We all face hard times. Some last a while yet others are short lived. But the bottom line is we need encouragement. But how do we get through it?
Let’s use Joseph as an example of overcoming obstacles. The bottom line is we must have faith in the Lord. We must believe the Lord is with us, in fact, that His Spirit is in us. We must understand that Jesus gave us His Peace and that He gave us salvation so we may have joy.
We all need encouragement.
It helps us carry on throughout the day.
We seek encouragement from out friends and family – don’t always get it but we ask it none the less.
Encouragement From God is What We Need
It does not require much for me to encourage you. I just have to sense the need to do it and be a willing participant.
During a conversation the need for encouragement surfaces when a soul appears troubled. Sometimes we don’t have to say anything – just listening shows compassion and gives encouragement.
Then there are times we can get an urging from the Holy Spirit to send an encouraging message. I doesn’t have to be long, maybe just saying I was thinking of you.
But we can’t always rely on encouragement form people. Sometimes we have to ask. And that should be OK.
Christians should not fear asking for a little help.
But doesn’t the best encouragement come from God?
We ask God for encouragement though prayer. I think much of the Psalms is the psalmist seeking encouragement from the God Most High.
Lord, You are my rock.
Lord, You put my feet on solid ground.
Read Psalms and believe in the power of God.
Jesus has overcome the world.
You can do all thing through the power of Jesus.
Read the Bible for Encouragement.
But we need to read it in faith. The words mean nothing if they are not absorbed in our hearts.
Ask God for wisdom and He will give it freely. But ask believing He will do it.
For me I don’t rely on people for encouragement. To many times it’s been fake.
The only true source of encourage is God – through prayer – through scripture.
Trust God and rely on Him.
Encouragement from God gives you what is necessary at the moment it’s needed.
What About You
Where do you find encouragement?
Do you find people reliable?
How does God encourage you?
Please let me know your experiences.
Seek encouragement from God for peace and power.
We Can Identify With Joseph
His story covers 25% of Genesis – the beginnings of God’s Word.
Thousands of books have been written about him.
The number of short stories and sermons are difficult to count.
Even Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice wrote a musical about him.
He is a source of inspiration for many over centuries.
His name is Joseph, the eleventh son of Jacob, a great-grandson of Abraham.
He was Jacob’s favorite son. His half-brothers hated him so much they sold him into slavery. He eventually became the slave of an important Egyptian official.
And that’s just the beginning.
In the end, Joseph survived his ordeal and saved most of the know world from starvation, including his brothers and father.
Joseph has a lot to teach us. Over the coming weeks, I’ll write about Joseph – his life, his leadership, his relationships and the lessons we can learn as we manage a business.
My interest in Joseph was peaked after I discovered one verse.
Genesis 39:2 says, “the LORD was with Joseph, so he became a successful man.”
What’s most interesting is the timing of this statement. It comes just as Joseph arrives in the house of Potiphar, the captain of the guard of the Pharaoh.It appears before he becomes successful working for Potipher and Pharaoh.
During captivity Joseph reached out to God. He did not complain about his unfortunate situation. He decided to make the best of it and as a result God blessed him.
This is one of the chief lessons from Joseph’s story. We all should reflect on how Joseph handled his transition from a free man to a slave to a prisoner to second in command to Pharaoh.
God blesses us if we reach out to Him, If we turn our life over to Him and listen to His guidance.
What was true for Joseph, is the same for you and me.
It’s when we try to over control and over manipulate our circumstance that we struggle.
Reflect on how you can use the story of Joseph as you share your message to you audience.
Use the story to show people that what it means to wait on God.
Use it to show people that waiting on God results in blessings.
Use it to show how God can make any situation work out for the best.
Use it to show that we depend on God’s timing and not our expectations.
Love And Envy Collide
Jacob loved his son Joseph.
Jacob loved Joseph more than any of his other children because Joseph was the first born of Rachel.
Jacob always loved Rachel more than his other wives.
Joseph was born to Rachel when Jacob was old. This made Joseph, Jacob’s eleventh son, special to him.
Jacob gave Joseph a beautiful multi-colored robe. This gift was unique. His brothers were envious.
Because Joseph liked his robe so much he wore it everywhere.
His brothers believed he wore it to flaunt his favored status. But, it did not seem that Joseph was that much aware of his brother’s envy.
Joseph’s brothers has a history of misbehavior. And it was common for Joseph to report their antics to his father. This made his brother’s more envious, adding fuel to the fire.
His brothers hated him and they treated him harshly.
When we first meet Joseph, he is seventeen. Not a great way to start an adult life – disliked by most of those around you, right?
Not only did Joseph’s brothers treat him this way home, he had to endure it at work because he worked in the family business.
It was a difficult situation. We’ll discover a bizarre event in the next post about Joseph.
Have you every worked in an environment where the boss played favorites?
How did you react? How did your coworkers react?
Have you ever worked in an environment where people disliked someone to the extent they gave him or her a hard time or tried to make them look bad?
Think about these interactions.
How should we act? What could we do to change the situation?
Some people you’ve encountered this situation.
How would you coach them to handle it? How would you encourage them?
The apostle Paul teaches us that God does not play favorites (Galatians 2:6).
This holds for everyone on the planet. God loves each and everyone of us the same.
Jacob’s actions planted the seed of envy and strife. While Jacob, most likely did not intend this outcome, he was human and made a common error in judgment.
The result: Joseph’s brothers resented him made them want to get even. This was not good given their propensity to violence.
However, in the end God used this adversity to display His awesome power.
Next we look at how Joseph gets himself in more difficulty with his brothers.
Joseph’s Dreams Seal His Future
One night Joseph had a dream. His destiny is now in God’s hands.
‘Listen to this dream,’ he said. ‘We were out in the field, tying up bundles of grain.
Suddenly my bundle stood up, and your bundles all gathered around and bowed low before mine!
His brothers responded, ‘So you think you will be our king, do you?
Do you actually think you will reign over us?’
And they hated him all the more because of his dreams and the way he talked about them.
This infuriated Joseph’s brothers.
Soon Joseph had another dream, and again he told his brothers about it.
‘Listen, I have had another dream,’Â he said.
“The sun, moon, and eleven stars bowed low before me!” This time he told the dream to his father as well as to his brothers, but his father scolded him. “What kind of dream is that?” he asked.
“Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow to the ground before you?”
But while his brothers were jealous of Joseph, his father wondered what the dreams meant.
Pour on more salt in the open wounds.
Now his whole family is upset with him.
Joseph was not doing this in purpose.
The dreams were from God.
He was proud of his dreams.
Hebrew legend has it that Joseph attended school and was well versed in traditions and understanding of man’s relationship with God (as it was understood at that time.)
Joseph’s dreams were prophetic.
What about our dreams? And our vision?
There is absolutely nothing wrong with having a dream, a vision.
However, we must do so with God’s will in mind.
Take a look at what the Apostle James wrote.
Look here, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year.
We will do business there and make a profit.
How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow?
Your life is like the morning fog, it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.
What you ought to say is, ‘If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.’
Otherwise you are boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting is evil.
We shall create our vision and give it to God.
Let’s do so with the welfare of others foremost in mind.
Also let us not fear teaching others how to create a vision for their life.
Scripture from the New Living Translation.
Joseph Is Sold Into Slavery
Joseph spoke his dreams.
His brothers soon went to pasture their father’s flocks at Shechem, some distance (about 50 miles) away from their home in Hebron.
Jacob wanted to hear from his sons so he decided to send Joseph to check on them and bring a report back.
Joseph was now aware of his brother’s hatred. And that there was potential for retribution. But he was willing to go anyway.
Joseph traveled to Shechem and when he arrived his brother’s were not there. A man from the area noticed him wandering around the countryside. Joseph told the man he was looking for his brothers. The man told him his brothers had moved onto Dothan. So Joseph traveled to Dothan and found his brothers there.
The Bible does not say who the man was. Did Joseph know him? How did the man know Joseph’s brothers? A Hebrew legend says the man was the angel Gabriel in human form – meaning God wanted Joseph to find his brothers and set into motion a series of events that would change Joseph’s life forever.
Joseph’s brothers saw him coming in the distance because of his coat of many colors. As he approached, they made plans to kill him.
Reuben talked his brothers into throwing him into an empty pit (well) here instead of killing him. Reuben was secretly planning to rescue Joseph and return him to his father to redeem himself to his father for his sin of sleeping with Jacob’s wife Bilhah.
Joseph’s brothers were a cunning bunch. Years before they slaughtered the residents of a city because the king’s son had raped their sister Dinah. It would not have been difficult for them to kill Joseph.
As Joseph arrived, his brothers captured him and ripped off his robe. Joseph must have been stunned. He must have pleaded with them to do him no harm and promised to make good whatever it was that was causing them to do him harm. His pleading was to no avail as they threw him into a pit.
The brothers saw a caravan of camels in the distance coming toward them. It was a group of Ishmaelite traders taking goods to Egypt. It was then they decided to sell him to the Ishmaelite traders for twenty pieces of silver.
The brothers decided to cover up their crime. They killed a young goat and dipped Joseph’s robe in its blood. They sent the robe to their father with a message that a wild animal must have killed and eaten Joseph.
Where does getting even with someone who harms us, whether real or imagined, lead us? Envy leads to anger; anger leads to retribution, poor decisions, wounds and destruction; and wounds lead to guilt. Ultimately no one is better off.
We need to forgive. It is a definitive expression of love. We should love out neighbor as ourselves. On the other hand, if we caused the envy, no matter our intention, we need to repent and apologize.
If Joseph attempted to apologize, his brothers chose not to listen. Their anger got the best of them. Joseph was forsaken. How must he have felt being done in by his family? How do we feel when we’re done in by someone we trust?
Joseph entered the pit of despair. We don’t often get physically thrown into a pit, but we do find ourselves “in a pit” emotionally.
God let Joseph experience the pit. God also gave Joseph the patience to endure and the skills to get out of the pit. God gives us the same capabilities.
We charge ourselves with the responsibility of coaching and mentoring our audience through difficult times. We do this through Scripture, through our experiences and by the Holy Spirit.
We should give ourselves time to reflect on the porting of Joseph’s story. How can we use it personally and for helping people?
The Lord Was With Joseph
When we last saw Joseph, his brothers had sold him into slavery.
Joseph was taken to Egypt by the Ishmaelite traders where he was purchased by Potiphar, the captain of the guard for Pharaoh.
The Lord was with Joseph, and he succeeded in everything he did.
How could this be? Shouldn’t Joseph be very, very depressed, angry and full of vengeance?
After all he had gone from relative comfort to slavery. He was done in by his family. This was awful.
Joseph should have been saying something like “woe is me I’ll never survive this ordeal; everyone is against me; I might as well just give up.â€Â
But he didn’t. How do we know? Not only was the Lord with him, Joseph knew this and believed it. This is why he was successful.
Going back to the Bible – Potiphar noticed Joseph was a successful man and realized that the Lord was with Joseph. So Potiphar made Joseph his personal attendant. He put him in charge of his entire household and everything he owned.
Notice Joseph was successful and as a result Potiphar put him in charge – not the other way around.
Joseph had to believe God would lead him through his ordeal.
Similar to what Paul said in Philippians that no matter what he was going through, good times or difficult times, he (Paul) was joyful in the Lord.
It is by going through adversity we build patience and character. We come out better at the end.
There’s even more: from the day Joseph was put in charge the Lord blessed Potiphar’s household in order to edify Joseph.
Joseph was the Lord’s servant.
Joseph’s light was so bright all could see the source of his power.
If your life takes downturn, what has been your response?
One of despair or confusion or one of faith and joy?
Maybe someone reneged in a promise.
Maybe someone spread falsehoods about.
Maybe you lost your largest donor.
Maybe you were promised the big check, but the donor decided otherwise at the last minute.
Think of your downturn as your “pit experience”.
The pit was not Joseph’s final destination and it is not yours either.
When you are down, believe God is up to something. (See Psalm 41.)
A few thoughts to keep in mind:
You’ll not be in the pit for ever. Don’t be offended or insulted. Others have had similar experiences and have survived quite well.
Don’t feel sorry for yourself or get accustomed to living in the pit. God will soon give you new opportunity.
Focus on where you want to be.
Start by helping someone else: how you treat others determines God’s reaction to you.
God first took everything away from Joseph and then He gave him the Palace.
Believe and it will happen to you.
Share these thoughts with your audience.
How to Handle the Unexpected
Have you ever had an experience such as this.
Everything is going great.
You’re making the best out of the situation you’re in.
And then disaster hits, unexpectedly?
We all have, right?
Well here’s Joseph in charge of the household of the captain of the guard.
He was rejected by his family (his brothers).
He couldn’t go back home.
He believed God put him in this situation to show the world God’s grace and goodness.
This is what kept him going everyday.
Then it all collapsed.
Potiphar’s wife tries to seduce Joseph.
Joseph refused as it would be a sin against God.
Maybe Potiphar’s wife was interested in sex or maybe she was jealous of Joseph’s power and wanted to control him. Either way, she falsely accused him of an attempt to seduce her.
Potiphar put him in the dungeon.
Wow! Joseph was just getting over his ordeal of being sold into slavery and now he’s in jail.
It would be easy for him to just give up. His faith helped him through his first ordeal, but it would be easy to question his faith to become completely depressed, to lose all hope?
But not Joseph. He strengthened his faith.
The Lord was with Joseph in prison and showed him his faithful love (Genesis 39:21 New Living Translation).
The Lord was with Joseph because Joseph continued steadfast in faith.
Joseph knew that when you’re wrapped up in yourself, God waits until you turn to Him before He acts.
So what happens to Joseph?
… and the Lord made Joseph a favorite with the prison warden. Before long, the warden put Joseph in charge of all the other prisoners and over everything that happened in the prison. The warden had no more worries, because Joseph took care of everything. The Lord was with him and caused everything he did to succeed. (Genesis 39:21-23 New Living Translation)
Joseph had to believe this was a temporary situation; that God would extricate him from prison.
Joseph knew in his heart that God had something great planned and that his time in prison was necessary to build the character for greatness.
Joseph had the gift of leadership and organization.
His service to Potiphar and in prison prepared him for greatness.
Joseph’s skills provided the opportunity to create a job as second in command to Pharaoh – a job rarely held by non-Egyptians.
How can we follow in the footsteps of Joseph?
First, determine the unique gift and talent God gave us.
Second, use our gift to serve others.
Third, align our gift with our work.
How to Make the Best of a Bad Situation
“Interpreting dreams is God’s business” Joseph replied.
“Go ahead and tell me your dreams.” (Genesis 40:8 New Living Translation)
Some time later, how much we don’t know, Joseph was in prison and two people had come under his care.
Both of them had direct connections to Pharaoh – Pharaoh’s cup-barer (butler) and his baker.
One evening they had dreams and upon waking they could not understand what the dreams meant.
Joseph noticed something was troubling his charges so he asked them what was wrong.
They told Joseph they had dreams but didn’t understand them.
So Joseph told them interpreting dreams is God’s business. Then he said “Go ahead and tell me your dreams.”
Somehow, someway Joseph believed God would tell him the answer to their dreams so he could comfort the butler and the baker.
Eventually the butler and the baker were called back to Pharaoh’s service. As the butler was leaving, Joseph asked him to remember how he has helped him. Soon there after, the interpretations Joseph recounted came to pass.
One would think the butler would have told Pharaoh, but he did not. The bible says he forgot. He probably did not see it in his best interest to mention Joseph so soon after his restoration.
Two years later Pharaoh had two dreams. His counselors could not interpret them. The butler, seeing an opportunity to score points told Pharaoh about Joseph.
Joseph was summoned to Pharaoh where Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams. Joseph was careful to explain to Pharaoh that interpretation of dreams was God’s business.
The two dreams resulted in the same interpretation.
There would be seven years of great harvest followed by seven years of great famine.
Joseph counseled Pharaoh to put someone in charge of managing the great harvest so that there would be sufficient food to survive the great famine.
Pharaoh thought about who to put in charge but could not come up with anyone on his staff. So, Pharaoh seeing Joseph’s wisdom decided Joseph was the man for the job.
Pharaoh placed Joseph second in command to himself and gave him all the trappings of the position.
He even gave Joseph a wife. Joseph was thirty years old at the time, making it twenty plus years since he had left his family. He spent over ten years in prison.
What was it that kept him going?
How many of us are willing to wait ten years before we reach our palace experience?
It’s much easier to live today than 1700 BC and Joseph survived prison life. And I would venture to say the prison was very primitive.
What is it we have to do to build character like Joseph?
And on top of this be prepared to capitalize on a once in a life time opportunity?
An Awkward Family Reunion
Joseph had predicted seven years of prosperity.
Soon after Pharaoh named Joseph second in command, the era of prosperity began.
The land produced bumper crops each of the seven years.
Joseph took the opportunity to prepare for the famine years.
He ordered that crops be stored in each city. The Bible says that the crops were so plentiful he stopped keeping records.
As Joseph predicted, prosperity came to and end. And the seven years of famine began.
We can equate a famine to a recession or even a depression. I think seven years of famine would qualify as a depression.
The famine was not confined to Egypt. It spread throughout the world.
Joseph set up a system to distribute grain to the Egyptians and to sell it to people coming from other parts of the world.
Well wouldn’t you know it, Jacob, Joseph’s father heard that grain was available in Egypt. Joseph’s family still lived in the land of Canaan.
Joseph sent his sons to Egypt to buy grain. Joseph’s younger brother, Benjamin, stayed home.
The band of brothers traveling to Egypt were the ones that sold Joseph into slavery. The best estimate is that it was twenty years later.
Joseph recognized his brothers but they did not recognize him.
Joseph remembered the dreams he had about them just before they sold him.
Could it be that Joseph seeks revenge?
Isn’t that a normal response?
Where does forgiveness come in? How much can a person forgive?
Jesus does not set a breaking point beyond which we don’t have to forgive.
We’ll see what Joseph does.
Let’s all ponder this. Is this a teaching moment for your ministry and your tribe?
Great is Our Forgiveness
So does Joseph forgive his brothers for selling him?
Let’s see what happens.
Joseph’s brothers had come to Egypt to buy food.
There was a worldwide depression and it became known the Egypt has food to sell.
Before Joseph would reveal himself, he had a plan to teach his brothers a lesson.
It’s an intricate plan. We’re going to cover the highlights. The last Joseph post we were midway through Genesis chapter 42. It isn’t until chapter 45 that we discover Joseph’s goal.
Joseph accuses his brothers of being spies.
His brothers deny it. But during their plea they talk too much. They tell Joseph they have a younger brother, but he is at home with their father.
Now Benjamin, the younger brother, was Joseph’s younger brother – they had the sam mother. All his other brothers were half-brothers.
So Joseph keeps one of his half-brothers as hostage and sends the others home, with food and their money, telling them to bring Benjamin back.
This may not turn out well. Jacob their father will not let this happen.
They get back to Canaan and tell Jacob what happened. Not good because Jacob says there’s now way he’ll let Benjamin go. – it’s a long story.
Well the food they brought runs out and Jacob tells the to go buy more.
Jacob continues to balk at the idea of Benjamin going with them, but finally capitulates when Judah says he’ll take responsibility.
They return to Egypt with money and products from Canaan.
Joseph sells them grain and again secretly returns their money along with a his own silver cup that is but in Benjamin’s pack.
Joseph sends his servant after them and the cup is uncovered. Back they go. They all bow down before Joseph and offer the real story including that Joseph was missing – not a confession but close. This proves the dream Joseph had about his family bowing sen to him.
Everything comes to a head and Joseph reveals himself.
And he said again, â€œI am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into slavery in Egypt. But don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives. This famine that has ravaged the land for two years will last five more years, and there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. God has sent me ahead of you to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors. So it was God who sent me here, not you! And he is the one who made me an adviser to Pharaoh and the manager of his entire palace and the governor of all Egypt.
So Joseph request they go back a bring their father and the rest of the family to Egypt.
This begins Israel’s exile to Egypt which will not end until Moses brings them out.
So Joseph forgave his brothers. Joseph still clung to God.
We have to be able to do the same, even under duress. This is a teaching moment for your ministry and your tribe.