All Things Working for Good
Every person can serve God in every circumstance by remembering some truths about God.
I would guess that we have all had times in our lives when we thought that God was far from us. These could be times when it seemed like God was almost mocking us with Romans 8:28, “all things work together for good.” We might sit and wonder how on earth anything good could come from this situation. It really seemed like God was a million miles away.
While you are thinking about that we are going to look at some events in Joseph’s life that must have made it feel just like that, or maybe even worse. He had been sold into slavery by his brothers. His brothers did not like him and they were very jealous of him. So they did this to him. After that he was sold to a man named Potiphar in Egypt. He had great success in Potiphar’s house and excelled in all that he did. He eventually became the highest ranking servant in the house. But, much like the brothers, Mrs. Potiphar became jealous of Joseph and created charges against him and had his imprisoned. That is where Joseph is at the beginning of this passage.
We will look at some truths about God we need to keep in mind when things are not going well. If we can remember these truths it will help us to make it through those hard times.
Truth I. God is always with us
A. I would be inclined to say that if there is anyone who would have the excuse of saying that God had abandoned him it would be Joseph. He had a pretty good gig going. He was a high ranking servant in the house and he was over all of the other servants. He really had things pretty good. Then the bottom fell out. He was thrown into prison for something he never did. She accused Joseph of assaulting her, which was something he would never do. So Joseph is treated like a criminal. In 39:20 & 21 we are told that, “while Joseph was there is prison, the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness.” Even though it looks like Joseph has hit the bottom God is still with Joseph. A few weeks ago I was talking about Joseph’s dreams and how I thought that he was demonstrating some pride in passing along those dreams. Perhaps this was God’s boot camp to help Joseph with his pride.
B. In this prison Joseph seems to quickly find favor with the warden and Joseph is put in charge of all of the other prisoners. In v. 23 it even says, “The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.” So far in Joseph’s life he is honored among his brothers. He is honored in the house of Potiphar. Now he is giving a position of authority in the prison where he is being kept as a prisoner. Even though the circumstances stink, Joseph rises to the occasion.
C. I think that if anyone had reason to say that God was not with them because of their circumstances it would have been Joseph. So far in his life he had excelled at everything he did, and everything he did had failed. He could have easily thought or said that God was playing games with him, or maybe that God did not even exist. He could have said that God had forgotten him. He did none of these. It seems that after each downfall he picks himself up and makes the best of that situation. He was able to do that because God was with him.
D. I would guess that we have all felt that the bottom fell out in some way and that God had certainly abandoned us. We might have come up with the excuse that God could not have allowed us to get into this situation. A lot of times the situation may be the result of things we have done and decisions we have made, but the situation is not what God is looking at. He is always right with us. The circumstances will change. God will never abandon us. He will be right with us through the ugliest situations.
Truth II. God can use us if we are available
A. When we do hit those hard times in our life, it can be very hard to make ourselves available to God. We might be mad that God allowed us to get to that point. We might be full of pity and find it hard to believe that we can be used of God when we are in such a miserable situation. Perhaps even Joseph had feelings like this. We don’t know because we are only given a thumbnail sketch of his life. Even when things seem ugly around us we need to keep ourselves available to God.
B. At the end of chapter 39 we read that all of the workings of the prison had been turned over to Joseph. The warden was so confident in this man who was a prisoner that he allowed him to take over the running of the prison. He “paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care.” Joseph was making himself available to God, to be used by Him even though every rational thought in his mind might have been telling him to just forget it.
C. In the beginning of chapter 40 two of Pharaoh’s servants are put under the care of Joseph. In 40:6 it says, “When Joseph came to them the next morning, he saw that they were dejected.” How easy it would have been to dismiss these two men. They had been put in prison. How much more dejected could they have been? But Joseph takes notice. He is available to God and God lets Joseph see something in these men that cause him to stop and take notice. This required sensitivity on the part of Joseph. He had to be willing to stop what he was doing and notice the needs of these men.
D. Joseph made himself available to God in every situation. When he was a servant he worked hard as if serving the Lord. When he ended up in prison he worked hard, as if serving the Lord. When fellow prisoners had problems he attended to them, as if attending to the Lord. Even though things were not a rosy picture of success, Joseph made the most of every situation. He was always available to do what God wanted him to do.
E. I believe that some of us have passed up opportunities in our lives. It did not fit into our agenda, so we passed. We need to get into the habit of making God’s agenda number one and our agenda farther on down the line. My agenda needs to take a back seat to God’s agenda. We need to be sensitive to God even when we are in a situation that we don’t like at all. Be available to God and you might be surprised at how God will use you.
Truth III. God gives us what we need
A. It can be very hard to distinguish between our wants and our needs. We live in a society that is pretty spoiled. Even the people who are pretty bad off in our society have it good compared to some people in other parts of the world. The reason I say this is because we have come to believe that many of our wants are really needs. We must be sensitive to the difference between wants and needs in our life.
B. Joseph was a man who had everything he needed, but certainly did not have everything he wanted. In 40:8 Joseph leaves the cupbearer and the baker with the impression that he cannot interpret dreams himself, but he has a God who can. Even though he might have the opportunity to take credit for this interpretation he gives God the credit for the interpretation of these dreams.
C. Later when Joseph is called upon to interpret some of Pharaoh’s dreams Joseph says, “"I cannot do it," Joseph replied to Pharaoh, "but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires." (41:16). as Joseph is told the dreams that the servants and Pharaoh possess, Joseph realizes that he is not able to interpret the dreams, but he can listen for God to give him the interpretation. In both cases Joseph receives an interpretation for these dreams. When Joseph is speaking with Pharaoh he passes on some added information. He finished the interpretation in 41:32, but he goes on in the next verse. He tells Pharaoh what he needs to do with the information he has just received. So Joseph gets what he needs to address the questions concerning these dreams.
D. Joseph certainly did not always get what he wanted, but he always had what he needed. He had all of his essentials taken care of, and when he was placed in the right situation he was given other tools to get his job done. I believe that he had to have the other truths of God in place before this would work out. He had what he needed when he needed it.
E. When I was young the neighbors had a rope swing in their front yard. To use the rope swing you would climb up onto a platform and you would swing on the rope. I remember spending much time up there contemplating whether I should swing or not. The neighbor did and he never had a problem. He was sort of a show off and could do lots of things from the rope swing. I was a bit of a chicken. Even though I had seen that it was safe, I had a hard time convincing my mind to let go.
F. Sometimes we are fearful of doing what God wants us to do because we don’t have everything in order. We can tell ourselves that it will all work out, but just like me on the rope swing we are not ready to take that step. As Christians we need to be more willing to take steps without knowing where it will lead us. God does not have to give us the whole process. He sometimes only gives us the next step. Maybe Joseph did not know what his next step was before going to Pharaoh, but he did it.
Truth IV. God puts us where he wants us
A. Back in chapter 37 Joseph has some dreams that indicate that Joseph is going to be greater than his brothers and his parents. Everything that happens to Joseph from that time on is taking Joseph to that point in his life. Being sold into slavery led Joseph to Egypt. Being thrown into prison brought him into contact with the baker and the cupbearer for Pharaoh. The dreams of these servants gave Joseph a name with these men. Finally, at the end of the passage we are studying today, Joseph is brought into the presence of Pharaoh where he is promoted to the second most powerful man in Egypt. Each connection and each change in his life takes him to the fulfillment of his dreams.
B. If Joseph had not been sold into slavery he would not have ended up in Egypt. If Joseph had not ended up in prison he would not have met the cupbearer for Pharaoh. This connection got him an audience with Pharaoh which eventually led to Joseph becoming the second in command in Egypt. It was a very sad series of events, but it was a series of events that brought Joseph to all of the right places at the right time.
C. I would have to guess that Joseph was not excited about being sold as a slave, or being thrown into prison, or even being used by other people along the way. Each of these events brought Joseph closer to the purpose God had for Joseph. Joseph was a man who thrived under each of these situations.
D. Joseph was not in the places that he wanted to be, he was in the places where God wanted him to be. It is easy for us to look around us and say if only I was in better circumstances I could serve God there. In the parable of the talents Jesus made it clear that we were to be faithful in the small things and then he would give us greater things. “"Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.” Luke 16:10. I believe that the same goes with our circumstance. We need to learn to be faithful when our circumstances are lousy. We also need to be faithful when things are going really well. If you want God to use you in greater ways you need to learn to thrive where you are, like Joseph did. It might be that God has placed us in a position so that he can prepare us for greater things.
The idea that everything has to be just right before we can serve God is a lie. We need to learn to b e ready to serve God whenever he calls on us. It might not be a convenient time. It might nto be something pleasant he asks us to do. We need to be ready and willing to do what God wants us to do. As we are faithful in the small things, we might see God grant us favor in the bigger things.
These truths mean nothing if we have never accepted Jesus Christ as our savior. He needs to have first place in our life before we can follow him and before we can experience the blessings God has.