“Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there. The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field. So Potiphar left everything he had in Joseph’s care; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate.Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!”But he refused. “With me in charge,” he told her, “my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her.One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. She caught him by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house.When she saw that he had left his cloak in her hand and had run out of the house, she called her household servants. “Look,” she said to them, “this Hebrew has been brought to us to make sport of us! He came in here to sleep with me, but I screamed. When he heard me scream for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.” She kept his cloak beside her until his master came home. Then she told him this story: “That Hebrew slave you brought us came to me to make sport of me. But as soon as I screamed for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.” When his master heard the story his wife told him, saying, “This is how your slave treated me,” he burned with anger. Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined. But while Joseph was there in the prison…”
So here is a man named Joseph, a good young man who always spoke the truth, and exhibited true character and integrity. He did the right thing and refused to become an adulterer, and then God “blessed” him by allowing him slanderously accused and placed in a dungeon for years and years. Yikes! This is how God congratulates those that are honest? This is what happens to the good people of the earth? So, this is the reward God gives you from turning away from an immoral, married woman, who was offering you some very fleeting pleasure that you know is wrong to accept? This is what happens if you stand up for righteousness?
Joseph was in prison for years for the “crime” of being noble! And such sentences are still being handed down today to the righteous. Paul was imprisoned for speaking about God’s love. Moses was in dessert of decades and decades because of he honored and obeyed God. Today how many thousand Christian pastors, missionaries and humble followers are locked up and forgotten in prisons and placed in “re-education camps” in China, North Korean, Iran, Venezuela, etc. because they are unafraid to speak the truth and honor God. Why doesn’t God stop this?
Joseph had good looks, a well built body—-he was sexy! He did not acquire these good looks with botox injections or a special trainer; he did not workout maintaining his stunning appearance or his physique—both were gifts from God. Yet he never used those gifts for the wrong purposes. He honored God with what he had—-God loves that, but don’t think that God’s favor means He will put you in a penthouse to enjoy fine food and wine for the rest of your life or get placed on God’s trophy case to be admired!
What are your gifts and my gifts? How are you and I using them? Do we realize that talent, intellect, good looks and where we are born are gifts from God? You and I did nothing to receive God’s blessing, but what we do with the gifts He gave us is how He will judge us. In the USA, the average person watches 30 hours of TV per week, is morbidly overweight, dislikes his job and has no vision for himself and has not goals. This is the “normal” of life in America. Gracious! What are we doing with the intellectual and physical gifts He has given?
Consider the parable of the one talent and many talents.
“A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten talents ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’ “But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’ “He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it. “The first one came and said, ‘Sir, your talent has earned ten more.’
“‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’ “The second came and said, ‘Sir, your talent has earned five more.’ “His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’ “Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your talent; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’ “His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’ “Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his talent away from him and give it to the one who has ten talents.’ “‘Sir,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’ “He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away.
Joseph and the other heroes of the faith were not looking for the approval of their brothers, their countrymen or even those that shared their faith; nor were they concerned about what others thought about them being in prison or how their reputations suffered because of their incarceration. They lived for the approbation and favor of God. That’s what Jesus was referring to when He told the parable of the ten talents. He was asking, “for whom are you investing, or hiding, your talents?” What are we doing what He has given us in the time we have left on this earth? Who are you trying to please?
Now you might not like this parable, but as I see it, the men with the five talents or ten talents were the Josephs, Moses’ and Paul’s—men of faith. They took what God gave them and did incredible things. But the one with one talent is like most of us. We think we have too little to offer so we sit on our hands and do nothing. God did not ask you or me to be Jospeh, or Moses or Paul or Billy Graham or Mother Theresa. He asked us to be Jack, Jonathan, Justin and Jim, Heather, Jade, Mary Sue or Billie—-He knows our limitations and frankly is quite capable of doing mightier things than we can imagine because we are cognizant of our limits!
But here’s a message for those who feel like they have been sold into slavery like Joseph; those who have been treated shamefully for attempting to do the right thing like Moses; those who have been slandered, attacked and hated because we attempted to share truth and love and God’s good news. Now if you are not in one of those kind of people, but perhaps you have been blessed your whole life, free from pain and sorrow and misrepresentation, that’s fine. But don’t think that your life is carefree because you’re God’s favored. The truth is that God’s favorites are exposed to agony, persecution, misunderstanding, misrepresentation and abuse. Think about Saint Paul who said this: “…as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.”
Do you and I want to be one of His favorites? Then we must stop whining when He tests us! We have to stop complaining while He is preparing us! We’ve got to top turning back and running home to momma when He’s trying to make us into a lion or lioness for the Kingdom of God!
Joseph never lost hope. He continued to do the right thing even in jail—-but that’s what people who love God do! They do not let circumstances or the mistreatment they received from people dictate their outlook and attitude; their joy, peace and confidence is not contingent upon their location or those that surround or accuse them, but rather upon the absolute certainty that God loves them and is sovereign—they have surrendered and submitted themselves to His care and providence—they are unshakable.
It is a fact that God does let His special chosen waste away for years in prison, or remain marooned for decades in the dessert or on remote islands. But it is also true that they never lost sight of God even when they appear abandoned—that’s why they were so highly favored. A more common satisfaction in life might come from a life of ease, a place of comfort, the respect within the community, financial and material abundance or merely an existence free from any pain or challenges—-that’s what most folks want! But imagine if your joy, your dreams, your vision, your strength and excitement about tomorrow came only and exclusively from Him? This is what these men had, and it is what every follow of Jesus Christ should desire. No, we should not dream about prison or a desert island, but when we are sold out for Jesus Christ and our minds are fixed upon Him, our is faith is so unflappable that nothing, absolutely nothing, can shake it.
But did you ever think about all that Satan must have been whispering to Joseph when bad things happened to him…when his brothers spoke harshly to him….when they tried to kill him and threw him into a hole in the ground to starve to death….when he was sold as a slave in a foreign land…. when he was accused wrongly and thrown into prison….when he helped Pharaoh’s cup bearer but then the cup bearer forgot about helping him get out of prison? Do you think that Moses or Paul’s life any less discouraging? Don’t you know that the devil was whispering lies to them? They were slandered and hated and people wanted to kill them. SURELY they must have been tempted to think, “What am I doing! I have missed God’s voice somehow—-this can’t be right! If I were doing the right thing I would not be running for my life! If God was on my side the people of Israel would not be planning to stone me to death! If I were really a man that God was pleased with I would not be in this prison in Egypt for years wasting away, while others are enjoying life with their wives and children.”
The devil ever tempts us to compromise, renounce, break our vows, abandon our dreams and look for excuses when the tasks God gives us take are not pleasant. We live and dream of ease, convenience, pleasure and the smoothest, straightest, widest and easiest path to follow. The easy path is very tempting. No wonder it is overcrowded all the time. But on the other hand, the hard path, the difficult path, is very seldom traveled. The extra mile is never crowded. Not everyone chooses that path—only those that are shooting for a higher prize of God Himself.
Does God have you in a place almost like a prison right now. Shine for Him and do not let the circumstances or the company you are forced to entertain determine your character or direction.
Why doesn’t God stop the folks He loves from spending years in jail? Because something happens to Josephs, Moses, Pauls, Dietrich Bonhoeffers and thousands of God’s elect in prison, that simply does not, and cannot happen, outside of prison. I hope that I never spend one night in jail, but that time of separation from mankind and the things that distract or draw attention when you in the world, produced the skills, mindsets, determination and faith to turn these men into the giants in antiquity and to alter the course of the history the world.
When Jospeh revealed to his deceitful brothers that he was alive he said this to them: “ And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.” God sends us into lions dens, and prisons and painful circumstances to save lives and glorify Him. Come Lord Jesus..