ARE YOU IN GOD'S ZONE
When difficult times come into our lives we often find ourselves unable to understand why. We question God’s goodness, even His wisdom in allowing these things to happen. But God reminds us that things don’t just happen haphazardly, things don’t just happen without meaning or purpose. God is always in control. In just about every case He is preparing you for something down the road, or maybe allowing you to experience the same trials another individual will experience later, giving you a more understanding heart. James tells us that God wants us to trust Him in these trials.
Inevitably, there are three steps the Lord takes in preparing you for His service.
First, He has to get you out of your comfort zone. Now, we all have our little niche where we feel most comfortable. You’re more comfortable talking with certain people, probably because you have some common interest, you sit in the same spot, you do the same tasks in the church, etc. In order to be an effective servant for God, He uses unique methods to get you out of your comfort zone, such as changing your life situation bringing you down to bring you back up. Think of it as a way of getting your attention.
Consider the story of Joseph, the “dreamer.” Joseph’s brothers were out tending to the family business and Jacob sent him out the check on them. Of course, you know he just had to tell about his dreams. It was bad enough his brothers despised Joseph because he was Jacob’s favorite, but hearing that they would have to bow to Joseph was the straw that broke the camel’s back. They tossed him in a pit, sprinkled lamb’s blood on his coat, sold him to some travelling merchants heading to Egypt, and then concocted a lie to convince Jacob that his favorite son was dead.
A change in your life situation may bring you down so the only direction you can see is up. Here’s Joseph sold into slavery, not knowing what will happen next. But God is in control. Joseph gains experience being in charge of Potiphar’s house. But Potiphar’s wife had other plans. She lies to her husband telling him that Joseph attacked her. Potiphar had no choice but to toss Joseph into prison.
He gains more leadership experience. The head prison guard gave Joseph numerous responsibilities while he was in prison. He interpreted dreams for the baker and cup bearer who were also imprisoned at that time. Soon the baker and cup bearer were released. The cup bearer went back to his old job and the baker was executed, just as their dreams were interpreted. Joseph had hit rock bottom not knowing how long he would have to endure prison. Pharaoh was having dreams that no one could interpret. The cup bearer then remembered Joseph and his skill for interpreting dreams (God is in control). He then finds favor with Pharaoh who makes him second in command.
What kind of qualifications other than dream interpretation did Joseph have to earn this position? Tending sheep was all he ever knew. The one thing he was sure of was who was in control. He did know that God would always be there. He didn’t have a clue as to what would happen, but he placed complete trust in God. God is not interested in us being comfortable, but more interested in making us more Christ-like to accomplish His plan. God is not in the habit of calling the qualified, but qualifying the called, which brings us to the second step qualification
Qualification -- Look back to the time Joseph’s life changed. He was sold to Potiphar, but he eventually was put in charge of the entire household. I’m pretty certain there were some experiences he never had in his life. He had to learn a whole new culture, a whole new life style. I can only imagine what it was like changing from the life of a sheepherder to living in a palace. While in prison he soon found favor with the warden and was put in charge of other prisoners. But Joseph was successful in everything he did.
Between running Potiphar’s house and managing prisoners he gained all sorts of leadership and administrative skills, everything he needed to save Egypt from starvation from the coming famine. Again, God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called. Once you are ready He will take you on to the third step, your assignment or mission.
Mission -- Hopefully at this point you have an open heart and are hearing God speak to you. Amos 3:7 teaches us, “Surely the Lord God does nothing unless He reveals His secret to His servants and prophet.” God isn’t going to prepare you for something and then make you guess what you need to do. With prayer and bible study He will show you what He wants you to do. Maybe someone needs your help and it just so happens you have experienced the same type of trial. Now you can sympathize, find an understanding ear. They are more likely to accept your help if you have had a similar experience.
Joseph saw God’s plan in Pharaoh’s dream. What he may have considered trial and persecution was God’s way of preparing him to save, not only Egypt, but his family. Joseph’s faith in God was rewarded. Joseph’s patience was rewarded. Joseph fully relied on god and proved to be a willing servant.
Jesus life wasn’t much different. He was taken out of His comfort zone; He left Heaven to be born of a virgin. He grew up on this earth experiencing the same things we have. He didn’t live in a fancy house, grow up rich with a silver spoon. He had to learn His father’s trade, carpentry. He suffered many of the same things as humans.
In many ways, the lives of Joseph and Jesus were the same. Joseph was despised by his brothers, Jesus was despised by man. Both were betrayed—Joseph for 20 pieces of silver, Jesus 30 pieces of silver. Joseph was thrown in prison, Jesus faced crucifixion. Joseph’s mission—save Egypt and Israel from famine. Jesus’s mission—save the entire world from sin.
Has God gotten you out of your comfort zone? Or are you trying to stay in that zone? Are you uncomfortable because you know God has something for you to do, but you are afraid you’ve never done anything like it before? God is always in control. There is a reason for trials and tests. You just have to have the courage to let God work in your life.