In our last post on Genesis we saw Judah fall in a disturbing way, when he had sexual relations with his daughter-in-law while she posed as a shrine prostitute. (see previous post: Judah and Tamar) In today’s post, we’ll look at Joseph’s rapid rise to success in Potiphar’s household, and the four steps he took to get there.
Here in Genesis 39 we pick up our story with Joseph, just sold into slavery. The Ishmaelites who bought him from his brothers, turn around and sell him to an Egyptian named Potiphar who’s the captain of the guard for Pharoah, the king of Egypt.
Can you even imagine what Joseph went through? Can you imagine having your family turn on you? If my siblings sold me into slavery, and I was taken away to serve a master in a far away foreign country, I don’t know what I’d do. But look what Joseph did.
We see Joseph as a picture of Jesus in that, like Jesus, Joseph takes on the role of a servant. And the Lord is with him so he rocks his new position in Potiphar’s house. When Potiphar sees the Lord is with him in the small things, and how the Lord blesses Joseph with success in everything, Potiphar shows him favor and makes Joseph his attendant. He puts Joseph in charge of his whole household. All Potiphar owns is placed under Joseph’s charge. After Potiphar promotes him to run it all, the Lord blesses his entire estate because of Joseph. Everything thrives: inside, outside, in the house, and in the field. He trusts Joseph so much he leaves every detail in his care. Potiphar doesn’t concern himself with anything except the food he eats.
Joseph’s 4 Steps to Success: Steps You Can Take Too
1) Ask for God’s Spirit
The first five words of verse two say, “The Lord was with Joseph…” It’s a wise man who remains close to God all his days. You never know when you might be separated from every other living soul in your life. Joseph was. He was separated from his family and every single person who was familiar to him.
But he still had his God. And that proved to be his saving grace. The Lord was with Joseph…
And it’s obvious God’s Spirit was upon him. Which brings to mind a favorite saying of one of my favorite fire department Captains, Rick Rohrbough, who would sometimes remark, “You don’t dig with your shovel when the backhoe is comin’.”
That saying comes to mind because living life without God’s Spirit compared to living life with His Spirit is like digging with a shovel compared to digging with a backhoe. Life flows when you’re living in the Spirit. Life’s so much harder when you’re not. It just doesn’t make any sense to live without His Holy Spirit poured out on your life.
And all you have to do is ask for it. Jesus said, If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:11-13)
Ask God to pour His Holy Spirit upon you, to be with you in what you put your hand to.
Ask every day.
2) The Day of the Small Things
I think it’s important to keep in mind, as a slave, Joseph had to have started with small responsibilities. It’s a great reminder for you and for me not to despise the day of the small things. (Zechariah 4:10) When I started with the fire department my duties included cleaning the toilets. Having lived it, I recommend, if you’re assigned to clean the toilets, clean them well. I remember another time when we needed to find someone to take on the task of managing the laundry service for the fire department. This is not a glamorous task by any stretch of the imagination. A firefighter, who was already passed over four times for Captain, volunteered for the assignment and handled it extremely well. Today he serves as the Deputy Chief of Administration.
God’s word speaks of minding the day of the small things in Zechariah, and we see Jesus operates in the same way in Matthew 25:21.
So don’t despise the day of the small things. It results in great blessings, in the long run. (see previous post, Pat Summit: The Day of Small Things)
3) Work With All Your Heart
It’s been said: “Genius is one percent inspiration, and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” After reading the story of Joseph, I’m left with the distinct impression, he was industrious. Running the estate of a high government official, and running it well, had to be demanding of his time and energy. The Holy Spirit is God’s part, and the most important part, but Joseph had an important part too, and that was to give it his best. Joseph’s response is remarkable given the circumstances. He had to have been tempted to succumb to depression as a result of his brother’s intense hostility and rejection of him, as well as his current circumstances in Egypt. But he didn’t fall into despondency. Instead he worked with all his heart, as working for the Lord, not for his strange new Egyptian master.
However difficult your circumstances, how do they compare to Joseph’s? Have you been sold into slavery lately?
Wherever you find yourself, whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters… (Colossians 3:23)
4) Live According to God’s Word
In the biblical account of Joseph’s life, no sin is ever mentioned (another reason Joseph of the Old Testament is such a powerful picture of Jesus. See previous post: Joseph and Jesus). It’s obvious from our story, Potiphar trusted Joseph completely. Many of the simple truths in God’s scriptures are extremely valuable to those in authority. At the fire department some of us called certain employees who lived with great integrity and purpose, “fire and forget weapons.” When we gave them an assignment, they took responsibility and worked at it with all their heart. These people didn’t require much in the way of supervision. As Potiphar was with Joseph, once we gave them an assignment, we never gave it another thought.
Reading your Bible daily and living out the scriptures will pay off big in the long run. I have found Psalm 1 to be absolutely true.
Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.
Do you want whatever you do to prosper?
Live like Joseph did — regardless of your circumstances.