Summary: sermon on how to resist temptation by pastor norval koch for our sermon series
Joseph Sermon 2 Genesis 39: 5-10
Imagine what Hollywood could do with the story of Joseph. A man of exceptional qualities... dreams from God...able to interpret the dreams of others...handsome...a victim of his brothers’ rage...able to rise from the depths of despair to power in a foreign land...forgiving of those who once had wronged him...the tearful reunion between a loving father and his long-lost son. Just the kind of man an audience could fall in love with is Joseph. But then there’s that one part in the story that doesn’t really fit with today’s Hollywood movie. He has the chance to have an affair with a prominent Egyptian woman and he turns her down! What an exception that would be in today’s movie world!
That’s because the life of Joseph is not a Hollywood movie plot, it’s the life of someone who became a chosen instrument of God. This was a man whom God would use to preserve his people, the people from whom the Messiah would come. God was with this man Joseph. He blessed him and gave him a God-fearing spirit. That’s why he was able to resist the temptation brought on by Potiphar’s wife, an exception in the movies perhaps, but the rule in God’s world.
Oh if we could all be more like Joseph! I’m not referring to his exceptional abilities or his good looks. I’m talking about how he resisted temptation. “How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” he said. Where can we find that same kind of resistance, no matter what the temptation may be? Let’s answer that by rephrasing Joseph’s question as we consider:
“Temptation? How can I resist?”
1–The right way to ask that question
2–The right way to answer that question
I learned that famous question that Joseph uttered as he resisted Potiphar’s wife in catechism class, under the 6th Commandment, how about you? “How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” It’s such a great testimony from a God-fearing man. It’s one of those questions where the answer is a given. Joseph knew the answer could only be something like this: “You can’t do this. You must not. You dare not. You love your God too much to do that. Your God has loved you and blessed you and is with you now to give you strength.”
Nevertheless it had to have been a very real temptation for Joseph, meaning, the opportunity to commit the sin with Potiphar’s wife was very real. He was in charge of nearly everything in that house because he had been on the good side of Potiphar for some time. Therefore he would be above suspicion. They were alone. He had been through a lot of heartache, was away from his family and homeland. This woman desired him greatly. How easily he could have said, “Go to bed with you? How can I resist?” (as if to say, why not?)
What a model Joseph became for all of us by the way he handled this temptation. “How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” That was the voice of a believer listening to his conscience! That was the voice of a man who realized that this sin would first and foremost be a sin against his God, the God who had kept him safe and had prospered him besides. “Go to bed with you? How can I resist?”(as if to say, no way!)
Can we be like that? Yes, we can. Are we always like that? That might depend on what the temptation is and what our frame of mind is at the time. I wonder how often we deal with temptation the way we deal with dessert: “Another piece of chocolate cake? How can I resist? Another scoop of ice cream? Sure, why not?” While another piece of chocolate cake or another scoop of ice cream may not always be good for us in that it will add a pound or so to our body weight, we can usually have another one without doing too much harm. But giving in to the temptation to sin is always harmful. It might be harmful to our bodies; it is harmful to our souls.
That’s why we must ask the question before us today in the right way: “Temptation? How can I resist?” By asking the question the right way we will already have taken an important first step in resisting temptation. We’ll say “no” to it. We’ll get ready to fight it. That’s what Joseph did. He didn’t allow the thought of sinning to enter into his mind. He verbalized his conviction and the appropriate actions followed.
Joseph knew that the consequences of his actions would be great. You can tell by what he spoke. He knew that giving in to Potiphar’s wife would be a “wicked thing.” Thus he looked for ways to avoid the temptation. Our text says that he wouldn’t even go near Potiphar’s wife once he realized what she was after. As the chapter continues we see that Potiphar’s wife persisted in her temptation and became more aggressive, but Joseph continued to resist her, to the point where he ran from her as she grabbed his cloak. That would result in his ending up in prison. But that price he paid was worth the actions he took in resisting her temptation. God would even use his time in prison down the road to elevate Joseph to an even greater status in the kingdom of Egypt.