Sermon Notes 10/11/20

New World UMCPastor's Blog

Last week, for my first sermon here at New World, I chose Psalm 1. I explained that I chose that Scripture because it has been a guiding principle in my life and ministry, and it also speaks to my theology and character as a pastor. 

In Psalm 1, we learned that God wants to bless us, to make us fruitful and prosperous, but it is up to us to make the choices that will lead us to God’s blessings. In short, I explained that by choosing the ways of God, by living according to God’s wisdom and teachings, we bear fruit, the blessings that give us joy, peace, and fulfillment—even despite bad seasons in our lives. 

Today, I am doing a “follow-up” of that message. Last week one of the learnings was that “delighting” in God is about staying in love with God, which leads us fruitfulness; today is about how faithfulness leads us to fruitfulness as well. 

For this, there is a story in the Hebrew Scriptures about a person who went through plenty of trials dealing with a many obstacles and enemies. Yet, over time, he overcame all of them and was abundantly fruitful because of his faithfulness to God.  

This is the story of Joseph, one of the most known characters in the Bible. Many movies have been made about him, such that if you have never read the Bible, you probably still have heard about him as “Joseph the Dreamer.” 

Who was this Joseph? Joseph was the 11th of 12 sons born from Jacob and his wife, Rachel. His story is told in the book of Genesis 37-50. I won’t read all these chapters for the sake of time but just share a synopsis of his life. 

Joseph’s life was immensely fruitful. He lived in Egypt where Pharaoh “made him master of his household, ruler over all he possessed, to instruct his princes as he pleased and teach his elders wisdom” (Psalm 105:21–22). And, because of his faithfulness, his people became very prosperous. 

But that is the second part of Joseph’s story. The first part is a dark one.  

In the early days, it did not seem like his life would amount to anything. When he was a young man, he was sold as a slave by his brothers out of jealousy, and they lied to their father, telling him a wild beast had killed him.  

As a slave, Joseph was taken to Egypt, where he was sold to an army officer. There, the army officer’s wife who owned him tried to seduce him, and when he refused, she accused him of attempted rape.  That led him to prison. It was a great injustice.  

While he was in prison, he befriended the Pharaoh’s butler by interpreting a bothering dream. In return, the butler promised to put in a good word for him with the Pharaoh. But as soon as the butler was out of prison, he forgot all about his promise. For two long years, the butler failed to keep his promise while Joseph remained in prison.  

As you can see, Joseph went through betrayal, slavery, temptation, imprisonment, and plenty of injustices and suffering. Yet in all this, he remained faithful. He never lost his trust in God in a lifetime filled with extraordinary trials, obstacles, and enemies (Genesis 45:5–8; 50:20). 

And that is why we have the second part of this story, where after all these dark times, he became the second most powerful man after Pharaoh in Egypt.  

In short, against all odds and many trials, Joseph’s faith, character, and wisdom promoted him to the highest place in all Egypt, where God used him to be a blessing to many. 

How is that for fruitfulness?  

This is an amazing, powerful, and inspiring story, and I believe we can relate to it in many ways.  

I am certain that each one of you has had moments when things went sideways, and you wondered where God was. I am certain that sometimes those sour seasons have lasted longer than you would have wanted them to. I am certain that at some point, you were also tempted not to care anymore. Yet, I am also certain, that you have made it through each one of those chapters of your life.  

How do I know that? Because you are still here, stronger, wiser, and more determined to do what God wants you to do. The only issue I can see is that we need to be reminded of this hope now and then, that is, that we are God’s people and that God is with us and that God wants to bless us and help us overcome our challenges. 

This is true to us as a church and as people, as individuals. I know it is true for me. I have been there, facing all kinds of challenges but also experiencing victory over them. 

Do you know who also has a story like Joseph’s? Someone you know, Mr. Zach Batiste.  

I met Mr. Batiste last week and visit with him. Let me tell you, he can talk, and he is a blessing, a dear man that loves God and has endured and overcome so much. Mr. Batiste is a blessing because he is faithful. In many ways, his is a story of faithfulness just as Joseph’s because he has endured and stayed in love with God against many odds. 

My friends, I have seen how faithfulness leads us to contentment, peace, success, and fruitfulness. I know it to be a true and tangible promise: fruitfulness comes from faithfulness to God. 

That is the miracle in Joseph’s story, that despite all the trials, he was miraculously fruitful and successful because he remained faithful—even when no one was watching and when he had every reason and excuse not to care anymore and give up. 

Now, let me make it personal by asking you: How many times have you been in that spot: “I can’t do it” “It is too much” “This isn’t fair” “No one cares” “No one wants me”? You know what I am talking about. Life has highs and lows, and sometimes we struggle to get through it. 

But today, I want to encourage you and inspire to believe and not give up, to trust that you can overcome everything with God. Stories like Joseph and Mr. Batiste are there to remind us of this, that we can and that even when everything may seem against us, we will overcome because God wants us far beyond anything we can imagine. 

With this in mind, here comes the invitation and challenge for us: we must remain faithful to see this through. 

Consider this. In John 15, Jesus gave one of the last teachings to the disciples before being arrested, tried, and crucified. He told them, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5). 

Here, Jesus was teaching them (and us) that fruitfulness is directly linked to our relationship and union with him and that it is out of the fruit of relational intimacy with Christ that other vital aspects of discipleship fruitfulness flows. He explained this by using the analogy of the vine where he is the true sprouting vine and that only by abiding in him, we can have life and be fruitful. 

One of the keywords here is “abiding.” To me, that word sounds a whole lot like faithfulness. 

Abiding, being faithful, translates as our commitment to God to keep and practice the teachings and ways of Jesus, whether we have an audience or not and regardless of our situation or circumstance. 

This is where it may get challenging for us: being faithful encompasses diligence, diligence in faithfully keeping and carrying out those things God has called us to do through Jesus Christ.  

This part is critical to everything I have said because this fruitfulness consists of Christlike character and conduct. Your blessings more likely will not come or happen as a result of a supernatural event but as a consequence of your actions and choices.  

For example, if you are trustworthy as Jesus is trustworthy, you may get a promotion; if you are honest as Jesus is honest, you may be entrusted with more responsibilities and get a raise; if you are compassionate as Jesus is compassionate, you may develop loving and lasting relationships with others; if people see the way we love and care for other as a church, they are going to come. 

I am simply saying that being faithful is not a contemplative act but a proactive attitude, determination, and discernment to do what is right, what is kind, and what is loving.  

To finish, I want to tell you this: you are not done yet; no matter how old you are or what has happened in your life, you are here, there is life, there is a purpose for you, and there is still a lot of fruit to bear. You are not done yet. Joseph did not give up when he was betrayed and imprisoned unjustly. Mr. Batiste did not give up when many things did not go as he may have wanted them to. With this in mind, I invite you today once again: don’t give up, keep on doing the right thing. Don’t get tired of practicing kindness. 

Be diligent in being faithful, and let God take make you and us, and our church fruitful. Amen.