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Lessons from the Dungeon, Part Two

From Series: The Hand of God, Volume 1

There is a certain security that results from trusting in God's providence, knowing that He uses even our failures for His glory and our good. Teaching from the life of Joseph, Alistair Begg encourages us to recognize this life-changing truth. When we place our trust in God’s care, we can face death with composure, celebrate life to the fullest, deal with disappointment without losing hope, and rest with confidence in His unfailing goodness.


Sermon Transcript:

Can I invite you to turn with me to Genesis chapter 40, where we continue our studies in the life of Joseph, a character who is becoming a friend to many of us and certainly a companion in our journey in life?

The ultimate end of God’s providence is that his name would be glorified, and that he deals in this way in the lives of men and women for his glory and for our good.

Little did I know, when I began this study, how timely it would be for us as a church, nor how timely it would be for me in my own life. I think probably since we’ve begun to consider what is essentially a classic Old Testament expression of the doctrine of providence, I have had more occasion in private and personal ways, as well as in public ministry, to be challenged with the implications of this essential truth. The doctrine of providence clearly states that God, by his divine energy, preserves all his creatures, is operative in all that comes to pass, and directs everything in the world to their appointed end, and the ultimate end of God’s providence is that his name would be glorified, and that he deals in this way in the lives of men and women for his glory and for our good.

And so, in the life of Joseph, we are being encouraged to consider the implications of the well-worn New Testament verse, Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purposes.” All the forces that are ranged today in opposition to God—sin and evil, corruption and injustice, greed and exploitation—are held in check by God’s providential rule. And as Christians, we have no place for pessimism, we have no place for anxiety, we have no place for pride, and we have no place for defeat. For in the amazing understanding of who God is and what he is doing, we find that we are humbled, recognizing that we are not the masters of our own destiny; that we are secure, realizing that even our failures and our sins are under his control; and that we are ultimately victorious, recognizing that God is able to take even the most heinous rebellion of man and work it for his good. And nowhere is it more clearly seen than the events of the days which are upon us. By the time Peter preaches on the day of Pentecost, he reminds his listeners,

Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to a cross.[1]

We were absolutely culpable, the hatred and the evil and the rebellion was only ours, and yet God was sovereign even in the midst of all of that as he provided a Savior for our sins.

Now, when you back the video up a long way—a few thousand years—and you reverse right into the story of Genesis, and you find yourself focusing on this individual Joseph, then we have in Joseph a foreshadowing of all that is to reach its fullness in the person of Christ. And at this point in the story, we have discovered that Joseph is once again on the receiving end of discomfort. He has been falsely accused by his boss’s wife of an interest in her which was wrong—which was a totally false accusation—and as a result of that, he has found himself in a dungeon. And in this dungeon, he is both learning and teaching lessons.

And we said last time that there were some lessons to be learned from the dungeon. We noted the first of these to be living life with a God-centered focus, and the second, a preparedness to declare the truth without ambiguity—Joseph doing both: in the news that he brings to the cupbearer of the fact that he is going to be lifted up and restored to usefulness, and then the news that he brings to this baker that, in point of fact, he is in deep trouble, Joseph declares the truth without ambiguity.

Lesson #3: Preparing for Our Death

We then began to look at the third lesson from the dungeon—namely, a lesson in preparing for death. And we noted last time that the individual from whom we learned this was given a clear opportunity to make adequate preparation, because they were told directly by the word of God that they had, now, some seventy-two hours left to live. And we began last time to consider the implications insofar as none of us knows what a day brings, and that it would be a special providence to be given, in categorical terms, the exact span of our lives. None of us are, and so we all live with a measure of uncertainty in relationship to this whole prospect of our own death.

Now, one of the dilemmas which inevitably faces us as men and women in relation to this subject is not simply in being trained ourselves to make adequate preparation for that day, but is in learning to know how to deal, in a biblical and meaningful and realistic way, with those who are within the sphere of our reference, who by dint of a serious onslaught of illness have—at least from a human perspective—drawn closer to the prospect of their own demise than is apparent to some of the rest. And so for physicians and for any who are involved in what is referred to as terminal care, there is a need for clear instruction. And the Bible needs to help us in this respect.

The individual who is facing death must learn to balance hope with reality—must learn to hope for the best, and yet at the same time to prepare for the worst.

The individual who is facing death must learn to balance hope with reality—must learn to hope for the best, and yet at the same time to prepare for the worst. If we are not prepared for any event that may come our way—and we include in that the event of death itself—if we are living life unprepared for the prospect of death, paying only lip service to it as a notion, and we recognize that we are living in a fallen world and the sting of sin is death, then we’re living building castles in the air. We are building our house on sand, and we are not on the bedrock—the solid instruction which Jesus provided on the occasion of the death of Lazarus to the ladies around him who were so concerned about what had happened to their brother.

Turn to one of the best and most glorious verses on this subject, in John 11:25, and you’ll see it there. This is a definite underlining verse if you’ve never underlined it before. Jesus declares that Lazarus is going to rise again. Martha is clear enough on the subject to say she knows there’s going to be a resurrection at the last day. Jesus advances the information in a significant way as he declares, “I am the resurrection and the life. He that believes in me, even though he dies, will live, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”[2]

Although I pass through the experience of the demise of my physical frame, believing in Jesus, it will simply be a transition; it will simply be a passing from one realm into another.

Now, this is the absolute solid bedrock of the issue of both life and death, and any consideration of death and dying which does not pay careful attention to the words of Jesus, especially in this respect, is going to be deficient in its approach. This must be the place of beginning. If anyone has conquered death, I want to know them; if they have conquered death and made a way for me to conquer death, I want to meet them; and if they have conquered death and made a way for me to conquer death, then I want to learn how it is that I may conquer death. So although I pass through the experience of the demise of my physical frame, believing in Jesus, it will simply be a transition; it will simply be a passing from one realm into another. And in light of that, it is imperative that we counsel people accordingly, that we do not announce to those who are facing the prospect of death that, in some abrupt and unfeeling fashion, they just simply are going to have to face up to it—that the issues of honesty have to be matched by both wisdom and with grace.

And it would seem to me that we probably do best for our friends and for our family who are facing particular illness by reminding them, first of all, of the uncertainty of their condition. That is simply an acknowledgment of the facts of life, because life by its very nature is uncertain. And when we put ourselves or find ourselves within the framework of peculiar illness, that sense of uncertainty merely increases. We need to help our loved ones to recognize the possibility—even the probability—that as a result of the advice they have received, they may not recover in the way in which and in the timeframe that they hope. In other words, that we are sincere, that we are genuine, that we are true to life, and that we are true to the Bible.

What are the alternatives? Well, one of the alternatives that is often seized upon—and it is absolutely wrong—is to sit in a chair beside somebody who has had a significant diagnosis of the onset of an illness that would be described by the medical world as terminal, to sit in the chair beside a person like that, or to sit at their bedside, and simply offer to them a bunch of platitudes—to throw out every kind of hopeful verse we might think of, to say things to them that help to ease our discomfort: “Oh, well, don’t worry. I’m sure we’ll be back on the golf course before long.” And inside ourselves, when we get in our cars to drive away, we’re saying, “She’ll never be on a golf course again.” So what we did eased our sense of discomfort and contributed nothing, except perhaps failure, to the individual that we left behind.

In twenty-one years of pastoral ministry now, and in a limited experience compared to many, I have found that in dealing with individuals like this, the human frame is increasingly alert to its own demise—that individuals have an internal mechanism which indicates to them at a deep level of their being that despite what others may say, despite the deepest hopes they have, despite the earnestness of the prayers of others, it is appearing increasingly likely that their life force is ebbing from them. And it is in that context that we need to learn to help one another to face the prospect gradually. And it is, actually, a unique blessing to be able to do so. For not all will have the privilege of such a transition. Few will get the three-day warning; many of us will go in an instant without any opportunity for plan or for care in this way. We mustn’t wait out of fear or discomfort until the pain medication takes our loved one into the realm of oblivion, where it is now clear to all except the sufferer that it is now impossible to communicate, both to speak and to hear, and to do anything that is worthwhile.

So between those two extremes—silly platitudes on the one hand, and oblivion induced by pain medication on the other—we have an opportunity to both think and speak biblically and on the basis of the bedrock of the words of Jesus: “I am the resurrection and the life and whoever believes in me even though he dies, yet he will live. And whosoever lives and believes in me will never die.”[3] And then the question, “Do you believe this?”[4] And, you see, the answer to that question is the key to the way in which we’re able to face people, face ourselves, and deal with our own eventuality.

And what of ourselves, for a moment? Have you prepared to die? Have you made plans? I’m not asking you if you have a plot. I don’t have a plot. I hope I have enough money to get flown back to Scotland, and they’ll find a place for me there. But have you wrestled with John 11:25? Have you dealt with this issue of belief in relationship to Jesus? Most people who talk to you about these things don’t talk to you about these things, and—if you’ll pardon me—insurance agents are expert at this. Isn’t it interesting that people who spend their time and make their money selling life insurance, or life assurance, manage to sell these multidollar policies without ever using the D-word? You notice that? “I’m just here to talk to you today, and just in case something should happen to you.” “What do you mean? Something happens to me every day; all the time things are happening to me. You’ve got something particular in mind?” “Well, you know, if something, you know, in, in the unlikely event of—.” It’s starting to sound like United Airlines: “In the unlikely event. In the unlikely event of a water landing.” That’s an unlikely event flying over Texas, but not flying across the Atlantic Ocean. It is “in the likely event; in the inevitable event”! But then they try and back you off it a little bit by saying, “Now, how old did you say you were? I see, you’re forty-four on your next birthday. Well, really we’re doing this just in case … of your premature death.”

“Premature death”? There cannot be a premature death. I will not die prematurely, and neither will you. I won’t die one second before the time that is entered in the Book for me to go. I am immortal until that day, and so are you. I’m not going to die prematurely. I may die tonight, but it won’t be premature. It’ll be the right, exact moment when I die, because I can’t have a doctrine of providence where God cares for the sparrows and knows when they fall to the ground and then sits in heaven and goes, “Goodness gracious, did you see that Alistair Begg just died? Wow, I never expected that! You know, I’ve been sustaining all things by the word of my power, I brought him to existence, I kept him through his days, and doggone it, he went and died on me!”

We cannot, loved ones, live with comfort until we have faced with composure the sentence of death.

We cannot, loved ones, live with comfort until we have faced with composure the sentence of death. In preparing our friends and loved ones—indeed, in preparing ourselves—we need to prepare one another to trust and to rest in the promises of God’s Word. Don’t let anybody take you away in some dingy van in Michigan. That man is a serial killer! He is true to his own atheistic philosophy. He believes that men and women were born by chance, sustain their lives without any semblance of normalcy, and die into oblivion. Therefore, for him to take you in the back of his wagon and hook you up to carbon monoxide is nothing other than the outworking of his evil, empty, atheistic philosophy. That is not assisted anything; that is murder! And if it’s not politically correct to say it, tough. But somebody oughta say it! And what a sorry world we live in. But Schaeffer’s words are fulfilled in our generation: thirty years ago in London he lectured to us, and he told us the same rules that they will use for the abortion of babies, they will use for the destruction of people in their old age.[5] And how was it most recently tried in Michigan? Exactly the same logic that was used for the prenatal situation was used in relationship to the demise, and apparently the Constitution of the United States provides for murder in the back of a van.

Well, if you don’t think that we need a biblical view of death and dying, you don’t think. And we’ll come back to this another time. It would be nice to get a doctor, a lawyer, a baker, and—you know, a butcher, a baker, a candlestick maker—and rap this out and think it through. The biomedical ethics that are involved in this are significant, and many of you are on the cutting edge of this and are forced with difficult and devastating decisions every day in the course of your calling. I want to help you with that.

Lesson #4: Celebrating Our Life

Now, the fourth lesson that we learn from the dungeon is the other side of the coin. It lifts our spirits a little because we move away from preparing for death to celebrating life—indeed, celebrating a birthday. Have you had a birthday lately? Have you had a birthday in the last year? If you haven’t, then the previous point is probably more significant than you realize: “Goodness, it’s over a year now, and I haven’t had a birthday!”

Christians, of all people, ought to be able to have parties—really good parties. Not mediocre, boring parties—fantastic parties!.

Christians, of all people, ought to be able to have parties—really good parties. Not mediocre, boring parties—fantastic parties! I mean, Christians should not be party animals, but they should be party somethings. And especially birthday parties. Let me explain to you; I’ve been thinking about this. Verse 20 of Genesis 40: “Now the third day was Pharaoh’s birthday, and he gave a feast [or a party] for all his officials.” He was celebrating life. His birthday was quite an event. It was, particularly, for two individuals: one who had his head lifted up to stay up, and the other one who had his head lifted off. Pharaoh gives the party for his officials; the officials don’t give the party for Pharaoh.

“Well,” you say, “is it really worthwhile pausing on this?” Yes, I think so. You’re sensible people; you can judge, when I finish this point, how helpful it is. I just want to make the point in passing that birthdays—birthdays—provide us with a unique and an annual opportunity for thanksgiving. Now, every day of our lives provides the same, but in a special way, one day out of the year we have the opportunity to pause for a moment and marvel at God’s goodness and provision for us—first of all to pause on the morning of our birthday and to say, “O Lord, how wonderful that you have sustained me through the days of another year and have awakened me on this, my birthday morning, to celebrate the gift of life itself, whatever it may bring and with whomsoever I spend it. I thank you. I thank you for my birthday. I thank you in the words of the psalmist, that ‘goodness and mercy has been following me all the days of my life,’[6] and I praise you on this anniversary day.” An opportunity at the same time to praise and magnify our parents—if they are alive, to do so in an overt and genuine display of gratitude; if they have gone, to pause and revere their memory—that in the providence of God, he put things together in such a way in my own life, that some wee guy called John, at a church picnic, checking out the girls, finds a girl called Louise, is struck by her animated commitment in the sport events, is struck by the hilarity of her laughter, and says, “You know, I fancy her,” and gets close, and closer, and closer, and so close they start producing offspring. And so I get to have birthdays. I want them to know how thankful I am.

In fact, this little study within a study, for me, is changing my whole approach to birthdays. I mean, I haven’t had one yet since I had this revelation here; I don’t know what it’s going to be like this year, but it’s going to be different. I’ll definitely call my dad. I’ll definitely do what I’ve just said, because the Solomon, in all of his wisdom, he makes this clear. Our parents are always worthy of our honor, says Moses in the Decalogue.[7] But the word in Proverbs is also so wonderfully clear in relationship to this—Proverbs 23:24: “The father of a righteous man has great joy; he who has a wise son delights in him. May your mother and your father be glad; may she who gave you birth rejoice!”[8]—every day, but particularly on your birthday, to give cause to your parents to thank God for the provision that he has made in the gift of their children.

So then, on my birthday: to celebrate God’s provision, to celebrate the joy of family life and the gift of my parents, and thirdly to celebrate my friends—those whom God has given me in my life. Proverbs 17:17: “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” You got one friend in your life, you’re rich! You’ve heard me say that fifty times; I say it every time, because I believe it. One friend! I’m not talking casual acquaintances. I’m not talking about somebody who knows you or took a trip with you. I’m talking about one person with whom you can bare your soul and know that they won’t turn it into a prayer chain request; to whom you can confess your sins and know that they won’t take a megaphone and use it as an opportunity for public display; before whom you can acknowledge your fears and your failures and your disquiets and your discouragements and know that they will get where you are. “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” And on your birthday, be thankful if you’ve got a friend—18:24 of Proverbs: “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 27:6: “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”

So then, on our birthday we ought to celebrate the fact of our existence, our preservation, our family, our privileges, our joys in earthly pilgrimage. Our birthdays are not to be a morbid preoccupation with bones. Let us be done with giving Hallmark any money for those silly cards that talk about, “Oh, well, now you’re forty. You’re on the way out.” “Oh well, now you’re fifty. Poor old guy.” “Oh well, now you’re sixty. One foot on a banana skin, the other in the grave.” Let the pagans send those cards; let them buy those cards. Let us acknowledge on our birthdays the difference that Jesus makes to that day and to every day. Who was it sang the song, some girl, “It’s my birthday, and I’ll cry if I want to, cry if I want to, cry if I want to”? [9] And that’s pretty well it: on the one hand, “Oh, it’s my birthday,” you know, “look, look at this, look at this, look at this, look”; or, on the other hand, “It’s my birthday! Hey, look at all my stuff! Do you see the stuff?”

John Calvin, he hits it right on the head, as he is wont to do: “Such is the depravity of the world that it greatly distorts those things which formerly were honestly instituted by our fathers into contrary corruptions.”[10] Now, there’s a sentence for you. What he is saying is this: Things that started off good, we foul them up. “Thus, by a vicious practice, it is become common for nearly all to abandon themselves to luxury and wantonness on their birthday”[11]—“to abandon themselves to luxury and wantonness on their birthday.” “What do you want for your birthday, Dad?” “I want a kiss, I want a hug, you know, I want … six Snickers bars, I don’t know.” Nothin’ much, right? Because when you pare it down to the essentials … “In short, they keep up the memory of God, as the Author of their life, in such a manner as if it were their set purpose to forget Him.”[12]

So we celebrate our birthdays as if we made ourselves, when we know we didn’t; to celebrate our birthdays in isolation from those who are nearest and dearest and closest and most to us, as if somehow or another they are now irrelevant with the passing of time; and we may even celebrate our birthdays in the absence of those who have been prepared to wound us for our good, and we’re so silly as to go and get a crowd of people who would kill us with their kisses.

That’s a wee lesson, then, from the dungeon about how to have a happy birthday. Anybody’s birthday today? Just asking.

Lesson #5: Dealing with Disappointment

The second last lesson from the dungeon is a lesson on dealing with disappointment, dealing with unfulfilled hopes. Do you have things in your life that have been unfulfilled—desires and dreams you’ve had and hoped for? Certainly Joseph did. He knew that God was in control, but he flat out frankly wanted to get out of the dungeon. That’s why in verse 14, when he had given the news to the cupbearer of the fact that he was going to be out of there in three days, he said, “By the way, when you go, it’d be just a nice deal if you would mention to Pharaoh that I’m still stuck in here and see if you couldn’t put in a good word for me, because I really was forcibly carried off, I haven’t done anything to deserve being in here, and I’d like to get out of the dungeon.” Now, look at verse 23 of the chapter, the last verse of the chapter: “The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.”[13] Forgot him! I imagine that he left the dungeon, shook hands with everybody, said, “Thanks, it’s been nice knowing you. I’m outta here,” and had a wee greeting for each one of them, and he grabbed Joseph by the hand, and he said, “Joseph, you can expect to hear from me. I listened to what you said. I heard you. I’m your man, Joe.”

Somebody said that to you about a business deal in the last six months? You still waiting for the phone to ring? You’re dating a guy in your college years, and he told you, “I’m your guy. You can expect to hear from me”—you never heard from him again? How do we deal with the disappointment of unfulfilled dreams? How do we deal with the disappointment that is caused by people who just flat out let us down? ’Cause that’s exactly what the chap did. And Joseph—if we would imagine the scene to any degree with accuracy—we can only assume that there was a great expectation in his heart, and that in the early days after the cupbearer had been released, everybody that came rattling at the door of the dungeon would presumably lift the spirits within Joseph, and he’d be saying to himself, “Whoever it is that’s coming ’round the bend, they’ll be from the cupbearer, ’cause I’m gonna be out of here.” If we advanced it into contemporary terms, he’d be saying, “If the phone rings, don’t touch it, it’ll be for me. That’ll be for me.” And the first one wasn’t, and the second one wasn’t, and the third one wasn’t, and a week passed, and two weeks passed, and a month passed, and two months passed—three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, and everybody in the dungeon, including Joseph, knew there’s not going to be a call from the cupbearer.

People are secondary causes of his provision for us, but God is the ultimate occasion of our praise, and he’s the ultimate source of our confidence.

Well, it’s one thing to be on the receiving end of such disappointment; it’s another thing to be the initiator of such disappointment. We can all identify with this. People fail us and let us down; that is an axiom of life. Things that we think are going to go differently don’t happen as we anticipate. Even the best of people prove to be a disappointment to us, and why would we be surprised? Because we in turn prove to be a disappointment to others. Alas, the project’s incomplete. Alas, the unfulfilled promises. But what does it teach us? It teaches us an essential truth of life, expressed graphically in the words of Jeremiah when he says, “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength.”[14] If you’re relying on a man or on a woman, you’re relying on the wrong thing. You say, “Oh yeah, but I’m relying on my wife. It’s okay to rely on my wife.” Well, yes it is, within a certain framework, but ultimately you’re relying on God. Why? Because your wife can’t breathe unless God gives her the breath to breathe. So our reliance is on God. People are secondary causes of his provision for us, but God is the ultimate occasion of our praise, and he’s the ultimate source of our confidence. And any misdirection of our gaze will lead to great disappointment and great pain. And that is the only way in which, loved ones, you will be able to deal with undue criticism and that which comes your way. The hymn writer says with great realism, “Some will love thee, some will hate thee, some will praise thee, some will slight. Cease from man and look above thee, trust in God and do the right.”[15]

And that was another time that Joseph had to learn the lesson. How many times was he going to learn it? He relies on his dad, and his dad sends him on a journey, and he doesn’t see him for another twenty years. He relies in the fact that his brothers might have changed their minds and maybe they were speaking to him; they strip him bare and throw him in a hole in the ground and sell him into a relationship in Egypt. He relies on the potential of Potiphar, who now has taken him under his control and given him freedom in all the house, and suddenly he’s on the receiving end of unjust accusation, and he’s thrown once again into a foul dungeon. And in the foul dungeon, he says to the cupbearer, “Now, when you get out of here, look after me. I’d like to get out of here, too.” And he is forced to believe that he’ll do it, and he doesn’t do it. And what does he have to learn all over again? The same thing that you and I have to learn all over again—the final lesson from the dungeon, which is this: learning to rest in God’s faithfulness.

Lesson #6: Resting in God’s Faithfulness

Learning to rest in God’s faithfulness. He is the only unfailing one. He is the only one who is true to his word on every occasion. “Some trust in chariots, some in horses, but,” says the psalmist, “we trust in the name of the living God.”[16] It appeared to Joseph that he had been forgotten. He had been forgotten by the cupbearer, but he had not been forgotten by his Lord and master.

Have you been forgotten by someone in your life? Have you been forgotten by someone in the immediacy of these last few days? You feel as though you’ve taken a spike to your shins in the run of life? You feel as though you’ve taken one too many elbows to your rib cage? When, as it were, you disrobe for the evening, your body is battered by friendly fire from those around you? What do you do? Look away from man. Look up. When you feel as though your prayers are like the guy’s mailbox across the street, who went on a trip and never told any of the neighbors, and it’s just lying there, day after day, going nowhere, meaning nothing; when you feel your prayers are just like that—that there is no answer, that you are forgotten; when you feel that you’re straining at the oars in the lake of life and the wind is against you and the waves are rising and the boat is tossing, what do you do? Oh, I only know one thing to do: I go back to my Bible—it’s the only thing I’ve got. And I go and I look up verses, and I look up this: “The Lord is the everlasting God.” That’s good. “The creator of the ends of the earth.” He’s powerful. “He will not grow tired or weary … his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary.” Okay. “And [he] increases the power of the weak.” This is good. “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”[17] “Can,” says the prophet, “a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?”[18]

I flew from Texas in the evening in a row with four others: a mother and a father and two children—one of those ideal setups, in row 23 on an MD-80. The only encouragement is the sound of the engine keeping going and the bathroom door banging and closing. But actually, apart from public perception, I love to be in the row with those wee ones. I just find it difficult in here, when they make those noises like parrots, to keep my concentration, but I love your kids, and I love the fact they’re around, and I love the dear souls that do a nursery for us so that we can function effectively. But in the row there I was, starting to feel like an old man, realizing that I used to take trips and my girls were that size as well. And there was one about this size and one about that size, and the weest one was closest to me and closest to her mom. And her mom said, “We’re going to fly, and would you like to look out the window, and would you like to sit in your seat? No? Well, you’re gonna sit in your seat,” and so it went. You know the whole thing. And then eventually in the course of it all, she gathers this wee thing up and she brings her in against her breast and nestled in underneath her chin, and the wee girl falls sound asleep with her face all mashed up like that. When she finally woke up, they had to kind of bring her face back into … sort of rework it. And I thought, what a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful picture. She was going at 540 miles an hour in a steel tube at 35,000 feet above the ground, and she didn’t have a care in the world. All she knew was that her mom was there, and she was with her mom, and her mom wasn’t going to forget her. Wouldn’t it be great to be loved by someone like that, to be loved in the way a mother loves her newborn child?

The lesson—number six—to rest in God’s unfailing goodness.


[1] Acts 2:22–23 (NIV 1984).

[2] John 11:25–26 (paraphrased).

[3] John 11:25–26 (paraphrased).

[4] John 11:26 (NIV 1984).

[5] See Francis A. Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live? (Grand Rapids: Revell, 1976), 257.

[6] Psalm 23:6 (paraphrased).

[7] See Exodus 20:12.

[8] Proverbs 23:24–25 (NIV 1984).

[9] Walter Gold, John Gluck, Jr., Herb Weiner, and Seymour Gottlieb, “It’s My Party and I’ll Cry If I Want To” (1963).

[10] John Calvin, Commentaries on the First Book of Moses Called Genesis, Vol. 2, trans. John King (Edinburgh: The Calvin Translation Society, 1850), 312 (paraphrased).

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Genesis 40:23 (NIV 1984).

[14] Jeremiah 17:5a (NIV 1984).

[15] Norman MacLeod, “Courage, Brother! Do Not Stumble” (1857) (paraphrased).

[16] Psalm 20:7 (paraphrased).

[17] Isaiah 40:28–31 (NIV 1984).

[18] Isaiah 49:15 (NIV 1984).

Thankfulness: A Mark of Grace
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