This past week I “invented” a new term: the “Joseph Moment.” Most of us know the Old Testament story of Joseph. The favored son, Joseph angered his older brothers, who got even by selling Joseph into slavery. Eventually, Joseph fulfilled God’s call on his life, becoming second only to Pharoah, and through this position, he saved his entire family from starvation and death.
What is a “Joseph moment”? It is a time when you are misunderstood, misjudged, or mislabeled. A “Joseph moment” leaves you feeling lost and wondering what in the world, or in heaven, is going on and maybe even doubting your faith in God.
As a young man of seventeen, Joseph was already sensitive to the things of God. He had dreams implying the great leader he would become, but when he shared those dreams, his brothers became jealous and sold him into slavery. Yet, Joseph lived through the moments of betrayal and servitude by staying faithful to his abilities, to his God, and to the gifts he had received from God. Thus, he was able to fulfill God’s call on his life and be, eventually, reunited with his family.
Faithful to Our Abilities
Joseph found himself in a terrible situation. Carried away from his home and family, he landed in the home of a powerful Egyptian as a slave. He could have chosen to rebel and refuse to work. He could have chosen to try to run away. However, Joseph chose to be faithful to who he was, to his strengths, abilities, and talents. He worked hard and was soon recognized for his talents and hard work. Potiphar placed Joseph in charge of his household and possessions. Genesis 39:6 states, “So he left in Joseph’s care everything he had; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate.”
In our Joseph moments, whether at work, at home, or at church, we may find ourselves feeling betrayed and misjudged. A statement is misinterpreted and, all of a sudden, we find ourselves on the outside looking in, kicked out of the clique, persona non grata. Our first response might be to become bitter and angry, to turn aside from the work before us and go our own way. Why keep trying? Just give up! Nothing ever works out anyway!
Living through our Joseph moments, in spite of our problems or our feelings, requires that we carry on, using our skills and talents. As we are faithful, God is able to bless us and to bring His will to pass in our lives. Where in your life are you misunderstood, misjudged, passed over? Choose to walk forward in faith, believing that God has a plan and will bring it to pass. Remind yourself of Paul’s words “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Faithful to Our God
Joseph could be called the king of setbacks. Sold into slavery, he begins to get ahead in life, gets a promotion, but once again, a Joseph moment occurs as Potiphar’s wife propositions Joseph. It would have been easy to accept her proposition, that is, if he did not have an abiding faith in and commitment to God. Joseph chose to be faithful to God and to his employer. He refused to do anything that would harm Potiphar or his household, and he fled from temptation.
Some of our biggest temptations occur when we are successful, when everything is going right in our lives. We are at the top of the world and begin to feel as if we can do anything. Marriages are destroyed, employment is lost, on and on, because we forget the first thing, that is, our commitment to God. Where in your life are you successful right now? Remember the proverb: “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). When we allow our successes to turn our head and lead us away from God’s will, we will fall.
Faithful to Our Gifts
Potiphar’s wife, to save her own reputation, accused Joseph of attacking her, and once again, Joseph is accused wrongly and is thrown into jail. He was faithful when sold into slavery and faithful at the top of his game. Joseph could have succumbed to self-pity and anger as he sat in jail. He worked hard and again attained success, as the warden put him in charge of the prison. Still, Joseph rejected fear and stayed faithful to God’s gifts. Pharoah’s cupbearer and baker each experienced a prophetic dream while in prison. Joseph used his gift to interpret their dreams.
Even though I am being faithful to my abilities and being faithful to God, I must be willing to use the gifts God has given to me. What spiritual gifts have you received from God? The New Testament lists many gifts that are given to the church for its benefit and God’s glory. Have you chosen to hide your gifts because you were hurt before? Are you withholding God’s Word from others because you don’t want to get in trouble or be misunderstood? In our Joseph moments we must have the faith to step out, in spite of our fears, and be God’s representatives, God’s hand extended, wherever we find ourselves and in whatever situation.
In good times and in bad, Joseph chose to be faithful to his abilities and worked to the glory of God. He chose to be faithful to God and resisted the temptation toward pride and self-indulgence. Finally, he chose to use God’s gifts for the benefit of others, in spite of his own situation. Eventually, Joseph was freed from prison and made second in charge of Egypt. He led the country through times of abundance and times of famine and saved many lives through his wisdom and faith.
Don’t give up. Don’t be bitter. Don’t be angry. Be faithful with your abilities, faithful to your God, and faithful with the gifts God has given you. You will have your ups and downs, but through it all God will be with you and will sustain you, as God sustained Joseph. You may not become vice-president, but you will make a difference in your community and your world.
Pastor Mary Kay