Lessons from the life of Joseph
Today, I’m writing to encourage those who feel they have gone to a lower station in life. I’m writing to those who feel their lives are spinning out of control and going nowhere.
Maybe today you are undergoing one of God’s demotions. Maybe you’re in a dungeon right now, wondering where God is in your life.
Maybe you’ve been demoted from:
- Entrepreneur… to out of business
- Financially well off… to barely making it
- Married… to divorced
- Team leader… to team-less
- Ministry leader to ministry-less
- Just lost your job after 25 years
It’s one thing to be demoted at your job… by your boss or superiors, but it’s quite another to be brought down and demoted by God. It can be quite disheartening.
Through examining the life of Joseph, I want to encourage you by showing you that God’s demotions serve a higher purpose for us.
His demotions are for a season of testing and equipping.
His demotions are his way of pulling us back on a sling to launch us in the right direction.
As believers, we are not always called to go up, sometimes God brings us down… on purpose.
In fact, in did just this with the Israelites when they wandered in the desert 40 years…
“And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.” – Deuteronomy 8:2
The case of Joseph
It has happened many times in my entrepreneurial journey that when things went south, I considered Joseph. His example strengthened me, time and again. And I know it will encourage you as well.
Joseph was an amazingly gifted administrator, manager, and leader. But it really took a while for him to get the recognition his skills deserved.
Joseph, as gifted and suited as he was, suffered two major demotions in his life.
- He went from favorite son to slave.
And after rising in the ranks of slavery, he was demoted again…
- He became, of all things, a prisoner.
How gifted was Joseph? Let’s make an inventory.
- God was with him (more on that later)
- His father, Jacob, was a very wealthy man. Jacob had flock and herds of sheep, camels, oxen, etc. So, Joseph was brought up rich and he was his father’s favorite son.
- His father, Jacob spoiled him. Joseph got a particular education which made him much more educated than his peers at the time. Jacob didn’t want him to work hard in the fields. He kept him close and pampered him with a fancy coat and we can gather that he probably invested much of his own knowledge in him as a mentor.
- Joseph was tremendously handsome. In Genesis 39:6-10 we read:
“Joseph was well-built and handsome, and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!”
- He had a powerful spiritual gift of dream interpretation. Because of his dreams as a teen, Joseph knew he was called to greater things. He knew he was called to rule in some fashion.
So, in short, he was from a wealthy family, excessively handsome, spiritually gifted, and highly educated. So, from a human standpoint – he was the whole package.
From a human standpoint, he could have been made ruler right then and there… but God had other plans.
So, how long Was Joseph in Potiphar’s house? How long in prison?
In Genesis 41:46 we learn that Joseph was 30 when he was made overseer to the king of Egypt.
Since he was 17 when he was sold into Egypt, that means he spent 13 years total in Potiphar’s house and in prison.
We also know Joseph was in prison at least 2 years because chapter 40 tells us about the servants of the king whose dreams Joseph interpreted. The first verse of chapter 41 tells us that 2 years passed after that event before the king had his dreams that Joseph was called to interpret.
The pseudepigraphal book of Jasher says, GET THIS: that he was 1 year in Potiphar’s house, and 12 years in prison!
His demotions and how he handled them are what we want to look at today…
In Potiphar’s house: “The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field. So Potiphar left everything he had in Joseph’s care; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate.” (Genesis 39:2-6)
In jail: “But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the Lord was with him. And whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed.” (Genesis 39: 21-23)
God demotes us to:
1- To humble us:
Until you are humbled, you will not feel the need to learn new lessons.
When Joseph became a slave, and then a prisoner, he was humbled. And, once humbled, he was usable.
If you not careful, your talent will take you places that your character can’t keep you. – Eric Thomas.
God didn’t want this to happen to joseph.
2- To test us: Joseph remained faithful, and God was with him. Under the crucible, do we still praise Him? Like Job, do we say:
“Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him.” – Job 13:15.
When things go really bad, that’s when we fall to our knees and wholly depend on Him. He tests us to see what is in our heart and if we will still obey Him.
3- To prepare us: These dry seasons of our life prepare us for what is up ahead. Sometimes we are not ready to handle success right away. This is God’s schooling method. How will you handle more responsibility, crises, employees, problems?
4- To equip us: God doesn’t necessarily call the equipped, He equips the called. Now, Joseph was already well groomed for leadership, but he lacked two things.
First, he needed to prove that he could serve – so God made him a slave. You cannot truly lead until you have learned how to serve.
Second, he also needed to get a taste of physical labor. He was pampered by his father Jacob while his brothers did the hard toil in the fields. I believe physical labor prepares us for real life. There is just something about blisters, cuts, bruises, bodily aches and pains, caused by physical labor, that puts everything in perspective for us as human beings.
Those who have never really paid that price are not fit to understand the hardships of those they lead. The more hardships you have been made familiar with, the more relatable you become.
5- To use us: When God demotes us it’s because He wants to prep us to use us. His demotions serve a definite purpose and it all has to do with how he wants to glorify himself through us.
Just like Joseph said, when all was said and done, and he was finally reconciled with his brothers, “His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said.
But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.” (Genesis 50:18-21)
The saving of so many lives would not have been possible unless Joseph had been made ready through a process of God’s demotions and promotions. The whole time, God wanted to mightily use Joseph to save his family, but also the people of Egypt and afar as well.
What should we do when God demotes us? We should remember…
1- Remember that He is still with you. The Lord was with Joseph in Potiphar’s house, and later in prison, it says again: “But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.” (Genesis 39:21).
“Even if God demotes you, He is still with you.”
2- Remember that this is temporary. This is something Joseph must have done time and again during his difficult years in prison
“Your present demotion does not define your future condition.”
Patience is key in seasons of demotion.
Remember how Joseph did not grow bitter in prison, even after Pharaoh’s chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph for two whole years.
Maybe you’ve been in a similar situation as an entrepreneur. When people sample your product or service and you expect them to share the word because they were blown away… and nothing happens. Crickets.
3- Remember that all things work together for good. It’s one of the favorite verses in all Christendom… “we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
Joseph knew this too when he reconciled with his brothers and said: “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” (Genesis 50:20)
So, in closing, how are God’s demotions better than man’s promotions?
1- God’s demotions serve a Kingdom purpose, a grand design that goes beyond what meets the eye. Man’s promotions serve an earthly purpose with limited vision.
There is always a great purpose behind the pain of God’s demotions.
2- God’s demotions are always done in love and out of concern for you. Men promote you when it’s convenient for them and mostly out of selfish motives.
It is better to be demoted by a loving God, than promoted by a self-serving man.
3- God’s demotions sanctify and prepare us for the promotion that lies ahead. Man’s promotions have little further motives than the task at hand.
God’s demotions often get us ready for His big promotion.
Joseph would not have been ready to become the manager of Egypt, the most powerful empire at the time, if he hadn’t learned to rule in Prison.
God’s demotions are the furnace where we are refined into more usable tools for His glory
In Malachi 3:3, we read: “He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver.”
There is a story of a woman who really appreciated all things made of silver and gold. One day, she decided to learn how silver was refined.
As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest as to burn away all the impurities. The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot; then she thought again about the verse Malachi. She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined. The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed. The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, ‘How do you know when the silver is fully refined?’ He smiled at her and answered, ‘Oh, that’s easy — when I see my reflection in it.’
Similarly, God uses the fire to refine us – to make us ever more into his image.
So, if you have been demoted by God, do not lose hope and remember…
“The trials you undergo carve the road you are meant to follow.”
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