God’s Unexpected Consequences

We may recall the story of Joseph, the next youngest son of Jacob in the Old Testament.  Out of jealousy, his older brothers sold him into slavery to some merchants traveling to Egypt. The merchants sold him to Potiphar, the captain of the guard for Pharaoh. Potiphar put Joseph in jail based on the false accusations by Potiphar’s wife.  Later, Pharaoh had a dream that no one could interpret.  His chief cupbearer remembers that Joseph had correctly interpreted a dream for him while he was in prison.

Pharaoh had Joseph brought to him, and he was able to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams that Egypt would experience seven years of abundance and then seven years of famine.  As a result Pharaoh put Joseph in charge of governing all of Egypt.  Later, Jacob sent his older sons to Egypt to get grain; Joseph recognizes them, arranges for Jacob to be brought to Egypt and eventually discloses his identity to Jacob and Joseph’s brothers.  The brothers are fearful that Joseph will now take revenge on them for selling him into slavery, but Joseph says, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20)

One of the great aspects of God’s love for us is that we can hope in him even in bad situations.  Like the story of Joseph being sold into slavery and imprisoned for several years, God can redeem bad things in order to serve his larger purpose and will. The following story is an example. 

Bob and Steve owned competitive insurance brokerages. Bob was practicing his Christian faith in all the areas of his life, including the workplace. Steve was not, which made competing against Steve challenging.

Both Bob and Steve were in their prime when Steve was convicted of a white-collar crime and sent to prison. Even though Steve was no longer a threat to Bob, he sensed the Lord asking him to visit Steve in prison.  Bob’s first reaction was, “No Way! Why should I be compassionate and forgiving to this man?” The Lord’s prompting continued though. So, Bob was obedient to the Lord’s request.

When Bob walked into the visitor’s area, Steve was shocked. Tears started to well up in his eyes. Steve couldn’t believe that someone he had attempted to take business from would want anything to do with him. Bob prayed with Steve, gave him a Bible and encouraged him to embrace an intimate relationship with Jesus.

When Steve was released from prison, Bob was there again to help him get back on his feet.  Steve’s mistake cost him his marriage, access to his children, two homes, all his possessions and the majority of his friends. As part of Bob’s continued commitment, he took Steve on a Christians in Commerce retreat. That retreat transformed Steve, introduced him to daily prayer, accountability with other Christian men and encouraged him to become the man God had created him to be.

Steve died earlier this month of cancer, with his former wife and children at his side. He had repaid all those who lost money through his prior actions. He regained his personal and business integrity, was president of the local chapter of Christians in Commerce, and became a powerful witness for Jesus Christ and his redeeming acts of love.

God took a bad situation and led Bob to forgiveness and Steve to new life – consequences that neither of them would have anticipated.

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