and the patriarchs, jealous of joseph, sold him into egypt; but God was with him and rescued him out of all his afflictions and gave him favor and wisdom before pharaoh, king of egypt, who made him ruler over egypt and over all his household. now there came a famine throughout all egypt and canaan, and great affliction, and our fathers could find no food. but when jacob heard that there was grain in egypt, he sent out our fathers on their first visit. and on the second visit joseph made himself known to his brothers, and joseph’s family became known to pharaoh. and joseph sent and summoned jacob his father and all his kindred, seventy-five persons in all. and jacob went down into egypt, and he died, he and our fathers, and they were carried back to shechem and laid in the tomb that abraham had bought for a sum of silver from the sons of hamor in shechem. [acts 7:9-16]
persecution, followed by deliverance
joseph was wrongly sold into slavery, and then wrongly accused and put in jail and left there for years, and then delivered. likewise, jacob and his family were allowed to suffer in the famine before they heard of the grain in egypt and were eventually rescued. likewise, reuben was left in egyptian prison until benjamin came down.
this pattern is the opposite of what so many christians today pray for. we like to pray for the prevention of suffering, of the Lord leading us down a just-right path of least resistance through life. but all throughout history, God’s faithfulness is shown not primarily though this prosperity lens, but through renewal and restoration through and out of suffering. Jesus said,
“blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
how would your prayer life change if you started seeing God’s blessing and faithfulness through this lens? how would your boldness change? how would your obedience change? Lord, teach us to rejoice in the opportunity to suffer for you, and eyes to see your faithfulness in the midst of persecution.
~ stephen hall