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The Weekly Word: The 50/20 Principle

By Tim Purcell, Assistant Superintendent of The Northwest District of The Wesleyan Church

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” 

— Genesis, 50:20

Let’s not sugarcoat reality; life can be hard! Along with all of the usual challenges and stresses of work, marriage and family, we continue to live with a virus that refuses to go away, near record inflation, political polarization, and the list goes on.

The Weekly Word: The 50/20 Principle
Tim Purcell, Assistant Superintendent of the Northwest District of the Wesleyan Church

Sometimes I feel like the circus performer who posted an ad in the paper reading, “Lion tamer seeking tamer lion.”

Recently, as I wrestled with the temptation to succumb to discouragement, I recalled something that Chuck Swindoll called “The 50/20 principle,” so named because it flows out of Genesis, 50:20, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

Years earlier, Joseph’s brothers had sold him into slavery and, after a long, challenging journey with lots of detours, Joseph ended up as second in command over the entire nation of Egypt. That placed him in position to save untold numbers of people from starvation during a 7-year famine.

When Joseph’s brothers feared that, at long last, he was going to seek revenge for what they had done to him years earlier, he reassured them that their sovereign God had it all well in hand the entire time.

The 50/20 principle is simply this: “In his sovereignty, God gets good results from bad circumstances.” No one would ever say that many of the challenges we face are good, but our sovereign God will use them for good if we let him.

Having said that, however, there are three really important factors in the 50/20 principle that we need to remember:

  • God sees the big picture and we don’t. There were many times that Joseph could have thrown himself a pity party because of how unfair life was for him, but God saw the big picture when Joseph didn’t.
  • God’s timetable is usually different than ours. Joseph was 17 years old when he was sold into slavery and was 30 when he finally was promoted to second-in-command. Remember that when you are tempted to get impatient.
  • God is in control of the final outcome. There may be ups and downs along the way, but our sovereign God will work out his will and purposes in the end.

So stay strong, my friends, and don’t ever forget the 50-20 principle: God specializes in getting good results from bad circumstances.


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