A young man from a strong family has a promising future, but is suddenly sold into slavery, not by enemies, but by his own jealous brothers. He is brought into a foreign country where he is enslaved, but then granted pardon and finds himself in a great job. The young man, full of integrity, turns away from the sexual advances of his boss’s beautiful wife, only to be thrown back into prison due to the false claims of the unhappy and unsuccessful seductress. After years enslaved, his insight yields him freedom, where he becomes a ruler, second only to the Pharaoh, over the ancient empire of Egypt.
Many of you have heard this story from the Bible. It is an amazing story, set around the 18th century B.C. in ancient Egypt. I have enjoyed reading this story, but have often afterwards asked myself, as with other stories set in the Old Testament, “What does this have to do with my life?” Is the story applicable for us today, nearly four thousand years later, or is it just a great piece of literature?
Until recently, I would have said the story doesn’t relate to me here in the 21st century. I have no brothers to sell me as a slave (although I have one sister who would’ve liked to when we were kids!). I can’t interpret my own bizarre dreams, let alone the dreams of a king (hello, I don’t even know a king!). There is little chance I’ll be promoted to Vice President anytime soon either. So, what’s the story got to do with me or you?
While I (or you, hopefully) probably won’t be thrown into slavery or imprisoned anytime soon, but I (and you) will have other difficulties in this life. This is guaranteed. 100%. Whether it will be a diagnosis of an illness like cancer, or the sudden loss of a family member, or a financial set back or being fired from a job. Like Joseph, we too will suffer at some point in this life.
So knowing, like in Joseph’s life, that hard times are coming, what is the 21st century application of this story? It’s simple: faith. You see, Joseph and his faith remained rooted in the promises of God. In fact, it seems as though his faith in God only grew during his times of hardship. He knew and trusted what the apostle Paul would later write to the early Christians in Rome, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28).
Read that verse again. No, it’s not a typo…it says “all things.” Even during cancer. Even during the loss of loved ones. Even during any uncertainty of life. Meaning, if you love and trust God, then all things, even the difficult times, work for good. While seeing the good during a trial is often impossible, the story of Joseph should encourage each of us to stay faithful to God, knowing that “He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11:1).