Summary: Joseph was faithful in small things during very difficult times. He who is faithful with a little will be entrusted with much. It was after years of faithfulness in smaller things in very difficult circumstances that God entrusted Him with great things.
Fixing Family Feuds
Precursor to the Great: Faithfulness in the Small
As we have studied the life of Joseph, a fair question we might ask is there are any modern-day examples of lives that have been blessed like godly Joseph's ultimately was.
This week the Christian world has mourned and haven has rejoiced at the passing of evangelist Billy Graham at the age of 99. Often called America's pastor and mentioned as the most significant Christian personality of the 20th Century, one of the articles I came across suggests that Graham's life, at least on some respects, may have been parallel to that of the Joseph of Bible times.
For it was shortly before Graham became famous in his 1949 Los Angeles Crusade, actually in 1948, that the Billy Graham team of evangelists became concerned about the common problem of scandals associated with other young evangelists of their era. A Christianity Today article entitled, "Lead us not into Scandal," detailed how while he was in the midst of an evangelistic campaign in Modesto, California in November of 1948, Graham called his associates to his motel room and asked that they spend an hour prayerfully considering how their ministry could avoid falling to the temptations of money, sex and power that had assailed the ministries of other itinerant evangelists.
The result was ultimately called the Modesto Manifesto—a list of concerns that all of Graham and his associates had agreed upon, and a plan for dealing not only with temptations but even the appearances of evil. And so it was after consulting with each other, they pledged not to emphasize the offering, and they tried to keep themselves free from suspicion regarding the way they handled the money by asking members of the sponsoring committee to oversee the payment of all bills and disbursement of funds to the revival team.
Also, as energetic young men in full bloom, often traveling without their families, charged with the raw excitement of standing before large and admiring crowds, and living in anonymous hotels and tourist courts, they knew well the power and possibilities of sexual temptation, and they had seen promising ministerial careers shipwrecked by the potent combination of lust and opportunity. They asked God "to guard us, to keep us true, to really help us be sensitive in this area, to keep us even from the appearance of evil," and they began to follow simple but effective rules. They avoided situations that would put them alone with a woman—lunch, a counseling session, even a ride to an auditorium or an airport. On the road, they roomed in close proximity to each other. And always, they prayed for supernatural assistance in keeping them "clean."
In addition to these major issues, Graham's team also pledged to avoid sensationalism, excessive emotionalism, anti-intellectualism, overemphasis on biblical prophecy or other controversial topics, and lack of proper follow-up on inquirers.
So, in retrospect, it's not surprising, that within a year of the Modesto Manifesto, that God exalted Billy Graham's Ministry by bringing tens of thousands of inquirers to his tent meetings in Los Angeles, extending the crusade for many weeks beyond what had been planned, ultimately filling the Los Angeles Coliseum with 100,000 people for his crusade and making him a national figure for decades to come.
Graham's life illustrates what also was demonstrated by the life of Joseph. The Precursor to great things is often a faithful in small, but significant things.
Last week we saw how Joseph was faithful in the small, but significant things regarding his relationship with God. When aggressively and repeatedly tempted by an adulteress, Potiphar's wife, Joseph remained faithful to God, even fleeing when she caught him by his shirt and attempted to pull him into bed.
This week, as we examine his life in Genesis 40, we see Joseph continues to be faithful to the Lord despite the great disappointment and difficult circumstances he has been placed in. Because as we saw at the end of Genesis 39, the result of his faithful avoidance of temptation was this: He was unjustly accused, and wrongly imprisoned.
Now all I can say is Joseph is one incredible young man. At the end of Genesis 39, we're told once again that God was with Joseph, which equates with the concept that Joseph was still faithful to God after this great disappointment. Life was still very difficult for Joseph—he had really reached a low point. Think of all the disappointments and discouraging circumstances Joseph had experienced by this point. He had been hated by his brothers, not for anything he had done wrong, but for his father's favoritism, and because his brothers likely had deserved the bad report he had brought back about him. Then he had been betrayed by his brothers, nearly killed, and then sold into slavery in Egypt, all without deserving any of the evil that had come upon him. And just as things begin to go really well for him in Egypt as Potiphar's overseer, he is falsely accused, the false accusation is believed, and now he's in prison. Joseph could have easily concluded that no good deed goes unpunished, that God was not with him, that it didn't pay to serve God or avoid temptation, or faithfully to accomplish his responsibilities, and given up on God. He could have blown up spiritually at this point, really believing God had abandoned him. But he remains faithful. And the result is that God has blessed him and given him favor with the chief jailer. And more than that, he is put in charge of two very important prisoners who show up in prison who are intimately associated with the great king of Egypt, Pharaoh—the chief cup-bearer and the chief baker.