From Prison to Prime Minister The Man Who Never Gave Up
Who would you think of as your greatest inspirational leader of all time?
Would it be Nelson Mandela, Walt Disney, Oprah Winfrey, or one of the Bible greats like King David or Queen Esther? Because you are an individual, with a unique background and personality, your choice of role model may be quite different from those of your friends and family.
Allow me to share some thoughts about my own all time favourite, and in turn I would love to hear from you about who you would nominate and why. Feel free to communicate with me through the Face to Face website or email address.
For me, Joseph is a larger-than-life Biblical personality, whose story is as relevant today as it was about 3800 years ago. He was an exceptionally gifted leader and administrator who showed amazing resilience in the face of a series of crises that rolled relentlessly into his life like the waves of the sea. Horrible things happened to him through circumstances beyond his control.
Jealousy and Hatred
Joseph’s father Israel loved him dearly, more than any of his other sons and gave him a magnificent multi-coloured robe. Joseph was thrilled with this precious gift. However, his ten brothers did not share the excitement. They were already jealous because he was Dad’s favourite. Their resentment grew into hatred which finally culminated in a tragic incident that changed Joseph’s life forever. They threw him into a deep cistern, and then plotted to kill him. Finally after a heated squabble they agreed this was too drastic a step. So they sold him for a mere 20 shekels of silver to a group of passing Midianite slave traders.
Slave traders were often cruel, chaining slaves to one another as they trudged along their harrowing journey into the unknown. We can only imagine the emotional agony that must have raged in Joseph’s heart as he plodded wearily under the desert sun, thinking about his home and family – wondering if he would ever see them again.
The Midianites eventually arrived in Egypt and sold Joseph to an official named Potiphar, who was Pharaoh’s captain of the guard. What a culture shock for Joseph, having to adapt to working as a house slave in a sophisticated home, when all he knew about was farming.
A Trust Relationship
Here is where we begin to gain insight into the character of Joseph and the trust relationship he enjoyed with the Lord. Notice Genesis 39:2-5: “The Lord was with Joseph and he prospered...When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favour in his eyes...Potiphar put him in charge of his household and he entrusted to his care everything he owned...The Lord blessed the house of the Egyptian because of Joseph.”
Quite a comeback considering the mental, psychological and emotional ordeal Joseph had been through. Yet, he remained true to his Lord, knowing that God would always be at his side in the midst of the fiercest of storms... accentuated in Hebrews 13: 5-6... Because God has said, “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you. So we say with confidence, The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”
Joseph’s source of strength and resilience was anchored firmly in the Triune God. He never allowed the distress of his situation to get in the way of serving his Lord through his God-given talents. Potiphar was so inspired by Joseph’s relationship with God that he entrusted the oversight of his entire household to him.
However, Joseph’s early success in Egypt was short-lived. Potiphar’s wife found him irresistible and attempted to entice him into bed. Besides the snare of an adulterous relationship, Joseph realised he would be bringing the Lord’s name into disrepute, and fled the scene. She reacted angrily, falsely accused him of sexual harassment and had him thrown into prison. His reputation was besmirched in an instant, probably making juicy grapevine news in the corridors of Egyptian high society.
Yet Joseph remained steadfast, faithfully serving God even within the cauldron of the prison walls. Genesis 29:21 tells us “The Lord was with him; He showed kindness and granted him favour in the eyes of the prison warden. So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in prison.”
I encourage you to read the full story of events surrounding his 12 year long stint in prison, and the dignified yet assertive manner in which Joseph honoured God in exercising his spiritual gift of interpreting dreams. Pharaoh had a dream about seven fat cows and seven lean cows, and only Joseph could reveal that these depicted seven years of plenty and seven years of famine. This interpretation had a dramatic impact oh Joseph’s life. We read in Genesis 41:38-40, “so Pharaoh asked his officials, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the Spirit of God?”. Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made known all of this to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. 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.”
From Zero to Hero
What an incredible turnaround in the life of Joseph! Pharaoh, an Egyptian pagan to the core, was deeply moved by the way in which Joseph’s entire persona manifested the sovereignty of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit. So much so that he appointed Joseph to be at the helm of Egypt during a precarious period in his history. Joseph’s remarkable talents of wisdom, leadership and administrative acumen saved Egypt from total devastation. He circumspectly led the nation through the good times of prosperity, shrewdly building silos and storing grain for the lean years.
Joseph blossomed to his full potential through an identity that was totally immersed in the Triune God, whether things were going well, or in tribulations of the worst kind. He continually responded to the faithfulness of God, trusting in Him even when his whole world was falling apart and everything appeared so hopeless and unfair.
The life of Joseph portrays the life-saving divine relationship you can enjoy in Christ today, even in your darkest moments. Author James Fowler states in The stages of faith, that “faith is always relational; there is always another ‘person’ in faith.” The faith of God, Jesus and our ever present Comforter, the Holy Spirit, lies at the very heart of the spiritual resilience that will enable you to rise above seemingly impossible circumstances. Paul encourages us in Romans 8:28,31 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose...What then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?”
Joseph finally demonstrated the love of God in a touching encounter with his brothers who had been sent to Egypt by their father to source grain, as the land of Canaan was also in the deadly grip of famine. Joseph was gracious and forgiving. He never allowed the malicious action of his brothers, or of Potiphar’s wife to taint his soul with bitterness. Nor did he allow their vindictiveness to sap his spiritual vitality and prevent him from growing to his full potential in the Lord.
The good news is that rifts were healed and Joseph was eventually united with his father. Joseph’s powerful position enabled him to bring his entire family into Egypt where they settled peacefully in the land of Goshen.
Joseph led an extraordinary life in total allegiance to God...an amazing role model of how you can live fully in a delightful relationship with Jesus, who is always at your side rejoicing in your successes and giving comfort and strength in your suffering.
Paul enlightens us in Romans 8:35,37: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”