How did he do it? How did Joseph literally thrive, versus merely surviving, in the life-altering situations he had not ‘signed up’ to be in? What was his secret?
He was sold into slavery by his own brothers and he was wrongfully accused by his owner’s lying wife, which landed him in prison. How was Joseph able to separate the raw human emotions of betrayal within these events and display an uncanny tenacity and determination to be successful in these not-so-desirable circumstances.
Joseph went directly from being the adulated, apple-of-his-father’s-eye to slavery. A slave now, huh? Well, he was going to roll up his sleeves and be the best slave ever. He would exemplify what God would look like within this slave world he was now a part of.
Joseph was abruptly demoted from enjoying all the benefits and rewards of being the right-hand man to prison life. A prisoner now, huh? He would be a model prisoner, demonstrating what God would look like within the prison system.
Are you in a similar position…a position that you did not ‘sign up’ to be a part of; yet, here you are, through no doing of your own? When life lands us in these positions, it is usually second nature for us to assume that God couldn’t be a part of this injustice. Surely, He wouldn’t be in the middle of situations that seem so wrong! Yet, there we find God’s presence at the slave-master’s house,
“The Lord was with Joseph; and, he was a successful man…So it was, from the time that he [Joseph’s owner, Potipher] had made him overseer of his house and all that he had, that the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had in the house and in the field.” Genesis 39:2,5
in the prison,
“But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners who were in the prison; whatever they did there, it was his doing. The keeper of the prison did not look into anything that was under Joseph’s authority, because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper.” Genesis 39:21-23
And later, within a God-less Pharoah’s decision-making process,
“Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Inasmuch as God has shown you all this, there is no one as discerning and wise as you. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall be ruled according to your word; only in regard to the throne will I be greater than you’.” Genesis 41:39-40
Who would have thought that being a servant and a prisoner could be so influential and lead to such highly successful positions? Only God.
The acknowledgment of God’s presence…even in the places we humanly would least expect to find Him…was Joseph’s first key to thriving versus surviving. Grasp a hold of this truth: there is nowhere God does not go:
“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there…Even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall fall on me’, Even the night shall be light about me. Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, but, the night shines as the day; The darkness and the light are both alike to You.” Psalm 139:7-8, 10-12
Joseph embraced the truth that he could experience God’s presence and companionship no matter where life circumstances took him.
Joseph’s second key to thriving versus surviving was his resolve to be effective for God and mirror His character in whatever situation he was placed. Wherever we find ourselves, there are people in that place…in similar circumstances…that need to see God. As they see God at work in us and through us, they too, learn that suffering injustice is not in vain. Where man sees hopelessness, God sees hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).
Thousands of years later, Paul would testify and put into verse, the mindset that Joseph had displayed:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.” 2 Corinthians 4:7-10
“…For I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” Philippians 4:11b-12
Hope and trust in God’s sovereignty was the third key to Joseph’s thriving versus surviving:
“And Pharoah was angry with his two officers, the chief butler and the chief baker. So he put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the prison, the place where Joseph was confined. And the captain of the guard charged Joseph with them, and he served them; so they were in custody for a while. Then the butler and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were confined in the prison, had a dream, both of them, each man’s dream in one night and each man’s dream with its own interpretation…So Joseph said to them, ‘Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell them to me, please’.” Genesis 40:2-5, 8b
Joseph didn’t seem to believe his situations were just coincidence. He seemed to have a working knowledge that there were specific reasons for him to be in each of the environments he was placed. He didn’t seem preoccupied with the ‘why’ behind each circumstance or the ‘how’ he got there, but he focused on who his God was and what His God could do through him as he [Joseph] yielded to His plans. What peace and confidence we can have as we walk through the various circumstances of life…even the unforeseen, unwarranted ones…knowing that God’s purpose will still override any sabotage attempts by man.
“A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9
“The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of water, He turns it wherever He wishes.” Proverbs 21:1
As we walk in step with the Lord in every situation and seek to be a reflection of who God would be in each situation, we will redefine human perception of success, influence, and effectiveness.
“When a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. Proverbs 16:7
“He who heeds the word wisely will find good, and whoever trusts in the Lord, happy is he. Proverbs 16:20