Teaching Series
Tuesday—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 Message (MSG). Note 1–3 insights or questions. 

Reflect: In Man’s Search for Meaning (originally published in 1946), psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Victor E. Frankl wrote

The prisoner who had lost his faith in the future—his future—was doomed. With his loss of belief in the future, he also lost his spiritual hold; he let himself decline and became subject to mental and physical decay. Usually this happened quite suddenly, in the form of a crisis, the symptoms of which were familiar to the experienced camp inmate. . . . Usually it began with the prisoner refusing one morning to get dressed and wash or to go out on the parade grounds. No entreaties, no blows, no threats had any effect. He just lay there, hardly moving.  If this crisis was brought about by an illness, he refused to be taken to the sick-bay or to do anything to help himself. He simply gave up. (pp. 117–118)

After interpreting the cupbearer’s dream, Joseph said to him, “. . . tell Pharaoh about me and get me out of this place. I was kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews. And since I’ve been here, I’ve done nothing to deserve being put in this hole” (Verses 14–15, MSG). All of a sudden there seemed to be a glimmer of hope for Joseph. Perhaps he would be freed. Exonerated! I can’t imagine how “gutted” (to use a British term) Joseph must have felt when he finally realized his one chance at redemption had slipped away.  How was Joseph able to keep going? Last week I discussed how crucial it is for us to view our purpose here on earth in terms of “vocation.” We can fulfil our role as God’s servants no matter where we are—even in prison! This is what Joseph did faithfully, and it enabled him to persevere.

Twenty years ago I had the privilege of driving Noble Alexander (1934–2002) from the airport to a speaking engagement. It was such an honor to spend time with this spiritual giant. Pastor Alexander’s story is incredible and with Kay D. Rizzo’s help it was published by Pacific Press in 1991. The book is titled I Will Die Free because this was the persistent thought Pastor Alexander had while falsely imprisoned by the Cuban government for 22 years due to his faith. Pause for a moment and reflect on the duration of his suffering—22 years! While in prison, Pastor Alexander led many inmates to Christ and started underground churches. Having no idea whether or not he would ever be released (he was freed in 1984), Pastor Alexander had redefined freedom. He was free in Christ. Even if he died in prison, he would die free.

Recalibrate: What role has hope played in your life?  Is “false hope” better than no hope at all?

Respond: Pray for those who are falsely imprisoned today to never lose hope.

Research: Read Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl.

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.

Play a game of Stop and Go with your little one. You may like to do this on a walk outside or while running around your sofa like our granddaughter Zoe does. Simply call out “Go!” then run. Call out “Stop!” and stop running. When your child has got the hang of it, extend the stop time. See how long they can wait before they have to go again. Notice how your child waits for you and watches you, hoping for the call at any second. Let’s get good at running in the times to run and waiting in the times to wait. Sounds easy? Give it a go.

Have you played freeze tag? When the person who’s “it” tags you, you have to stay still until another person comes by and unfreezes you. Joseph was stuck in a place he did not want to be. Sometimes we feel stuck too. Maybe we made a bad decision and said something mean to our brother or sister. We all make mistakes. Jesus isn’t surprised. While we feel stuck, He is still working. Spending time with Jesus or a friend can help us refocus. We can choose to be kind, honest, and patient. Play freeze tag with your family or friends. This time while you are frozen say thank you to Jesus for friends and family to help you.

We’re not sure why Pharaoh was so furious with his cupbearer and baker, but I like to imagine that there was a conspiracy to kill the king! The king found out that it would be through poison and knew it was either the cupbearer or the baker. Since he didn’t know which it was, he threw them both into prison where they met Joseph. One of the men was guilty, and one of the men was innocent. And Joseph was innocent too. Yet all of them received the same punishment!

That’s not fair at all. Have you ever been punished for something you didn’t do? Maybe your teacher thought you it was you who was talking during class and scolded you unnecessarily. Maybe your parents blamed you for a broken lightbulb when it was actually your brother or sister who broke it. Sometimes life is really not fair. But there is always hope and a bigger story on the other side that we can’t see.

I had just got done boasting about how I never get speeding tickets, when low and behold I got a speeding ticket. It was the day after Walla Walla University’s graduation ceremony and I got on Highway 12 to head back home. Now something you need to keep in mind about the state patrol officers in Walla Walla is that they jump on any chance to give poor, helpless college students tickets. And I was no different. I was going about ten miles per hour over the speed limit when I saw those dreaded blue and red lights flashing in my rearview mirror. I pulled over, innocently, thinking they were for someone else, but nonetheless they were for me. It seems that whenever I use the word “never,” the thing I’m talking about almost always happens immediately afterwards. Lesson learned! We are never exempt from the challenges of life. Joseph was in a similar situation. He was given two dreams that he flaunted to his brothers. He didn’t give God any credit for interpreting, but rather used the dreams to elevate himself. Many years later, he is given two dreams again. But this time, he uses the opportunity to humble himself and give glory to God. What are some teachable moments in your life? And what are some ways that you can point others to God through your actions?

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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