Living Principles for Unsettling Times
Continuing our study in how to live during very difficult and unsettling times, the life of Joseph speaks volumes on how to deal with a future that has been snatched away.
Life of Joseph is a picture of a person who has a great future ahead of him only to have one incident change the path of his entire life. So many, young men and women have a bright future ahead of them only to have an incident happen that removes all the hope in their lives.
How does one cope when the future hope is gone? How does one respond to life when it takes a tragic or drastic turn from the forecasted pathway?
Joseph’s blessed childhood
Genesis 37:3–4 ESV “37:3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors.
37:4 But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him.”
Joseph was the favored son of his father because he was the son of Rachel. Jacob loved Joseph the most and it was evident to Joseph’s brothers. Because of their father’s preferential treatment of Joseph, they despised Joseph to the point they could not even speak to him in a civil manner.
Genesis 37:5 ESV “¶ Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they hated him even more.”
Joseph had two dreams that he shared with his parents and brothers. In both of the dreams, the family bowed down to Joseph. Because of his dreams, they hated him more.
Genesis 37:8 ESV “His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to rule over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.”
The hatred for Joseph grew until it reached a breaking point when the brothers saw an opportunity to get rid of Joseph. Jacob sent Joseph to check on his brothers. When the brothers saw Joseph coming, they saw an opportunity to kill him and tell their father he had been killed by a wild animal.
Genesis 37:18–32 ESV “37:18 ¶ They saw him from afar, and before he came near to them they conspired against him to kill him.
37:19 They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer.
37:20 Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits. Then we will say that a fierce animal has devoured him, and we will see what will become of his dreams.”
37:21 But when Reuben heard it, he rescued him out of their hands, saying, “Let us not take his life.”
37:22 And Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but do not lay a hand on him”—that he might rescue him out of their hand to restore him to his father.
37:23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the robe of many colors that he wore.
37:24 And they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it.
37:25 ¶ Then they sat down to eat. And looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing gum, balm, and myrrh, on their way to carry it down to Egypt.
37:26 Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood?
37:27 Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers listened to him.
37:28 Then Midianite traders passed by. And they drew Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. They took Joseph to Egypt.
37:29 ¶ When Reuben returned to the pit and saw that Joseph was not in the pit, he tore his clothes
37:30 and returned to his brothers and said, “The boy is gone, and I, where shall I go?”
37:31 Then they took Joseph’s robe and slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood.
37:32 And they sent the robe of many colors and brought it to their father and said, “This we have found; please identify whether it is your son’s robe or not.””
Reuben, the oldest brother, had devised a plan to save Joseph’s life. But before he could save his younger brother, the other brothers sold him into slavery for twenty pieces of silver.
Joseph’s life, in one day, changed forever. As he walked up to his brothers, he had no idea what they intended to do. He was stripped, thrown into a pit, pleaded for his life, and eventually sold into slavery. His life went from the favored son with a great future ahead of him to slavery.
He went from a place of love and care to one of servitude and imprisonment. His entire future changed with one incident.
Joseph was a young man who had everything taken away in a moment, by someone else.
Genesis 37:2 ESV “¶ These are the generations of Jacob. ¶ Joseph, being seventeen years old, was pasturing the flock with his brothers. He was a boy with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives. And Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father.”
Joseph was a young man, only 17 years old when his life changed forever.
Dangers of uncertain future
What are some of the dangers when a person’s future is suddenly changed for the worse? What happens when everything has been taken away from a person, how do they respond? What are the temptations which come?
One of the dangers of a sudden, uncertain future is forgetting the foundation of your life – your convictions.
If a person is not careful, when everything changes drastically, they can forget the convictions they lived by and relax their beliefs. The danger is forgetting the foundational beliefs and convictions that was established in your life. Forgetting who you are is a great danger.
My parents would tell me when I would go out at night as a teenager to remember who I was and remember my name that it was a good name. In other words, do not do anything that will harm the reputation or testimony of your name.
If your life is not founded on solid ground and your convictions based on the foundation, then those convictions can be compromised with life takes a drastic turn.
Matthew 7:24–27 ESV “7:24 ¶ “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.
7:25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.
7:26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.
7:27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.””
One of the dangers of a sudden, uncertain future is letting your morals slide.
When life takes a drastic turn, a person will either turn closer to the Lord or turn away from the Lord.
One of the dangers is allowing what has happened to cause the person to draw away from the Lord. When they do this, they make decisions based on feelings or emotions rather than truth. They begin making emotional decisions rather than seeking the Lord for wisdom and guidance.
I have learned during difficult times I cannot rely on emotions to guide me in the right direction. I need the Lord to calm my heart and soul so I can make decisions which is pleasing to Him.
Going through tragedy and drastic turns in life is one of the most difficult times in a person’s life. This is when he needs the Lord the most to keep his feet on solid ground.
I have witnessed individuals who dealt with great tragedy in their lives. Some turned closer to the Lord and He gave them the strength, grace, mercy, and wisdom to see them through those days. Others have rejected and rebelled against the Lord; they quit living by their convictions and began compromising their morals which leads them down a spiraling path away from the Lord and His guidance.
One of the dangers of a sudden, uncertain future is losing sight of the future.
Short-sightedness is a danger when life takes a drastic turn. Not looking ahead to see the ramifications of one’s decision in the long run is a great danger because they are only seeing the time they are living right then. When life changes drastically and the future is uncertain, the danger is making decisions for here and now without any regard for future consequences.
How did Joseph handle his drastic change of life and future?
Joseph kept his convictions.
Genesis 39:6–9 ESV “39:6 So he left all that he had in Joseph’s charge, and because of him he had no concern about anything but the food he ate. ¶ Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance.
39:7 And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, “Lie with me.”
39:8 But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge.
39:9 He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?””
Joseph was constantly being tempted by Potiphar’s wife. She tried every day to seduce the young man, but he would not heed the temptations. Notice his response. Joseph said, “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?”
Genesis 39:10–12 ESV “39:10 And as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to lie beside her or to be with her.
39:11 ¶ But one day, when he went into the house to do his work and none of the men of the house was there in the house,
39:12 she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house.”
She would not relent, but constantly tempting Joseph. He continued resisting the temptation. When the final temptation came, he ran to keep from falling into sin. His convictions were not swayed by the moment or the pressure of the temptation. He held true to his convictions.
Joseph kept his character.
Genesis 39:20–23 ESV “39:20 And Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined, and he was there in prison.
39:21 But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.
39:22 And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it.
39:23 The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the Lord was with him. And whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed.”
When tragedy comes, the temptation is to quit and do nothing. Temptation to sit down and do nothing but Joseph didn’t. Joseph had a strong work ethic. His makeup, his character was one of doing the best job he could do.
You will find a person’s true character when everything falls apart rather than when everything is going well. Look at a person’s character when the difficulties arise and see how they act. Then you will see their true character.
I knew a man who had the testimony of character. When he turned in his notice at work, he gave them a three month notice. During that three-months, he worked hard and did his job. One of the main supervisors at his company commented on him one day. He said this, “Most individuals when they turn in their notice, quit working and quit caring. But this man has worked harder to make sure there is an easier transition for the company when he leaves.”
If you have not heard this before, “Character matters!”
Joseph kept his character which is seen in his work ethics and how people trusted his judgment.
1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV “¶ So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
Joseph kept his composure.
Genesis 42:7–24 ESV “42:7 Joseph saw his brothers and recognized them, but he treated them like strangers and spoke roughly to them. “Where do you come from?” he said. They said, “From the land of Canaan, to buy food.”
42:8 And Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him.
42:9 And Joseph remembered the dreams that he had dreamed of them. And he said to them, “You are spies; you have come to see the nakedness of the land.”
42:10 They said to him, “No, my lord, your servants have come to buy food.
42:11 We are all sons of one man. We are honest men. Your servants have never been spies.”
42:12 ¶ He said to them, “No, it is the nakedness of the land that you have come to see.”
42:13 And they said, “We, your servants, are twelve brothers, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan, and behold, the youngest is this day with our father, and one is no more.”
42:14 But Joseph said to them, “It is as I said to you. You are spies.
42:15 By this you shall be tested: by the life of Pharaoh, you shall not go from this place unless your youngest brother comes here.
42:16 Send one of you, and let him bring your brother, while you remain confined, that your words may be tested, whether there is truth in you. Or else, by the life of Pharaoh, surely you are spies.”
42:17 And he put them all together in custody for three days.
42:18 ¶ On the third day Joseph said to them, “Do this and you will live, for I fear God:
42:19 if you are honest men, let one of your brothers remain confined where you are in custody, and let the rest go and carry grain for the famine of your households,
42:20 and bring your youngest brother to me. So your words will be verified, and you shall not die.” And they did so.
42:21 Then they said to one another, “In truth we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not listen. That is why this distress has come upon us.”
42:22 And Reuben answered them, “Did I not tell you not to sin against the boy? But you did not listen. So now there comes a reckoning for his blood.”
42:23 They did not know that Joseph understood them, for there was an interpreter between them.
42:24 Then he turned away from them and wept. And he returned to them and spoke to them. And he took Simeon from them and bound him before their eyes.”
Instead of seeking revenge and having his brothers put to death, Joseph kept his composure to see if his brothers had changed. He wanted to see how they felt about what they did to him many years before.
At this time, Joseph was about 39 years old. He was about 17 when sold into slavery. He spent 13 years either at Potiphar’s or in prison. He was 30 years old when he went before Pharaoh. There were seven years of plenty, and his brothers came to buy grain and in the second year of the famine, he revealed his identity to his brothers.
Genesis 41:46 ESV “¶ Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh and went through all the land of Egypt.”
When Joseph revealed his identity to his brothers, the famine was two years old.
Genesis 45:6 ESV “For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest.”
Joseph had not seen his family for 22 years. He had not seen his father for 22 years.
Joseph kept his composure and did not seek revenge against his brothers. What he put them through was a test to see if they were sorrowful for what they did and how they were treating his younger brother, Benjamin.
Notice what Joseph did when he revealed his identity to his brothers.
Genesis 45:1–15 ESV “45:1 ¶ Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him. He cried, “Make everyone go out from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers.
45:2 And he wept aloud, so that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it.
45:3 And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence.
45:4 ¶ So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt.
45:5 And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.
45:6 For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest.
45:7 And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors.
45:8 So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.
45:9 Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; do not tarry.
45:10 You shall dwell in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, and your flocks, your herds, and all that you have.
45:11 There I will provide for you, for there are yet five years of famine to come, so that you and your household, and all that you have, do not come to poverty.’
45:12 And now your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see, that it is my mouth that speaks to you.
45:13 You must tell my father of all my honor in Egypt, and of all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.”
45:14 Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, and Benjamin wept upon his neck.
45:15 And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them. After that his brothers talked with him.”
Establish your convictions, character, and composure. They will be tested, not when everything is going great, but when life falls apart.
You cannot wait until the storm hits to establish convictions, principles, and a solid foundation. These must be established before the storm ever comes.
You need to establish these now because the storms of life will come. You are not insulated from these life storms; you must be prepared before the storm ever arrives.
See the bigger picture of what God is doing through your life.
Genesis 50:15–22 ESV “50:15 ¶ When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.”
50:16 So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died:
50:17 ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.’” And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him.
50:18 His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.”
50:19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?
50:20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.
50:21 So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.
50:22 ¶ So Joseph remained in Egypt, he and his father’s house. Joseph lived 110 years.”
Joseph saw beyond what his brothers did to him to seeing the bigger picture. He did not see this when he was a Potiphar’s house. He did not see this when he was in prison. He understood when the famine came, and his family came for food.
You might never see the big picture in the middle of the storm, but when you look back you can see God’s hand through the storm. So, what are the living principles:
1. Keep your convictions
2. Keep your character
3. Keep your composure.