Have you ever faced a challenging situation, wholeheartedly seeking God’s direction and received what you were certain was a clear directive right from the Holy Spirit?
Have you ever had an encounter where you knew the right thing to do according to God’s word, and despite your fear, forged ahead?
Lastly, have you ever received from the Holy Spirit a clear vision for a new project or ministry, a different direction for your life, or a long awaited answer to a nagging problem and moved on it right away?
If you answered “yes” to any of the questions above, and everything worked out just as you thought it would, then praise God! This article is not for you.
This article is for those of us who have done everything we know to carry out our mission, work through our challenge, or work out our problem God’s way, only to have it blow up in our faces.
What on earth do you do when following God not only results in more trouble, but leads you headlong right into it? When I find myself in situations like this, I look to my favorite personality in the Bible, Joseph.
The more often I read through the biblical account of Joseph’s life, the more respect I gain for this man, who remained innocent of wrong doing despite how poorly he was treated. When I grow up, I want to embrace suffering, stand for righteousness, forgive others, and honor God with my sincere, loving attitude, just as Joseph did.
Genesis 39 opens with Joseph working in the home of the Captain of the Guard’s home. Potiphar and his family were upper class Egyptians. Logic would lead us to believe that their position in Egyptian society afforded them the best their pagan culture had to offer – including everything that could potentially ensnare a sheltered, favored Hebrew boy, such as Joseph.
Despite his low position, Joseph worked diligently in Potiphar’s house – enough to get noticed and promoted. I say this because it fits his pattern. Jacob, who had a great deal of wealth in his own right, had seen fit to place his youngest son over all of his older sons. Yes, that could have been due to the fact that Joseph was his favorite – but Jacob/Israel was a hustler at heart (Genesis 25-28, 30:27-43). So it’s doubtful that he would put his wealth in the hands of an untrustworthy son – no matter how much he favored him.
With God’s favor resting upon him, Joseph quickly became second-in-command of Potiphar’s household (Genesis 39:4), then later, second-in-command of the prison (Genesis 39:21-23), and finally second-in-command of the entire nation (Genesis 41:39-43). His hard work got him noticed, but so did his good looks.
The narrative states that as Potiphar’s wife began to lust after Joseph, she propositioned him. When he turned her down, she launched a sexual harassment campaign that would put the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill debacle to shame by comparison. Finally, once she ambushed Joseph, causing him to flee so quickly that he left his cloak behind, and realized his rejection was firm, she had him thrown into prison under the false accusation of attempted rape.
Okay – Potiphar’s wife was a loser. There is no question about it. But Joseph was beyond reproach. He was noble in his rejection of her. He reasoned with her, explaining that Potiphar had been gracious to him. He reaffirmed his faith in God, stating that he could never disappoint God by sleeping with his boss’ wife. By all appearances, Joseph did everything right. And how was he repaid? He was sent to rot in jail where he would spend years of his life for a crime of which he was totally innocent.
He was thrown into what was arguably one of the worst prison systems in the ancient world, because he refused to dishonor God. And God did nothing to stop it. What do you do with that kind of reality? What do you do when you end up feeling like a complete fool for doing things God’s way?
You do what Joseph did. You determine to do your very best, wherever you find yourself, trusting that the God you follow is true to his word and will never leave you nor forsake you. When you can’t bring yourself to trust God’s actions toward you, place your trust in his character. If you truly know him, it is because you have a history with him. In other words, you have a shared past. Rely on it.
Unlike a stock fund, with God past performance does guarantee future results. That’s why he has given us the bible. If you have no personal history with God yet, or you have forgotten his faithfulness to you in the past, then pour through his word to see how he has dealt with the faithful, and to review his promises with your own eyes. Pray them back to him. Where the bible is concerned, reading is believing. He does not change. What he has done for others, he can do for you. Offer up to him the very thing, results, situation you hope for. If it is for you, he will return it. If he’s going to take it anyway, you might as well offer it up to him. Pull on his coat tails for wisdom. He tells us to ask. Stay in his face. He tells us to seek and persist. Worship him through tears if you must. Come to church mad – but come anyway. But do not leave his side. Do not let go of his hand. Do not turn away. Do not give up on him.
At one point in my life, when the bottom fell out, I remember grabbing my bible, pouring through the Psalms, circling in red ink every promise that pertained to my situation and begging God to show me how any of it could be true, given what he was allowing to happen. I felt betrayed by God and stupid for trying to live a moral life. I remember wishing I could go back to my old life B.C.. The problem was that I knew my life before Christ was a sham with a dead end. I had come too far. I could not quit. There was nowhere to go but forward.
So I plodded ahead, but my attitude was bad. But as I began to preoccupy myself with God’s word, and serving those I could help, he began to change my perspective. My situation did not change for years – many years in fact. But my attitude toward it changed so drastically that the oppression lost its hold on me. In the midst of my struggle, I experienced true freedom. A freedom that allowed me not only to wait patiently for God’s timing, to do so with a good attitude, but to thank him for the original affliction!
I am fully aware of how crazy that sounds. But I believe that is why I enjoy Joseph so much. After all he endured at the hands of his brothers, Potiphar, Potiphar’s wife, and even the negligent, lying cupbearer, he showed no traces of bitterness – only wisdom and grace. What a beautiful spirit he became in the hands of a loving God, who allowed him to suffer for the right reasons. Oh yes, when I grow up, I definitely want to be like Joseph. What a beautiful spirit.