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Don't Be A Victim

melissaOn December 1, 1997, Missy Jenkins was one of seven students gunned down at Heath High School in Paducah, Kentucky, following a school prayer meeting. A bullet damaged her spinal cord, leaving Missy dependent upon braces and a walker in order to move around.

At the time of the shooting, Jenkins was 15-years-old and described herself as "without direction." During her convalescence, she not only found the will to stay alive, but the determination to go forward in a positive direction with her life.
"I realized I did not die that morning. I'm all here. I'm alive," said Missy in a recent interview.

On December 18, 2004, carried by that resolve, Missy received a bachelor's degree in . . .

Then Joseph said to his brothers, ?Come close to me.? When they had done so, he said,
?I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt!

And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here,
because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.    
Genesis 45:4-5


On December 1, 1997, Missy Jenkins was one of seven students gunned down at Heath High School in Paducah, Kentucky, following a school prayer meeting. A bullet damaged her spinal cord, leaving Missy dependent upon braces and a walker in order to move around.melissa

At the time of the shooting, Jenkins was 15-years-old and described herself as "without direction." During her convalescence, she not only found the will to stay alive, but the determination to go forward in a positive direction with her life.

"I realized I did not die that morning. I'm all here. I'm alive," said Missy in a recent interview.

On December 18, 2004, carried by that resolve, Missy received a bachelor's degree in social work from Murray State University. Her future plans include a master's degree, marriage, children, and a job.

Missy said, "I just don't think God is going to give me anything I can't handle."1

Melissa Jenkins refused to just become a victim. She had no control over whether she was shot, but she had control over how she chose to see herself. She was a victim of a senseless shooting, but she decided not to adopt the life of a victim and that makes all the difference.

Genesis 45 tells us the conclusion to an amazing drama. The story is almost four thousand years old, but it is as contemporary as today's news. It's also the story of someone who chooses not to look at life from the position of a victim, but takes a higher God-centered view of his life and of history. It is the story of Joseph and his brothers. By the time of this story, Joseph was on top of life so a cynical person might be tempted to say that its easy to drop the role of victim when you on top, but it wasn't always that for him. The story is an amazing and gripping drama. I recommend it in the full version which you can read in Genesis chapter 37 to chapter 50.

Joseph is one of the sons of Jacob. His mother is Rachel, the wife Jacob fell head over heels for back in Haran.
The other sons are born to Leah and and Leah's servants. But Joseph and Benjamin are Rachel's boys and have a special place in their father's eyes.

As parents we all know that if you want to sow division in your home, just favor one child over another or one set of grandchildren over another. The battle lines will be drawn. Jacob clearly favored Joseph, Rachel's first son.

As a teen ager, Joseph did not show much wisdom and gloated over his special status.
His brothers were not impressed. In fact they plotted to do away with him.
They planned to kill him, but instead sold him as a slave to some nomads who then took him to Egypt and sold him as a domestic servant.

While in Egypt, he is falsely accused of sexually assualting his boss's wife and ends up in prison.
While in prison, God gives him the gift of interpreting dreams and comes to the notice of Pharoah who had been troubled by a recurring dream. Joseph interprets the dream and uses the interpretation to convince Pharoah to store large amounts of grain, thereby saving Egypt from a seven year famine.
Pharoah is so grateful he makes Joseph prime minister over Egypt.

Years have passed since Joseph's brothers plotted to kill him, and threw him into an empty cistern.
There is a general famine throughout the Mediterranean world and Jacob's family hear that there is food in Egypt.
Joseph's brothers, except Benjamin, come to Egypt to buy grain.
They come to the attention of Joseph who recognizes them as his alienated brothers...the ones who plotted to kill him.

He plays a cat and mouse game with them as a test.
He sells them grain but then plants thier original silver in their bags, to implicate them in theft.
They are brought back before Joseph who they do not recognize.
They are frightened and mystified.
Joseph asks about the family. He wonders where the younget son is.
The story comes out of a son who was lost and their father's grief and how he would not let the only remaining son of Rachel out of his sight.

Joseph is distressed at his father's grief.
But he sets them a challenge. He takes Simeon hostage and says he will not let him go until the youngest is brought before him as well.
Jacob is reluctant, but Judah guarantees the boy's safety and asks Jacob to relent.
They travel back to Egypt and present Benjamin to his older brother.

Joseph orders a banquet, but the brothers are still frightened thinking this stranger is going to deal with them harshly, believing they are thieves or spies.

At last Joseph tells them who he is.
Now they are even more frightened.
At first they were innocently accused of theft.
Now they know they are guilty of everything that had happened to Joseph.

A question:
Suppose someone has done you real harm. Not accidentally, but maliciously.
How would you respond?

If you are harmed, you have the right to seek justice and if possible, restituion.
That is your right.
Joseph had been wronged by his brothers. He would have been within his rights to want them punished, but he chose not to demand his right.
It was how he saw his life that made all the difference.

How do you live in the light of life's injustices?

Research has found that victims of motor vehicle accidents heal faster when they settle the claim quickly.   People who hold onto their grievance, do not heal as fast.
That is not news, but it is interesting.
It's as if the healing cells in your body get a message...wait, we're not ready to let go of this injury yet, and are unable to do their job.

When we choose to see ourselves as victims, we are tied to our injuries.
People who live as victims as often as not end up cynical and bitter, and unable to move past the point of injury into healing.
They are robbed of the joy of life and often are disabled emotionally.

Joseph gives us the pathway out of a victim's view of life.
Notice what he says to his brothers:

?I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.
For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. 'so then, it was not you who sent me here, but God."

When Jacob dies, the brothers fear Joseph may now take his revenge on them. They thought he had been good to them for their father's sake. I guess they had not heard what he told them the first time. So he tells them again:

?Don't be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." (Gen. 50:49-50)

Joseph understood what God had shown him: God was in charge of his life and ultimately he was not at the mercy of chance, or of stronger forces. He belonged to God, and God was at work in his life.

The apostle Paul says the very same thing Romans 8:28, a passage that is familiar to most of us.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose

Joseph knew that God was in charge and that God was far greater than any calamity.
He chose to stay focused on the power and the care of God rather than on his injuries.
God is one who brings good from even the worst of tragedies.

Over 100 years ago, a tornado struck the prairies of Minnesota. Many were killed, hundreds were injured, and one small town was almost demolished. In the middle of the disaster, an elderly British surgeon and his two medically trained sons worked almost around the clock for days aiding the stricken, bandaging wounds, and setting broken limbs.

Their heroic work did not go unnoticed. Their excellence as physicians and their selflessness in the service of those in need created a following among the tornado victims. The doctor and his sons were offered financial backing to build a hospital, provided that they took charge.

The men agreed and in 1889 founded a clinic that soon attracted nationwide attention. Their little clinic grew.mayo

The city was Rochester, Minnesota.

The elderly doctor's name: William W. Mayo.

His sons: William J. and Charles Mayo.

Their clinic is called simply 'the Mayo Clinic.? It now consists of over 500 physicians treating more than 200,000 people a year. It is known worldwide as one of the premier places of health, healing and excellence in medicine.

I'm sure if you asked the citizens of Minnesota about the Rochester tornado at the time, they would have said it was all about death and destruction, an unqualified disaster.

But, put in the perspective of better than a century, and in the hands of a creative God, the tornado was really about life, help, and healing.2

The path from being a victim to being a child of the King is through the eyes of faith.
Cling to your wonds and bitterness and anger and you are a victim for as long as you choose.
Cling to the love and power of God and you move away from your losses to God's great riches of love.
This sounds Polyana'ish I know, but it is true. That does not make it easy though it is possible.

Don't be victim. Not because you cannot, but because you don't have to.
The view from the other side is so much better.
Let go of your wounds and take hold of the master's hands and walk down a new road.

How do you do this?
If there is some wound that you just cannot get out of your mind, some injustice that has not been satisfactorily dealt with, give the debt to God, because that is what it is, an unpaid bill.
Retailers do not hold onto old unpaid bills, they sell the right to collect them to a collection agency and they are done with them.
When you give God the IOU's you hold onto, you set yourself free.

In your mind think of who has injured you. Picture their face, or if you cannot, think of something that reminds you of the injury. Then imagine yourself giving that person and the wrong they did to you into the hands of God.
Let God decide what is right.
Let God decide how and when to collect and be free. Give it to God and walk away from it.
This may not come naturally and you may need to repeat this process until your whole body and soul believe it, but it is the doorway out of the victim's dungeon.
Try it.
Freedom is so much better.

Preached  August 14, 2005
Dr. Harold McNabb
West Shore Presbyterian Church
Victoria, British Columbia

Notes
1.James Malone, "From Horror to Healing," Louisville Courier Journal (12-17-04) cited in Preaching Today.com
2. Preaching Today.com

Resources Consulted
Brueggemann, Walter, The Old Testament; The Canon and Christian Imagination, Westminster Knox, 2003
Sailhamer, John H Genesis, The Expositor's Bible Commentary, Zondervan, 1990
Von Rad, Gerhard, Genesis, The Old Testament Library, Westminster, 1972
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