God sent a man before them - Joseph, sold as a slave. They bruised his feet with shackles, his neck was put in irons, till what he foretold came to pass, till the word of the LORD proved him true. The king sent and released him, the ruler of peoples set him free. He made him master of his household, ruler over all he possessed, to instruct his princes as he pleased and teach his elders wisdom. Psalm 105:17-22
By adversity we mean disappointments, trials and all manner of unfortunate events hat happen in opposition to our desires.
This narrative furnishes us with a striking illustration of the mysterious way in which Providence accomplishes its designs by an intertwined series of second causes, which includes (1) circumstances that seem fortuitous, and the (2) volitions of rational agents who mean nothing less than that issue which they contribute unconsciously to effect and secure.
Think about the chain of events in Joseph’s life that was overruled by God.
Had Joseph not told his dreams to his brothers –
Had his father not sent him to Dothan –
Had the Ishmaelites not passed by when he was in the pit –
Had he not been sold to Potiphar –
Had Potiphar’s wife been a better woman, or Potiphar a worse man –
Had he been thrown into any other than the king’s prison -
Had the officers of Pharaoh not incurred his displeasure –
Joseph’s advancement would not have taken place. The brilliant deliverance of many people from the 7-year famine would never have happened. Israel would not have been provided a settlement for Israel in Egypt. The long train of grand results, including blessing of all nations in all generations (which all depended upon this) would have been derailed and unsuccessful.
When God determines to use someone in advancing His glory and promoting the good of His church and mankind, He usually prepares by causing them to pass through scenes of severe affliction.
Moses is another example. He lived at the court of Pharaoh. He was initiated into the wisdom of the Egyptians, and the practice of the arts of war and peace. These were all intended by God to be subservient to the execution of His higher plans. But neither these, nor his piety, nor the patriotism and generous indignation against tyranny which burned in his breast, could exempt him from passing through another education of a rougher kind. It was by these that he was freed from the impurities which he had contracted, and thus became qualified for his different task. He needed to be an exile in Midian for as many years as he had been a courtier in Egypt and was to be Israel’s leader.
But returning to our text, we think of Joseph. In addition to his amiable disposition, Joseph inherited the piety of his forefathers. But neither his high aspirations, nor his benevolent character, nor his early piety, nor the education which he had received under the eye of a father also trained in the school of adversity, could suffice to form the Joseph’s character.
The purposes adversity serves in the lives of God’s people.
• Adversity is a school for acquiring practical wisdom. Adversity has a tendency to sober the mind, disperse the illusions prosperity has created and induces thoughtfulness and meditation. Practical wisdom contains two things: knowledge of ourselves, and knowledge of others. Adversity gives us both.
• Adversity helps us in subduing and regulating our passions. The person who is not emancipated from the slavery of his passions cannot be truly great or truly good.
• Adversity serves to improve the nobler qualities in the mind. For a person to be fit for great deeds he must possess the hardy virtues of patience and dependability. He must also have a disinterested devotion to the public and an independence of mind that raises him above the mastery of external circumstances. It’s not until one has passed through a series of sharp disappointments and humiliating setbacks that he can attain pure and disinterested benevolence.
• Sanctified adversity produces strong confidence in God. Joseph’s filial fear of God steadily grew, under trial, into an unshakable confidence in the help of the Almighty.
This subject shows us some important truths:
• One way in which God authenticates the call of His chosen ministers. There is a course of preparation which persons must go through to fit them for the work for which they are destined. This course is practical as well as didactic.
• One reason why there are few great men in our time – there have been few great trials. We have men of great talents, but few of great character.
• Has God exempted you from afflictions? Sympathize with those who suffer.