Summary: Practical insights from Joseph being tempted by Potiphar's wife: Eliminate self-pity, tell the truth to yourself, think about what you will gain or lose, make a commitment to win. Ultimately, the key is (3X) "The Lord was with Joseph."
HOW TO WIN OVER TEMPTATION—Genesis 39
Temptation. It seems to pop up out of nowhere—although it comes from somewhere! It may be drugs—or ice cream. A party at school—or a pity party. A click on a computer, an alluring fantasy, or a sudden invitation. The feeling of something in a shopping cart—or maybe, the cart is online. The tidbit of gossip that is demanding a place on your tongue. The thought of putting a knife into someone who has it coming—maybe not a literal knife, but sticking it to a person you love, and twisting the knife so it hurts even more.
How do we handle temptation?
There is an old hymn from the 1800’s, that gives guidance and warning. It begins, “Yield not to temptation, for yielding is sin.” Yes, we know that! The hymn goes on to say, “Fight valiantly onward, dark passions subdue.” Yes, we need to do that; the Bible tells us that we must fight against the powers of darkness, and the darkness within. But how do we fight? How do we win? The answer is in the chorus: “Ask the Savior to help you…” He will!
1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”
God provides a way to overcome temptation, but it is not automatic. We must choose his way!
Read Genesis 39.
How can we overcome temptation?
Joseph is in his late teens or early 20’s, and he is far away from home. He has been a rich kid, with a great future as the leader of his clan. But now, by the betrayal of his own brothers, he is a slave with no future. He is lonely, separated from his family and homeland. He has no one to share his life with, and no one to celebrate his maturity and growth. He has no father to throw his arms around him and say, “I’m proud of you, son.” There are no brothers to wrestle with, and no mother to cry over him. He is old enough to be married, but there is no one to find him a wife and pay the bride-price, except for his master, Potiphar, who might want him to sire more slaves.
His self-pity could have been a setup for temptation. Potiphar’s wife noticed that he was well-built and handsome, and we can imagine how she came on to him: “What a man you are: strong, intelligent, sexy! Why be lonely? Why be unappreciated? Why be like a slave? Come to bed with me!” If Joseph had been wallowing in self-pity, feeling unappreciated and confined by his role as a slave, he might have found her approach hard to resist.
Do you know about self-pity and temptation? Maybe your life hasn’t gone quite like you expected or hoped. Life seems unfair; the wicked prosper, and less-deserving people get all the breaks. You’d like to hold out for the life you hoped for, but that’s not what’s being offered right now.
Then temptation comes. Maybe this thing—wrong though it is—will make you feel better. Maybe, in a perverse way, you feel like you have a right to stray, since doing the right thing has been disappointing. Self-pity makes us vulnerable to temptation.
How can we eliminate self-pity? Self-talk can be helpful.
Joseph reminds himself that his life is not all bad; he has landed in good place. When he tells Potiphar’s wife that he is in charge of the entire household, he is talking is talking to himself as much to her: “No one in this house is greater than I am.”
More than that, the writer of Genesis tells us what Joseph must have understood: “The Lord was with Joseph, and he prospered.” How did a very young, lowly slave become the master of the household of Potiphar, the Pharaoh’s captain of the guard? God was with him.
There is always something good in our lives! We were able to get out of bed this morning, and most of us had breakfast. None of us had to come to church hungry. Most of us have prospered, often in ways that we could not have planned or imagined. But the best thing is that God is with us. We have assurance of his love, and a glorious future with him.
We have the tools to eliminate self-pity, and we need to use them. We need to be intentional about how we look at life, and what we tell ourselves and each other. The Apostle Paul says,
Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.