January 20, 2008
ILLUS: Just a few days ago I was walking through a building and when I turned the corner, I saw my betrayer face to face. I found myself locking eyes with one of the people I had thought about as I planned this series on betrayal.
It was a weird experience because when you look at your betrayer your mind rushes back to that time, to that moment on the trail of betrayal where the person you trusted turned on you. We engaged in small talk and pleasantries and everything was cool. Yet, I was thinking back to that time. It was really an odd feeling. It brought back some interesting emotions in my life.
During this series on betrayal, a lot of us have looked back on the trail of betrayal. We have looked back to that time when someone we trusted did us wrong.
Maybe, like me, you’ve looked at this person eyeball to eyeball. Or maybe just through the situation with the parent, the spouse, the son, the daughter, the uncle, the aunt, the teacher, the coach, the manager, the CEO, maybe through just thinking about that act of betrayal it has brought back some emotion.
Betrayal is a very interesting thing because all you have to do is live your life, and you will be kicked in the pit of betrayal. Because in life, pit happens, right? We have been looking at a guy named Joseph. And Joseph was an interesting character, a man who had great leadership qualities, a man who was blessed by God.
Joseph, though, went from one pit to another. And I’m going to tell you, if you look back in your life, if you look back over the trail of betrayal in your existence, if you have more than four or five pits, then I think you need to do some serious work. You need to look at some serious stuff in your life because God, I believe, wants to make some serious changes. But we will discuss that later.
Let’s look at Joseph. Joseph—just to give you the Cliff’s Notes—Joseph was a man who was born in a highly whacky family. He had eleven brothers. His brothers didn’t like him, and they felt very jealous of him because his father showed favoritism to Joseph.
One day they tossed Joseph in a pit, that’s right a pit, and lied to his father about what had happened to Joseph. In the meantime, the brothers sold Joseph to Egyptian slavery. It took him like thirty days to go from pit number one all the way to Egypt.
Joseph found himself, though, in a totally different environment working for a man named Potiphar. Now, Potiphar was a part of Pharaoh’s cabinet. He was a heavy hitter. I’m talking about a power broker.
And if you do some study just in the architecture of Egypt—picture Joseph. Here’s a guy who had this nomadic existence with his family, going from place to place in the country side. He had never seen the big city. He had never seen sphinx guarded gates. He had never seen all the pools and the ponds and people eating out of golden goblets.
He had never seen the live entertainment. He had never seen an estate like Potiphar had. Now, Joseph found himself working as one of the servants in Potiphar’s magnificent palace. Potiphar and his family would live on the top two floors. Joseph would live on the bottom with the rest of servants.
Potiphar watched him. Joseph prospered, and let me let scripture explain what happened because this is really just an amazing story. Genesis 39:3 4, “When his master saw that the Lord was with him…” Remember, people are watching you and me. We have our positions in life not for affluence but for influence. Did you hear that?
People think, “Well, okay I have my job as a real estate agent, as a teacher, as a coach, as a whatever. I have my job to make money.” No, no, no, because God can get money to you anyway he wants to. You have your position in life for influence. You have your position in life to make an indelible imprint and impact on the people who work around you.
Ultimately, you have to realize, you’re working for God. Potiphar saw it. It snapped his head. And the Bible says the Lord gave him success in everything he did. Now that’s cool.
Look at Genesis 39:4. “Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he trusted to his care everything that he owned.”
Now when I read this as a kid, when I heard this taught as a teenager, whenever I have thought about the story of Joseph, I said to myself, “Well, this guy was on the fast track. Surely that happened in a couple of weeks. I mean Joseph was in a pit, then he was sold to Egyptian slavery, Potiphar bought him, and in a couple of weeks he went from the bottom to the top.
“I mean, in a couple of weeks he went from being just a lowly servant to the guy in charge of the entire household of this man who sat on Pharaoh’s cabinet, who was a part of his management team. Wow, what a fast track guy! Man, this guy was unbelievable.”
Well, read here a decade. Read here ten arduous years. Read here patience. Read here endurance. Read here loyalty. Read here commitment. Because that is what God was building in Joseph’s life. So often God allows a break down in order for us to breakthrough and break out to another level of living.
In our culture, though, we want everything fast, don’t we? Everybody talks about things fast. “I want overnight marital bliss,” “I want overnight wealth,” “Overnight, I want to drive the car and live in the house my parents live in,” “I want everything quick and fast—overnight beauty, overnight figure, overnight being ripped—I want everything overnight.”
And we do so much in this life just to have things quick and fast and instantaneous. “Man, my computer is too slow,” “Man, my cell phone is not this.” We want everything fast, everything now—the now generation.
It is fine to do things fast, and it’s fine to have goals, and it’s fine to think about the future. Yet, we have to realize God is preparing us for what he has prepared for us. Spiritual maturity, real growth, real character, real leadership is not some pill that we swallow. It’s a process that we involve ourselves in.
I’m sure Joseph didn’t understand the entire picture. You know he didn’t. He was a favorite child one minute, and the next minute he’s in a pit, and the next minute he’s on his way to Egypt, and the next minute he’s a servant in Potiphar’s household, and the next minute he’s the man in Potiphar’s household.
We need patience. We need commitment because if you look around, there is an erosion of endurance in our world today. And so often, isn’t it true in all of our lives, we bail out before we breakthrough. We throw in the towel when we should stay in the game.
It happens. I see it so often in marriages. It happens. I see it so often in companies. It happens. I see it so often in schools and on teams and churches. God has you where you are for a reason. He has allowed it and many times he’s breaking you down. Did you hear that? He’s allowing the break down so we can breakthrough and break out to that next level.
Because when you look at Joseph, check him out, he went from pit one to a promotion, the head of Potiphar’s household. It took him ten years but he did.
Who is your Potiphar? Who is God using in your life to mold and shape you into a beautiful image bearer of him? Joseph was a jewel, and God used him. And right now—I don’t know if you realize this or not—right now we are synced up with all of our locations around Dallas/Fort Worth and in south Florida.
There’s a little clock right here on this screen that told me when to begin talking. And down front, Pace Hartfield, our worship pastor, said, “Ed, we’re forty seconds behind. I hope we can make it.” So we spend a lot of time and energy in planning and trying to sync up everything. Because right now, and this technology is crazy, man.
Right now I’m talking to our church in Miami. Right now I’m talking to our church in downtown Dallas. Right now I’m talking to our church in Plano and our church in Tarrant County at Alliance. And it’s really strange when I visit the campuses, and I see a speaker speaking live here or live somewhere it just messes with my mind.
Many times in your life and mine our talents and abilities can take us places that our character can’t keep us. So what happens? God allows, sometimes, a decade. God allows, sometimes, a pit. So our talent and character can sync up sort of like all these campuses are synced up right now.
Once they sync up, then we’re ready to go to the next level. That’s the story of Joseph’s life. So instead of whining in the pit, instead of having a black tie pity party, instead of saying, “Oh man! I’m the victim. It’s so terrible.”
Instead of doing that, instead of looking down and around, we need to look up and say, “God I don’t understand it. God, it seems weird. God, there is some suffering involved. God, it’s not the most simplistic thing I have done. I trust you. I want to be loyal to you. I want to be fiercely passionate about you.”
When we do that, we have enrolled ourselves in the U of C. You’ve heard of the U of C, haven’t you? We always say UCLA, the U if you’re in Miami. UT, BU, TCU, all the different colleges and university haves the letters and they represent the school’s name.
Well, U of C is a place we should all attend. And in fact, we should never leave this school. You’ve probably never heard of it. The University—not of Connecticut, the University—not of Colorado, the University of Character. That’s what we’re in.
Once you become a follower of Jesus Christ, we enroll in the University of Character. Because Christianity is a decision followed by a process. We’re so destination driven, though, again in your culture.
We want everything now. We want it quick. We want it overnight. Yet, our great God says, “Step into a relationship with me, begin to walk in this process, in this journey and as you do so, you will enroll in this character school.”
You might be wondering, “Well, how does that relate to Joseph’s life?” Well, remember when Joseph was a kid and his father bought him that robe that was reserved for royalty? Everybody else was wearing these boring outfits. Yet, Joseph’s was a full length number, gorgeous.
And his brothers saw it. They didn’t like it. Then Joseph, so brash and bold and self-confident, Joseph began to boast about his future, “One day, you’re going to bow down to me. One day, I am going to be a heavy hitter. One day, one day.” And when the brothers had a steady diet of that, you’re talking about betrayal; they tossed him in the pit.
God allowed it to break him down. God allowed the Egyptian slavery to build humility into his life; now it really gets interesting.
Potiphar’s wife was a gorgeous woman. The Bible said that Joseph was extremely handsome. And Joseph caught the eye of Mrs. Potiphar. She tempted him sexually, day after day, week after week, month after month for ten years, probably.
One day she grabbed him by the clothing, and he turned and ran. And you know what he said? He said, “I’m not going to do this thing and sin against God.” That’s so interesting. And let me give you a side bar. Any time we go outside of God’s boundaries in the realm of sexuality or any realm—but let me use sexuality for example—ultimately we’re sinning before God.
We’re taking a beautiful gift that God has given us, and we’re trashing it. We’re saying, “You know what God? I know how to use it better than you do.” And we shake our puny fists in the face of our Creator.
Joe wasn’t going there. He wasn’t going to do it. And because he ran, he was falsely accused of attacking this woman. She took him, along with her husband, and tossed him in pit number two. Now isn’t that crazy? Pit number one was when they ripped the coat off of him and sold him into Egyptian slavery.
Now pit number two. He’s in the pit. So again, if you have your Bibles check out Genesis 40:14 15. Now this is Joseph’s conversation with a couple of convicts in pit number two, okay. And I will come back to it in a second, but let me read it to you. Verse 14, “But when all goes well with you remember me,”—he’s talking to the wine taster here. This guy is a character—”and show me kindness.”
“Mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison for I was indeed stolen out of the land of the Hebrews and here, also, I have done nothing that they should put me into the pit.”
He’s in the pit. And then he begins to talk to these guys in prison. And do you know what the wine taster did? Now, back in the day a wine taster was huge. I’m not talking about modern day wine taster that goes from place to place. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about someone that would taste Pharaoh’s food before he ate the food.
Pharaoh would watch to see what kind of reaction the food had on the wine taster. If he keeled over, he wouldn’t eat the food. Assassination attempts were very, very frequent back in the day. So for some reason Pharaoh got upset and threw the wine taster in the pit along with Joe.
You know what the baker did back in Pharaoh’s day? He baked. He got upset at the baker, Pharaoh did, I don’t know why. Maybe he didn’t like one of the oat bran muffins he made. He threw him into the pit as well.
Well, if we keep reading, now this is so awesome, who needs reality television? Look at Genesis 39:23, it says, “The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care because the Lord was with him and gave him success in whatever he did.”
Let me drop this in real quick. Success is not excess. In our world today, and that’s all the world can say, success is excess. Success is excess, success is excess. In God’s economy what is success? Success is living in the will of God. That’s what it means to be successful.
When we’re passionate about his purpose, when we discover his amazing stuff for our lives, we will be successful. True success is discovering your unique abilities and plans and principals that God has for you in doing the stuff.
Now back to Joseph. He’s talking to the wine taster. He’s talking to the baker. And these guys go to sleep one night, and they wake up and they’re freaked out. They had this dream.
The wine taster and the baker said, “Oh Joseph, we had this dream.” And you know what Joseph said? Check this out, I love this. He says, “I can’t interpret your dreams. I can’t interpret them, but God can.”
Press the pause button; do some reverse. Go back to the pre-pit before pit number one. What was Joseph saying? “I’m going to be in charge. I’m the man. I’m bold. I’m brash. I’m this. I’m that.” Well, take him through pit one; now he is in pit two.
What is he saying now? “I can interpret your dream. Oh yeah I have the dream. I’ve got the skinny. I’ve got the 411.” He didn’t say that. He said, “I can’t, but God can.”
God allows pits in our lives to break us down. To break down ego, to break down pride, to break down boldness, to break down the brashness. Then when we’re broken down, when we’re on our knees just like we experienced as a church just a few moments ago, we are in the position to be successful, to live in the will of God.
So when you’re in the pit, don’t look down, don’t look around, look up. And here is the weird thing about the pit—because I have been in pits before. When you look up you can’t see everything. You just see this little hole with sky. “Okay, that’s about as much as I can see, God.” Well, we have to trust God with that hole in that sky.
We have to say, “You know what God? You have the whole perspective. You see everything. I trust you.” And when we do that, I’m telling you that’s when we’re going to live on the level that Joseph lived. So he began to hear these dreams and he said, “Okay Mr. Wine Taster, your dream was kind of strange, and here is what God told me to tell you.”
“You’re going to be reinstated. Pharaoh is going to show you the love, my brother. In three days you’re going to be back to sipping wine and tasting food and saying, ‘Okay Pharaoh, take it, eat it, it’s good for you.’ You will be doing that.”
Then Joe said, “Mr. Baker, I have some bad news for you. Pharaoh is going to kill you in three days.” Talk about a doggy downer.
So sure enough, everything happened. In three days the wine taster was promoted and the baker was dead. Now, right before the wine taster left, Joseph said, and I just read it to you, “Remember me when you’re with Pharaoh and everything, remember me. Tell him about me. I was totally mistreated, totally betrayed, totally taken advantage of so remember me.”
Well, the wine taster didn’t remember Joe. He stayed in the pit for two more years, two more years of being over the prison. Wow, man that is some bad stuff. Forgotten by man, yet, remembered by God. God was building stuff in his life, patience and endurance. He was teaching him leadership.
Think about it, God put him in Potiphar’s life. He learned from this guy who sat right next to Pharaoh, who really knew all about the ins and outs of the political system. In the pit two he found himself, Joseph did, getting to know the wine taster and the baker, really understanding what Pharaoh was like. And we’re going to see that Joseph, later on, was promoted to the number two position in the nation of Egypt. It’s crazy.
ILLUS: As I shared with you earlier, I was betrayed deeply by my high school coach in Houston. Because of his betrayal I thought all of my scholarship dreams were dashed. Yet, thankfully Florida State University offered me a full scholarship.
During that 12 month period, as I shared with you, I wanted to seek sweet revenge on my high school coach. And I thought because I was on a full ride it would put it in his face. And I spent too many weeks and many months worrying about getting back to the person who betrayed me. And I wasted a lot of time. I moved, though, from the “Why me?” question to the “What now?” question as I sat the bench at Florida State during my freshman year.
I didn’t even letter as a freshman. As I rode the bench, you’re talking about breaking down my confidence and ego and pride and self sufficiency. I’m just going to tell you, basketball was too important in my life. It was a God.
And God will allow pits, and he will allow betrayal to break us down so he can break us through and break us out to a whole new level of living. And again, I would not be where I am today, as a believer, as a leader, as a husband and father, and a Christ-follower had I not gone through that will pit. So no matter what you’re going through, remember, by God’s grace you’re going through it.
Now, I want to give you some homework, just do some mental homework right now, just for a second. Look back on your life. Look back over the trail of betrayal. How many pits do you have? Just count the pits for a second. Just do some mental counting.
You might be saying, “One, back in high school. Two, yeah what she did to me. Three, yeah what he said. Four, okay—” Maybe you came up with four acts of betrayal. Maybe it’s three, or maybe you’re saying, “Ed, my life is one pit after another pit. Pit after pit after pit after pit, it’s just pitiful.
This is no magic number. This just has to do with a lot of counseling that I have done over the years, a lot of talking to a number of people. I would say, though, if you have more than five major pits, you’ve got a pit problem.
And two things need to occur if you have more than five pits in your life. If you’re like, “Oh man, the trail of betrayal. Its just hole after hole after hole.” Two things: Number one I would say that you’re not trusting God.
You’re not really being loyal to him, and that’s one of the reasons that your life has pit after pit after pitfall. You’re not trusting God. You’re not loyal to Him.
Number two: You’re probably rubbing shoulders with the wrong people. Because when it comes to the pitfalls in life, when it comes to betrayal, we have the option. We either hang out with adders or ladders.
The adder would be the snake. You know what an adder is. It’s from the viper family. And you’re hanging around with people, and they coil up in the pit. They throw their coils around you and pull you into the pit and bite you and sink their fangs into you, and you feel the toxins of bitterness and rage.
You’re playing the victim card and you get angry, and then you turn into an adder and strike at anything and everything that moves. Do we have any people who are hanging around with adders? They talk about the slander, the secrets, and the gossip.
Well, move to the ladder people. What are the ladder people? Those are people that carry around big ladders. I’m talking about your best friend should be a ladder person. People you date should be ladder people, “You’re in a pit, man, here’s a ladder,” “You’re in a pit; I’ll help you climb up,” “You’re in a pit. I want to encourage you, and pray for you, and assist you, and minister to you, and point you to the things of God.”
Ladder people are amazing. You’ve got to move toward the ladder people if you’re going to make sense out of the pit, if you’re going to move from the break down to the breakthrough to the break out. Endurance, patience, and commitment. That’s what we need in this hour. That’s when real stuff is built. That’s when God teaches us in the University of Character.
ILLUS: As some of you know, when my son was born he was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis. Now neurofibromatosis, or NF, is a disease where tumors grow on the nerve endings. And every two years we have had to take EJ to MD Anderson in Houston to get full body scans and to go through a battery of tests to make sure he has no tumors in his brains, around his eyes, ears, body, etc.
And he has done really, really well with it. But I will never forget when I was sitting in a specialist’s office, this doctor was a brilliant man. He looked at Lisa and me and said, “You know what, your son will always be about three years behind developmentally. Your son will always be the last person picked on the team.
“Your son will never be able to run very fast; he will never be able to jump; he will never be able to skip. So I’m just going to tell you, that’s the deal with your son.”
To a parent those words are riveting, shocking. And we have never really talked to EJ about it in that detail, in that raw of a form like the doctors did. Yet, we have watched EJ grow. If you looked at EJ now, you would say, “He looks like a pretty average 16 year old. Very, very small but average.”
If he ran across the stage, the first four or five steps would look normal but after that his running totally breaks down. Again, developmentally he is about three years behind, and things just don’t fire off with your gross motor skills when you have NF.
So EJ went to school, and he began to do a little stuff in athletics. And when you’re a small kid, you don’t stand out that much as being that great or that bad. And last year he attended an awesome school here in this area, and he had never really played organized athletics on a junior high or high school level.
But there was a track team at the school and EJ came home and said, “Mom and dad, I want to try out for the track team. I want to try out because on the track team they don’t cut anybody. Everybody makes the team.” And I was thinking to myself, “Wow.”
I mean, I didn’t say this to him, but I thought, “If I was EJ, I would never go out for track. Track is all about running. You’re in front of people and your peers running. I just wouldn’t do it.” I said, “EJ, that’s great, man. Go for it.”
So several weeks went by, and we bought him some track cleats and outfits and everything. He announced to us that they were having a big track meet. All these schools were coming together, and it was going to be this big crowd.
He said, “Mom and dad, I’m going to be running the hundred meter dash.” Man, my heart went out to him. I was thinking, “EJ, you’re going to get so humiliated, so embarrassed.” I didn’t say it. I mean, as a parent I was thinking it, you know.
So the day of the race arrived, and Lisa and I showed up in this stadium. And there was like a thousand people there. And there was heat after heat, and then I will never forget it; I looked to my right and saw EJ line up for his heat.
And these kids standing beside him were ripped. I mean, they outweighed him by 40 or 50 pounds, just incredible athletes. And here is EJ, at the time he weighed about 90 pounds. And when they called his name over the loud speaker, “In lane four, EJ Young,” Lisa and I looked at each other, and we just broke down.
We thought about all of the tests, we thought about neurofibromatosis, we thought about what the doctors had said about him. And then I just thought about being utterly and totally embarrassed and humiliated.
The gun sounded, “Boom!” And these other kids took off, and they were just flying like gazelles. And when they got to the 50 meter mark, I’m telling you EJ was maybe 15 meters. When they crossed the finish line he was like at the 50 meter point.
And you know something just welled up inside of me that I just was shocked. I mean, just the emotion and the love and the concern that we had for our son. It was something to behold.
Suddenly the crowd turned and looked at EJ, and the crowd began to cheer because he didn’t quit. He didn’t stop. He had his head held high and he ran an amazing race. And when he crossed the finish line, he congratulated the winners then walked across the infield with great confidence.
When we were taking him home he didn’t say one time, “I’m so slow.” He didn’t say one time, “I was so humiliated and embarrassed.” He didn’t say one time, “Man can you believe–” nothing.
You know what? EJ ran a great race. And I have thought about that situation for a long time because who ran the best race that day? Those incredible athletes or my son?
There’s no doubt about it, my son ran the best race. Because for him to run, for him to meet with all of the specialists and hear the words from the doctors, for him to have just that ability and courage to run was something to behold.
Life is not a sprint, is it? It’s a marathon. We need patience and endurance and commitment to run the race. Because God has a race, a unique race, for all of us. You might be fast, you might be slow, you might be this, and you might be that.
Joseph ran the race with endurance. And he was successful because he walked in the will of God. And that’s the kind of race that God has for you, and for you, and for you, and for you, and for me.