Summary: The more God can direct you, the more He can use you.
To what type of person does God give success? What kind of person is God able to empower and use in a mighty way? Is it the man or woman with the most talent or skill? Are looks or leadership ability the necessary traits? Is a high IQ essential to do great things for God? Obviously, the answer is “no.” The characteristics I just reeled off are the criteria we use for success.
Let’s think for a moment about the Bible heroes who God used in a significant way. What did they all have in common? Noah, Moses, Rahab, David, Esther, Nehemiah, Mary, John the Baptizer, Peter, Paul the Apostle. All of these people impacted their world. They honored God and saved other people either physically or spiritually. What did they all have in common? Humility. They were all humble people. Humble doesn’t mean poor, wimpy, or weak. Biblical humility is strength under direction. In the Beatitudes Jesus said:
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5
Meek is the same as humble. The Greek word paints the picture of a strong stallion that has been broken by its owner. If you know anything about horses, you know that there’s nothing wrong with a broken horse. It retains all of its strength and beauty, but its will has changed. It allows a rider and can be directed. A horse that hasn’t been broken is of absolutely no use to its owner. All it can do is consume and perhaps kick and bite if you get too close. But a broken horse, a meek, humble horse can plow a field, pull a wagon, give a ride, or win millions in the Kentucky Derby.
The more God can direct you, the more He can use you. He wants to take all your skills and talents and experiences and personality, add in his supernatural power and give you His kind of success. But it only happens to the degree that He can direct you. Therefore, if you want to be used by God for more than going to church and serving on a committee, if you desire more than a get-out-of-hell-free card, if you want to make an impact in this world before you leave it and do something significant and lasting for God, you must learn total reliance. The more complete your dependence on the Lord, the more He can direct you. The more God can direct you, the more He can use you.
No where is this more evident than in the life of Joseph. He was a man unusually gifted with leadership and managerial skills. He was good-looking and smart. God brought tremendous success to Joseph, but not because of his personal qualities. God used him because he could direct him. Joseph learned total reliance on God during his incarceration in Egypt.
The Conditions for Complete Dependence
Joseph learned at a relatively young age, something that it took his ancestors much longer to master:
Refrain from controlling God’s plan
Abraham tried to control God’s plan for a child by having a baby with Hagar the slave girl. Isaac tried to make Esau the leader of the clan even though Jacob was God’s man for the job. Jacob tried to make himself leader by swindling his brother out of the birthright and the blessing. Seizing the reins from God was a family trait. Joseph attempted it too.
After interpreting the chief cupbearer’s dream and revealing a positive outcome, Joseph attempted to use it to his advantage:
“But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison.” Genesis 40:14
There was nothing inherently evil about Joseph’s action, but I think this is one of his few missteps in the story. He knew that God was with him. The work of his hands was blessed time and again. Every time evil people knocked him down, God lifted him right back up again. He should have been content to wait for God’s way and God’s time. But at this point he attempted to seize control. Who can blame him? He’d been unjustly placed in prison and had served there for at least a year and maybe longer to this point. He was desperate and his desperation led him to try to make something happen. The result of his self-extrication?
The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him. Genesis 40:23
How could that happen? How in the world could you forget someone who restored hope? How could you not remember a person with such a powerful supernatural gift? The chief cupbearer had a two-year memory lapse. It makes no sense unless God caused him to forget.
The text never says this is the case, so it’s purely speculation on my part, but it looks to me like God erased the memory file from this guy’s mind because Joseph was not yet ready. He had learned much, but he apparently needed a couple of more years in prison to bring about complete dependence on God. Joseph would eventually be entrusted with the might of the most powerful nation on earth of that day. To wield that kind of power in a godly manner, he had to be totally reliant on God. He could not attempt to seize control of God’s plan or he would inevitably have misused his position.