Teaching Series
Monday—Hopeful Faithfulness in Prison

Series: Citizenship
Message: Hopeful Faithfulness in Prison
Preacher: Tony Hunter
Reflection: Sam Millen
Live Wonder: Zan Long
Live Adventure: Ame Fowler
Live Beyond: Chelsea Mensink
Live Purpose: Emily Ellis
Editor: Becky De Oliveira

Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.

Read: Genesis 40:1-23 in the New Living Translation (NLT). Note 1–3 insights or questions. 

Reflect: Last week I introduced you to Kate Bowler. I’m sure many of you were already familiar with her story. Bowler ends her brilliant book Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I've Loved with a list of unhelpful responses to suffering. The introduction to Appendix I states, “Absolutely never say this to people experiencing terrible times: a short list” (p. 169). Here is one of the lines which does not typically lead to positive interactions:  “Well, at least . . . ” Kate Bowler, who was diagnosed with Stage IV incurable cancer at 35, responds, “Whoa. Hold up there. Were you about to make a comparison? At least it’s not . . . what? Stage V Cancer?”  

“Don’t minimize,” she says. Other examples of things not to say to a person in this situation include, “It’s going to get better. I promise,” (What if it doesn’t?) “Everything happens for a reason,”  “I’ve done some research, and . . . . ,” and “When my aunt had cancer . . .”

Appendix 2  (p.173) contains these helpful suggestions (among others): “I am so grateful to hear about how you’re doing and just know I’m on your team” (It’s a relief when the other person doesn’t feel obligated to give an update) or “Oh, my friend, that sounds so hard.” Last but not least, remember as the saying goes that silence can be “golden.” I find insights such as these are very beneficial when there is suffering around me, but how can I approach my own suffering?

In a conversation recorded for her podcast, Kate Bowler spoke to B. J. Miller about “Loving What Is.”  The episode description reads as follows: “After an accident left B. J. Miller with a serious physical disability, he had to learn how to be patient with his limitations. Now, he’s a palliative care physician who works every day to encourage people to be comfortable with limits and maybe even learn to love them, but not in a Pollyanna way.” Miller says, “It’s not like I love death and I love limitations just because I’ve got some weird dark streak. . . . no, I love them because they exist. And my charge is try to love what exists, including myself.”

I’m personally not excited about embracing suffering and limitations, but Joseph somehow mastered this intuitively (with God’s help).

Recalibrate: What responses have you found helpful when there are setbacks and your life hasn’t gone the way you wanted, planned, or anticipated it would? Which ones have been unhelpful?

Respond: Reach out to a friend today who is having a hard time (just don’t use any of the lines in Appendix I!)

Research: Read Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I've Loved by Kate C. Bowler.

Remember: “Joseph said to them, ‘God is the only One who can explain the meaning of dreams. So tell me your dreams’” (Genesis 40:8, ICB).

Sam Millen is the pastor at Anacortes Adventist Fellowship in Washington State. After living in five countries on three continents (and five states), he feels at home on Orcas Island with his wife and three kids.

Draw a smiley face with your child and then draw a sad face. Help your little one to see when someone is sad or happy. What do we do when someone is sad? My husband would always say to our kids when they hurt themselves, “Give it a rub, you’ll be OK.” Now that he’s a grandpa, when our granddaughter Zoe is hurt she heads straight for her Pa. Zoe knows he will sit and cuddle her until she feels better. There is so much healing power in helping, caring, and sharing without using words.

Joseph was in a place he felt he didn’t belong. He felt wrongly accused and forgotten. It doesn’t feel good to be forgotten. If someone is handing out presents and you don’t get one it feels awful. Draw a picture or make something with Lego that shows how you feel when left out of a game. How can you stay positive when you feel forgotten? Now draw a picture or build a Lego that shows how you feel when you are included in a game. How can you show love to others when you feel left out?

In ancient Egypt, the position of royal cupbearer was a very important position. Not just anyone could have this job. The cupbearer would have to be completely trustworthy because he had to guard against poison getting into Pharaoh’s cup and sometimes he had to do a taste test. He had to risk his life each time he swallowed, with the possibility that he was swallowing poison. But it was worth it because his death would save the king.

Can you think of someone else who was willing to risk His life? Well, He not only risked His life—He lost it. And He didn’t lose His life for a king—He lost it for you. Jesus was greater than any cupbearer because instead of choosing the role of the king and having someone else risk their life, He chose the role of the cupbearer—and died for you and me.

“Interpreting dreams is God’s business,” Joseph replied. “Go ahead and tell me your dreams.” What I find remarkable about this statement that even in prison, Joseph was still giving glory and homage to God. He could have chosen to give up on God by blaming Him for his captivity and imprisonment. Instead, even during the lowest point of his life, he still knew that he needed to depend upon God for everything. How often do I take credit for what I know is a gift from God? Do I live my life in such a way that with all that I do I am praising God for all that I do? Or do I just take the credit for myself? I’ve found that during the moments in which I give God the glory I am able to see how He is working in my life. I realize that He is present and giving me everything I need. Today, find a way to bring glory to God by thanking Him for what He has done in your life.

Zan Long is GRC director for faith development for ages 0-17. She lives in Sydney, Australia, and serves at her local church in nearby Kellyville.
Ame Fowler has fifteen years of youth and children’s ministry experience and has served as a leader with TOP kids. She and her husband enjoy ministry through coffee, and live in Chattanooga, TN.
Chelsea Mensink serves as the family ministries director at Crosswalk Church in Redlands, California. She is a delightful and talented children’s pastor who just oozes fun and love like a squished Twinkie.
Emily Ellis is a junior studying theology at Walla Walla University and interning at the Eastgate Seventh-day Adventist Church.

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