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DEBELLOTTE  Design

DeBellotte Design

DeBellotte Design

Perspective, Faith, Purpose

You can gain insight into your purpose by changing your perspective and strengthening your faith. ~ Nathifa Debellotte
 

I preached "Perspective, Faith, Purpose" Friday night, April 7, 2023, at Hyde Park Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Boston, MA, for Youth Week of Prayer. This was my first sermon preached at Hyde Park as a rising Elder. I, Nathifa Debellotte, wrote and preached this sermon. This post has been adjusted and extended to give more insight into my studies of this topic. This is not a transcript, word for word, of my sermon.


 

Who is your favorite person in the bible?

Why are they your favorite?

Are they your favorite because you can relate to the story and their character?

Think about them as I share mine.


I LOVE Joseph.

I don't know if it's because of the different religious movies I've seen, or I've heard the story many times, or if his story alone is interesting, with all the plot twists. All is true, but it wasn't until recently that I understood why.


In preparation for this message, it took me some time to gather my thoughts or even pick a topic to preach on. The nightly theme for my given night was about strengthening one's faith while in college and some of the challenges. I reflected on what strengthened my faith in God before and during college and what continuously kept me in the church. The song "Your Ways Are Higher Than Mine" came to mind as I reflected. As I listened and sang along, I was reminded that God was leading me every step of the way. Before I go into the song, here's some insight into my journey ending up living in Boston, my current home of residence.


My name is Nathifa Debellotte. At Hyde Park, I'm known for my presence during Wednesday Night Prayer Meetings (over Zoom), over the Prayer Line, or even during Divine Hour, either doing Intercessory Prayer, Scripture Reading, or helping on the Audio/Visual Team. for many years at Hyde Park, I stayed to myself until I got more and more comfortable with the congregation. Because I was quiet, many didn't know who I was. Others thought I looked familiar and treated me like a regular visitor from my first Sabbath. Most know I spent my Sabbath afternoons with Bro. and Sis. Brown, who became my Boston parents. I came to Boston to attend Wentworth Institute of Technology and attended Hyde Park in September 2016, almost seven years ago. Time, indeed, has flown by fast. I graduated in August 2020 and still worshiped at Hyde Park Church. I came to Boston for college, but I was running away from home deep down. I was running away from home deep down.


I was born and raised in the Adventist church in Brooklyn, NY. On November 30th, 2008 (almost 15 years ago), I lost my mom in a car accident. Fifteen days before, I had turned ten years old. I, too, almost lost my life, recovering from being in and out of a coma, but God spared my life. As I got into high school, I was baptized, and my faith in God slowly grew. I was also developing my character, but I started to face my trials like any new believer. My trials began to become my church and personal family. I didn't have peace of mind, and I was slowly starting to suffocate. I was surrounded by too much negative energy. When college approached, I jumped on the opportunity to leave. I needed peace of mind and understanding of who I was outside my family. My faith in God grew through it all because I changed my perspective. My faith was a little stagnant throughout my first few years of college, but it was still present. Given I almost lost my life and God spared me, over the years, I constantly reminded myself that God spared me for a reason. Only through Him was I going to learn why he spared my life and the plans He has for me. I thank God since I left New York and came to that since I left New York and came to Boston. Piece by piece, He reveals His purpose for my life, showing why He spared my family's life and not my mom's. As tragic as it was, I understood that God's plans differ from mine. He has and will continue to bless me, and I pray He blesses my family through me. I have found my home at Hyde Park Church.


I started to reflect on the words of the song "Your Ways Are Higher Than Mine."

Verse 1

It's not what I prayed for

It's not what I wanted

It's not something I understand

My circumstances seem so confusing

I'm placing it all in Your Hands


Verse 2

One day, I'm sure

I will look back and marvel

At how You knew best all along

You see from Heaven

You know it's the hard times

That makes my face steady and strong


Chorus

Your ways are higher than mine

I want mountains to move

You want me to climb

So I'm gonna trust Your work, Your will, and Your time

Your ways are higher than mine."


I was listening to the song. I meditated on the words, and Joseph came to mind. I reflected on the words, my life, and Joseph's story, and God revealed that we traveled parallel paths. You may be wondering, "How is this true?" Similar to Joseph, in a way, I'm not particularly loved by my sisters, at least not in the way I would like or how I perceive it, and I could be wrong. I wasn't sold as an enslaved person like Joseph or was forced from home. However, we both left unhealthy living conditions and started a new life. Things were different and we knew no one. We both were 17 years old. In our new homes, because we knew and believed in God, God blessed us and others around us no matter what trials or situations we were dealt. Like Joseph, I pray to continue to bless others in whatever way God chooses. Outside of the physical events in our lives, I'd like to believe Joseph and I shared a similar spiritual path. I believe Joseph did the best he knew how to and what he learned about the God of his father and forefathers. Throughout his challenging journey, his faith in God never wavered, and his perspective of what happened to him probably slowly started to change as he became governor of Egypt until he revealed God's purpose for his life to his brothers. Here lies the title of my message.

Perspective, Faith, Purpose

You can gain insight into your purpose by changing your perspective and strengthening your faith.


Joseph's story starts in Genesis 37: 2-11

2 This is the history of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brothers….

3 Now Israel (aka Jacob) loved Joseph more than all his children because he was the son of his old age. Also, he made him a tunic of many colors.

4 But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him.

5 Now Joseph has a dream, and he tells it to his brothers and they hate him even more.

6 So he said to them, ‘Please hear this dream which I have dreamed:

7 There we were, binding sheaved in the field. Then behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright: and indeed your sheaves stood all around and bowed down to my sheaf’

8 And his brothers said to him, ‘Shall you indeed reign over us? Or shall you indeed have dominion over us?’ So they hated him even more for his dreams and his words.

9 Then he dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers, and said, ‘Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me.’

10 So he told it to his father and his brothers and his father rebuked him and said to him “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall your mother and I and your brothers indeed come to bow down to the earth before you?”

11 And his brothers envied him, but his father kept the matter in mind.’ 

(continue up to where they planned to kill him)


As we read this passage, we see Joseph with his brothers feeding the sheep, and Joseph gives Jacob a poor report. The brothers hated Joseph. Jacob loves him more because he is the son of his old age and was given a coat of many colors. When the brothers saw the coat, they hated him even more. To top it off, Joseph's two dreams made it even worse. Just before Joseph was thrown into the pit, as his brothers saw him approaching Dothan, everything they knew and hated about him was at the forefront of their minds. Picture it: the brothers tending to their flock. Off in the distance, the first thing they notice is his coat, and they immediately know it is Joseph. Knowing it's him and seeing the coat, they are reminded of how much their father loves him, how Joseph thought he was better than them because of his dreams, and how Joseph is there to find something wrong and send back a bad report. You can assume they are fearful because they weren't in Shechem. All these thoughts filled their head with a plot to kill him.


The beginning of Joseph's story provides different perspectives and allows you to interpret his story in many ways. First, I have a few questions I want you to ask and consider.

  • Was Joseph spoiled and proud?

  • Was Joseph misunderstood for being spoiled and proud?

  • Do these questions mean the same thing?

Here lies the power of questions, perspective, information, and understanding. Just by reading Genesis 37, I saw many different interpretations one can draw from the passage, but I will share only two. As I interpret, remember there can be many other variations in the small details.


First Interpretation

Joseph was a snitch when he gave his father a bad report about his brothers. His father spoiled Joseph with a coat of many colors. After Joseph received the coat, he started to dream that he was better or would be elevated above his family. The dream was an indication of Joseph's hidden desires. Joseph did not only dream about it but also bragged about it to his family. His father rebuked him for his dreams even though he was responsible for enabling these dreams with the coat. Regardless, he still thought about the significance of the dreams. Now, his brothers feel Joseph is an entitled, spoiled brat who has come to snitch on them in Dothan. They could only be threatened by Joseph because they knew they were not where Jacob instructed them to be, and they knew they were doing something they shouldn't. These were grown men worried about their 17-year-old brother informing on them.


This is a representation of how the brothers perceive this chain of events.


Second Interpretation

Joseph noticed his brother doing something they shouldn't. Joseph was told to report to their father what his brothers were doing, good or bad. Joseph only reported the truth, and his brothers were mad that they didn't get away with whatever it was. Amid it all, Jacob gives Joseph a pretty coat, which Joseph proudly wears because his father had it made for him. Joseph sleeps and dreams of being above his brothers and parents. He shares it with his family because he might not fully understand the meaning, and maybe his family could help explain it. Or Joseph was passionate about his dreams and wanted to share the exciting things he dreamt.


This represents how I interpret these events through my own experiences.


As mentioned before, there can be many different interpretations. This is also true for our lives. We may hear other stories or witness different situations. However, according to our journeys and surrounding influences, we will have different perspectives, whether positive or negative. According to the two interpretations, you can view Joseph's story positively and negatively. As we know from reading the bible, a lot is covered in just one chapter, and our sense of time is unclear from one event to the next. Sometimes, it helps to gain more insight into the culture to help paint the picture. Therefore, I found more insight into Joseph's story from Ellen G. White's book Patriarchs and Prophets. In chapter 19, she helps enhance the second perspective I shared.


Third Interpretation

"The sin of Jacob, and the train of events to which it led, had not failed to exert an influence for evil - an influence that revealed its bitter fruit in the character and life of his sons. As these sons arrived at manhood, they developed severe faults...


The jealousy of the several mothers had embittered the family relation, the children had grown up contentious and impatient of control...


There was one, however, of a widely different character - the elder son of Rachel, Joseph, whose rare personal beauty seemed but to reflect an inward beauty of mind and heart. Pure, active, and joyous, the lad gave evidence also of moral earnestness and firmness. He listened to his father's instructions and loved to obey God. The qualities that afterward distinguished him in Egypt - gentleness, fidelity, and truthfulness - were already manifest in his daily life. His mother being dead, his affection clung more closely to the father, and Jacob's heart was bound up in this child of his old age...


But this affection was to become a cause of trouble and sorry. Jaco unwisely manifested his preference for Joseph, and this excited the jealousy of his other sons. As Joseph witnessed the evil conduct of his brothers, he was greatly troubled, he ventured gently to remonstrate with them, but only aroused still further their hatred and resentment. He could not endure to see them sinning against God, and he laid the matter before his father, hoping that his authority might lead them to reform." PP 208.3 - 209.1


Ellen G. White, through the influence of the Holy Spirit, gives us clear insight into Joseph's story. You can read Chapter 19 and more regarding Jacob and Joseph's story.


Now, I didn't share these different perspectives to persuade you into believing one over the other but to show you how powerful it can be. In the first two reflections, our only source was the bible. The third, from EGW, her source is the Bible and the Holy Spirit. The third reflection didn't just focus on personal feelings but on Godly principles. Ellen said Joseph didn't want to see his brothers going against God's principles or their father's. The same is true in our lives today. How we perceive someone, something, or an event reflects how others are treated in our actions and potential. Suppose Joseph's brothers had understood Joseph's character and hadn't focused on their father's behavior toward him or tried to understand why Joseph was favored more. In that case, I believe they wouldn't have plotted evil against Joseph. Things might have been different if they had only seen Joseph the way God saw him. They would have looked inward and taken responsibility for their behavior. Like Joseph, I was considered a snitch in my youngest sister's eyes. I wouldn't consider myself spoiled, but I did get in trouble less. Because our personalities were completely different, she was constantly compared to me, leading her to resent me today.


Perspective and context can help others better understand a person and their situation. Therefore, I believe changing our viewpoint is essential sometimes. If we go about life with one point of perspective, just by what we hear and see, we can immediately judge a person or a situation without understanding or knowing the facts. I challenge you to be aware of how you perceive others and, most importantly, how you perceive yourself and your current situation. Ask questions before you judge or make your assumptions. Try to have all or enough facts and see every situation from different angles because that can affect what you do and say. Now, parents, be careful how you treat your children because it can have severe repercussions when they get older and when they interact with their siblings and others.


Due to the lack of understanding of who Joseph was, his brothers sold him to the Ishmaelites and Egypt. Joseph made his way as a slavean enslaved person working in Potiphar's house. Joseph thrived in Potiphar's house, given his situation and faith in God. God had blessed Potiphar's house because of Joseph's faith and character, just as Ellen G. White wrote, "The same gentleness, fidelity, and truthfulness Joseph possessed in his daily life growing up, was the same mannerisms that helped him in Egypt." (PP 209.1)


His brothers hated Joseph because their father loved him more. God gave him dreams that elevated his status, and Joseph told on his brothers. For this, Joseph was almost killed and sold and brought as a slave to Potiphar's house. Joseph could have been bitter and cursed God, or he could have tried others the way he felt, but he didn't. Instead, God blessed him and those around him and increased his status to be in charge of Potiphar's house. Soon after, Joseph was falsely accused and thrown into prison. Yet, in the midst, Joseph knew he did no wrong, and God was going to bless and have mercy on him, and God did just that. Even in prison, Joseph was elevated in status and was an overseer of the other prisoners. It wasn't only because of God's mercy but also because of Joseph's father and demeanor, which was evident in whatever he did.


As Joseph's faith increased and he kept a positive mindset, God blessed Joseph with the gift of interpreting dreams that revealed the faith of the baker and the cup-bearer in the prison. Joseph still held on to God and believed that God would bless him. "In the prison, witnessing the results of oppression and tyranny and the effects of crime, he learned lessons of justice, sympathy, and mercy that prepared him to exercise power with wisdom and compassion." (PP 218.2) As time passed, Joseph was imprisoned for two more years after correctly interpreting the cupbearer and baker's dream. Joseph started to lose hope.

"The hope that had been kindled in his heart gradually died out, and to all other trials was added the bitter sting of ingratitude." (PP 219.2)

But God helped relieve him when He gave Pharoah two dreams, revealing his plans. Through God, Joseph told Pharoah what his dreams meant, and in turn, Pharoah, through divine humility, knew that he could trust no other man but Joseph to help save Egypt during the famine. Once again, God blessed Joseph as the governor of all Egypt. "But Joseph's character bore the test alike of adversity and prosperity. The same fidelity to God was manifest when he stood in the palace of the Pharoah as when in a prisoner's cell. He fully believed that the divine hand had directed his steps and in constant reliance upon God and he faithfully discharged the duties of his position." PP 222.1


In the end, Joseph could provide for his family without testing them. He tested them to see if they had repented and changed. Joseph accused Benjamin, his younger brother, of stealing his silver cup. Joseph could have tortured his brothers for their evil against him, but he didn't. When he captured Simeon, and the others left for home to get Benjamin, Joseph didn't torture Simeon, nor did her let his brothers go empty-handed. In addition, he also gave his brothers free food, returning the money they used to pay. Benjamin and Joseph treated them to dinner upon their return, but their test wasn't over. His brothers' reactions to Joseph keeping Benjamin as a prisoner pleased Joseph. He saw the fruits of true repentance. Joseph finally revealed himself to his brothers and told them, " '...Now, therefore, be not grieved, or angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life.' Feeling they had suffered enough for their cruelty towards him, he nobly sought to banish their fears and lessen the bitterness of their self-reproach." (PP 230.5) Joseph could have been bitter but he knew and understood, by their reactions, that they suffered greatly for what they did to him.


Conclusion

Faithful attention to duty in every situation, from the lowliest to the most exalted, had been training every power for its highest service. He who lives in accordance with the Creator's will is securing to himself the truest and noblest development of character. 'The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding.' Job 28:28.
There are few who realize the influence of the little things of life upon the development of character. Nothing with which we have to do is really small. The varied circumstances that we meet day to day are designed to test our faithfulness and to qualify us for greater trust. By adherence to principle in the transactions of ordinary life, the mind becomes accustomed to hold the claims of duty above those of pleasure and inclination. Minds thus disciplined are not wavering between right and wrong; they are loyal to duty because they have trained themselves to habits of fidelity and trust. By faithfulness in that which is least they acquire strength to be faithful in greater matters.
Character is not inherited. It cannot be bought. Moral excellence and fine mental qualities are not the result of accidents. The most precious gifts are of no value unless they are improved. The formation of a noble character is the work of a lifetime and must be the result of diligent and persevering effort. God gives opportunities; success depends upon the use made of them." (PP 222.3 - 223.1)

Joseph's healthy perspective changed, and his faith grew, allowing him to see his past as God saw it. If Joseph had held a grudge and focused on his brothers' hatred, he wouldn't have fulfilled God's plan. He wouldn't have helped save the people and his family during the famine. His faith strengthened. In every situation he was in, God blessed his hands and his mind and elevated his position. Joseph understood his ultimate purpose. Like Ellen G. White, "Everything he went through helped prepare him for what God wanted to do in his life.


I change my perspective daily, trying to see God's hand in every situation or person. I always ask questions to understand every situation better, trying not to make assumptions. During this daily challenge, I trust God to reveal his plans, however great or small they are in my or someone else's life. I challenge everyone to look at their present circumstances differently. Look at that person, event, or whatever may be a little differently through divine wisdom because something new might be revealed. You may be in a sibling rivalry like Joseph, dealing with the loss of a loved one, challenges with church members or coworkers, did get or lost a job, whatever the case may be. I challenge you to question everything and ask for God's guidance in handling what he reveals to you or wants you to learn.

You can gain insight into your purpose by changing your perspective and strengthening your faith. ~ Nathifa Debellotte

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