January 6, 2008
ILLUS: Well the first time it happened to me I was 17. We lived in Columbia, South Carolina, and I was very involved in basketball. I was pretty good at it. A lot of schools contacted me about playing for them like Notre Dame, University of Florida, NC State, just to name a few, Villanova.
And everything was going just perfect until right before my senior year my parents informed us that we were moving a thousand miles away to Houston, Texas.
Now basketball was one thing, I was into that. My goal was to get a full ride and all of that, but Lisa was even on another planet because we had been dating—now you call it talking—for several years, and I had to move to Houston, Texas right before this defining moment in my life. It was not a pretty picture.
We moved to Houston and my parents were kind enough to set us up in school. It was a large public school. We met the teachers, and it was very important for us to talk to the coaches. And I met this basketball coach who befriended me, who was very excited that I was transferring to his school.
I was picked as one of the top ten recruits in the State of Texas, and he was all fired up. And the district that I played in, in Texas, compared to the district I played in, in South Carolina, was like comparing the NBA to the church league. The league in Texas was pathetic compared to where I played in South Carolina. So by far, I was the best guy on the team.
So the season started in Texas, and I did really well. I was averaging over 20 points a game. And suddenly, I am talking about out of nowhere, for no rhyme or reason—in fact I was talking to my brother about this situation last night. He said, “Ed I can’t talk about it because it makes me angry.” But out of nowhere in the middle of this big game the coach benched me. He didn’t play me. He totally betrayed me.
I was by far the best person on the team, talking to all of these major colleges around the country, and I was just there stuck on the bench. My whole world was spinning out of control.
My thing was basketball. That’s what I did. That’s what I worked on. I looked and to my shock and dismay, this guy totally and completely betrayed me. I trusted him, and he turned on me. It was horrendous. I was in the pit of betrayal.
Bitterness and anger welled up in my life, and I began to lash out at God. I began to say, “God, why me? You know I’m a preacher’s kid. I grew up in church, God. I am pure, I am holy, I am living the life, I am going to Bible study, and why me?”
Have you ever said that to God? Have you ever felt that way before? I mean I was only 17, at a defining moment in my life, and then all of my scholarship hopes, I thought, were just ripped from me. That was the first time I ever experienced betrayal.
Betrayal, you know, we don’t call it betrayal anymore. Now and then we will, but today we say, “I was jammed, hosed, stabbed in the back, or messed around.” Yet we don’t call it what it is because when we say betrayal, it is too personal. It gets in our stuff. It comes into our kitchen and it gets between—if you are a woman, you and your make up. And if you are a guy, it gets up in your grill.
And we don’t like it too much but betrayal is everywhere. Have you thought about it? It is everywhere we turn. And betrayal is a big business these days. All the kiss and tell books, all of the tabloid television, all of the innuendos, the leaks, the lies, the half truths, the exaggerations. The people who get close to others and then turn and write all of these books and have all of the interviews.
We love betrayal. I like it, and you like it. Now, we don’t like to be on the receiving end of it, but we like to read about it. Everybody in this room that is hearing my voice right now: you have either betrayed someone or you are going to get betrayed. Or on top of that, you have been betrayed.
To even make matters worse, some of you are in the process of being betrayed and you don’t even know it. That’s even worse. Betrayal. It is deep, and it hurts. It is like you are thrown in a pit, and the pit is horrendous.
In the pit we fire this question at God, “Why me?” This young man in the Bible named Joseph—and we’re going to talk about Joseph over the next several weeks here in this series on betrayal. I challenge you not to miss a single installment in this series because we’re going to see the good side of betrayal.
Now that sounds like a crazy statement. But I am telling you, there is an up side, a beautiful side to betrayal. Now before we look at the beautiful side we have to understand some things about betrayal. As I think about scripture, as I think about the Bible, I find that the Bible is a book on betrayal.
I mean, it is throughout the pages of scripture. The whole betrayal thing started in the garden [of Eden], and it culminated at the cross. When I throw the word betrayal out, most of you think about one guy, don’t you? Judas. When I say betrayal, you think Judas. He betrayed Jesus. Well, there is a little bit of Judas in all of us, if we are completely bold and honest.
Yet, Joseph is a man that really processed and dealt with betrayal. He understood what it was like to live in the pit of betrayal. Let’s talk about him. If you have your Bibles turn to the book of Genesis 37. Now you might think you come from a dysfunctional family, hey, you don’t. Joseph’s family would make your family seem like the Brady Bunch.
This guy’s family was totally and completely wheels off. There’s no way we can compare our families to his family. I know a lot of us are thinking about family issues because we are fresh off of the holidays. We are thinking, “My family is crazier than yours. No, let me tell you what my mom did! Well, my dad… I have this crazy uncle, uncle Ricky—”
Listen, that doesn’t come close to Joseph’s family. You are talking about whack a doodle doo. Man, they were all up in it. Jacob is the father. Joseph is one of his many, many sons. The guy had 12 sons. Well, Jacob, this father, makes a stupid fathering move.
Have you ever made a stupid fathering move? I have. You know stupid, “what was I thinking” decisions. Let me tell you what he did. He showed favoritism to Joseph. He said, “That’s my boy. That’s my man. I love him more than any of you other guys.” And of course when a father does something stupid like that, everybody doesn’t like him.
So that’s the context of this story. Now I want you to notice something about betrayal that you have to lift off the pages of scripture. Betrayal hits at defining moments during our lives. That’s a huge one.
Betrayal hits at the crucial moments. It hits right when the company is beginning to grow, right when you’re getting ready to move into the new building as a pastor, right when you think the marriage is together, right when you think you might get engaged, that is when betrayal strikes.
It is uncanny how it happens. Let’s check it out. Genesis 37:3. Now Jacob, that’s the wheels-off dad. And he had some good points, too, but he was kind of out there. The word Jacob in Hebrew means “the cheater, the supplanter.”
Now, Jacob, the cheater, the supplanter, loved Joseph more than any of his other sons. And because he had been born to him in his old age he had made a richly ornamented robe for him. Okay, now I hope you received that verse. Jacob loved Joseph more than any of his other sons and he made him a richly ornamented robe for him. This word ornamented in the Hebrew is pronounced Gucci.
So he makes this robe for him, had it tailor-made to even still rub it in his other sons faces, “Joseph is the man of the hour, the tower of leadership power, he is my boy.” Well, you know what Joseph did? Joseph really messed up here. Joseph began to brag to his brothers saying, “I’m the man, and one day you guys are going to bow down before me.”
He began to share his dreams and his visions and all of his abilities and gifts. That was not very smart. When God gives you a vision and a dream, when you know the avenue that you’re going down, there’s a certain time to tell people the dream, and there’s a certain time to shut up!
And Joseph didn’t shut up; he was just telling everybody. He was going radio free, “I’m the man, watch me, I’m going to be the leader one day, you’re going to bow down to me.” But notice something, betrayal hits at crucial times, right before the scholarship offer.
Okay, here is something else about betrayal. Skip down to verse 4. Betrayal comes from people who are closest to us. His brothers, I mean, the people he trusted turned on him.
See, there are basically three types of people in your life and mine. The “with yous”, the “for yous” and the “use yous.” Betrayal happens when the “with yous” use you and turn on you and betray you and kick you in the pit. That is betrayal. When the “with yous” use you.
ILLUS: I was talking to a leader about a week ago who was over at my house for dinner. I was asking him some questions about leadership, and the subject of betrayal came up. He began to share some of the stories about betrayal in his life. Here is what I discovered about betrayal, this is kind of a sidebar: The bigger the vision, the bigger the dreamer, the bigger the betrayal.
And he looked at me and he said, “You know what I have discovered, Ed, as I have lived my life? There’s always a Judas at your table. And he is close enough to kiss you.” And he said, “Great leaders can discern whether it is a Judas or someone who is a stand-up guy or girl.” I thought that was powerful. It comes from those closest to us.
Look at verse 4. “When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them.” His brothers are the ones that betrayed him, that pushed him in the pit. Now keep going in verse 4. “They hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.”
They hated the guy. Let’s go in 18 and 19, “but they saw him at the distance and before he reached them,” they could not miss him in that Gucci robe, “before he reached them they plotted to kill him.” That’s interesting.
So here are his brothers, they hated him; they were talking trash about him, and now they’re saying, “Let’s just kill him.” Look at verse 19. “‘Here comes that dreamer,’ they said to each other.”
When we see someone who has been blessed by God, they have the robe on, and we see someone who has the favor of God just flowing all over their life. What do we do? We begin, so often, to get envious and jealous and we plot against them. We see them coming, because here is what I have discovered about God’s economy: God’s favor is not fair.
Some people are blessed more than others, and we cannot explain it. We cannot come up with some system and some process that explains that. That’s just the way it is in God’s economy. Certain people are blessed more than others.
We are all blessed, but there are different degrees of blessings. So what I have to struggle with in my life is sometimes I will see the Joseph coming up to me and think, “Why does he have those blessings on him? Why does he or she get a chance to do that? Why do they live there or drive that or travel there? Or, why do they have that spouse or that physique or that figure?”
We can become exactly like Joseph’s brothers because here is something else about betrayal. You better get this one. Envy and jealousy fuel betrayal. Do you remember King Saul? After David took out Goliath, a battle that Saul should have fought himself, they were returning to town and this big cheer started.
“Saul has killed his thousands, David his tens of thousands. Saul has killed his thousands, David his tens of thousands.” And the Bible says in 1 Samuel 18, check it out, that Saul looked at David with a jealous eye. It is all about the eyes. I have written an entire book on it, about ten years ago, about the eye of envy, the eye of jealousy.
And when someone has those crazy eyes, it is just a matter of time before they take someone and push them into the pit of betrayal. And then once they have betrayed them, do you know what they do? They cover their tail, I mean trail of betrayal, and they lie some more.
So the process is crazy eyes, envy and jealousy, push the person in the pit and betray them, then they cover up their trail and their tail with all of these lies. It is a sinister deal, man. And maybe you are saying, “Ed, I’m feeling you. I was in a marriage, I thought the marriage was going great and my husband slept with this person or that person,”
“I was in this business deal, and I thought everything was perfect. I was committed to this person, and this person stole some money from me and sold me down the river and started a company down the street and took half of my client base.”
Or, “I shared this secret with someone at school, something in confidence, and they are now blogging about it.” It hurts. There is nothing like betrayal.
Let’s keep going, Genesis 37:23-24. It says, “So when Joseph came to his brothers,” he wanted to see what they were doing with all of their agricultural pursuits and taking care of the sheep and all that. His father told him to check up on his brothers. “So when Joseph came to his brothers they stripped him of his robe,” the richly ornamented robe that he was wearing.
And look at verse 24, “they took him and threw him into the cistern,” the pit. “The cistern was empty, there was no water in it.” Yes. The cistern was empty, there was no water in it, but it was full. It was pitiful. It was full of bitterness and rage and loneliness and mistrust and anger. That is what the pit is full of.
So they disrespected Joseph by disrobing him. But here is what the brothers didn’t realize. You see, Joseph was a great man of God and when you disrobe him, picture Chuck Liddell. You know Chuck Liddell? Some of the guys would know him, a few women. Ultimate fighting, Chuck Liddell, I am the only one?
Well, he takes the robe off, and then this guy is ready to fight. Well you disrobe Joseph, God’s man, and he is ready for a faith fight. He is ready to fight the devil. His brothers didn’t realize it; that is when Joseph was standing up.
Some of you are saying, “Ed, wait a minute. Where did the brothers get this nutty, lame brain idea to do this to Joseph? I mean, to do this to their brother, their kid brother? Where did they get this concept?” Well I am glad you asked because so often we can trace betrayal back to the family of origin.
Jacob, do you remember the cheater, the supplanter? Read about his life, his biography, his resume. Jacob betrayed his brother, Esau. His father was old. Isaac could not even see, and Esau wanted a bowl of gumbo that Jacob was making.
And Esau, you see, had the birthright, the blessing. Jacob lied to Esau and lied to his father, and for a bowl of gumbo he got the blessing. He got the birthright. So he betrayed his own brother.
And here is something else that is a side bar that is interesting. Do you know what Jacob did? His father could not see very well, and Esau was all hairy. He had the hair all over him. But Jacob was kind of like a body builder; he didn’t have any hair on him. He got this goat and cut some fur off of the goat and glued it on his arms.
Read about it in the Bible. Isaac was blind, and he felt his arms and he felt that goat hair and was like, “Oh okay. It is Esau.” And that is how he did it. Isn’t that interesting? But here is what is really interesting about it. Jacob used a goat, stay with me now, to betray his brother, Esau, with his father, Isaac.
And then his brothers, Joseph’s brothers, used a goat, they slaughtered a goat, dripped the blood of the goat on the Gucci robe, and they made that lie up to their father Jacob and said, “Joseph is dead.” Did you understand that? I thought that was pretty interesting. A goat. I just threw that in. It is kind of an interesting biblical fact.
Where was I? It kind of gets confusing. See, why even watch reality television when you have the Bible? I mean, this is crazy man. It is unbelievable. But anyway, here is what I am saying.
You show me a betrayer; I will show you someone who has parents who betrayed. Betrayers have betrayers. It is a learned thing. We just learn it. You show me parents who are eaten up with envy, the crazy eyes of jealousy, and I will show you somebody who has pushed people in the pit. I will show you somebody who is a liar. It is interesting.
So we have the opportunity—here is a good thing—we have the opportunity to break the cycle of betrayal. We can break it. Maybe you are on the receiving end of it. Maybe you are on the giving end of it. We can break the cycle when we understand some of these deep truths of scripture.
“So when Joseph came to his brothers they stripped him of his robe— the richly ornamented robe that he was wearing—and they took him and threw him into the cistern. Now, the cistern was empty and there was no water in it.”
Now I want you to get a picture of that. You saw me earlier in that pit. That pit is 17 feet deep. We dug it on our property. It is scary to go down in the pit. A lot of you right now are in the pit, and you have lived in the pit for a while. You are having a pity party, a black tie invitational pity party, and it is all about the pitiful circumstance that you are in.
I understand there is nothing like betrayal. I understand you have to have a grieving process. I understand because Lisa and I have talked to people going through divorces, and we have talked to people who have been totally shafted and shamed and disrespected.
We have talked. But you know what? There comes a time where you have got to stand. And when they disrespect you and disrobe you, there comes a time when you have to go Chuck Liddell and fight the devil, not just break down but breakthrough.
Now Joseph obviously needed a breakdown in his life. He thought he was the man. He was bragging about it. And what happened? God allowed him to be tossed into the pit to break him down. God didn’t cause it, God allowed it.
I needed that in my life when I was 17. Basketball was my god. That was my thing, and I needed a breakdown. And believe me I had a breakdown in the pit. I got a severe case of mono. I had to quit basketball, and a lot of the colleges who were talking to me just ran away. It was horrific.
I was searching for identity, for purpose, for meaning. I understand what it is like to be in the pit, and many of you do as well. If you do not, it is going to happen to you, so you better get ready for the pit stop. But see, here is the good thing. It is a stop. You do not live in the pit. I mean, the pit is nowhere to live.
You build all of these walls around you and say, “You know what? I will never trust again.” You build all these walls around you, “I will never give my heart again.” You build all of these walls around you and isolate yourself, and then you try to drag others in the pit with you. And you just share pitiful pity stories for the rest of your life.
That is no way to live. We have to break out and break through and that is the good news of it. Because, living in the pit can either lead to a total breakdown or a breakout.
I have talked to people in the pit, and they are afraid to love. And some—you will not believe this—are afraid to even be loved, “If I love and the love is returned, it is just a matter of time before they envy me, they get jealous of me and push me in the pit and betray me and lie about me. So I will never love and I don’t want to be loved again. I will just surround myself with pets. I love animals.”
But I really believe that one of the reasons we love animals so much is they do not betray us. Although, I sometimes wonder about my Dobermans as I look deep into their eyes. They have those black eyes, but they have not betrayed us yet. You know what I am saying, though. It is very interesting.
I was in the pit. And I kept saying, “Why me Lord? Why me? Why me?” And here is what happened to me. I discovered something. I discovered that God was preparing me for what he has prepared for me. That is a huge thing to grasp. That is a huge thing to wrap your life around.
God is preparing you right now for what he has prepared for you. “But Ed, I am in a pit. It is dark and cold and lonely.” I will say it again; God is preparing you for what he has prepared for you. He didn’t cause the pit; yet, he allowed it in your life. Maybe even to break you down.
What are you doing just looking down and around? It is time to look up and to breakthrough and to break out of the pit because there is a purpose in the pit. I was able to receive a full scholarship to Florida State University. When I received that scholarship, it was totally and completely the mercy of God because I did not play most of my senior year.
My college coach at Florida State had seen me play in South Carolina. He thought, “You know what? I will give you a shot.” And my family loved it. It was a free ride. I mean, nothing cost anything in college. It cost Florida State something, but not me. I went to Florida State, and I really began to have balance. I really began to see my life in a deeper way because of the pit.
For one year, though, I asked this question, “God, why me? Why me? Why me? All the hours of practice and all the sacrifice, and this guy totally abuses me, and totally betrays me.” My family doesn’t even like to talk about it even to this day. But here is what happened to me at Florida State: I began to get involved in this church. And because of that breakdown God began to rebuild me, and I moved from “why me?” to “what now?” I looked up.
I did not look down and around anymore. I looked up and I said, “God, what now?” And because of that transition in my life, because I changed from one question to another question, God began to birth the idea and the vision for Fellowship Church, even in my life as a 19 and 20 and 21 year old.
And I am here to tell you, had I not gone through that horrific betrayal when I was 17, I do not believe I would be where I am today. So I can look back and, yes I still probably have some anger about that toward that guy. I am just being boldly honest here, and I need to pray about that and work on that.
But you know what? Right now I can thank God for the pit. I can thank God for the breakdown, because God enabled me to break out and to break through. God is preparing you for what he has prepared for you. I do not care how deep the pit is. I do not care how horrible you think it might be. God is always deeper. He is always loving. He is always purposeful, and he wants to take you out if you will just look up.
Here is what the Psalmist said. Man, this is a verse to grab hold to this week. Psalm 40:2, “He lifted me out of the slimy pit,” that is what God wants to do, “out of the mud and mire. He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” Let us pray together.