Men look up to the guys who can take a hit and keep going. We respect the fighter who picks himself up off the canvas after a knock-out punch and hangs in until the final bell. The quarterback who gets blindsided but doesn't fumble the ball earns our approval. Physical toughness like this is admirable, but it takes more than guts to become the men God made us to be, especially when the struggles we face are personal and close to the heart.
The difficulty of emotional pain and spiritual setbacks is of a much different sort than any physical challenge. Many of us men are not comfortable or well-equipped to grapple with them. Tony Evans gives us the kind of advice and inspiration we need to battle on through the most difficult circumstances.
Drawing from the lives of Moses, David, Joseph, Jonah, and other biblical men who faced the worst, Evans pulls men out of their brokenness and declares, "No more!" No more falling short of being the man God desires you to be for any reason. Evans shows that the struggles faced yesterday and today are the very same tools God is using to make us better men for tomorrow.
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About the Author
Tony Evans is the founder and senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas, founder and president of the Urban Alternative, former chaplain of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, and present chaplain of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks. His radio broadcast, The Alternative with Dr. Tony Evans, can be heard on nearly 1,000 US radio outlets daily and in more than 130 countries. For more information, visit TonyEvans.org
Read an Excerpt
NO MORE HIDING BEHIND THE PAST
"I'm the way I am today because of whathappened to me in my past."
Some time ago, I was in my backyard and noticed a piece of wood lying beside the air conditioner. It had been there for a long time, so I finally decided to move it. You can probably guess what happened when I picked it up. The insects that had been making their home under that piece of wood began to scurry for new cover.
Now, when I was just walking by, that piece of wood looked normal. But it had actually become a home for varmints, a dwelling place for colonies of insects who stayed hidden beneath the veneer of the wood until someone disturbed their nest.
That incident seems to me a good metaphor for what I want to do in this book, and especially in this opening chapter. That is, I want to show you that we need to "pick up" our lives as men and see what's hiding under them. When we are willing to deal with whatever comes out, we will see God do a fantastic work in us and then through us.
Now don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting there are any "varmints" in your past. And I'm not a psychiatrist, so we're not going to probe your psyche for deep, dark secrets. But we all have a past, as they say. And since no man among us is perfect, we tend to cover our hurts and fears with Sunday smiles, nice suits, firm handshakes — and sometimes lies.
Someone says, "How are you doing this morning, brother?"
"Wonderful! Praise the Lord!"
"How's the family?"
"Couldn't be better!"
But if we picked up that piece of wood in that man's "backyard," stuff might scatter everywhere. We men have become very adept at covering up our pain. And one of the things that causes us great pain is broken relationships. One reason they are so painful and so crippling is that no one has ever showed us how to fix a fractured relationship. That is for women only, right?
Not in God's kingdom, it isn't. In this chapter, I want to share with you some principles from God's Word that will enable you, by His grace, to step out from under the shadow of your past and stop letting it control your present and your future. I want to help you lay aside what happened yesterday as an excuse for what's happening today.
I'm not denying that something happened in the past. It may even have been something devastating, such as rejection by your father or mother when you were a child, or a divorce that was so painful and/or bitter that you have never been able to get past its effects. Or you may have brothers, sisters, or good friends you don't talk to anymore and wouldn't speak to if they called.
Painful pasts come in all shapes and sizes and degrees of intensity. In some cases, the person who has been the focus of our pain isn't even around anymore. It's too late to say you're sorry, or to hear those healing words from the other person's lips. What can you do in cases like that?
Well, the Bible has a lot to teach us on this subject, because whatever your situation may be, it is no surprise to God. He is very aware of your past, and He knows that when things go wrong in your relationships, it can have a staggering effect. I want to show you how to start overcoming and stop blaming your past by taking you on a biblical journey through the life of Joseph.
Here was a young man with a painful past — and none of it was his fault. The story of what Joseph did about it is very special, because more than one-fourth of the book of Genesis (chapters 37–50) is devoted to this remarkable man. Let's meet him now.
JOSEPH: A SHAKY FAMILY TREE
I told you Joseph had a past. It started before he was even born, because his daddy was Jacob. Now Jacob would not win the "Father of the Year" award from the local Kiwanis or Rotary Club. As a young man, Jacob was a deceiver. We know from Genesis chapter 27 that he deceived his brother Esau right out of the family birthright, linking up with his mother Rebekah to trick Isaac and gain the blessing.
When the deal was exposed, Jacob had to run for his life because Esau tried to kill him. Jacob fled to the land of a relative named Laban and fell in love with Laban's daughter Rachel. Now there is a biblical principle that says, "you may be sure that your sin will find you out." (Numbers 32:23) Jacob was a trickster, but in Laban he met a better trickster.
Laban told Jacob, "If you will work for me seven years, I will give you my beautiful, vivacious daughter Rachel to be your wife." Genesis 29:18 says that Jacob loved Rachel so much he accepted Laban's terms — only to be tricked into marrying her sister Leah instead. He had to serve another seven years to get Rachel, who would become Joseph's mother.
But because Rachel was barren (before God opened her womb) and Leah stopped having children after four sons, each of them gave their maidens to Jacob as additional wives (Genesis 30:1-9). So here is this patchwork family of a husband and four wives, three of whom the man didn't really plan to marry. Are you getting the picture of the kind of family into which Joseph was born? In today's terms, it was dysfunctional.
Jacob's life of deception continued when he "deceived Laban" by fleeing without telling him (Genesis 31:20). His trickery carried over to Rachel, who stole her father's household idols and then deceived her father about having them (31:19, 33-35).
Is it any wonder that by the time Jacob had eleven sons, counting Joseph (Benjamin was born later), his older boys turned out to be as treacherous as their daddy? In fact, they were worse because their treachery involved killing all the men in the city of Shechem in revenge for the rape of their sister (34:25).
Reuben, the firstborn son, then slept with one of his father's wives (Genesis 35:22), and his brother Judah was seduced by his daughter-in-law (38:18). This is not what you would call a well-adjusted family. This is not the kind of family you would want to grow up in, but this was Joseph's family. Here was a young man who had every excuse he needed not to turn out right.
Yet when the Bible presents Joseph to us, it presents a man of greatness, godliness, and dignity. I point this out to let you know that just because your daddy was bad and your mama was messed up and your brothers and sisters turned out rotten, you don't have to wind up the same way.
In other words, a bad environment need not control your present decision-making. Now don't misunderstand. Your past can influence you, but it doesn't have to control you. Joseph could have given up before he ever really got started, but he refused to let the sins of others control him. He refused to hide behind his past.
REJECTED BY MEN, PROTECTED BY GOD
Joseph's story begins in Genesis chapter 37 with the incident that marked him for the rest of his life. He was out with his older brothers in the pasture, and "he brought their father a bad report about them."
(verse 2). Nothing is said about this report, so we can assume it was accurate. But here was the real problem:
Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made a richly ornamented robe for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.
— verses 3-4
So here was serious sibling rivalry. The ten older boys couldn't stand Joseph. A lot of this had to do with bad judgment on Jacob's part. He was openly partial to Joseph, the first son born to Rachel, who was his favorite wife and true love.
So as far as Jacob was concerned, Joseph was his number-one son. He showered Joseph with affection and gave him a multicolored coat. When the brothers saw that coat, they blew.
You say, "Why would they go off over a trench coat?"
Oh, but that was a very special coat. That was the kind of coat you would give to royalty. Not only was it expensive, but the other brothers knew what it meant. It meant that Pop had chosen Joseph, not Reuben, to be the heir to the family birthright.
The older boys weren't about to let a baby brother, born of a woman who wasn't mother to any of them, horn in on their territory. It didn't help when Joseph told them his dream that they would all bow down to him someday (37:5-11)! So they concocted a plan to kill him, but Reuben talked them into throwing Joseph into a pit instead (37:20-24).
So they tossed Joseph down into an empty cistern and sat down to eat. What they did to him didn't even curb their appetites! Then they sold him into slavery to some passing traders (37:25), and the rest of the chapter relates how they tricked old Jacob into thinking his favorite boy was dead. I would call that rejection by your family.
Perhaps you were rejected by your family or some other important person in your life. Maybe you found out that people who claimed to love you really didn't love you. Maybe someone you trusted deeply turned on you, and you got hung out to dry.
What are you going to do now? Stay where you are? Decide never to trust anyone again? All of this and more happened to Joseph. Let's follow him down to Egypt where he began his life as a slave: Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh's officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites. ... [But] the LORD was with Joseph.
— Genesis 39:1-2a
Don't miss that last phrase. You say, "Joseph sure had a lousy family background." Yes, but "the LORD was with Joseph."
You say, "Yeah, but his brothers couldn't stand him." True, but "the LORD was with Joseph."
"But he had such a bad break." No, you didn't hear me. "The LORD was with Joseph."
WHOM WILL YOU TURN TO?
Do you get my drift? The first step to overcoming the past is realizing that no matter what others do to you, if the Lord is with you, you can still get somewhere. So your assignment is to stay with the Lord. Joseph was rejected by his family, but he was accepted by the Lord. Even though he was mistreated, he didn't turn against the Lord. His faith held him firm.
Regardless of what happened yesterday, if you will stick with the Lord today, your yesterday doesn't have to control your tomorrow. If you are still thinking about the people who caused your problem, you are focusing on the wrong thing. You need to focus on Someone who is there to help you.
The Lord was with Joseph, so this rejected child was now under God's watchful eye in slavery: The LORD was with Joseph and he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master ... his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD gave him success in everything he did.
— verses 2-3
Joseph had a job to do. He worked for Potiphar now. In fact, Pot turned his whole house over to Joseph (Genesis 39:4-6). The Lord met Joseph where he was and made him successful in a strange land.
If you will walk with the Lord, He can do the same for you. All Joseph did was allow God to use him. The problem with the past is that it can become a dictator that rules you today. The only way to overcome that is to change dictators — to allow the Lord to dictate your life today.
There are things from the past that you may not be able to fix. You may never be able to get your parents to accept you, your brothers and sisters to talk to you, or your boss to atone for previous injustices. But with the Lord in your present, He can always make something happen.
Now let me tell you one reason Joseph may have turned out better than Jacob's older boys. There's a part of Jacob's story I didn't mention. He was a mess for a long time, but when he got old he had a confrontation with God. According to Genesis 32:24-32, Jacob wrestled with someone whom the prophet Hosea later called an angel (Hosea 12:4).
Jacob asked for a blessing, so this heavenly being, who may have been Christ in a pre-incarnate appearance, blessed him with a new name, Israel. Jacob also got crippled in the deal, so this was a life-changing experience in more ways than one. Jacob said, "I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared." (Genesis 32:30) Later he renewed his covenant with God at Bethel (Genesis 35:1-5).
So in his later years, Jacob made a decision for God that Joseph was able to benefit from because he was still young. It may have been too late for Jacob's ten older sons, but he made the decision anyway and it made a difference in his family.
I want to encourage you with that reminder if you're a husband and father who can look back and see bad decisions that messed up your family. You may not, by your own effort, be able to fix what is broken. You can't raise your children over again. But if you will start walking with God now, He can make up some of those lost days and years and opportunities. He can fix what you can't even touch anymore because it's behind you.
By the time Joseph was a young boy, Jacob was committed to God. He could not fix the past, but he could walk with God in the present and see God bless his present in spite of his past. And that's just what he did.
COMMITTED TO GODLINESS
Besides knowing Joseph's background and his rejection, you need to know that Joseph was committed to living a godly life.
That becomes very apparent beginning in Genesis 39:7: "After a while his master's wife took notice of Joseph and said, 'Come to bed with me!'" Now this is a bold sister here. She wanted Joseph because he was "well-built and handsome." (39:6) He looked good, and so Potiphar's wife said, "Uh, huh!"
Mrs. Potiphar made a move on Joseph, but he refused and he said to her:
"With me in charge, my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?"
— verses 8-9
Do you see the mind-set of Joseph? He says, "Look, I'm in a situation that I can't possibly explain other than that God is doing it. How can I be in the midst of what God is doing and do what you are asking me to do?"
So Joseph refused her advances, but she persisted in trying to seduce him. Finally she made a grab for him, and he fled without his shirt. Mrs. Potiphar got mad, cried rape, and framed Joseph for a crime that never happened. Potiphar took one look at the "evidence," heard her phony testimony, and slapped Joe in jail (Genesis 39:10-20).
Now at this point in the story you may want to say, "Come on. The man is living right. He refuses the illegitimate demands of his boss's wife because he wants to obey God, and he cares about his boss. And for that he gets fired and lands in jail. I mean, Joseph has done absolutely nothing wrong!"
I think by now some men in Joseph's shoes would be pacing back and forth in that jail cell talking about, "Lord, have mercy. I try to do right and I get fired. Shucks! I should have at least had some fun. I could have held on to my job and had some fun too. Now I don't have either one." But that wasn't Joseph's mind-set because he had already learned something important: the Lord was with him (verse 21).
GOING SOMEWHERE WITH GOD
No matter what has gone on in the past, if you are willing to stay with God on this thing, then even going to jail is where you ought to go if it is within God's will for you. For Joseph, there was no better place to be than in the king's jail, because he was right where God wanted him to be.
Sometimes God must lead you downhill to take you uphill. He must take you to the bottom in order to get you to the top. The problem comes when we're at the bottom, because we tend to assume that it's the end of the trip. But when the Lord is with you, something is going to happen.
That's why I love verse 21 of Genesis 39: "the LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden." The head turnkey put Joseph in charge of everything in the place. My man was busy again. Joseph didn't have time to dwell on the past and let it eat at him, even if he had wanted to. The Lord was with him and had something more important for him to do.
When you commit your life totally to God, your past no longer has to be the controlling factor in your life. It means that what happened to you five years or ten years ago — or even last month — no longer dictates your steps. Is what happened to you still real? Of course it is. I'm not talking about having a frontal lobotomy so you don't remember anything. I'm talking about breaking the past's control.
This is the sense in which Paul says, "Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:13-14) Yet he was keenly aware of his past as a persecutor of the church (1 Corinthians 15:9).
I think as men we really need to come to grips with this, because we tend to let past failures keep us from trying again. But once we are committed to the Lord, we have His power available to help us move forward instead of looking back.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "No More Excuses"
Copyright © 1996 Tony Evans.
Excerpted by permission of Good News Publishers.
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.
Table of Contents
Dedication / With Gratitude,
Foreword by Bill McCartney,
1 No More Hiding Behind the Past,
2 No More Feeling Worthless,
3 No More Allowing for Immorality,
4 No More Going Through the Motions,
5 No More Dabbling in Defiance,
6 No More Compromising Your Integrity,
7 No More Sifting Through the Rubble,
8 No More Giving in to Temptation,
9 No More Second-rate Marriages,
10 No More Passive Fathering,
11 No More Sissified Males,
12 No More Playing the Lone Ranger,
13 No More Ownership,
14 No More Clock-punching,
15 No More Business as Usual,
16 No More Half-stepping,
17 No More Standing on the Sidelines,
18 No More "Loser's Limp",