For Joseph, living for the Lord was the worst thing he could have done with his life. Well, from the perspective of casual observers that’s what it looked like. Because Joseph went from being his father’s favorite and God’s chosen to being his brothers’ enemy number one, then to being sold into slavery, then for a little while being Potiphar’s go-to guy, and then going to prison on false charges.
Because Joseph served God wherever he went, regardless of his circumstances, God blessed what Joseph did. Because of this, Potiphar looked favorably on Joseph. Unfortunately, so did Mrs. Potiphar. Long story short, she tried to get Joseph to have an affair with her. For days she kept after him, and Joseph refused every time. “But one day, when he went into the house to do his work and none of the men of the house was there in the house, she caught him by his garment, saying, ‘Lie with me.’ But he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house.” (Genesis 39:11-12, ESV) Seeing she had Joseph’s garment and angry because she didn’t have Joseph, she used his garment to accuse him of attempted rape. (Genesis 39:13-20) It was a false accusation, but it was Mrs. Potiphar making the accusation, so the charge stuck and Joseph went to prison. His only offense: doing what was right.
Once again Joseph was in a situation where he could have legitimately complained, “Life’s unfair!” Because life really had been unfair to him. He didn’t deserve the things that had happened to him. At best, Joseph’s life amounted to a sad, sad country song. If his life were a movie, we could expect the camera to zoom in on Joseph playing the blues on a harmonica in his prison cell. But we don’t see Joseph angry or bitter or sullen. Instead, we see him serving in prison as he had in Potiphar’s house:
“But the LORD was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and 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 that were in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it.” (Genesis 39:21-22)
Why? How? Because through his ever-changing circumstances, Joseph kept his faith in a never-changing God.
Joseph understood that those dreams he’d had years back were not just dreams, they were promises. In those dreams God was promising that Joseph would not always be a slave or a prisoner. One day he would be greatly used of God and even his family would understand this. All Joseph had to be was faithful. He maintained his faithfulness because he knew his God was faithful. For Joseph the focus was never on himself or his circumstances. It was always on “What is God going to do next and how can I honor Him?” Of course his situation was going from bad to worse. He wasn’t living in denial. He was living in the reality of God’s promises: “I don’t understand what’s happening to me now, but God has a reason for it and I know He keeps His Word.”
Sometimes life can make us despondent. Everything around us is unraveling and because our focus is on what we can see and experience, our faith in God can come unraveled too. But if we are trusting Christ as our Savior, we know from His Word that the worst that could happen to us is God keeping His promises!
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Photo by Glenn Haertlein (That’s me!) on Unsplash