Great Days with the Great Lives

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Overview

This devotional features daily insight taken from Charles Swindoll's Great Lives series. Each day, readers will find a scripture reference and a devotional thought taken straight from one of the Great Lives of the Bible. These lives offer hope to all of us. They show that God can do extraordinary things through ordinary men and women, and offer insightful perspective on what it means to be truly spiritual men and women after God's own heart.

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Great Days with the Great Lives: Daily Insight from Great Lives of the Bible

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Overview

This devotional features daily insight taken from Charles Swindoll's Great Lives series. Each day, readers will find a scripture reference and a devotional thought taken straight from one of the Great Lives of the Bible. These lives offer hope to all of us. They show that God can do extraordinary things through ordinary men and women, and offer insightful perspective on what it means to be truly spiritual men and women after God's own heart.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780849900433
  • Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/3/2006
  • Series: Great Lives
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Charles R. Swindoll has devoted his life to the accurate, practical teaching and application of God’s Word and His grace. A pastor at heart, Chuck has served as senior pastor to congregations in Texas, Massachusetts, and California. Since 1998, he has served as the founder and senior pastor-teacher of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas.

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Great Days with the Great Lives


By Charles R. Swindoll

W Publishing Group

Copyright © 2007 Charles R. Swindoll
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8499-0043-3


Chapter One

God's Training Manual

Read Genesis 37:1-4

Before we get better acquainted with Joseph, let's take a quick glance at some background information. It will help if you remember that his biography falls neatly into three distinct segments.

Birth to Seventeen Years (Genesis 30:24-37:2). During this time Joseph's family was in transition-everyone was unsettled, on the move. A low-level antagonism was brewing as his family clashed and argued in jealousy and hatred.

Seventeen to Thirty Years (Genesis 37:2-41:46). This second segment occurs as Joseph reaches young manhood. It seems as though his life becomes out of control. Enslavement, unfair accusation, and imprisonment assault him.

Thirty Years to Death (Genesis 41:46-50:26). Joseph's last eighty years are years of prosperity and reward under God's blessing. He had the classic opportunity to get even with his brothers, to ruin them forever, but he refused. Instead he blessed, protected, and forgave.

God constantly uses the lives of Bible characters to teach us, to encourage us, to warn us. Who can forget the impact of the truths lived out in the lives of David and Esther, of Moses and Elijah, of Peter and Paul? It's impossible to leave truth in the theoretical realm when you see it revealed in the lives of real-life men and women. That is what these divinely inspired biographies do; they distill truth and weave it into the fabric of everyday living. God's training manual is full of lives that inspire and instruct.

Romans 15:4 states, "For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope" (emphasis added). This reference to "earlier times" encompasses all the truths written in the Old Testament. And if I read this verse correctly, there are two basic reasons God has allowed us to have the Old Testament available for study and application: first, for present instruction, and second, for future hope. God has given us this information so that our minds can learn the truth about Him and about life, and so that we will be encouraged to persevere in the future.

Lessons In Adversity

Read Genesis 37:5-35

This is a good time to call to mind several lessons we can learn from Jacob's family and Joseph's adversity.

The first is obvious. No enemy is more subtle than passivity. When parents are passive, they may eventually discipline, but by then the delayed reaction is often carried out in anger. Passivity waits and waits until finally, when it can wait no longer, it comes down with both feet! When that happens, children are not disciplined, they are brutalized. Passivity not only blinds us to the here and now, it makes us inconsistent.

There's a second lesson we learn from Joseph's teenage struggles. No response is more cruel than jealousy. Solomon was right when he said, "Jealousy is cruel as the grave" (Song of Solomon 8:6, RSV). Jealousy, if allowed to grow and fester, leads to devastating consequences. If you allow jealousy to rage within your family or between your children, you are asking for trouble. At some point, it will manifest itself in detrimental ways.

Enough of the negatives. Let's find in all this at least one magnificent lesson of hope: No action is more powerful than prayer. I realize that the biblical story does not state that Jacob turned to God in prayer, but surely, he did so! How else could he have gone on with his life? Where else could he have turned for hope?

The same can be said for you and me. Prayer brings power to endure. Those who are older are a source of wisdom for young parents and for children and grandchildren. Single men and women also have much to offer, whether within their own extended families or within the family of the church. Broken, hollow lives can find new strength to recover. It's at this point I would say that Joseph, without question, turned his situation over to God, even as the caravan made its way toward Egypt. Surely he knew, even at seventeen, that his only hope would come through God's faithful intervention! Surely, he cried out to the One who, alone, was in sovereign control of his future! And so must we!

Temptation of Prosperity

Read Genesis 37:36; 39:1-6

The sovereign God of Israel was intimately involved in Joseph's life. He guided him. He gave him facility in the Egyptian language. On top of all that, he gave him favor in the eyes of Potiphar. Clearly, God was the secret of Joseph's success. Luck had nothing to do with it.

Joseph didn't have to tell Potiphar that the Lord was with him; Potiphar could see it for himself. "Now his master saw that the LORD was with him" (v. 3). Furthermore, Joseph didn't use his spirituality as a manipulative tool to get benefits from his boss. Simply because the Lord caused all that Joseph did to prosper, Joseph found favor in his sight. Notice, it doesn't say that Joseph asked favors from Potiphar; he found favor with Potiphar.

With greater success comes greater measures of trust, which, by the way, lead to greater times of unguarded vulnerability. Regarding the latter, F. B. Meyer writes insightfully,

We may expect temptation in the days of prosperity and ease rather than in those of privation and toil. Not on the glacier slopes of the Alps, but in the sunny plains of the Campagna; not when the youth is climbing arduously the steep ladder of fame, but when he has entered the golden portals; not where men frown, but where they smile sweet exquisite smiles of flattery-it is there, it is there, that the temptress lies in wait! Beware!

What a wise exhortation! This warning is not of concern to the person who is down and out. Its message is addressed to the successful, to the up-and-coming executive, to the man or woman on the way to the top of the heap, to the individual who is experiencing the bene-fits and favor of God, who is reaping the benefits of increased privacy and trust. Thomas Carlyle, the Scottish essayist, was right when he said, "Adversity is sometimes hard upon a man, but for one man who can stand prosperity, there are a hundred that will stand adversity." The temptations that accompany prosperity are far greater (and far more subtle) than those that accompany adversity.

Run for Your Life!

Read Genesis 39:6-18

The appeal of sensual lust works like a magnet, drawing two "sudden and fierce" forces toward each other-inner desire and an outer bait. Let's face it, you can't escape the bait if you live in the real world. In fact, even if you somehow manage to shut yourself away from the real world, your mind will not let you escape the outer bait. But keep in mind that there is no sin in the bait. The sin is in the bite. When the lust of another tempts you to give in to your own lust, so much so that your resistance weakens, you have been enticed. You have given in to the lure of temptation. The secret of victory is modeled beautifully by Joseph. He refused to weaken. He continued to resist.

Potiphar's wife dropped the bait day after day after day. And each time Joseph refused to take it. "No, no, no!" he replied. Not only did he not listen to her, it got to where he did not even want to be near her. She was not safe to be around.

Joseph had rebuffed her time and time again, refusing to yield to her advances. Finally, she set a trap for him.

Joseph had come into the house to do his work one day. He noticed the house was quiet. There were no servants nearby. She was alone with Joseph in the house, and she again made her move. Only this time she would not take no for an answer. She went beyond verbal advances and physically grabbed hold of Joseph. She held on so tightly that when he jerked away from her and dashed out into the street, he left his outer robe in her hands.

What a clear image! What a practical spotlight on truth from Joseph's life. What strong biblical counsel. Whenever the New Testament lingers on the subject of sensual temptation, it gives us one command: RUN! It does not tell us to reason with it. It does not tell us to think about it and claim verses. It tells us to FLEE! I have discovered you cannot yield to sensuality if you're running away from it. So? Run for your life! Get out of there! If you try to reason with lust or play around with sensual thoughts, you will finally yield. You can't fight it. That's why the Spirit of God forcefully commands, "Run!"

The Personal Ramifications

Read Genesis 39:19-23

Imagine what must have been going through Joseph's mind at this point, shortly after he was incarcerated. He was not only innocent, he had resisted blatant temptation over and over again. (He'd never read Genesis 41. He didn't know what the final outcome would be. He didn't know that in a matter of years he would be prime minister of Egypt.) All the man knew at this painful moment was that he had done what was right and had suffered wrong for it. Time dragged by. Days turned into months.

He was, again, unfairly rejected-forgotten-totally helpless. But somehow, in the midst of this unfair situation, Joseph sensed that Jehovah's hand was in all this. "Joseph, you're Mine. Just wait. I'm with you. I'm not ignoring you or rejecting you. You will be a better man, Joseph, because of this accusation against you.

I'm not through preparing you for My service."

It may be that you are facing temptation right now. Perhaps you have already yielded. A few of my readers may be thinking, Preach it, brother, I need to hear it. So far I've resisted the lure of sensual temptation, and I need help to keep standing strong. But not one person reading this can say, "I don't know what you're talking about, Chuck. I've never encountered anything like this in my entire life."

You and I need to discern the times in which we live. We are living in an era that attempts to stretch grace to heretical extremes. I see it and hear it virtually every week of my life. So allow me to say this very straight: The greatest gift you can give to your marriage partner is your purity, your fidelity. The greatest character trait you can provide your spouse and your family is moral and ethical self-control. Stand firm, my friend. Refuse to yield. Joseph did and so can you. So must you!

Whatever your situation, no matter how alluring or pleasurable or momentarily delightful the bait looks, don't linger. Claim the supernatural strength that comes from knowing Jesus Christ and, operating under the control of His power, stand strong in His might. Right now, this very moment, determine to be a Joseph. Make up your mind to join God's ranks-and from this day forward, resist.

Otherwise, you will yield. It's only a matter of time.

His Unknown Ways

Read Genesis 39:19-23

If anybody knew about unfair treatment, about a false accusation, about being an innocent victim on the receiving end, it was Joseph.

First, he received unfair treatment from his family. His brothers hated him, wanted to kill him, but sold him into slavery instead. Next, his circumstances were unexpectedly restricted. He became a slave in a land where he didn't even know the language. One minute he was a seventeen-year-old boy with his whole life before him, and the next he was totally at the mercy of-actually the property of-some stranger. Following all that, he was falsely accused. After earning the favor of his master, Potiphar, the master's wife tried to seduce Joseph. When he didn't submit to her wishes, she lied and said, "This slave tried to rape me." As a result of her lies, he was unjustly put in prison and abandoned.

Remember those words from Isaiah's pen as he repeats God's message?

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:8-9)

Look carefully at the contrasts. There is a vast difference between "My thoughts" and "your thoughts" says the Lord. "My ways" are not like "your ways." They are higher; they are far more profound, deep, mysterious-and I would add, surprising.

Our human ways are based on what seems fair. We firmly believe that when someone does what is right, rewards and blessings result. When someone does what is wrong, there are serious consequences, even punishment. But that's our way, not necessarily God's way. At least not immediately. He's been known to allow unfair treatment to occur in the lives of absolutely innocent folks-for reasons far more profound and deep than they or we could have imagined. How slowly He steps in!

God's Strategy

Read Genesis 39:21-23

Twice we read in that short account, "The Lord was with Joseph." Joseph began to see the hand of God in his prison experience. In what could have been the direst of positions, the dreariest of places, Joseph prospered. Because of this, he was freed up to be used by God strategically in the lives of at least two men. Amazingly, he prospered in prison-of all places.

False accusations put Joseph in prison, but it was the Lord who stayed near him and nurtured his soul while he was there. As a result, Joseph found favor even in the eyes of the chief jailer-what we might call the prison warden-to the point where the man trusted Joseph to supervise all the other prisoners. The warden trusted and respected Joseph so much that he "did not supervise anything under Joseph's charge because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made to prosper."

You see, the Lord God remained first in Joseph's life; He was the focus of his life. The lens of God's will stood between Joseph and his circumstances, enabling Joseph to see God in them, to read God in them-and enabling God to use him in them.

When a dungeon experience comes, the quickest and easiest response is to feel that you've been forgotten by God. I don't know if you read the cartoon "Ziggy," but I enjoy him-maybe because he often says the very things I've been thinking! One of my favorites shows Ziggy, with his big nose and bald head, standing on a mountain and staring far above him. The sky is dark, and there is one lonely cloud up there. Ziggy yells, "Have I been put on hold for the rest of my life?"

You've felt like that, haven't you? "Lord, will You ever answer?" How often the heavens seem more like cold brass than God's loving abode. We cry out, but nothing comes in return.

Make no mistake about it, Joseph didn't deserve jail, but he responded to it beautifully. That's the marvel of the story. First and foremost in his life was his vital and consistent relationship with his Lord. And because of that, God used him in strategic and significant ways.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Great Days with the Great Lives by Charles R. Swindoll Copyright © 2007 by Charles R. Swindoll. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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