It is difficult to understand how God could mean good towards us through other people mistreating us or through some terrible episode of suffering. How can God use for good what someone else intends for evil or through what causes us unbearable pain? Though the answer to that question is full of mystery and wonder, we find a powerful case study in the experiences of Joseph as he interpreted the wicked actions of his brothers.
Genesis 50:15-21 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.” So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died: ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. (ESV)
Doctrine: God is working his sovereign and eternal plan to save a people for the glory of his name through the finished work of Jesus Christ. This is the only plan that will actually come to ultimate fulfillment. Amazingly, God works in and through our intentions and actions (even sinful ones) in order to fulfill his plan, even if we are oblivious the fact that he does so.
1. This means humbly recognizing that we are not God.
Psalm 8:3-4 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?
James 4:13-16 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.
2. This means analyzing intentions, both God’s and others.
3. This means focusing our whole heart on Jesus Christ.
Acts 2:22-23 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.”