Christ, Not Karma

Have you ever been insulted? Have you have been taken advantage of or hurt by someone else? Has someone ever wished you ill? If not, I’m wondering whether you’re human.

The Bible tells the story of a man named Joseph who faced all that and was able to actually extend forgiveness to those who had wronged him.
What a unique thought that is in the times in which we are living. In our uptight and angry culture of road rage, cyberbullying, and frivolous lawsuits we prize revenge as a virtue. When is the last time you saw a movie celebrating forgiveness? I don’t know, but we can find plenty of movies that celebrate payback.

But payback is not what we see in the life of Joseph. Joseph shows us a better way: the way of forgiveness. Years after his brothers had sold him into slavery, he was able to say to them, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good” (Genesis 50:20 NLT). In other words, “As wicked as you guys were and as horrible as your plan was, God was in it, and he was ultimately in control.”

If Joseph had a theme verse from the Bible, it would have been this one: “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28 NLT). That was really the theme of his life. Whatever happened, God used it for his glory.

Joseph, against all odds, faced the worst circumstances imaginable. The story of his life had all the earmarks of a real page-turner: an over-indulgent father, a somewhat spoiled son, jealous brothers and an international food crisis. But Joseph’s story is more than that. It is also a story that shows the hand of God at work in every scene, ruling and overruling the decisions people make. In the end, God built a hero. He saved a family and created a nation that became a blessing to the world: the nation of Israel.

Joseph wasn’t just a world changer; he was, quite literally, a world saver. The decisions he made changed and saved the lives of thousands of people. Joseph’s life is a classic rags-to-riches story as he rises from complete obscurity, facing constant setbacks to become the second-most powerful man on Earth.

This is a man who used his faith. Like a muscle, faith needs to be put into practice and applied. And Joseph certainly did that.
In fact, as we look at some of the other heroes of faith in the Bible, we see that some of them struggled with doubt. Abraham certainly had his doubts when he lied about his wife Sarah, saying she was his sister. He was afraid of what would happen to him if he were discovered. We know that others had momentary lapses of faith. But in the story of Joseph, we cannot find a single shade of doubt.

Talk about a guy with little promise. He was a simple shepherd boy, the 12th of 13 children. In some ways, he was a spoiled young man, given to visions of grandeur. He didn’t seem to really like hard work.

Like many teenagers, he had dreams. But in Joseph’s case, these dreams came from God. In fact, Joseph’s dreams got him into trouble in the beginning. But years later, other people’s dreams got him out of trouble.

From Joseph’s story we learn how to overcome adversity, how to face envy from others, how to resist sexual temptation and how to lay hold of and have faith in the promises of God. But the most significant lesson from the life of Joseph is how to forgive those who have hurt you. With the exception of Jesus, there is not a better example of forgiveness in the entire Bible. Joseph showed forgiveness on an epic level.

Not only did Joseph’s brothers sell their young sibling into slavery, but they also broke the heart of their father, who was devastated. And though Joseph was abandoned by his brothers, he was not abandoned by God.

There are no accidents in the life of the Christian, only providence. There is no dumb luck. There is no karma. There is Christ. We don’t believe in fate. We believe in faith. We believe that God is in control.

We need to know this because things happen in life that don’t make sense. When that happens, we wonder, “Why is this happening to me? What have I done to deserve such a fate?” I don’t know that I have the answer, but I know that God is in control. I know that God is powerful. I know that God is sovereign, which means that he is in control of all things.

I also know that all things work together for good. The Bible says all things. David wrote of the Lord, “Your regulations remain true to this day, for everything serves your plans” (Psalm 119:91 NLT).

This does not necessarily mean that all things are good things. This is where we misunderstand. When a bad thing happens to us, some well-meaning Christian may come up to us and say, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

True. But wait a second. When someone is suffering, when someone is in pain, maybe that is not the first verse we go to. There might be another one we choose instead. What happened to that person is really a bad thing. You should go and say, “I’m sorry this happened to you. I care, and I’m here for you.”

There are bad things that happen that will remain bad, and they never will be anything but bad. God doesn’t say He will make every bad thing good. He doesn’t say that bad things become good. He says they work together for good. Ultimately it means that in God’s master plan, good things will result.

But for whom? For everyone? Is this verse true for every person walking the Earth? No. It is for Christians. Notice what it says: “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28 NLT, emphasis added).

We may not have full resolution on some things until we get to Heaven and God explains them. Or maybe just looking in God’s face will explain it all. But whatever it is, it ultimately will work together for good.

16 thoughts on “Christ, Not Karma”

  1. lynn szykowny says:

    This is my first time I never heard of you. A friend ask me to read your postings so I did. Started with Christ and Karma. I couldnt believe when I started reading how much this information was in my life right now. I am hurting so bad due to rejection from family and friends, especially family (son and daughter). Things happened just like Joseph. I couldnt believe on how much my life was so similar to Joseph in this date of time. The only difference was he was the younger one and me the older one. Thank you for being there for people and teaching us how to handle life’s issues in the right way with God helping us to bring together all good no matter how bad it can be.

  2. Biji Samuel says:

    Thank you Pastor Greg. A lot to learn from the life of Joseph and a great example of forgiveness. I guess we’ll never understand why somethings happen but one day, we will. For now, we run the race that is before us, trusting God, clinging and abiding in Him, resting in His promises, persevering. I am thankful for your devotionals and visit your site regularly for material that will help in any situation.
    May God bless you and continue to use you mightily to bring others to Him.

  3. Nancy says:

    Pastor Greg I want to start by saying your a wonderful teacher of the Faith the church has been there for me in more ways than I could count thank you. This blog really hit home made me cry I’ve been doing a lot of that lately you see I have a alcoholic/mean /borderline mom she’s been that way my whole life it’s been worse the last 8 years she turned my brother,aunt’s and cousins against me telling them how horrible I was recently one of my uncle’s died I’m crying because God is good and he finally let them see how she really is behind closed doors. I have a teenager who always asked me why don’t you tell them what she’s doing I always told him it’s not my fight it’s the Lord’s and that’s the only family she has I couldn’t do that to her they apologized to me at the funeral I love them and missed them as for my mother she still finds something that I have done to her I love her and still pray but thank God for my father in heaven he’s always watching me.

    1. Nancy Consiglio says:

      Pastor Laurie- I just listened to one of your broadcasts on line and at the end was a comment from someone named Nancy- that happens to be my name. I have struggled in my faith for so long and long for the salvation of my daughter Doreen- she is 45, out of work and has severe depression, as do I – she does not believe there is help for her. I am in south Florida but I lived in New York and listened to you all the time. You are my favorite pastor and I thank you for that. Will you please pray for my daughter?
      God bless you

  4. Jamila Evora says:

    Hello Pastor Greg. My family and I attend your church at the Irvine location. Please pray that we will be able to attend more frequently, my husband is not always interested to go to church, he is saved but not doing his homeork. His bible just sits on his nightstand. Thank you for this blog on Joseph’s life, what a great reminder on faith, forgiveness, and resilience.

  5. Lance Schwartz says:

    I’m learning to offer my mind and body to God so he may work through me ….im not sure why Christ, Not Karma reminded me of this but im glad it did , thamk you Lord Jesus !

  6. Demi Moriarty says:

    Thank you for your faithful service and your example of bold faith living. Do you have any tips for dealing with spiritual warfare? I am planning to serve the Lord with a team from my Church in another country and I feel under attack. You probably know about this from your Crusades. Thanks for your help.

  7. Emily Meyer says:

    Once you have been hurt by someone who will most likely do it again. How do you stay forgiving & enjoy their presence but still guard your heart?

  8. Yvonne Barone says:

    Hi Greg,
    I lost my 20 year old son 4 years ago so I can relate with your feelings. I had just become a Christian a year prior and know God made sure I had a solid foundation in my faith because I was going to experience intesnse pain. A schoolmate told me about you and I have been reading about you since last week. I am so sorry about your son and this club we are in. Thanks for all you do!!

  9. William says:

    I tried to share this post on Facebook but it only showed the website address. No image, no title and no text.

    1. Brian Jackson says:

      This issue has been fixed. Thank you for bringing it to our attention.

  10. carmen montoya says:

    Hi pastor Greg, thank you so much for being such a devoted man of God and sharing His Word in such a manor for all to understand. All the glory to God. I wanted to share something with you very similar to Joseph’ story. Ever since I was saved by Christ I have been abandoned by my oldest daughter and my brothers, I always reflect on Romans 8:28 whenever I am feeling sad and lonely and even more so after the death of my 17 year old daughter that was killed by two drunk drivers, but still and always trusting our Father and knowing that He has the perfect plan for my life is still hard to cope with. I seek His Word pastor every day and love it so much I can’t live without it. I am so greatful that He saved me after He took my baby home, I was living a live of this world that I am not proud of, but so greatful that in the mist of being suicidal He instructed me to listen to you preach a sermon on “OnePlace” and when I clicked on your archives long and behold I read, “for those that have lost a love one” where I first heard you mention the loss of Christopher. I thought to myself, ” really a preacher going through the same thing as me?” and after that I listened to you every day which led me to attending Calvary Chapel with pastor Davenport in Hesperia CA. A few months later I lived in Hemet CA where I would attend Harvest of Riverside, oh how I miss you all, I really felt like I had a family, so I was wondering pastor Greg if you know of a church I should attend in Charlotte NC? I truly have been praying for fellowship since I moved here, to be honest I ask God if I can move to Riverside where I can attend church there, we will see what His will is. Thank you for taking the time to read this, I pray I hear from you soon. God bless you and your family, love you all in Christ.

    1. Brian says:

      This is in reply to Carmen Montoya’s request for good churches in the Charlotte, NC, area. I lived in Charlotte for more than two decades. Charlotte has more churches (for its size) than any other city in the U.S. So you should be able to find one that meets your needs. You may want to try Forest Hill Church, a nondenominational evangelical church that meets in several places throughout the city. Like the Rev. Greg Laurie, the Rev. David Chadwick is excellent, a very gifted pastor who has a heart for God’s word and who preaches through the whole Bible. And, when he is on vacation, the other pastors deliver very good messages, too. Also, because Charlotte was the birthplace of evangelist Billy Graham, I highly recommend visiting the Billy Graham Library, a high-tech museum that tells Graham’s remarkable story and how God used him to preach to more people in person than anyone else in history. They may also be able to suggest other good churches to attend, based on where you live. Good luck!

    2. Paulette says:

      Carmen, there is currently a Calvary Chapel meeting at Longcreek Elementary School on Sunday’s at 10:00. Look them up on the Internet. Their name is Calvary Chapel Riverbend.

  11. Colleen says:

    Very inspiring to me, it’s what I needed to hear this morning!

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