Written by Nicasius Kamani

SERIES: CHARACTER CHANGE

Part 3: The 3 Ps of Character Formation—the Story of Joseph

Introduction

The Story and character of Joseph is a very inspiring one.He is an example of a man who was subjected to the injustices of this life yet came out of those situations with a better and more refined character. He acted rightly every time he encountered conditions that usually make or break our character.

From time to time, we all experience moments that define our lives in varying degrees. For each of us, there comes a week, a day, an hour, or a moment when our very life is put to test. In that moment, we realize that the rules we’ve been playing by no longer apply. For some, this moment arrives as a result of our own of mistakes. Others stumble into it by sheercoincidence, as God determines. When we face these moments, our character defines how well we deal with the situation. The extreme responses are as follows: some fight back while otherstake to flight.Some succumb to it while otherstriumph over the matter.Somekeep on goingand otherssimply quit.Some smile while othersshed tears of defeat.Some curse God accusing him of unfairnesswhile othersstill keep the faith.

 

We may or may not attribute Joseph’s heroic responses to his spiritual upbringing, but one thing is clear: when he went through these defining moments of his life, he came out victoriously. We all go through similarmoments. Some are mild in comparison, but nevertheless, they define the quality and the richness of our lives here on earth. And in all cases, they define our eternal destiny.

1) THE PITS OF LIFE: (Genesis 37: 1-11; 12-36)

First, Joseph was his dad’s favorite son having been mothered by Jacob’s favorite wife, Rachel. This did not go very well with his brothers. When he reached the age of 17, Joseph had two dreams that increased the rift between him and his siblings. None could imagine a time when all the 11 brothers, including their mother and father, would get to bow before Joseph. His brothers became insecure, and dismissed his dreams as mere fantasies of youth that are borne of self-righteousness and pride. Instead of growing in love, his brothers harbored anger, jealousy, and bitterness,which in the fullness of time created a murderous mood in the family.

When an opportunity presented itself, the brothers seized Joseph and unanimously resolved to murder him. But in the middle of this jealous rage, Reuben the first-born son of Jacob and his first wife Leah, who should have been the favored son, stepped in with a weak solution: “Don’t shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the desert, but don’t lay a hand on him.”(Genesis 37:22).And so, Joseph found himself in the bottom of a pit. But through God’s workings, the pit was dry.

Satan had entered the hearts of Joseph’s brothers. It is easy to hear the soft whispers of the evil one when one of the brothers said, “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.” (Genesis 37:20). Those are the very words of Satan who hopes and seeks to steal, destroy and kill our dreams as revealed to us by our heavenly Father. But God, in his supremacy, still dictates the outcome of Satan’s conspiracies. If we remain close to God, the outcome will always be one that elevates us to higher spiritual positions, culminating to praise and glory to God. However, if we don’t, we lose the battle and Satan receives the glory.

My own defining moment:My youthful days in high school were characterized by incredible poverty. My dad, not able to pay school fees from the scanty income from a one-acre coffee acreage was hired as a casual worker in school. One time, as we changed lessons from a classroom to a science laboratory, some of my student colleagues saw my dad at the top of a lavatory doing repairs on its dilapidated roof structure. They openly enjoyed themselves and made fun of my situation.In that instance, I felt as though my life-long dignity was robbed; I felt naked and worthless!It was then that I learnt a few lessons of life:

· Do not whine unnecessarily:I learnt that I cannot just sit there and whine over my unfortunate position.I developed a ‘thick skin’ towards what people say and think of me. Rather than react by trying to prove myself before my student colleagues, I resolved to always do that which serves me best (and ignore people’s expectations that would create unnecessary pressure on me). This mindset has helped me a lot.

· My destiny is God-given and rests in my hands:I learnt that if I will ever become anything in this life, then it will all depend on how best I use my God-given skills and abilities. It taught me that in the end it pays to be a responsible man, and that thefruits of being responsible are first eaten and enjoyed by me.

· Nurture good things:I learnt that I ought to treasure and nurture and grow good things of life because they are hard to come by. (Out of this conviction, I remember holding on to a job throughout my college days, because I needed that income to support myself and my siblings).

· I am strong when I am weak: I learnt that my power is fully potent when I am at my lowest position. I have since done the most remarkable things of my life when not many are watching or even aware of it. I value silence over prominence; I prefer to be ignored; I relate and connect more easily with those of a quieted spirit; I abhor the loud and the flamboyant.

· Not to have a problem with people: People will always be people. They will go their way.They will say what they have to say.Eventually, they will leave me alone. I learnt to focus on what needs to be done, and strive to bring it to its desired conclusion.I am still learning that I truly cannot be surprised that people behave towards me the way they do—because they are just being people. And as I grow older, my expectation of people is becoming more and more sober, and less and less judgmental.

· Drawn to those who hurt: It built in me a heart and a desire of always wanting to reach out and touch the lives of those who are discriminated against. I experience so much relief and so much meaning in life when I encourage and positively contribute towards the wellbeing of someone who is hurting. I pray that I (and many other Christians) will grow more and more in this area.

When I reflect on these lessons that I learnt, and the resolve that came out of them, I am today very grateful that God took me through that pit of life. Though the whole scenario was totally unclear then, and there were moments when I groaned over my predicaments, today, I lift up my hands to God in thanksgiving.

When we look at the life of Joseph, we don’t see a revengeful heart looking for an opportunity to go back to Canaan to settle scores with his envious, insecure and treacherous brothers. Neither do we see a whining heart that was constantly wondering why everything seemed so unfair out there in Egypt. If he needed, he could have succumbed to self-pity and defeat—and his story, and perhaps his eternal destiny would be very different from what it is today!The experience of going through the pit must have shaped and formed and transformed his life…Joseph’s attitude towards life was well balanced.

We all go through similar pits in our life, such as losing a parent(s) when young,unexpectedly losing a source of income, or dropping out of school due to lack of school fees. We need to take heart and remain faithful to God.

2) THE POTIPHAR(S) OF LIFE:(GENESIS 39: 1-23)

Joseph distinguished himself in Potiphar’s household andhe was put in charge of everything. Potiphar’s household received God’s blessing as a result of its association with Joseph.Genesis 39:5 says, “From the time that he made him overseer in his house and over all that he had, the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had, in house and field.” While serving Potiphar, Joseph encountered another defining moment of his life: He needed to decide on whether he’d please God or man. Satan entered Potiphar’s wife,who in turn chose to entice Joseph to sin. But the promise that Joseph had made to his master was more important to him than gratifying the desires of his flesh.He decided to honor the promise he had made, rather than receive instant gratification by sleeping with Potiphar’s wife. It must have been pretty tempting, though.Joseph’s response, however, is typical of what a righteous man would have done. He loved God too much to break his promise. He made the decision to reject Potiphar’s wife, and other ‘goodies’ that would have accrued,because he knew that God was present—and he didn’t want to make God mad. With many of us, it is hard to see God at work.

Many rules are not written; they are only implied.But even then, Joseph knew his boundaries.When blessed with success, do we understand our boundaries at the workplace, at home, and in our businesses?If unchecked, the pleasures of life can lead to many griefs, and to many sins. We need to understand the boundaries of our freedom. God has clearly spelt it out in his word. “This far, and not farther”, says our Dad. When we fail to recognize those limits, we quickly get swept away by the Potiphar(s) of this life.However, when we triumph, our character is strengthened. The resolve to do what is right becomes the fuel and the energy that keeps us on the narrow path of righteousness. Then it becomes easier to do what is right in the eyes of God, over again. We develop renewed courage to face the consequences of our faithful action.

The biggest question is always this: who are we going to offend? Man or God?The world wants us to cheat and corrupt for earthly gains. It wants us to walk away from God and miss out on heaven. Let us not allow this to happen.

3) THE PRISONS OF LIFE:(GENESIS 39:19-23; 41: 1-40)

We would expect that after Joseph’s encounter with Potiphar’s wife, God would surely rescue him from further trials. That is not quite the case here! God still needed to take Joseph through the ‘prisons of life’ to refine his character further.

And so Joseph found himself unfairly in prison for standing up against sexual enticement. However, the amazing thing again (and the lesson for us here today) is that Joseph carried himself so faithfully while in prison that he was put in charge of other prisoners. He refused to conform to the thinking patterns of a prisoner. He refused to moan over all the unfairness that Potiphar had meted on him.

We may not be thrown into jail like Joseph, but life has its many ‘prisons’. It may be a health condition that has confined us to bed for extended periods. It may be a relationship that is abusive or defective. It may be a work environment that is very unfriendly, even abusive. It may be a family setup that knows little love. It may actually be imprisonment itself. The big question is: How are we dealing with that situation?

Conclusion: (Genesis 50: 15-21)

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. (Genesis 50: 19-20)

This passage of scripture clearly depicts words of a man who thoroughly understood who God truly is. Joseph understood that in all things, God is right in the picture. He knew that all things that take place under the sun, work towards one eternal goal of God—that many souls may be saved. Do you have this kind of understanding today? Is this what you work towards, daily? That many souls may be brought to Christ?

God has and will continue to allow various Pits, Potiphars, and Prisons of all kinds to line up our eternal journeys. Will they build your character or not? Will they make or break you? They are all designed to lead many souls to Christ. This should be our daily attitude—and our mindset—as we go through this life. Amen.

CategoryInspirations
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