Today, let’s face ourselves with a mirror in one hand and the Bible in the other and gain a clear understanding of where we have come from and where we want to be in the years to come. Proverbs 29:17 says: “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he”
So what is your vision? What do you dream and want to achieve in years to come? Does it make you want to get out of bed every morning? What we do or achieve in life is quite often a direct reflection of the attitude we have toward life. It might sound strange to us but it is true.
People often complain about how life is hard, there are no opportunities here, work has no advancement. It is not because that is the way it actually is, but rather it is because that it is the way they perceive life to be elsewhere. If life seems hard, it will be that way for them. If life is perceived as easy, the whole scenario starts to take a different outlook.
Look at Joseph. What a character. This is the sort of person you only hear about in storybooks! No, I hear about people like that today. Joseph was a winner and I would like us to look at him and see why. What did Joseph have that made him what he was?
Joseph’s early family life
Joseph had a lot that we don’t have. What do I mean? Well he had brothers and sisters coming from four different women. There were different clans and there was tension between Leah and Rachel. Amidst all this, his Mom dies when his younger brother was born. Joseph must have had a special hand in taking care of his brother and bringing him up which formed a special bond between them.
The tension between Joseph and the rest of his family continued to increase through the years. He told his father of his brothers’ wicked deeds and caused them to hate him because he seemed the goody-goody one. His father complicated this by giving him a priestly garment to wear and the brothers now hate him enough to want to kill him.
Joseph is sold by his brothers
He then had dreams in which he was portrayed as the savior of the family which incited his bother to be more hateful than ever. Jacob then sent Joseph on a long trip to take food for his dear brothers and they catch him, try to kill him and on second thought decide that slavery is a better option. Sold as a slave and torn away from his brother, he gets some recognition from his master only to have the master’s wife fancy him, tell a huge lie about him and get him thrown into prison. Yet, somehow, this man goes on to become the second in command in the entireland ofEgypt. What caused it? Let’s look carefully and draw a few lessons.
Joseph had integrity
The first lesson that we can learn from Joseph’s experiences is the integrity which he displayed. What is integrity? It’s a little word that is often misunderstood. The dictionary gives it as incorruptibility, soundness, completeness, and honesty. It comes from the same Latin word meaning integer or whole. This “soundness” is a word I particularly like. It is like a wall that is made of wood and if it is sound, you tap it and it holds firm. If it has been attacked by wood ants, it will crack and crumble. It is like that in life you know. Joseph had a soundness about him that made him distinct from those around him. Look at Genesis 37:2:
Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren; and the lad was with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives: and Joseph brought unto his father their evil report.
Now we are not just talking about a young man who wanted to tell tales on his brothers, but one who so much wanted to live life the way God wanted him to, that he is able to speak against evil practices. He was able to stand as a witness of truth because of his integrity. Do you think he would be able to go to his Dad and speak of his brother’s wickedness if he used to do it as well? No! That is why; the lesson for us today is that we have a standard to uphold as young people.
It is no use knowing the truth but not living it. It is no use talking about preaching if our lives cannot reflect any integrity in what we do. We must let our lives reflect integrity so that when there is evil done, those around us will say: “not Simone, or Jason or Jackie, they would never do that.” So, as the first part of our renewal, let us take on a new integrity in all we say and do.
A life of contribution
In Joseph’s life there was also a wonderful example of contribution. It was the way in which he was bent on making a difference in his life and the lives of others by what he did. We only need to go to the start of his life to see how much he enriched the lives of those around him. Wherever he went, whatever he did, he made a difference. Has it ever struck you how wealthy Joseph’s family was? Why did Jacob ask Joseph to take food for his brothers in the fields? Why not one of the servants? Surely Jacob knew how dangerous it could have been for him.
We can only speculate, but if we consider what happened when Joseph reached Shechem, maybe we will see why Jacob placed his confidence in sending Joseph. When Joseph got to Shechem where his Dad had sent him, he went on to Dothanto find his brothers. I cannot tell you how much further that was but a servant may well have turned back and said: “Sorry boss but I went where you sent me, searched all over there and they were nowhere to be found.” This would have been the easy way out – quite honestly, I may have done it as well. But Joseph was not doing this merely to please his Dad. He genuinely wanted to determine the welfare of his brothers and was fully prepared to travel an extra 12 miles to the north toDothan to find them.
He displayed this same generous spirit in Potiphar’s house where he was again mistreated for doing the right thing. In prison, he was placed in charge. Is this person for real? Excuse me, but you were here for punishment and instead of being miserable and complaining, you work hard at making your fellow prisoners happy? With this in mind, is there anything we can ever be upset about?
And today, if there is anything we need more than ever for our walk to the kingdom, it is a kindly, genuine contribution in our ecclesias. We need to make our contribution to the service of the truth consistently and humbly. We all have a part to play everyday; God is constantly putting opportunities in our way for us to take and use as best as we can. Every day we pass people who are thirsting for the truth. Everyday we pass people who are miserable, upset, losing faith and hope. And yet for all this, we have a fire within us that can be used to tell people that God loves them. We have the opportunity to listen to their problems, offer a shoulder to cry on. A friendly smile costs nothing, all it costs is the realization that we want to make a difference every day that we live.
So this is the mandate to each of us today that will go with us in the days ahead: Make a difference to those around us and contribute to making everyone’s lives a better place.
Forgiveness – difficult but essential
One of the final lessons I would like to address concerns forgiveness. The story of Joseph would have taken a completely different tone had he punished his brothers when they came before him for sustenance.
This is only one example, but think of the way that Joseph would have forgiven Potiphar, his former master when Joseph became prime minister, and Potiphar’s evil wife as well. What a man. When given the opportunity to retaliate, ask yourself: “Am I in place of God?” Let us allow a new spirit to be renewed within us — the spirit of forgiveness.
Many lessons emerge from Joseph’s godly life. We think of his positive attitude, obedience, respect, love of God, good communication skills, genuineness, his never-say-die attitude and many others.
The attitude of a disciple
We started off by talking about opportunities and our outlook on life. After what we have considered, I would like us to open our eyes and see that the fields around us are white unto harvest. The time is now to take charge of our lives and to grow with God, to see before us the opportunities He sends day by day to mould us and shape us for his use.Now is the time to assess our progress and dedicate ourselves to the service of the truth. We once again think of our commitment to give not only a part of ourselves to God, but our entire being as a “living sacrifice.” Let us consider these practical ways that we can enrich our service to God.