Life can be anything but predictable.
We face many new beginnings that we could not predict. Who would have predicted in January 2020 that we would all be facing a pandemic for the last year and a half? Who could have predicted at the beginning of this year that Afghanistan would be completely under the control of the Taliban before the year was done?
In our own lives, we all experience things that we did not and cannot predict.
How do we handle such unpredictable times, and the predictable unpredictability of life?
There is a character from the Bible we may be able to relate to.
When Joseph was living happily on his father’s farm, could he have predicted that he would be sold by his brothers into slavery? When Joseph was serving in Potipahar’s home as a trusted servant, could he have predicted that he would end up in jail? When Joseph was in jail, could he have predicted that he would end up being the main administrator over all of Egypt?
In each of these new unpredictable situations, there is something in common, something very predictable. Despite the unpredictable nature of his life, Joseph himself was a predictable kind of guy.
Joseph was always the same Joseph, with the same God given gifts around dreams, with the same God given gift, or as some would put it, natural talent, for administration, exercising the same integrity.
In the Bible we read of something else which made Joseph predictable:
The LORD was with Joseph, so he succeeded in everything he did as he served in the home of his Egyptian master. Genesis 39:21 . . . . But the LORD was with Joseph in the prison and showed him his faithful love. And the LORD made Joseph a favorite with the prison warden. . . . So Pharaoh asked his officials, “Can we find anyone else like this man so obviously filled with the spirit of God?”Genesis 39:2,21;41:38 (NLT emphasis added)
The presence of God in Joseph’s life was predictable. Joseph’s reference to God throughout his life was also predictable. Joseph was predictable, in a good way.
In being predictable Joseph actually reflected something true about God. God is predictable in a good way!
With God there is a consistency, a constancy. We see this played out in God’s commitment to all His covenant promises. We can think of God’s relationship with His people as recorded in the Old Testament. God stuck by His people, even though they were predictable in their rebellion against God and constant idolatry. Yet God is predictable in a good way, always making a way for His plans and purposes to be carried out.
The writers of the New Testament came to know that God is predictable. For example, the apostle John wrote “God is love” in 1st John chapter 4. You cannot earn a description like that without being predictable in your love!
If God can be described as love, what word might people choose to describe us? Clarke is ______. Please don’t yield to the temptation to answer that in the comments, but please do ask that about yourself. People will fill in that blank based on what is predictable about us. Is it a good word? Do any of these words show up; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? These are the fruit of the Spirit, the consequence of living a life filled with God. Are we predictable in a good way because of our growing relationship with God?
Being predictable does not mean never surprising others.
In fact Joseph, despite being predictable, was likely very surprising, especially for Potiphar’s wife who probably assumed Joseph would be easily seduced. His integrity would have been surprising. Is ours? Joseph likely surprised the jailor who probably assumed that Joseph would be like every other inmate. Instead Joseph was like a breath of fresh air in a very stale jail. Are we experienced as a surprising breath of fresh air? Could Pharaoh have predicted that a seemingly insignificant foreigner sitting in jail would be the person who would save Egypt from starvation? Do we turn out to be of greater significance in people’s lives than they ever could have imagined?
God, though predictable, is full of surprises too.
In fact Joseph’s story reflects that of God’s people in the Old Testament. Joseph had this dream of his older, and therefore more “significant”, brothers bowing down to him. Yet in the end, surprise, they bow down to him and look to him for salvation from starvation. There were bigger stronger, and seemingly more significant nations around God’s people, like Babylon, and Egypt. In comparison God’s people were weak and insignificant. But God did something profound through this little “insignificant” nation. In fact people from every nation look for salvation in what God has done through this little “insignificant” nation, and its “insignificant” king who was crucified on a cross by the “significant” people. Surprise!
Speaking of Jesus, here is another surprise; God came to humanity in Jesus. We killed him. God still loves us and offers reconciliation and a new relationship. Surprising, yet predictable, because God is love. God worked in a very surprising way to help us see what we knew about God all along, that God is love.
Do people find us to be surprising in good ways? Are those surprises consistent with the good things people find predictable about us?
In Conclusion . . .
Our lives may be unpredictable, but we can be predictable, in a good way, living with a constancy, a consistency, and integrity, like Joseph, like God, like Jesus.
As God grows our character, developing within us the fruit of the Spirit, God’s work within us will show up through us no matter what is happening around us.
Life is totally unpredictable and full of nasty surprises. We can learn to be predictable in a good way. And full of good surprises.
(You can watch the preaching of this sermon here)