do, it can start to wear you down. Let’s see what he did.
She grabbed him by his cloak, saying, “Sleep with me!” He left his coat in her hand and ran out of the house. When she realized that he had left his coat in her hand and run outside, she called to her house servants: “Look–this Hebrew shows up and before you know it he’s trying to seduce us. He tried to make love to me but I yelled as loud as I could. With all my yelling and screaming, he left his coat beside me here and ran outside.”
She kept his coat right there until his master came home. She told him the same story. She said, “The Hebrew slave, the one you brought to us, came after me and tried to use me for his plaything. When I yelled and screamed, he left his coat with me and ran outside.” When his master heard his wife’s story, telling him, “These are the things your slave did to me,” he was furious. Joseph’s master took him and threw him into the jail where the king’s prisoners were locked up. (Genesis 39:12-20a).
What did Joseph do? He ran. He just got up and ran. I imagine he said, “I’m not even going to stick around and try to argue this one out. I’m not going to try to rationalize it. I can’t sin against my master, and I can’t sin against my God.” He ran.
He ended up in jail. But I can tell you it’s better to be in a prison like that, accused of something you did not do, than to be in a prison of a sinful decision that you’ve made.
God continued to walk with Joseph through the story, and you’ll see as the weeks go on how he just has to keep trying to follow God, keep trying to do what’s right. And in the end, God will honor Joseph. I don’t want to give it away if you don’t know his story, but it is worth it. It is worth it to do what’s right, and to keep doing what’s right.
Even with all the stuff that he had come against him, when he could have been very justified, he still chose to do what was right in God’s eyes.
I’ve shared with Care Groups before and if you’re new this semester, you made not have heard, but just briefly, my wife passed away and the pain of that, and losing her–there were some days where it came across my mind, “You know what, I think I’m just going to do what I want to do. I know it’s wrong. I know what the Bible says, and I don’t care. I just want to do what I want to do.”
Thankfully, God slapped me upside the head and said, “No, Eric, you don’t want to do that!” And within about two weeks, God had put me back on the straight path and said, “Don’t go there. Don’t even go there in your mind, Eric. You don’t have to. Stay on the straight and narrow. It’s worth it.”
And I’ll tell you, it’s worth it. Let me read some of the things that Max Lucado says just to make it more modern-day for you. This is from chapter 4 of You’ll Get Through This, and he’s talking about the story of Joseph:
“[Potiphar’s wife] was likely a jaw-dropper. Joseph didn’t lose his manly urges when he lost his coat of many colors. A few moments in the arms of an attractive, willing lover? Joseph could use some relief.
Didn’t he deserve some? These were lonely days. Rejected by his family, twice bought and sold like livestock, far from home, far from friends. And the stress of managing Potiphar’s household, overseeing the terraced gardens and the multitude of slaves. Mastering the peculiar protocol of official events. Joseph’s job was draining. He could have justified his choice.
So can you. You’ve been jilted and bruised, sold out and turned away. Stranded on the sandbar of bad health, bad credit, bad luck. Few friends and fewer solutions. The hours are long, and the nights are longer. Mrs. (or Mr.) Potiphar comes along with a sultry offer. She slides her room key in your direction…
Can we talk candidly for a moment? Egypt can be a cruddy place. No one disagrees with that. But Egypt can also be a petri dish for brainless decisions. Don’t make matters worse by doing something you’ll regret…
‘[Joseph] refused. He did not heed her, to lie with her or to be with her.’ When her number appeared on his cell phone, he did not answer. When she texted a question, he didn’t respond. When she entered his office, he exited. He avoided her like the poison she was…
We forget how immorality destroys the lives of people who aren’t in the bedroom. Years ago, a friend gave me this council, ‘Make a list of all the lives you would affect by your sexual immorality.’ I did. Every so often I reread it. ‘Denalyn. My three daughters. My son-in-law. My yet-to-be-born grandchildren. Every person who’s ever read one of my books or heard one of my sermons. My publishing team. My church staff.
[Joseph said,] ‘How… can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” The lesson we learn from Joseph is surprisingly simple: do what pleases God… You don’t fix a struggling marriage with an affair, a drug problem with more drugs, debt with more debt. You don’t fix stupid with stupid. You don’t get out of a mess by making another one. Do what pleases God. You will never go wrong doing what is right” (from You’ll Get Through This, by Max Lucado, pp. 37-39).
I don’t know what you’re in here with tonight, but I want to encourage you not to make a bigger mess of a mess you’re already in. God can clean up the mess. He can work on it. But He doesn’t need to clean up two and three and a whole slew of them.
I’ve shared this with many people over the years. I’ve written a book years ago called, What God Says About Sex, and it shares my testimony, and it shares just what God’s design for sex really is, and how it can be good for you.
And yet I’ve had people take copies of this book, including one young man who had a copy of this sitting on his dresser at his home. He hadn’t picked it up to read it yet. He’d only had it a couple days. And in that same bedroom he got his girlfriend pregnant, a woman that he never should have been with. She was bad news.
She had a baby. There were battles in court. Custody problems. A whole slew of things. He had the book sitting right on his dresser, and he didn’t pick it up to read it.
It’s the same with God’s Word. And sometimes I hear stories like this and I’m like, “Why don’t you just read the book?” I’ve shared with you all kinds of dangers and all kinds of blessings if you will just follow what’s in this book.”
And then I think: doesn’t God do the same? Doesn’t He say, “I’ve given you the Book!” (with a capital B). “I’ve written down all the blessings and all the dangers. Why don’t you pick it up and read it? Do what it says! It is life to you!”
If God says in His Word that it’s not good for you, just trust Him, it’s not going to go well for you. Do what pleases the Lord.
I also want to give a footnote. I know many of you were like me and you’ve done the wrong thing already. You’ve been in these situations and you’ve made the wrong choice. You can still get right with God.
Don’t keep running from Him. He’s the one who can solve it. I’ve had people who have sinned against me, and rather than coming back to me, they wait for years because they’re so afraid of what I’m going to say. And when they come back, I try to be like the father of the prodigal son and say, “Come back. I’m so happy to be reconciled to you.” (see Luke 15:11-32 for the whole story that Jesus told).
God is the same way. If you’ve sinned against him, just come back. Don’t run from the One who can help make it better. Run to His arms. Confess it. Let Jesus take away your sin. Let’s pray.
Father, thank You. Thank You for Your Word. Thank You for Your Word that gives us life, gives us warnings, gives us blessings. God, for anyone listening to this message, right now or later, Lord, I pray that You would help them today, in this moment, to choose to do what’s right. To “run away,” like Joseph did, from temptation, and to run back to You, the One who is our solution. Thank You, Lord, that we can always come to You, and that You’ve forgiven us already, 2,000 years ago, and You’ll forgive us again today. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Here’s a link where you can learn more about the book I mentioned in today’s message called You’ll Get Through This by Max Lucado. By the way, did you know that anytime you buy anything from Amazon, Amazon will donate a portion of their profit to our ministry as part of their AmazonSmile program? It doesn’t cost you anything, as Amazon does it as a courtesy to non-profit organizations. That’s not why I listed the book here below, but just in case you’re shopping on Amazon anyway, just choose “Eric Elder Ministries” as your charity of choice, and they’ll make a donation to our ministry every time you shop on their website.