But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” (Acts 9:15-16 ESV)

Several people mentioned to me yesterday how much they appreciated the sermon on Joseph’s promotion. For years he had been locked up in confinement, and seemed to maintain his faith and servant attitude, but suddenly he was catapulted into national prominence. Yet this promotion did not go to his head, he did not become proud. Rather he learned to listen to others rather than speak himself. He was humble and wanted God to get the glory from his life.

Most of us can handle adversity easier than we can handle success. We learn to worship and serve the Lord, even though we are personally going through a difficult time. But when we receive a promotion, when God blesses our job or our ministry, then we are tempted to pride. We are tempted to lord it over others, to forget God, to become selfish and stingy. The one who tithes sacrificially on a meager salary, will be tempted to give less than a tenth when he gets a raise. We far too easily forget God’s goodness to us, and imagine that we do not need Him any more.

Joseph did not do this. His faith was as remarkable when he was experiencing advancement as when he was undergoing adversity. He was humble, God-centered, ready to serve others, not lustful over attention or the praise of men.

A requirement of all who God will use is a broken spirit. Jesus said:

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. (John 12:24-26 ESV)

When God called Paul, along with the call was a prophetic statement, “For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” We are unsure how much money Paul had - we know that sometimes he was in significant financial hardship, but we also know that he was always like this. Paul himself said, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need” (Phil. 4:11-12). He had learned - by the Spirit’s work in his life, by his challenging life calling, by the examples of other believers around him - the art of dealing with all circumstances.

Kipling has this marvelous line in his little poem “If” - “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two imposters just the same.” Paul learned, as we all should learn, that disaster does not remove God’s hand from our lives, and triumph does not remove our need to remain humble and faithful before Him. In all situations and conditions, the Christian’s goal must remain the same - that God would be glorified in and through our life.

There is no person in Scripture that God used in any significant way that He did not also break. He broke strong wills, egotistical mindsets, hedonistic lifestyles, self-centered agendas. He broke people that He might use them, and bless them. Brokenness leads to greater usefulness and greater joy than selfishness does. The selfish person is a miserable person. Harry Overstreet made the profound observation: “The ungiven self is the unfulfilled self.” We are made by God not to live selfishly for our own glory, but to be broken, humble, and poured out before Him.

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