It’s not difficult to admire a guy like Joseph. In the midst of some pretty awful circumstances, where his hardship was unjustly thrust upon him as penalty for something he didn’t do, he rises above it all and seems to always respond with an amazing attitude. If the world is what we make of it, Joseph was determined to make it different. He does not give a proportional response to his circumstances, as that would almost assuredly be bitterness. Instead, Joseph trades in sorrow for…diligence. I almost said ‘joy’ there, but let’s make sure that we don’t go too far, or else we’ll expect Joseph to start walking on water as well.
I doubt Joseph was very happy in his circumstances, but I don’t think it was a sin not to be either. Sometimes life deals us harsh blows and sometimes we get the really crushing ones. I don’t think God expects us to enjoy the experience of either. I can, however, make rational sense of the idea that a person can be so focused on eternity, that hardship becomes more of a detour than it does a roadblock. Indeed, our faith can potentially reach the point that we continue to praise God and serve him with all of our hearts in the midst of the darkest storms of our lives. That’s not zealotry, but the natural outflow of a heart fully surrendered to the idea that God is in control and that he will restore us in his time.
I have had some personal struggles where I found myself with nothing to give…or so I thought. When I think of it now, it seems silly, but the fact is that no matter what I had or lacked, my attitude was what made the difference. I am sorry to say that many times, I did not respond very well at all. I would tell myself ‘if I only had this or that, perhaps I could do something for God’. What I failed to do was to faithfully steward what he had given me.
Think about Joseph for a moment. What did he really have? He was in prison, which meant he did not have freedom, family or possessions. The only things that he had were the intangibles: his abilities, his work ethic and his influence.. Sounds like a lot of nothing, right? What good is work ethic in prison? What good is influence if the only people around are the prison guard and your cell mates?
Influence is probably the most poorly used asset in the kingdom of God. It has always been God’s plan to use his people’s influence on the world in a big way. For this reason, God often put many of his people in high-ranking serving positions so that they could affect change. Abraham was in many ways seen as an equal by King Abimilech. Esther became a wife to the king during the Persian empire. Nehemiah was a cup-bearer for the king. And Joseph? Well, at this point, he shares a cell with the recently fired baker and cupbearer for Pharaoh. No, it doesn’t seem like much to work with.
The difference between Joseph and the rest of us, is that Joseph seems to understand at a high level that we are meant to use what we HAVE and not what we long for. With that in mind, Joseph begins a relationship with the cupbearer. Keep in mind, that his purpose in meeting the cupbearer is not initially catalyzed by his desire to be released from prison, but rather his own compassion…
And one night they both dreamed—the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were confined in the prison—each his own dream, and each dream with its own interpretation. When Joseph came to them in the morning, he saw that they were troubled. So he asked Pharaoh’s officers who were with him in custody in his master’s house, “Why are your faces downcast today?” – Genesis 40:5-7
Joseph noticed that his new cellmates were sad. God uses every part of our personality to accomplish his purposes, and with Joseph, he used his caring, nurturing side to begin a relationship that would eventually be the impetus that would elevate Joseph to the highest position in Pharaoh’s kingdom.
We can learn a lot from Joseph about how to use our influence more, but for now, let’s try to get this one thing right – let’s look at what we already have and acknowledge that it is more than enough for God to use to do something great. Wouldn’t you like to be a part of what he’s doing? Surrender involves more than just giving up what we have – it requires us to acknowledge that what we have is all he needs.