The Testing of Joseph

5Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. 6He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had: 7We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.” 8His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said (Genesis 37:5-8).

In His grace, God gave Joseph a dream concerning his future, but the problem was that Joseph did not have the character base to accomplish the dream. His character needed to be refined in order to stand up under the pressures and responsibilities that the Egyptian pharaoh would place on him. When he came through the test he was exalted to second in command of all Egypt.

What’s your dream? What do you want to accomplish with your life? You are becoming today what you will be tomorrow. I like to think that everyone of us wants to impact the world in some way, for the world to be a little bit better because you were here, at least for the people around you. Put your life into Christ’s hands and see what He will make of it! Character is much better than success. If you have the character and make yourself available to God, you will experience both. Aim to be someone more than to do something.

Dr. Lloyd-Jones, pastor and writer, used to say that the worst thing that can happen to a person is for him to be successful before he’s ready. We only have to look at our sports heroes to see how fame and recognition can destroy a life if one does not have the character base to go with the level of notoriety that a person is given. The more fame a person has, the broader must be the character base to support such a life. Without character a person cannot support such heady fame and many often fall and fail. We can talk about Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, Tiger Woods, Bernie Madoff and others. What kind of task, or what measure of success will God be able to trust you with?

The great disciple, Martin Luther, was entrusted with the task of bringing the church back to the Bible. When the most powerful men in all of Europe wanted him to abandon his faith in Christ as it is contained in the Bible, he would not recant from living according to scripture. When he set out on his journey to Worms to face the questions and the controversies his teaching of the Bible had created, he said, “You can expect from me everything except fear or recantation. I shall not flee, much less recant.” His friends warned him of the dangers; some begged him not to go. But Luther would not hear of it. “Not go to Worms!” he said. “I shall go to Worms though there were as many demons as tiles on the roofs.” When Luther appeared there before the court of Emperor Charles V, he was shown a stack of his writings and was called upon to recant or retract his beliefs. Luther replied, “Unless I can be instructed and convinced with evidence from the Holy Scriptures or with open, clear, and distinct grounds of reasoning, then I cannot and will not recant, because it is neither safe nor wise to act against conscience.” Then he added: “Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me! Amen.” A few days later, before his death, Luther recalled that day. “I was afraid of nothing; God can make one so desperately bold.”[1]

Character such as that which Martin Luther displayed only comes about through long preparation in the furnace of suffering. What about the training of Joseph the son of Israel? God had to work on Joseph if he was going to be able to accomplish all that God had planned for him—to save his family from the famine and ruin that God knew was several years ahead. First of all, Joseph was arrogantly parading himself in the coat his father had made for him. When his father sent him to Dothan, to check on his brothers, he went wearing the robe. Don’t you think that was a bit foolish? The robe distinguished him as the heir of Jacob’s dynasty. Then to top it off, he was boasting to his brothers that they would be bowing down before him, a little skinny kid of seventeen.  God’s way of preparing him for the throne of Egypt was for him to be rejected by his brothers, thrown into a pit, sold as a slave, charged unjustly with attempted rape and finally ending up in a dungeon. Perhaps you too have wondered why you are going through various trials. I can’t say I know what God is doing in your life, just as I don’t always understand all that He is doing in my own life, but I do know that we can trust Him.

Keith Thomas

[1] J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership, Moody Bible Institute. Page 60.

The Testing is to Build Character

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name (1 Peter 4:12-19).

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).

We have been thinking on the fact that God tests those that are His in order to build character. Sometimes the things that God has prepared in advance for us to do can be hindered by a lack of godly character. God has to work on us before He can work through us. The purpose in all of this is not just so that we can perform works. Whatever we accomplish in our lives will be linked to our character, to the person we are becoming. This in itself is important to the Father; that we become more like Jesus. The fruit of the Spirit is described in Galatians 5:22 as: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self- control. This will be evident in the way one’s life is lived among others. Such an individual is one who has learned to give priority to that which is on God’s agenda.

It means in a practical way, to exhibit the character of God, which is only possible if the life of God is dwelling in you, by God’s power and presence. This is why we are dependent upon His Word and the Holy Spirit. Many people have reached out for influence before true godly character has been laid in their lives. When this happens, it usually results in moral collapse and the ridicule and accusations of the enemy. King David is an example of this. When he chose to give in to temptation and an adulterous affair with Bathsheba, the prophet Nathan confronted and rebuked him. The prophet Nathan told David that he had made the enemies of the Lord show utter contempt for the things of God (2 Samuel 12:14). Preparation of our heart and character is key, for when we are not available to the Holy Spirit to work in our life and form our character, we give Satan an opportunity to accuse Christians before the world, especially when we have influence and yet give in to temptation. We make ourselves open candidates for sabotage either from the enemy or from ourselves. There are many examples of those who have acquired greatness before they were ready, and have sabotaged their own success. Many examples of this can be seen throughout history. Our character must be bigger than our influence.

Keith Thomas