Twenty-first century western culture is terribly focused on looking forward to things, which oftentimes hinders our ability to be plugged in to the present. We can get so caught up in thinking about what’s coming next that we forget to be intentional in our current situation. This is especially true if your current situation is not one that you would have picked for yourself. When you start living for what comes next instead of what God has given you right now, you are missing out on God teaching you things and on your ability to impact the places and people God has placed you in and around.
From the life of Joseph, we can learn a lot about staying plugged in to God regardless of our circumstances. Even while in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, Joseph stayed plugged in (Genesis 39:21-23). Even while in prison, the Lord was with Joseph, the Lord showed kindness to Joseph, and the Lord had a plan for Joseph. In kind, Joseph didn’t unplug, didn’t shut down, and didn’t stop being a valuable piece of God’s kingdom. He remained faithful to God and available for God to work through. He gets put in charge of the prison, and then becomes a trusted advisor to Pharaoh himself. Joseph ends up saving all of Egypt from famine because of his position and his faithfulness to God. He also saves his own family from famine and is reunited with his brothers and father.
Joseph remained plugged in to the mission and will of God even in the lowest of circumstances. He didn’t withhold his effort and energy because he wasn’t content with his situation. He yielded to the Lord and trusted that God’s plans and ways are not only higher than His, but that they will accomplish the ultimate good. Think about those circumstances you are stuck in right now. They aren’t accidental. They aren’t the result of God forgetting you or punishing you. Remember, when Joseph was in prison the Lord was with him, kind to him, and had plans for him. The same is true for you in whatever you are going through. If you spend all your time looking for what’s next, you are going to miss out on the lessons God is trying to teach you through your difficult circumstances, and you could be robbing the people around you of blessings that God wants you to be a part of.
The apostle Paul provides us with an example of being plugged in not only to God, but the people around him, even in less than ideal circumstances (Acts 16:22-33). Paul was thrown in jail for preaching the gospel in Philippi. He easily could have complained about this being a hindrance to his ministry, he could have felt like it was ruining God’s plan for him to share the gospel in other places, he could have complained in a handful of different ways.
When you are in the midst of tough situations, do you tend to shut down to the people around you? When you are stressed out or sad, do you tend to stop pouring into other people? Paul did the exact opposite. Instead of complaining, shutting down, or feeling like God is letting Him down, he stays plugged in. He sings praises to God. He continues to be faithful in prayer. And he intentionally pursues the man keeping him in prison!
Even given the opportunity to escape and get back to his plans for ministry, Paul chooses to embrace the circumstances and the people that God has placed before him. He remains in prison and shares the gospel with his jailer, resulting in the salvation of his entire family. Paul doesn’t allow his trials to make him bitter towards God or careless towards the people around him. He doesn’t just wait for things to improve or to get back on the track that he had planned for himself. He views every trial and every person he encounters along the way to be valuable and to be a person God intentionally placed in his path.
Here’s the lesson we learn from Paul in this passage: don’t neglect the people God has placed in your path just because you don’t love the path. The jailer in a Philippian prison was every bit as valuable to Paul as the people he would preach to outside of prison. So, the people in your least favorite class of the day aren’t just meaningless decorations in the desks around you, they are people that God wants to redeem and restore… and you might be the person He uses to do it. You might be stuck in a job you don’t want, not getting paid what you think you deserve, or work for a difficult boss, but that doesn’t give you license to shut down to your co-workers. They are every bit as valuable to God as the co-workers at your dream job. Paul teaches us that we must be intentional about pursuing people, even when God puts us in positions we didn’t want to be in. People still matter to God, and you are still an ambassador of the gospel regardless of the situation.
APPLICATION / CHALLENGE
- Identify the areas in your life you might be unplugging from because they aren’t fitting into your plans or desires. Instead of focusing on how they are disappointing you, focus on what God may be teaching you, or how God might be using you to impact other people. Remember that even in the most trying of times, God is with you, is kind to you, and has plans for you.
- Memorize Genesis 50:20 and speak it to yourself when you get frustrated with the path you are on. Remember that God’s plans are higher than yours and that His is carried out with perfect wisdom.
- Identify at least one person that you have failed to pursue an intentional relationship with because of your lack of contentment with your circumstances. Initiate a conversation with them this week and remember that you can’t neglect the people God has placed in your path just because you don’t love the path.