Genesis 47 (50 Days – Day Forty Seven)

There is an interesting story of social welfare that is told in Genesis 47. As the famine continues to rage on for years in the land of Egypt, everyone comes to Joseph for help.

One year when they come pleading for food, their argument is that they have no money left. Joseph’s response is that they should exchange their livestock for food, which they do and their families are fed.

The next year, having no livestock, they come to Joseph and ask again. This time, they have an idea of their own. They will offer to Joseph the only thing that they have left…their land.

You might think, “How enraged they must feel about Joseph!” The idea that we would come to one of our leaders and say to them “I have no food, please help” and their response is “what are you going to give me in return” sounds reprehensible to us.


In our country we like to believe that the little guy has a chance. That’s good. I think the attitude of picking ourselves up by our bootstraps is what has made America great today. However, it is simply not how the Bible describes a great society. For many of us, the Bible challenges us in a way that makes us uncomfortable when it comes to how a society or an economy should be run.

What we find in the Old Testament, is that the most revered societies, such as the one that Joseph was in charge of, there is no redistribution of wealth. There are the “haves” and the “have nots”. The best case scenario is that the “haves” recognize their responsibility to the “have nots” and work out an arrangement to provide for them. If in that provision their wealth increases (such is the case with Joseph in this chapter), it is taken with the purpose of enhancing the governments ability to provide for the people.

Now, I am not going to waste a whole chapter of God’s word talking about politics. Rather, I gave that background so that I could put the response of the people in the proper context.

When the people come to Joseph the first time and Joseph asks for their livestock in exchange for food, I’m sure they weren’t expecting that. I’m sure they didn’t know what to expect. What I find interesting is how they respond to the offer. Obviously they accept it, but we find that they consider it appropriate on some level. Perhaps this response was formed over time as they considered their plight, but nevertheless, when they come the next year, they are so convinced of it’s validity that they approach Joseph with an attitude of humble gratitude and even servitude.

Their thought process must have been that “we wouldn’t have any food if not for this man. Therefore, we owe him our lives in service.” So they come to him with their requests and in exchange offer to become his servants.

I wonder if we approach God in the same way. I wonder if we feel the need to. When we come to God in prayer, do we feel entitled to his blessing because we’re so focused on how much he loves us that we just feel it’s what he wants to do anyway? After all, when you love someone, you want to give them everything, right? God loves me, therefore he wants to give me everything and I should let him, right?

We’re so focused on his love for us that we often forget how much we don’t deserve it. We don’t deserve it. To truly appreciate that, you’d have to live in a society where you actually felt like the wealthy people deserved to have all the money and you don’t. Make no mistake, God has everything and is entitled to it.

The point of all of this is not that God requires anything from us. He doesn’t. The point is that the people, in spite of the fact that they had nothing left to offer, found a way to offer something to Joseph…that of their entire lives in service to him.

The question is simple. When you approach the throne of God today, what do you have to offer him?

Genesis 46 (50 Days – Day Forty Six)


I remember sitting at my kitchen table when my wife and I signed up for life insurance. A nice gentleman who came recommended by a friend sat across from us and walked us through everything. It was a good thing to do, and I don’t regret providing that sort of security for my family in the event of tragedy. However, I’ve sat through a couple of those types of sales pitches and I can’t get over how cavalier a salesman can be when suggesting the death of someone. Truly, a tactic that must be a pre-requisite taught by every insurance firm is to at some point in the conversation say something like “if something happens to you, you don’t want your wife to be going through the red tape, you want me to come to your door and hand your wife a big check.”

For some reason this part always catches me off-guard. I guess it’s because I’ve recognized that they all seem to not-so-subtly glorify the potential “largeness” of that check. They never talk about just handing over a check. They talk about handing over a (insert your favorite large size adjective here) check. Is that supposed to impress me? Am I really supposed to start thinking about the possibilities or even opportunities that could be afforded my family as a consolation for my passing?

As I’m still young, healthy and have people who love me, I don’t enjoy the thought of dying. I too quickly dismiss Paul’s arguments in Philippians 1 for why longs for death as the mere ramblings of one who doesn’t have a family. I don’t share his ideas of “it’s better for them if I stick around”. It is of course, but I want to experience their future here on earth as well. I suppose it really comes down to the fact that I’m so naive about the awesomeness of eternity with God that I just don’t know any better.

It is for these reasons that I simply can’t empathize or even sympathize with an old person’s desire to “die in peace”. Jacob makes reference to it twice here. In fact, he even dreams about it…

And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, “Jacob, Jacob.” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.” – Genesis 46:2-4

The idea that this motivates Jacob to get a move on more than suggests that he wants to depart from this life, but doesn’t feel he can go in peace unless he sees for himself that Joseph lives. To a point, this emotion is echoed in the life of Simeon who desired to see the Messiah before he died. Later on, when Jacob does finally meets Joseph, some of the first words out of his mouth are “now that I know you’re alive, let me die.”

I doubt I’ll understand these words for a while, but I have watched others who could. I’ve watched friends die of cancer in the most undignified fashion. I have heard of poverty so great that it makes me question whether or not the children would have been better off if they hadn’t been born. I know this world is broken and for some, no amount of familial love will ever outweigh the hardship of their lives. In these times, I marvel at the words that the apostle Paul quoted from the book of Isaiah…

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”
– 1 Corinthians 2:9

I trust this to mean that I haven’t seen it because my eyes couldn’t even take it in. I haven’t heard it because there are waves of sound too beautiful for my ears. Of course, I couldn’t imagine it because my heart couldn’t contain the love that must be evident in the creation of heaven. I believe the sight alone would overwhelm a heart that truly understands that God made it for them.

I was once told that the best thing a Christian could do to keep his heart set on God is to meditate about the reality of heaven for a half-hour every day. This kind of focus puts everything into that “Kingdom” perspective that we as Christians are so quick to admonish each other with.

I don’t want to die, but I want to be desperate for what awaits me on the other side. While others are searching for something that makes life worth living, I am searching for that which makes this life worth leaving.

Genesis 45 (50 Days – Day Forty Five)


In this chapter we find Joseph finally making peace with his brothers. It is a terribly emotional scene, full of tears and embraces. Verse 15 tells us that after Joseph reveals who he is and spends time kissing them and weeping with them, his brothers “talked with him awhile”. I’m sure that was a long conversation, full of admissions of guilt, repentance and the acknowledgment that it has been way too long. Finally, when the baggage is completely unpacked, they become brothers again and there’s a lot of catching up to do. Joseph hears about the wives, sons and daughters of each one, about who is the better farmer or hunter, and what the old town looks like today. It is a joyous occasion and one that wouldn’t be possible without the power of forgiveness.

I have to admit as I read this that it became more real to me than ever before. Of course, as we get older and grow in knowledge of God’s Word, different passages that we haven’t read in a while take on a whole new life. Perhaps for me, it is simply because I have brothers who live far away and every time we get together it is a joyous occasion. We truly celebrate what it means to be husbands and fathers and what it takes to lead in our homes. We affirm each other’s success and admire how each other has grown. All of these emotions are so accessible in this story and I can only imagine how Joseph has longed for this moment…how he has dreamed about it, and how he probably never thought it would ever be possible.

Amidst all of this, I see something that is speaking to me as a leader. While I do believe that we can’t put leaders up on pedestals, I believe that leaders have to hold themselves accountable. We simply have to be the ones to step out in faith first. The way I see Joseph doing this is in how he forgives his brothers. What he essentially says is, “thank you for your apology, but please don’t lose anymore sleep over it. Rather, join me in celebrating because it is obvious that this was a part of God’s plan to bless all of us in a time of great hardship.”

Now, I don’t know if he actually felt like that. I’m inclined to believe that he could have and probably did still have some very real hurt deep inside that was always in danger of bubbling to the surface. However, realizing the great influence inherent in his position, he must have recognized that in order to get beyond it, someone was going to have to make a gesture toward the other. A great gulf, caused by his brother’s actions, still existed between them, and the one who was offended (Joseph) realized that the only chance of true reconciliation with them was for him to step into that space and bridge the gap.

The connection to what Christ did for us in reconciling himself to us is obvious, but perhaps not so obvious is the leadership that is shown in Joseph. It may seem like I’m grasping at straws, but I can’t get over this one verse…

Then he sent his brothers away, and as they departed, he said to them, “Do not quarrel on the way.”
-Genesis 45:24

I find that to be so amazing because in the midst of an episode where Joseph could have excused himself from the responsibility of fixing everybody’s lives for one day, he recognizes something in his brothers: they still fight all the time. They still argue and it disrupts their unity. Joseph, recognizing this, realizes that in that moment, he needs to use his new-found influence with them to help them. In fact, I would suggest that a part of the reason for his forgiveness is so that he can earn the right to speak into their lives. By removing the barrier between them, he earns enough leverage to be able to help them with a problem that has gone on for too long. In this moment, Joseph quickly moves from the position of martyr to that of a spiritual father because he is a leader, and leaders always step up. When the going gets tough, leaders always stand in the gap.

I am in awe of this man and am challenged by his behavior. What grace must have been afforded to him and what humility must be in his possession. If I am to ever imagine playing on that kind of level, I have to fully internalize one very central idea: it’s not about me. Guess what? It’s not about you. It’s about God and his glory and we have a part to play in that. Whether you’re a leader or not, God is looking for people to stand in the gap. It’s how healing happens. Jesus modeled it on the cross and said, “if anyone wants to be my disciple, he must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24) In short, it’s what followers of Christ do. Freely we have received, and freely we give. Freely we forgive, because freely we have been forgiven.

Genesis 44 (50 Days – Day Forty Four)

The events that occur between Joseph and his brothers are unfolding slowly. For me, attempting to glean some message of inspiration from each chapter feels like I’m trying to squeeze water out of a handful of desert sand. Sometimes that’s how it is with God’s Word. Sometimes, the text is simply less ‘spiritual’ or at the very least, less interesting as is the case with some of the genealogies that we’ve been through. Sometimes, if we’re honest, the problem is with us as we have other things on our mind or we’re just not that into it.

This, if anything, is the point of this journey through Genesis. It is an attempt to show practically that God’s Word never returns void, and that Paul was right when he wrote to Timothy that “all scripture is God-breathed and is profitable”. Sometimes we have to reach for it, as I will be doing with this chapter, but that’s not really a bad thing, is it? If I work hard at trying to get something out of scripture, it will at the very least signal that I WANT to get something out of it, and that’s certainly an appropriate attitude to have when studying God’s Word.

I believe that Joseph is still holding out because he is waiting for that one moment that will just grip his heart to forgive his brothers. He has given them plenty of opportunities and they seem to be showing good character. They haven’t lied to him. They’ve done what he’s asked. When they find silver in their sacks, they go back to him and apologize. They bow down before him in humility. What is he waiting for? I think he’s still torn. He wants to go there…to forgive his brothers, but he’s dwelled on the hurt they caused him for so long that it’s become a cancer in his very soul. Something inside is holding him back like a dam blocking a river’s flow. Whatever capacity he has for love, it has been contained behind this immovable obstacle.

As a pastor, I’ve been able to witness firsthand lives being changed by the power of Christ. I’ve seen hearts of stone melt like butter from the warmth of the gospel message. If there is one thing that these experiences have taught me it’s that we’re all the same in this regard: we all respond powerfully to a message of self-sacrifice. Nothing impacts the emotions of the human spirit more than witnessing someone offering to take punishment or hardship in the place of someone else so that they won’t have to. It is a story that has been idealized in legends and revered in films like Titanic, Saving Private Ryan, Star Wars, The Matrix and Independence Day, among others. It’s no coincidence that the characters who die in place of others in “The Green Mile” and “Man on Fire” have the initials “J.C.”. It’s in our nature…we are predisposed to respond to a message of sacrifice, like the message of the cross. Jesus said it this way…

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
– John 15:13

So what it is that finally breaks the dam in Joseph’s heart and allows for his emotion to come pouring out like a flood? It’s listening to his brother Judah, begging to be imprisoned in place of his younger brother, Benjamin. Whatever hatred for his brothers might have been rooted in Joseph’s heart, the impact of Judah’s act was simply too great, and that hatred was washed away by overwhelming river of love.

I love that. Joseph’s heart was moved in many ways by the same emotion that has drawn all believers to the gospel message. It’s an emotion only felt by someone who has experienced someone dying for them, being sacrificed in their place. I have experienced that first hand and the love I feel as a result is enough to allow me to forgive thousands of wrongs against me. Thank you, Lord, for taking my place. May I always respond to that act by forgiving others and loving them in spite of what they might have done to me.

Genesis 43 (50 Days – Day Forty Three)

Since this subject has been brought up in previous readings, I thought I would share some thoughts about reconciliation in a more practical way. If you have identified a broken relationship in your life I hope that it would be your desire to reconcile. If so, perhaps you’re wondering how to go about doing it? Of course, apologies need to be made and perhaps you’ve done that. Maybe you’ve smiled and greeted each other warmly at church or the supermarket. Now what? What can you do to bring the reconciliation to some type of crescendo?

I would suggest to you that there is something that you can do that will honor them and give you opportunity for extended fellowship: invite them to a meal in your home.

This is a lost art in my generation. We seemed to have forgotten how to respect this time-honored tradition. For millenniums, a meal at someone’s home was a real event for everyone involved. The best food was made, the best dishes were used and the scope of the evening went far longer than an hour. This is especially true of Jewish culture, but most cultures revere having someone into their home as a way of showing them great servitude. Is there a better place for reconciliation to happen, than over a meal that you have personally prepared and now serve to your guests? Is there a better way to show someone that you are serious about your relationship?

This can have an enormous impact on someone. Imagine a relationship where you hurt someone. Imagine you said something really cutting, and ripped their life apart with your words. You’ve felt guilty ever since, and have lost countless nights of sleep over it. How do you recover from that? Even after apologies are made, and you are once again cordial with each other, what can restore that type of relationship? With the caveat that it may never be the same again, imagine the impact it would have on you if that person then invited you to their home for a meal. Their actions speak louder than their words. They may have accepted your apology months ago, but this…they’re inviting you to come into their home, to be around their kids and to spend an evening together with you in conversation. What an immense gesture that would be.

We’ve lost the art of entertaining. I will admit that most times I would prefer to go out to eat with others, and this is purely a pragmatic choice. I have children and sometimes they act up, so by going out to eat, I can choose the time of our departure more easily. Spending time in a home doesn’t leave that option. It demands a looser schedule, and a lengthier conversation. This can only be good for us, as it causes us to reach beyond what we’re comfortable with and that’s a great way to get to intimacy in a relationship.

As Joseph moves toward reconciliation with his brothers in Genesis 43, we can only speculate about what he’s waiting for. Perhaps he’s still working through his anger, and perhaps he just doesn’t trust them. Whatever the case might be, he tries to overcome his apprehension and decides to take a step of faith and invite them into his home for a meal. At this meal, they ate their fill and drank far into the night. In this atmosphere, everyone just enjoyed each other’s company and this was most likely the catalyst for Joseph to make amends as the goodness of their current fellowship far outweighed the hurt of the past.

Jesus spent a lot of his time at a table in someone’s home. When he told Zacchaeus he would come to his home, you can bet that a meal was served. Before entering Jerusalem for his last week, he had a deeply spiritual moment over a meal at Simon’s house with Lazarus, Mary and Martha. His last night on earth centered around a special meal with his disciples. He chose a breakfast of fish and chips to have a “come to Jesus” meeting with Peter. Jesus never missed an opportunity to deepen his relationships and further his influence over a meal in someone’s home.

Who can you invite to your home this week? What relationship do you have that could use that sort of act of kindness? Figure it out and extend the invitation. Then, spend a few days getting ready and really put on a show if you can. Honor them in your home and serve them well. Your faith will deepen, your character will grow and their heart will soften. Most importantly, God will be honored you will have the opportunity to praise him for what he has done.

Easter Sunday: Something More.

Jesus was arguably the most reviled, controversial, praised, revered, kind, patient, despised, rejected, sacrificial, historical, influential man to ever walk the face of the earth.

But was he just a man…or something more?

We’re going to ask this question in an honest way on Easter Sunday, April 20th and we’d love to have you join us! Invite a friend and discover the truth behind what you may have though was merely legend.

When: Sunday, April 20th @ 10:30am

Where: Lakeside Church, 1870 West 2700 S, Syracuse (just west of RC Willey)

Genesis 42 (50 Days – Day Forty Two)

At the expense of abandoning some of the obvious ongoing themes in Genesis for one day, I can’t help but to use the opportunity presented in this chapter to talk about forgiveness.

I have a good friend who has as much a reason as anyone to be unforgiving toward his mother. She was physically and verbally abusive to him all of his life, and since his father passed away, she only seems to call when she needs something from him. I personally led this friend to a relationship with Christ. This was a journey that took two years, and along the way we had to unpack a lot of stuff from his past. At the top of the pile, was the issue with his mother. I remember him asking me once, “what does the Bible say about forgiveness? Do I really have to forgive her for everything she’s done to me? Because, I don’t know that I’m ready to do that.”

Let’s start by answering the question. What does the Bible say about forgiveness? Here’s some references that point to basic principles outlined in scripture…

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. – Ephesians 4:32

…as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. – Colossians 3:13

If you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. – Matthew 6:15

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven. – Matthew 18:21-22

These verses, and many others like them can be summarized like this: the Bible commands us to forgive others without limits, because God has forgiven us without limit. If you’ve been wronged by someone, no matter how badly, there is simply no room in scripture for us to withhold forgiveness, as it is a clear statement of our feelings toward how God has forgiven us. For the Christian, forgiveness is a “Pay it Forward” type of concept, and is in fact one of the only areas where we should rightfully feel condemnation for not practicing it. The reason I say this is that the sin of un-forgiveness is not a weakness of the flesh, but rather an unwillingness of the spirit and a hardness of heart.

This brings us back to Joseph, who in this chapter comes face-t0-face with his brothers who ruined his life years earlier because of their jealousy. Let’s be honest, what they did to him was probably worst than anything that’s been done to most of us. Surely if anyone had reason to withhold forgiveness it was Joseph.

Of course, Joseph does forgive his brothers in the end, but not without a little bit of drama as a prelude. You might think that Joseph’s actions are not forgiving at first, and that perhaps he was struggling with finding room in his heart to overlook the offenses committed against him. However, I see something more nuanced than that.

As a pastor, it always feels slightly irresponsible to present anything in the Bible as nuanced. We have such a built-in reverence for black and white authority and Scripture is certainly that. However, when we discuss forgiveness, we ought not to do so without admitting that wisdom has it’s place in reconciliation as well. What I mean to say is that I believe there is a difference between forgiveness and offering someone a second chance. Certainly there are times when forgiveness is accompanied by second chances, but they aren’t inextricably linked.

For example, let’s imagine a couple with two kids. The husband is physically and verbally abusive to both the wife and the kids. One day one of the kids winds up seriously injured and the wife finally has had enough. She leaves him for the safety of her children as much as her own. Some time later, the husband turns his life around. Actually, let’s go one step further and say that the husband finds Christ and significantly turns his life around. He comes back to his wife and in the most sincere way possible, humbly apologizes for his behavior and tearfully asks for her forgiveness.

Now, if the wife is a believer, I would suggest that she needs to forgive the husband, as she is certainly not perfect herself and has been forgiven of much by God. However, I still grant her the right to decide whether or not it is a good idea to reconcile based on the circumstances. She could be putting her children at risk, and it may be more appropriate to forgive the past, with some wise caution being reserved for the future.

What we see here with Joseph is a bit of a test. I believe that more than anything Joseph wants to reconcile. However, the level to which they will be able to reconcile will greatly depend on if his brothers have changed their ways. If he takes the lid off and reveals who he truly is then his brothers may act differently out of fear. He wants to know how they act when he’s not in the room. Make sense?

It’s a fine line to walk as this kind of discernment can easily manifest itself inappropriately. If we approach possible reconciliation with “I’ll forgive you but I’ll never forget” or “let’s put you on trial to see how you do” then we won’t have a chance. On the other hand, I also believe that unless biblical forgiveness allows for this type of discernment, there may be some people that we never even try to forgive as there is simply to much risk involved.

We need more forgiveness, not less. We need to take chances on relationships that have been broken and need to be restored. The slate isn’t wiped clean in the sense that we forget what they’re capable of, but rather we no longer bring up their past offenses. This is the type of forgiveness that Joseph offers…one that is willing to forgive people of the worst kind of injustice, while being tempered by a wisdom that comes from experience.

With all of that said, I hope it wasn’t too pragmatic to be personally challenging. Who is it that you need to forgive? Isn’t it time that you set that burden down? Hasn’t it ruined your life enough? When we refuse to forgive, we are the ones who suffer, not the people who wronged us. We carry that chip on our shoulder. We get furious at the sight of the person and loathe any success they have. We allow their misdeeds to ruin our ability to enjoy life on any given day while we fixate on their awfulness. When this happens, not only have they hurt us in the past, but now we allow them to continually hurt us in the future. Let’s turn the tables and allow their misdeeds to give us something positive – a personal experience of something beautiful, of forgiving the way we ourselves have been forgiven.

Genesis 41 (50 Days – Day Forty One)

One day God found such favor in his servant, Solomon, that he came to him with an amazing offer. He offered to give to Solomon anything he wanted. He could have all the riches of the earth. He could have rule over all the nations. He could have any woman he wanted. Instead, Solomon asked simply for wisdom, so that he could govern God’s people effectively.

I heard a pastor once telling a personal story about how God had used that story in his life. This pastor had been faithful to God for a long time, and felt released to ask God for one thing, the way that Solomon did. He shared how he asked for a loving marriage, and has never regretted it.

Since that time, I’ve wondered what it would be like to have God give me that opportunity. If God could find me so faithful that I felt released to ask him for one thing, what would I ask for? What would you ask for? Perhaps my answer will change over time, but for the last year, the answer has been the same: influence. I would ask God to increase my influence with people. It would be an incredible burden and responsibility to be gifted with great influence, and my fear is that I would squander it. For that reason, I don’t really want it right now, but I want to become the kind of man that would use it exclusively for the glory of God.

It is with this in mind, that I read the account of Joseph’s rise to power in Genesis 41. He came through hardship and unjust treatment only to be given an opportunity at greatness in front of Pharaoh himself. Pharaoh asks him to interpret his dreams which his wisest of counselors could not do. Joseph has one chance to make a good impression and you’d think that he would want to make sure that he looked good in the eyes of Pharaoh. Most of us would see this as an opportunity to feign humility while in reality extolling our own virtues, in order that we could win favor with the King. Perhaps this is where Joseph gives us the best lesson of all: Always give credit to God.

Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.”

“I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.” – Genesis 41:15-16

It was a big risk to be that cheeky with Pharaoh. Knowing the situation, my response might have sounded like “Sure I’ll give it a try. Whatcha got?” Joseph’s response however is the ideal mix of faith (that without question God would provide the interpretation) and humility (in that Joseph would really just be the messenger).

This story reminds me of how much I have to learn if I want to be trusted with that level of influence. As much as I hate to admit it, I am still full of pride. I hate even writing it, as if it’s a secret that no one would have known if I didn’t open my big mouth. Pride is the enemy of influence. Let me correct that, Pride is the enemy of good influence, as it can only push it’s own agenda and has no room for God’s plans if they contradict each other. My prayer today scares me so badly that I feel I must write it or I will never honestly ask for it. My prayer is that God will do whatever he needs to do to humble me so that I can be emptied of myself and filled up with him.

Genesis 40 (50 Days – Day Forty)

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.


Genesis 39 (50 Days – Day Thirty Nine)

Is there another passage in scripture that so blatantly screams that we ought to work hard at what we do no matter what our circumstances are? I know, I know…it doesn’t seem to work out for Joseph, at least in the short term. After all, Joseph worked in his new master’s house as hard as he could and in the end was framed for something he didn’t do and thrown in prison.

Whenever something doesn’t work out, we tend to link the effort with the result. Our response is “what a waste” or “if I had known how that would have played out, I wouldn’t have wasted so much time”. However, most of time I have found that nothing could be further from the truth. For example, a couple of times I’ve had an idea for a business. I decided to give it a try and it didn’t work out. I worked incredibly hard at it and during that time I lost my focus on so many things that I cared about. You would think that I would be tempted to call that time a waste, but I know better. If I had not tried it at all, I would have always wondered and this might have kept me to fully selling out to what I’m doing now. If I had tried but not worked so hard, the result would have been the same. I would have always wondered what would have happened had I applied myself. I would have truly felt like a failure. In fact, I would have regretted it.

I was told once that regret should be reserved for things we haven’t tried, not things we’ve done wrong. I would imagine if you could visit Joseph in his prison cell, he’d tell you that he didn’t regret a single moment of servitude to Potiphar nor the effort he showed while doing it. If you could allow me to speculate a bit, Joseph’s experience in Potiphar’s house gave him the education he needed for his next career move, which would be even greater. In Potiphar’s house, he had to learn management. He was put in charge of the entire estate. He had to learn all about the different activities that went on, about wages and currency and about communication and leadership. He would not have learned these things had he not applied himself.

No doubt these skills were on display when the prison guard took notice of Joseph. They were the reason he was put in the position that he was in the jail. A small compensation, I’m sure you’ll say, but again, it was a stepping stone to what God had for him next. Would Joseph have ended up in Pharaoh’s palace if not for the prison guards taking notice of him? In that moment, do you think Joseph regretted the “wasted time” he spent serving in Potiphar’s house?

I don’t regret failing at things. I regret the times I didn’t apply myself. I have come to realize this, the effort is ours and the results are God’s. We don’t question God’s results, but we certainly shouldn’t feel the right to either if we don’t work hard wherever we are. I am reminded of Paul’s words to the Colossians…

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. – Colossians 3:17

Today, honor your King by working hard for your boss, in the home, running your business, doing your school work – whatever you do, do it as if for Him, and trust the he has a plan for you.