February 2-3, 2007
Just for a second I want all of you to picture a person in your life who has betrayed you. I am talking about the one person; I am talking about the coach who hurt you, the parent who abused you, the love of your life who bolted on you, the friend who trafficked confidential information about you. Do you have that person in your mind?
Now I can see a lot of you are thinking about that particular person because your faces aren’t really happy; they are sad looking. And I understand that because betrayal hurts. There is nothing like trusting someone and then having that person turn on you. Our enemies can’t betray us; only those who are close to us can reach us and rip our heart out.
But as we live life, what happens? Betrayal happens. Betrayal occurs in almost every facet of our existence. We have this situation where someone pushes us into a pit.
We have been talking about one of the greatest characters in the Bible. Whenever you mention this guy’s name, you have to talk about betrayal. I am referring to Joseph. Joseph had a very interesting life. He had a bunch of brothers, and during a defining moment, Joseph’s brothers betrayed him deeply. They pushed him into a pit, sold him into Egyptian slavery and then they turned and told his father he had been killed.
Now, if you want to talk about betrayal, that is some serious betrayal. But whenever you talk about betrayal, you have to talk about revenge. Due to the fact when someone hurts you or hurts me; when the Joseph’s brothers of your life and mine knife us in the back, or when they push us in a pit, or when they say something that is wrong about us, I don’t know about you, but I want to push them in the pit. We want to make them pay. We want to seek that sweet revenge.
And we’re going to find out today that Joseph had the opportunity to totally get his brothers back. God served them up to Joseph on a silver platter. I mean, he had the power, the prestige, the authority; he had the freedom to totally take them out. What did he do? Because they were standing on the edge and the ledge of the pit and Joseph could have just taken them out. What did he do? What do you do?
What do you do when God has served your betrayer up on a silver platter? What do you do when God has taken the Joseph’s brothers of your life and put them there? What do you do? What is your response? What is your reaction? What is the process that you go through?
Revenge is interesting because it’s deceptive; it over promises and under delivers. It is like technology. People say, “Buy the iPhone or pick up this laptop or this or that, and it will solve all of your problems. It will be the greatest thing in your life.”
And you get it and you begin to play with it and work it out and then they say, “Oh yeah, you have to buy this and that and that and this.”
We all love technology, yet it over promises and under delivers. I have discovered revenge is the same. Because you see, when I’m betrayed and when I seek revenge, I turn into the betrayer as well. And if I’m not careful I can revolve my life around revenge; I can revolve my life around this whole thing and it’s highly deceptive.
Revenge is also destructive. It will mess you up. If you do any study on the human body, you see that when we swallow anger and bitterness and shame and guilt; when we ponder revenge and when we wait to get the person back, that has the same effect as over eating or smoking. So revenge is hazardous to our bodies.
On top of that, think how destructive it is in our relationship with the Lord himself. It will not take us where we need to go. So when we’re betrayed, we have different responses; I do and you do. And I have studied this and seen this and had this occur in my own life.
Sometimes when we’re hurt we dive into a career and we try to obtain a certain position or live a certain lifestyle or make a certain amount of money or receive this award or that acclaim. And we think by doing that or getting there it will rub it in the face of our betrayer.
ILLUS: As I shared with you before, I was hurt deeply by a high school coach. I thought all of my scholarship dreams were dashed by the way this man betrayed me. I was able to play college basketball and I thought by virtue of playing college basketball and starting in a couple of games that that somehow would just give me that sweet revenge. But it didn’t work out that way.
My name was called out over the loud speaker; we were playing Auburn. “Starting at guard, Ed Young.” And I ran out there in the short shorts and tube socks and I thought, “This is it? This is sweet revenge?”
Revenge isn’t sweet; it is bitter. It will not take you and get you where you want to go. The person will never feel like you felt. The person will never experience the stuff that you experienced when you take it upon yourself to try to get them back through doing this or that.
Others act like this Doberman [on my shirt].
ILLUS: We have a couple of Dobermans and a couple of days ago I was driving to work and as I was leaving my house one of our Dobermans was crouched down and I watched him sneak up on something. And I thought, “What is he doing?”
And the stealthy‑like approach and he was being so quiet and I was thinking, “This is crazy.” And then I saw a squirrel. And this dog is so fast, in an instant, boom! He chased the squirrel and came within feet of catching the squirrel. Now, I’m not sure what he would do if he ever caught a squirrel. One day he probably will.
A lot of people treat betrayal like that. We have been betrayed, we have been messed around by whoever or whatever and we’re like that Doberman. We wait and wait and one day we’re on them. “That’ll give me sweet revenge; that will do it for me; that will put wind in my sail.” It’s not going to work.
How about this? Maybe you have gotten someone back and let me ask you this question: How is it working for you? Revenge is playing God. Because when we seek revenge, here is what we’re doing. We’re usurping God from his position; we’re taking God off the throne of our lives and we are sitting on the throne of our lives and we are calling the shots. It’s like saying, “God, you chill, you relax, and I’m going to get the person back. No, you have nothing to do with this. You weren’t hurt. I will take control of my life.”
And whenever we play God, man that is some serious, serious sin. So think about it. When we have all played God we have messed around and we have ended up torching and hurting and wasting our own lives.
I think about the biblical body builder Sampson. Sampson had so much potential, so much ability; yet, his life was a tragedy of what might have been. People say all the time, “Man, you have potential.”
Well, what does potential mean? Potential means you haven’t done it yet! Sampson had all of this potential, yet he revolved his life around revenge and it just started a domino effect in his
life—betrayal, revenge, revenge, betrayal. It is just sad to read about his life.
So if you want to know what will happen if you revolve your life around revenge, look at Sampson. At the end of Sampson’s life, right before he did do one great thing, you know what he was doing? The biblical body builder had lost his strength, his eyes had been gouged out, he was grinding corn for the enemy, going around and around and around in circles. That’s what revenge will do. It will blind you, it will bind you, and it will grind you. The biblical body builder was a tragedy of what might have been. His life revolved around revenge.
Are you a predator? Are you a score keeper? Are you diving into some career or trying to get to some level to get the person back? I wouldn’t go there, because I have messed up in that area before and I know so have you.
You may be saying, “Okay Ed, what do I do? I mean, I am facing one of those JTMs; I’m facing a Joseph Type Moment. God has served my betrayer to me on a silver platter. You talk about Joseph’s brothers; they are right here before me. What should I do?
Well, let me press the pause button for a second because I want you to read Joseph’s story and dissect it. It is mentioned in the book of Genesis. Joseph’s brothers, again get this picture, betrayed him, lied about him and they thought he was dead. Joseph’s career blew up; he became the number two guy in Egypt. A famine struck, and it was felt by all of the neighboring nations. Because Egypt had done a good job saving grain, Joseph was selling grain to all these people. Take a wild guess who showed up at Joseph’s palace to buy some grain. You guessed it, Joseph’s brothers.
They had no idea he was still alive. They had no idea he was the man. In fact, even when they saw him they didn’t know it was him. So as Joseph faced this defining moment, he had this time where he could have gotten his brothers back; he could have made them pay; he could have tortured them; he could have done whatever he wanted to do because he was the man in Egypt. God served these people up to him on a silver platter.
And again I ask you, what do you do when that person is served up to you? What do you do during those JTMs, those Joseph Type Moments?
The brothers could have been blind‑sided by Joseph. They didn’t recognize him. He was an Egyptian now. They were clueless; yet, they had experienced a famine and hunger had brought them to Joseph. Shame and guilt had driven them to the point in their lives where they found themselves on their faces before them.
That’s what happens when we live a life of betrayal. We will experience, like Joseph’s brothers did, a famine of the soul, we will be hammered by shame and guilt. And so often, I’m talking to betrayers now, we will be at the mercy of the person that we betrayed. That’s a scary place to be in; yet, that’s where Joseph’s brothers found themselves.
What did Joseph do? It was a JTM, a Joseph Type Moment, a big moment, a defining moment, a crucial moment. What do you do during those JTMs? That’s the rugged planes of reality that I talk about so much; that is where the rubber meets the road in the Christian life, things like this, situations like that. What do we do? Do we pay them back or do we pull back?
And here’s what’s ironic about this whole subject whenever I talk about revenge. Whenever you read or think about someone living the Christian life, so often people think as a Christian I need to be meek and mild and soft and turn the other cheek and I should not stand for what I believe in. I mean, that’s the way I should live my life; at least that’s what the world tells us.
But the Bible says that I need to be powerful, to speak the truth in love, to stand for my convictions, and to say what’s on my heart. So the culture gives us this situation of Christianity as those who need a crutch and those who are weak and those who don’t have it together; yet, biblical Christianity, I mean, it takes some serious guts to live it out!
I ask you: you are served your betrayer on a silver platter; what is easier—to whack them or to pull back? I’m telling you, Christianity is not for light weights.
The Bible says we’re to do some things when we’re faced with those moments of betrayal. One of the things is, we are not to strike back, and we’re to strike up a conversation with God. That’s a good place to start. We’re to pray for ourselves. Don’t pray for the other person. Don’t even pray for the situation. Just pray for yourself.
“God give me patience. God I want to do what you want me to do.”
That’s the first thing we’re to do. Then, right after that, we’re to pray for our enemies. Now, I have a hard time doing that, I will confess; we’re in church. Whenever I start praying for my enemies, I no longer have this revengeful attitude. Because when I pray for them I begin to love them. I don’t like them necessarily; I don’t want to hang out with them, but I love them. And that’s what Jesus unpacked it in Matthew 5:44 when he said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Read here, those who betray you, or mess you around.
This word love doesn’t suggest an emotion; it suggests an attitude or an action. So when you have that opportunity, don’t strike back, strike up a conversation with God.
Also, consider your Egypt. You know all the people around Joseph knew the storyline about what had happened to him. Don’t you know he told everybody about the whole thing about him being betrayed and pushed in a pit and sold into slavery? They knew that he worked for Potiphar and they knew Potiphar’s wife accused him of a crime he didn’t commit. And they knew the story about him being in jail and about him interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams. They knew all of that, so they were watching to see how Joseph would respond. They were watching to see, “Is this stuff real or not? He talks about God. He talks about his relationship with the Lord. Is it real or not?”
How about your Egypt? Again, you have a JTM, a Joseph Type Moment, and you want people around you to see Jesus; you want people around you to be interested in attending Fellowship Church; you want people around you to have their head snapped like wow this is phenomenal. Begin to strike up a conversation with God; begin to consider the crowd and the influence that you have.
Romans 12:17 says, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.”
Because people are watching you and me. I mentioned technology earlier. Isn’t it crazy with technology? I mean, nothing is private anymore. I mean, there are cameras everywhere—on freeways, in stores, cell phones. Everything is public.
Well you think everything is public? That does not even come close to the eyes of God and to the eyes of others who are watching you and watching me. I truly believe when we get to heaven we’re going to be shocked at how many people were watching us and checking us out to see if Christianity was the real deal.
Something else that the Bible encourages us to do out of Jeremiah is to hire a lawyer. Now that sounds crazy, but this is totally pro bono. God says in Jeremiah 51:36 (NLT), “I will be your lawyer to plead your case, and I will avenge you.”
So revenge is when I usurp God and I take control and I take it out on the person, that’s revenge. Avenge is when I leave room for God to act, for God to move, for God to do the stuff. Because God will always, always handle it better than you and me. I have to give it to God.
Yes, God is a God of love. God is a God of forgiveness. And we talk about that and sing about that and it makes us happy and peppy and bursting with love. But also God is a God of justice and a God who punishes those wrongs. So, we need to talk about the balance of Him and God will take care of the person or persons who have betrayed us.
In Romans 12:19, “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.”
So number one, you’re not God. Turn to your neighbor and say, “You’re not God.” Hopefully that is a revelation to a lot of people here.
Number two, God knows that revolving our lives around revenge will harden our hearts. I don’t want a heart like that, do you? Well, if I revolve my life around revenge it will harden my heart.
Number three, the third comment about this is, this whole thing makes me trust God. I mean, it makes me trust God. If I’m doing the things that I talked about doing in my life, I am forced to trust God. If I trust God I am a man of endurance, a man of commitment, a man of power. And I can have and you can have the influence of Joseph in our Egypt. So don’t play God; let God be God. Let God take care of revenge.