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  • Robert Dillon

Setback, Setup, Comeback

Updated: May 14

Recently I saw a sermon series from Rick Warren: https://pastorrick.com/series/how-god-turns-setbacks-into-comeback-2019/ and Saddleback Church: https://saddleback.com/watch/turning-setbacks-into-comebacks

Here is what the series was all about and some other thoughts.


Everyone loves a good comeback story. But without a setback those comebacks wouldn't be possible. Because we live in a broken world, you will experience problems, trials, difficulties, losses, or failures. Recently I have had that experience with a setback in the ministry from criticism from someone because of social media. I will say that, it has opened my eyes up on the way I think now as a Christian and that actions are important but it does not mean that I am not able to mess up and that when I do, others will continue to critique my every move but sometimes those setbacks are setups for a comeback that can strengthen the ministry even more. You might be in the middle of a setback right now. God has helped people in the past overcome setbacks and is still doing this today. I am going to go over ways to help achieve your comeback. There are many examples of people in the Bible that dealt with a setback caused by other people, and Joseph was one of those individuals. Let’s look at how the setbacks were just God’s setup for his comeback in life. Genesis chapter 37 is where we will start. We first begin within the family of Joseph where, since he seemed to be loved by his father Jacob more than his brothers because he was born into Jacob’s older age in life and he was also gifted a beautiful coat with many colors. Jealousy set in within the brothers and they plotted to get Joseph killed but decided not to but to make it look as if he were dead to their father with rubbing goats’ blood all over it. Joseph was not killed but he was eventually sold into slavery by his brothers to the Ishmaelites. Egyptians thought shepherds were the lowest class people on earth and here is innocent Joseph being sold to them heading to Egypt.

If we continue on in Genesis Chapter 39, we read about Joseph being sold to one of Pharaohs officials Potiphar and that things were looking a lot brighter for Joseph because Potiphar saw the Lord was in Joseph and placed him in charge of everything he had owned. Have you ever had a God moment that when you finally seem you are getting out of the slump, God reminds you that He is there? I am sure at this moment Joseph felt like that he was finally feeling like he was on top again because of his faithfulness to God. See, Joseph at this point never lost faith with everything that he went through God still was there. Do we continue to show faith in God when we are at our lowest? Do we only recognize God’s presence when life is good? Did you know that there is always a presence of Satan working against faithful followers of God every day? That is what happened to Joseph too, temptation with his master’s wife but his faith was so strong that he would not follow through with it when cornered by the woman and he even ran out so fast that he had left his robe lying on the floor.

We go on to understand that even though Joseph left and did not sleep with a married woman, she still lied about it to her husband telling him that he had done just that. Joseph was thrown into prison. Joseph was dealt another setback, when things were looking good again in his life. What do you think went through his mind? Have you had a setback when things seemed to be going well? What were you thinking at the moment? How did you respond? Again, because of his faithfulness to the Lord, Joseph was put in charge over all those in prison and even was put in charge over Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker. He focused everyone’s attention to God and not his own glory. God continued to be with Joseph and one morning Joseph discovers that two of his fellow prisoners, the king’s cupbearer and baker, had dreams overnight. They are troubled because they don’t understand the dreams and no interpreter was available. Joseph assures them that “interpretations belong to God” (Gen 40:8) and asks to hear the men’s dreams. The cupbearer goes first recounting his dream of a vine with three branches that budded, blossomed, and ripened. He took the grapes, squeezed them into Pharaoh’s cup, and presented the cup to the king. Joseph tells the cupbearer that in three days he will be restored to his position of service before the king. To this interpretation, Joseph adds a request: that the cupbearer bring Joseph’s case before Pharaoh and secure his release from prison.

Encouraged by the positive interpretation of the cupbearer’s dream, the baker recounts his dream to Joseph. He saw three baskets of bread on his head, the top one full of baked goods for the king. But birds picked the food out of the top basket and ate it. Joseph tells the baker that in three days, he will lose his head and be impaled on a pole, where the birds will eat his flesh. Three days later, Joseph’s interpretations come to pass, but in another low point of the narrative, the cupbearer forgets about Joseph when he returns to Pharaoh’s service. However, God will eventually use Joseph’s interpretations of the prisoners’ dreams to bring about his release.

Two years has passed and Joseph is still in prison and it seems all hope is lost until Pharoah has a set of dreams that trouble him. He sends for his experts to tell him the meaning of the dreams, but they cannot. The cupbearer suddenly remembers Joseph and tells Pharaoh of the “young Hebrew” who had accurately interpreted the dreams of the cupbearer and the baker. Pharaoh sends for Joseph. When the king says he heard that Joseph could interpret dreams, Joseph denies it but assures Pharaoh that God will answer.

Pharaoh recounts his two dreams. In the first, he saw seven fat cows grazing along the Nile. Then seven skinny cows emerged and devoured them. Despite their feast, the seven skinny cows were “as ugly as at the beginning.” in the second dream, seven full heads of grain grew on a single stalk. Then seven scorched and withered heads of grains came up and consumed the full heads. Joseph tells Pharaoh that the two dreams are one, given twice because “the matter is established by God, and God will do it quickly.” The seven fat cows and the seven full heads of grain represent seven years of unprecedented plenty in Egypt. The seven skinny cows and the seven scorched heads of grain represent seven years of ravaging famine.

Joseph follows his interpretation with some advice for the king: appoint a wise and discerning man to manage Egypt so that it will not be ruined by the coming crisis. Pharaoh takes Joseph’s advice and elevates him to second-in-command over the land—a position that eventually requires Joseph’s own family to bow their faces to the ground in his presence, a fulfillment of his dreams years earlier. We see God revile Joseph’s comeback. It is amazing to see how when things seemed to be going well in Joseph’s life that there seemed to always be a big blow to set him back but he continued to rely on God and never took any credit for interpreting the dreams but gave God the glory. I think we can relate to him when we endure our own setbacks in our lives and when it is happening and we feel that we can’t go forward because we get slammed against a wall, our reaction to it defines what our character truly is all about. God has a way to use those setbacks, no matter how long they are to setup comebacks that will make the ministry stronger as long as we continue to build a stronger relationship with Him and stay faithful that when bad things occur, He can use it for good. I am like Joseph in so many ways but most importantly my relationship with Jesus is so strong that no matter what setback I face I will always lean on Him to help me through it. Remember Jesus on the cross seemed to be a setback for those that saw it but it was just a setup for a comeback and don’t forget the greatest comeback is still yet to come. Keep the faith and may God bless you for it. Amen.


What setbacks has God put in your life that were actually setups for a comeback?




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