Joseph’s gut-wrenching circumstances and Godly decisions amid them in Genesis 39 are incredibly valuable examples that all of us can apply to our lives.
Whenever we go through hard times and want a bit of comfort — thinking deeply about what Joseph lived through is a good idea to get a sense that someone else endured incredibly difficult things so we don’t feel as alone. Imagine being hated by your own siblings so much they want to kill you, then being betrayed by them, and then sold into slavery and taken to a foreign land. Everything you had and everyone you knew is gone, probably forever. You don’t know anything about where you’ve ended up. You’re completely alone — and no one is coming to your rescue. Your life, practically speaking, is over. That’s what happened to Joseph. And taking some time to fathom the waves of sadness and grief he must have gone through very likely will put our own troubles in perspective.
But what made the big difference here is that the Lord was with Joseph.
And the same God who was with Joseph in his awful circumstances, the same God who showered grace upon him, the same God who gave him favor in bad times … is our God, too!
Indeed, while Joseph was betrayed, sold into slavery, and taken to a foreign land — the man who bought him was Potiphar, the Egyptian captain of the guard. Only God could have orchestrated that. And wouldn’t you know that Joseph excelled while serving Potiphar, who saw that the Lord was with Joseph and eventually placed him in charge of entire household — which God blessed for Joseph’s sake.
Joseph also had a part to play in God’s grand story: he positioned himself to be in the very best place to receive the shower of grace the Lord wanted to pour down upon him. And as Pastor Scott reemphasized this past Sunday, we also have to be “positioned” under God’s grace shower to experience it; we can’t be camped out in the living room escaping watching TV.
And what five principles did Joseph follow amid his difficult circumstances that we can value and incorporate into our own lives?
First, we must integrate our faith into our daily lives. When we do, as Psalm 1 says, we will be “like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” Just like Joseph.
Second, we must share with others the grace God has given to us — it’s one of the ways we’ll end up advancing in life. “But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also.” (2 Corinthians 8:7)
Third, we mustn’t get sucked in by sin. This is huge. Sin — especially sexual sin — is always out there ready to overtake us, and we must commit ourselves to avoid it. Partaking in it hinders our ability to receive and pass on grace to others.
Joseph knew this very well. When Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him, Joseph reply is amazing: “Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?”
But this wasn’t just a one-time proposition; Potiphar’s wife was after Joseph on a daily basis. And one day it got so bad that when she grabbed for his garments, they came off — as Joseph fled! That’s commitment to God and the righteousness he calls us to. And it certainly reflects Scripture’s command to “flee from sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18).
Now here’s the kicker: Joseph did the right thing by fleeing from Potiphar’s wife — but bad things happened to him anyway. She lied and told Potiphar that Joseph tried to have sexual relations with her — and had Joseph’s garments to “prove” it — and with that, Potiphar threw Joseph into prison.
Which brings us to principle number 4: God’s sovereignty overcomes our darkest moments.
This had to be a huge blow to Joseph. Just when things were looking up in Potiphar’s house, and he was excelling, Joseph suddenly finds himself in prison over a trumped-up charge. Yet another betrayal! And it happened after he made a righteous and Godly choice. It’s certainly a stark example of a bad thing happening to a good person. There’s no explanation for it — and often many of us wonder how God can possibly be on our side and looking out for us if he lets something like this happen.
But when we think this way, we’re misunderstanding God. His promises haven’t changed. He will be with us. He’ll be with us when we’re prospering and excelling in life, and he’ll be with us when times are bad. When we’re betrayed. When we’re treated unjustly.
And wouldn’t you know that despite being thrown in prison, Joseph ends up at the top of the heap there, too? Because God is with him, Joseph is soon placed in charge of all the prisoners because those above him saw — just like Potiphar — that the Lord was with him. Joseph doesn’t mope and feel sorry for himself amid his horrific circumstances — and God turned them around in a big way.
As we saw Sunday, one of the big secrets to Joseph’s success is the fifth and final principle: Don’t focus on the results; focus on being faithful.
In our own lives, if we focus on results, we start doing things that impact results, such as cutting corners and stepping on other people on the way to the top. Instead, we must obey the Lord and leave the results up to him. Our job is to just be faithful.
And God certainly took care of the results while Joseph was in prison, just as he did while Joseph was in Potiphar’s house. The final sentence of Genesis 39 reads, “And whatever [Joseph] did, the Lord made it succeed.”
So, let’s integrate our faith into our daily lives, share God’s grace with others, not get sucked in by sin, believe that God’s sovereignty overcomes our darkest moments, and focus on being faithful rather than on the results. Now those are some Godly principles to live by!