How to make your life count

How to make your life count – Joseph

SUCCEEDING IN SPITE OF YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES

 

Genesis 39:23

23 The warder paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the LORD was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did. (NIV)

Notes extracted from Rick Warren

 

Two of the great laws of life we must eventually learn are:-

  • things don’t always go as planned;
  • many circumstances you have in life are uncontrollable;

 

ILLUS.: Businesses go bankrupt, employees get fired, students get passed over for scholarships, business plans fail, friends move away, cricketers and rugby players lose matches.

 

Life just doesn’t always go the way we want it to go. Many things in life are beyond our control. Many things in life are caused by factors I can’t control.

ILLUS.: You didn’t choose who your parents would be, you didn’t choose your race, you didn’t choose your sex, you didn’t choose when and where you would be born, and the circumstances surrounding that.

 

These are the cards that you’re dealt in life. How you play them is your choice. We all know people who have overcome great adversity to make their life count.

How to make your life count in spite of your circumstances.

 

Let’s look at a man named Joseph [the coloured coat Joseph] who really made his life count. He went from a, a slave and a prisoner to the second highest-ranking person in the nation of Egypt which was the most powerful country in the world at that time. He went from the pit to the palace. He showed that what counts in life is not your circumstances but your character. The Bible says that character, not circumstances, will determine what you do with your life.

 

  1. Joseph’s circumstances.

 

Genesis 37-50, the story of Joseph. This story has it all — revenge, deceit, lust, seduction, attempted murder, violence, rape, false charges in prison. It would make a great TV drama.

 

We could summarise Joseph’s difficulties in three words:

He was rejected at home. His dad liked him but nobody else did.

He was seduced and slandered at work.

He was forgotten by friends.

The first thirty years of his life, nothing went right.

He was rejected at home. He was the second to last of thirteen children – he had eleven brothers and a sister. There was a lot of rivalry and bitterness. The brothers were jealous of Joseph. There was favouritism. They didn’t like him.

Genesis 37:4    4 When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him. (NIV)

 

One day they plotted, Genesis 37:19-20     19 “Here comes that dreamer!” they said to each other.    20 “Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.”

 

That’s real brotherly love! They put him in the well and soon some slave merchants came by to whom they sold him to for twenty shekels. He was taken to Egypt and sold as a slave to a man named Potiphar. Overnight he went from pampered son to slave.

That’s rejection by your family! Some of you think you’ve been rejected. Joseph knew rejection.

 

Then he started working for Potiphar and he was very successful. He was put in charge of everything in the home. But Potiphar’s wife had eyes for Joseph. She tried to seduce him.

Genesis 39:6-10     6 So he left in Joseph’s care everything he had; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate. Now Joseph was well-built and handsome,

7 and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!”     8 But he refused. ……

10 And though she asked Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even to be with her. (NIV)

 

Sexual harassment in the work place is about 4000 years old. It works both ways: men to women and women to men. Joseph refused. He holds onto his morals.

At one point in a fit of passion she grabbed him by the robe but he slithered out of it and he lost his coat but he kept his character.

She framed him: “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”.

When Potiphar came home she told him “That Hebrew slave tried to rape me!”

 

So Joseph is thrown into prison for a crime he didn’t commit. He’s falsely accused. Things are going from bad to worse.

He gets into prison and again he rises to be the jailer’s right-hand man; in fact, he is given the keys. Imagine trusting a prisoner with the keys to the jail – Joseph was man of character!

He befriended two of Pharaoh’s staff members – the baker and the cupbearer [wine-steward]. He had helped them out.

One of them got out, he promptly forgot Joseph. “Please be kind enough to mention me to the king and help me get out of this prison. But the wine steward never gave Joseph another thought – he forgot all about him.” [Gen.40:14+23]

 

Sometimes jealous people will try to hurt you and immoral people will try to tempt you and ambitious people will try to use you, but you can still succeed if you have the Lord in your life.

 

“The Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.” Gen.39:23

 

  1. Joseph’s Character

 

Three times in this story it says, “The Lord was with Joseph.”

Why was God with Joseph? What was Joseph that made him so different.

What do I do when circumstances seem to work against me and my dreams? What do I do to make my life count? How can I make an impact when it seems like everything is conspiring to make me mediocre?

Like Joseph I do three things:

1) I fulfill my responsibilities. Wherever you are you do what God’s called you to do right there.

2) I maintain my integrity. No matter what happens in the situation, I keep my purity and integrity and maintain my standards.

3) I trust God’s sovereignty.

 

(1) Fulfilled his Responsibility:

He was dependable, reliable. He always gave his best no matter what. As a result he’s promoted to leadership.

First as a slave, Genesis 39:6 “Potiphar gave Joseph complete responsibility over everything he owned. He hadn’t a worry in the world with Joseph there.”

 

Potiphar had no worries. Can your boss say that about you? The Bible says Potiphar prospered because of Joseph. Does your boss prosper because of you?

 

Then he got thrown into jail.

Genesis 39:22-23 22 So the warder put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there.

23 The warder paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the LORD was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did. (NIV)

You can’t keep a good man down! He gets thrown into prison and the next thing he’s assistant warden! The cream rises to the top. If life gave him a lemon he made lemonade.

Joseph is saying, “I don’t know why these things are happening to me, but I do know how I’m supposed to act. I don’t know why these circumstances have been caused in my life, but I do know who’s Lord of my life.”

Whenever anybody turned any responsibility over to Joseph, he didn’t have to have any worries at all; he was reliable. Do you do your best with your job, even when you hate it? Joseph is in prison on false charges and he’s rising to the top. Do you spend all your time dreaming about what “might be” — the things you’d like to see?

 

Eventually Joseph gets out of jail – he tells Pharaoh how to avoid the impending crisis – an Pharaoh give him the job!!

Genesis 41:38-40 38 So Pharaoh said, “Can we find anyone like this man [Joseph], one in whom is the spirit of God?”      39 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you, there is no-one so discerning and wise as you. 40 You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.”

 

The quality of your work reveals the quality of your spiritual life. The Holy Spirit was obvious in Joseph’s life.

Is that true in your life? There’s a direct correlation between shoddy workmanship and a poor testimony. When I call myself a Christian and I don’t do good work, that’s an insult to God’s reputation. It doesn’t insult His character because nobody can touch God’s character, but we can damage His reputation.

“Harry claims he’s a Christian but he’s the laziest guy in the office! He takes extra long tea breaks. He just does the minimum.”

 

Christians ought to be the best they can be at work no matter what they do – Whether it shining shoes or being chief executive of a multi-national Company. You’re not called to be better than others are but you are called to be the best you can be. I’m not called to be the best pastor in England. I am called to be the best pastor I can possibly be. You’re called to be the best you can be.

Joseph fulfilled his responsibility.

 

Law of Success — Luke 16:10      10 “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. (NIV)

 

When I make it big then I’m going to be faithful!” What are you doing about the day by day responsibilities right now? Are you being faithful in the little things? “When I get out of debt I’m going to start tithing.” Who are you trying to fool? “When everything gets settled down, I’ll start reading my Bible.” If you’re not faithful with little responsibility, He’s not going to give you great responsibility.

 

The Bible says that every task, no matter what it is, is an opportunity to develop and demonstrate faithfulness. Everything you do, people are watching you and God’s watching you. Are you being faithful in the little things?

Colossians 3:23 “Whatever you do, do it all heartily as unto the Lord and not unto men knowing that the Lord is your real master and He will reward you.” God always rewards faithfulness in the little things.

 

(2) Maintained his integrity.

Joseph was a man of moral purity so much that Mrs. Potiphar had to invent things about him.

Genesis 39:10, the boss’s wife came to Joseph, “And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her.” Can you imagine the internal battle going on in Joseph’s mind?

He refuses to give in. “I’m a slave against my will in a foreign country. Life has not gone as I’ve planned it. I’ve lost my dream, I might as well lose my morals too! Life is tough! I owe it to myself to get a little pleasure. Who cares? What’s God done for me? My life is going in reverse. I’m not upwardly mobile, I’m downwardly mobile.” Besides, if he befriended the boss’s wife, he might even get more promotion. But he would not give in!

 

What makes him maintain his standard of purity and moral integrity even when his world is falling apart.

Two things:

  • “My master trusts me with everything in this entire household. How can I do such a wicked thing as this?
  • It would be a great sin against God!”

 

What motivated his purity? His loyalty to others and his love for God.

He said, “My master’s made me in charge of all this. How could I do it to him?” Whenever you sin you hurt somebody else. Whenever you lower your integrity, you hurt other people. He would not give in!

 

Proverbs 14:32 “Wicked people bring about their own downfall by their evil, but good people are protected by their integrity.”

 

Sometimes when you resist temptation of any kind, you’re not going to feel good about it at that time. I’m sure Joseph was probably saying to himself, when he kept turning down Potiphar’s wife, “I’ve got to be crazy to walk away from this! Nobody would know.”

We might be tempted in all sorts of ways, “If I could make one little change here on the form and fill in the wrong figure, I could save £500! I’ve got to be crazy to not do it — to fudge a little bit here and things will work out right. I’ll forget conveniently to tell this to my suppliers or my customers.” Just conveniently shave the truth a little bit. You’re not always going to feel real good when you resist temptation.

 

Look where Joseph’s integrity got him. He says, “No!” he gets fired and he gets put in jail. How good do you think he felt about his integrity?

 

The point is: In the long run it always pays to do the right thing. In the short run you may feel sad, but in the long run you will feel glad. You’ll say, Thank God I didn’t do that for a moment of pleasure or a few extra ££’s!

 

Potiphar’s wife grabbed onto him, stole his coat. He left his coat and ran out of there. But he kept his character.

So when things go wrong in my life and things aren’t working out right, I fulfil my responsibility and I maintain my integrity,

 

(3) God’s sovereignty.  

As a young man God gave Joseph a dream of making an impact with his life. One day in total naivete he shared it with his brothers and dad: “God gave me this dream that one day I’m going to be a great king and everyone is going to bow down to me, even you guys. Isn’t that great?” How would you like your younger brother to say that to you?   They weren’t too excited about that. It was a right dream but it was very naive to share it with those people.

 

For thirty years Joseph’s life went downhill. During that entire thirty years, God never explained to him what was going on. He must have often been confused. He had no idea what was going on. He had every reason to doubt God’s love. “God, You gave me a dream. What happened?” He had every reason to be bitter: “Why me, God? You give me a dream and now I end up a slave, falsely accused of rape, and in prison in a foreign country.” Things are not going well.

 

But years later it all became clear. Joseph was eventually promoted to be second in command under Pharaoh. He interpreted Pharaoh’s dream. He said, “We’re going to have seven years of plenty and then seven years of famine.” Pharaoh said, “What should we do?” Joseph said, “We ought to start a national savings system where for seven years we save all the extra crops and put them in storage so that when the seven years of famine come Egypt will have plenty to eat.” Pharaoh said, “You’re in charge! You do it!” And he did it.

 

God blessed Joseph so much that when the seven years of famine came not only did Egypt have more than enough food that they had stored up in advance, but it said all the other nations came to Egypt to buy food, among them the Israelites. So, many years later, Joseph’s own brothers come to Egypt to buy food from a man unaware that he is their brother that they tried to murder and then sold. What would you do in that face to face encounter? He’s second in command. He could order their execution immediately. But he didn’t.

 

Genesis 45:7-8 “God sent me ahead of you to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God.” Two very important lessons of life we’ve got to learn if we’re going to deal with circumstances:

 

  1. Pain often has a hidden purpose. Usually you don’t figure out what the purpose is until after the pain is over. We rarely see the purpose of it while we’re in pain.

 

  1. God often redirects our lives through a failure, a mistake, a disappointment, a broken dream. He often re-channels our life the way He wants it to be.

 

ILLUS.: Our plan was to go to Turkey as missionaries – that is what we prepared for and work towards – God didn’t let it happen. We felt that we have been abandoned in UK. We still don’t have all the answers – I certainly would never have been Pastor at Binscombe. {Maybe some of you wish we had gone to Turkey!}

 

I am sure many can look back a say “Why did this or that happen?”

 

Joseph said, “God sent me ahead of you.” Notice his reaction to his brothers who tried to murder him. Genesis 50:20, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

Many of you have been harmed by other people — a former spouse, a parent, a brother or sister, a teacher, a boss, a former girlfriend — they meant to harm you. There’s no doubt about it! They meant to harm you! But God meant it for good. He has a plan that is greater than your problem.

 

One of the most popular words around today is the word “victim”. We’re all victimised now. In Christ, you don’t have to stay a victim. You can be a victor! Those people may mean it for bad but God means it for good. That’s a fact of Christian life. You don’t have to allow people to continue to hurt you from your past. They meant it for bad but God is greater and God meant it for good.

 

Bitterness is refusing to trust in God’s sovereignty. It’s saying, “I don’t really think God has my best interest at heart…. I don’t really think God’s in control…. I’m bitter because this is happening to me and I don’t think God knows what He’s doing by allowing it.”

I am not saying He caused it. He didn’t. But nothing happens in this world without God allowing it. What about all the sin? God gives us freedom of choice. He chooses to allow us to have freedom of choice. As a result innocent people get hurt. That’s the bad news.

 

The good news is that God can turn it around. They may mean it to harm you but God means it for good to develop in your into what He wants you to be — that special person with the character He wants you to have.

 

Joseph had a persistent faith. For thirty years nothing goes right. Even when he didn’t understand, he trusted God.

Where did his dreams get him? Into slavery. Where did his integrity get him? Into prison. Where did his helping others get him? Nowhere.

But you don’t see him bitter, having a pity party. You see him fulfilling his responsibility, doing the best he can with what he had.

 

What do you do when circumstances disrupt the dream God has given you? You do what Proverbs 3:5-6, says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. [Don’t try to figure it all out. Trust in God, He’ll help you. Ask Him.] In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”

 

When I’m going through a circumstance that I don’t like, I ask myself three questions:

  1. Is it my fault? A lot of things I bring on myself.
  2. What can I learn from this?
  3. How does God want me to act in this circumstance?

 

Philippians 1:27 I think summarises Joseph’s life. “But WHATEVER HAPPENS, make sure that your everyday life is worthy of the gospel of Christ.” It’s not so much what happens to you, but what happens through you. It’s not so much your circumstances, it’s your character that makes you great. Whatever happens make sure your everyday life is worthy of the gospel. One of the secrets of Joseph’s success is that he honoured God in everyday life — in the trivial, the mundane, the day to day chores he honoured God.

 

The issue is character, not circumstances.

 

SUCCEEDING IN SPITE OF YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES

 

Genesis 39:23 “… the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.”

 

  1. Joseph’s Circumstances

 

  • Rejected at home

 

…his brothers … hated him and could not speak a kind word to him. Genesis 37:4

“Let’s not kill him . . . let’s throw him into this well so he’ll die without our touching him!” Genesis 37:22 (GN)

 

  • Slandered at work

 

… and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!”        But he refused. …..        she asked Joseph day after day…

She told Potiphar this story: “That Hebrew slave you brought us tried to rape me” Genesis 39:7,10,17

 

  • Forgotten in prison.

 

“… remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. … The chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph; he forgot him. Genesis 40:14,23

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Joseph’s Character

 

  • Fulfilled his responsibility

Potiphar gave Joseph responsibility for everything he had; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate. Genesis 39:6

 

The jailer put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. Genesis 39:22

 

So Pharaoh asked them, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?” Genesis 41:38

 

Whoever can be trusted with little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with little will also be dishonest with much. Luke 16:10

 

  • Maintained his integrity

 

              Though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her. Genesis 39:10

 

…everything my master owns he has entrusted to my care.…. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” Genesis 39:8-9

 

              Wicked people bring about their own downfall by their evil, but good people are protected by their integrity. Proverbs 14:32 (GN)

 

  • Trusted God’s Sovereignty

 

           “God sent me ahead of you . . . to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God.” Genesis 45:7-8

 

           “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:20

 

           “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

 

“But WHATEVER HAPPENS, make sure that your everyday life is worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Phil. 1:27

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