Success God's Way

From favoured son to foreign slave. Not exactly a success story. But then God has never measured success the same way we do.

Genesis 39 only contains twenty-three verses and it takes Joseph from slave to prison—not exactly “upwardly mobile.” Just when it seems that things are improving Joseph is faced with a moral dilemma. His master’s wife demands services that don’t appear on his job description (39:7) and dishonour His God.

To maintain job security, most people would be tempted to do whatever it takes. But not Joseph.

Integrity is Joseph’s watchword. He will not betray Potiphar (39:8). And he will not betray God: “How then can I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” (39:9).

As payment for doing what was right, Joseph ended up in prison. Somehow that doesn’t seem fair.

What notable in this brief passage are these statements: “…the Lord was with him and…the Lord gave him success in everything he did” (39:3). That was Potiphar’s house. A little later this: “…the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did” (39:23). This was prison.

I ask myself what Joseph might have been required to do as a slave and as a prisoner. We are not told, but I imagine that, at least at the beginning of each of these “employment opportunities,” the demands were not pleasant.

But Joseph did what he was asked, apparently without whining or complaining. And he must have done even the most onerous tasks well. People noticed and advancement followed. And he maintained his integrity and stood up for what was right even at the risk of dire consequences. He would not sacrifice right for privilege.

The Lord blessed Joseph, and through his obedience, blessed those under whose authority he worked (39:5, 12).

Potiphar (at least initially) and the prison warden recognized that it was in their best interest to grant this young man as much freedom to operate as they could—because his God was with him (39:3).

We can’t help but admire this young man, the living illustration of what Paul would much later write to Timothy, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).

It’s not easy to overcome difficult circumstances, to make right choices when the consequences for doing so are huge and negative, or to not whine and complain when things don’t go exactly as planned.

What makes such actions and attitudes possible, and preferable, is the knowledge that God is with those who are with Him. These are the actions and attitudes that God blesses. These are the things that bring success in His eyes.


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