Have Faith That God Is at Work Behind the Scenes
From the pit... to Potiphar’s house... to the prison... to the palace... “The steps of a good man are ordered of the Lord” (Psalm 37:23).
Sometimes it's difficult, even for the most optimistic, to watch the news and not become discouraged by the state of the world these days: rising food and fuel prices, unemployment and injustice seem to be the rule of the day. However, if we trust that God is always working behind the scenes on behalf of His people, then no matter what happens in the world at large, we know He will turn it around for our good (Romans 8:28). There is no better example of this spiritual principle in action than the life experience of Joseph. Spoiler alert: it started off pretty bad.
“So it came to pass, when Joseph had come to his brothers, that they stripped Joseph of his tunic, the tunic of many colors that was on him. Then they took him and cast him into a pit. And the pit was empty; there was no water in it. … Then Midianite traders passed by; so the brothers pulled Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt” (Genesis 37:23-24, 28).
It’s interesting to note that the word used here, “took,” at first glance seems to put the emphasis on being moved from one place to another against one’s will. And surely from Joseph’s point of view at the moment, this was indeed what was happening to him. However, the word “took” has other meanings, including: to lead, to carry, to cause, to be brought, to be introduced and to bring near, all of which do not emphasize hostility, but rather, help.
In other words, if someone brings me with them to an event as their guest, they are not “taking” me in the negative sense, but rather they are helping me. I am allowed access to the event based on their invitation. If someone introduced me to one of their friends, I am brought into the conversation based on a connection with them. And if I am carried by someone to another place by taxi, I am able to enjoy that destination without engaging my own strength or effort.
So the Midianite traders took (carried, lead, introduced, brought near) Joseph to the land of Egypt, and therefore, to his destiny there. So all of the places Joseph spent time in Egypt, even though they seemed like negative experiences in the moment, actually opened doors by means of connection.
- From the pit in the desert, he was connected by slave traders to Potiphar’s house (Genesis 39:1-4)
- From Potiphar’s house, he was connected by a false witness to Pharaoh's prison (Genesis 39:19-21a)
- From Pharaoh's prison, he was connected by Pharaoh's servants to Pharaoh's palace (Genesis 41:14-15, 25, 39-40)
If we step back and look critically at Joseph's entire life, the time he spent in the pit seems a rather small inconvenience compared to fantastic experience of living in the palace of Egypt. The pit was simply not the end of Joseph's story. Oftentimes we can get bogged down in the moment and forget that our story is not finished. Our current “place” may seem negative or insignificant, but like the pit, Potiphar's House, or the prison, it may simply be a place of connection that God intends to use to accomplish His will. His ultimate plan is much greater than we can imagine. And the best way we can endure through the tough times is to get a vision for God's turnaround in our lives.
Getting a Vision for God's Big Turnaround
“Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers” (3 John 2).
Do you feel like you've lost your mojo because of this crazy world we seem to find ourselves in? Are you hitting on all cylinders, so to speak? That is, are you prospering in body, mind and spirit regardless of negative circumstances or discouraging news reports? We should; after all, that is God's will for His people:
If so, it's important to regain vision to live by God's heavenly life map. That’s what real vision is: an inner picture that pulls us to fulfill God’s future plan for our lives, regardless of current circumstances.
My favorite story of the power of vision is that of Walt Disney. Mr. Disney died before the grand opening of the Disney World amusement park, so his wife appeared on his behalf for the opening festivities. When she was introduced to the Master of Ceremonies, he said “Mrs. Disney, I just wish Walt could have seen this!” Mrs. Disney simply responded “He did.”
Just like in the natural world, in order to “be it,” you must first “see it.” In order to receive it, you must first believe it (Matthew 21:22). What you see on the inside determines what you'll see on the outside. So having a God-inspired vision is a fundamental precept of spiritual progress and success. Where there is no vision there is no victory! So what is God wanting to birth through you, through the vision He has given you?
God often gives vision to us in pieces and brings the vision to pass through our faith-filled steps, until we see that vision become a reality. Joseph’s life is the perfect example of this process it seems we all must go through.
The Planting Step
God puts in us a picture or an idea of what He has for us. We don’t dream it up on our own; God divinely drops it in us. It's probably something much bigger than we would ever imagine for ourselves, and it's something that we certainly couldn't obtain by our own efforts – even through very hard work.
Joseph's famous dreams were dropped into his heart while he was sleeping, by God Himself (Genesis 37:5-10). It wasn’t Joseph's ambition for his life, and it wasn't his chosen career path. It was God’s plan dropped into Joseph’s heart while he was sleeping, and it marked the beginning of his great adventure.
Keep your connection with the Creator strong, and God will show you what vision He has for you; like Joseph, you won’t be able to shake free from it. God will get His instructions into you, just keep the switch of your faith turned on.
The Processing Step
We must decide to say yes to God’s plan. This does not mean we give consent, rather we make a commitment to the plan and say, no matter what God, I’m all in. Like Joseph, I'm in whether the pit or the prison... because I believe in the palace!
The Price Step
We recognize the cost of carrying the vision to its fulfillment. Any vision from God will carry a substantial price tag. Nothing worthwhile is free and it won't be easy. We must press toward the prize, pick up our cross, put our hand to the plow, and never look back.
By paying the price required, we demonstrate that we can be trusted in the battle and hold on until we triumph. But we will also experience the thrill of seeing with our own eyes, “if God be for us, who can stand against us?”
And with the price, comes spiritual power. Such power that will propel us through every pit, every lying Potiphar’s wife and every prison thrown in our way to stop us. Power that will enable us to keep on trusting His heart even when we can’t trace His hand.
The Practice Step
Rest assured, God prepares us even if we do not realize He's doing it. He develops our skills in private, so that when needed, we will be successful in public. God doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies the called in a way that causes us to face the pits of life and learn lessons from them.
In the pits we practice and learn how to deal with issues like loneliness, fear of rejection, and how to live through lean seasons. He doesn't bless who we pretend to be, only who we have prepared to be.
We also face the Potiphar's House test, where we learn how to manage well for another's benefit, and realize that things are not always as they seem. During this step, our character is tested when nobody is looking, in order that it will stand strong when everybody is looking. Here, we learn loyalty and faithfulness, and let go of the good and the comfortable in order to experience God's great and unusual.
During the lessons of the prison, we see how those things that have tried to keep us bound, God turns around and uses to bring us blessing. Here we experience divine anointing to practice our gifts when relatively little is on the line, so they are ready to go when everything is on the line. We refine our compassion and people skills; we learn to forgive and let go. We understand that what they did to us cannot stop what God has destined for us. And we are filled with God’s peace that passes all understanding, because He is faithful Who promises.
Even when we don't recognize it, God is working behind the scenes on us, on our characters, and developing our gifts, even as we are going through negative experiences like the pit, Potiphar's house, and the prison. God uses this time to forge in us everything we need to succeed, before He positions us into that place of our vision, which is His will for our lives.
It was God Who gave a vision – a promise – to Joseph through his dreams. And at every step of the way, as Joseph encountered discouragement and problems, the Bible says “but God was with Joseph.” In the same way, as we remain faithful through tough times, we will see that God is with us. Remember, He has been to the future and is never surprised by present circumstances. Even though we can't see Him working, He always has a plan to turn it around for our good.
From Slave to Second-in-Command: 7 Lessons from Joseph’s Life in Egypt
Joseph, Potiphar's Wife, and the Dangers of Sexual Sin
The Danger of Becoming the Forgetful Cupbearer in the Story of Joseph
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Cultura RM Exclusive/Twinpix
Frank Santora is Lead Pastor of Faith Church, a multi-site church with locations in Connecticut and New York. Pastor Frank hosts a weekly television show, “Destined to Win,” which airs weekly on the Hillsong Channel and TBN. He has authored thirteen books, including the most recent, Modern Day Psalms and Good Good Father. To learn more about Pastor Frank and this ministry, please visit www.franksantora.cc. Photo by Michele Roman.