How Joseph Succeeded in Adverse Circumstances

In my devotions as of recent, I have been reading through the life of Joseph. He is an admirable example to us. Life did not always go for him, but he made the best of it and looked to the Lord in all of it. Today I want to look at some of his character attributes that contributed to his success.


1. Joseph was honest


For better and for worse, Joseph was his father Jacob’s favorite son. The Bible does not give much background as to why, but seeing he was the oldest son of Rachel, the woman he effectively served Laban 14 years for and whom he loved dearly, there would be some innate preference for Joseph. It wasn’t right for Jacob to show favorites, but his status as the oldest of Rachel’s children had to be a part of it.


As his father’s favorite or not, Joseph could be counted on to tell the truth. When his dad wanted someone to check on his children, Joseph was his first choice. When reading through Genesis, you find that a lot of Jacob’s children were rascals, to put it mildly. The way some of them deceived nations around them was downright appalling. In contrast, Joseph consistently told the truth. I believe that is the primary reason why Jacob enlisted him to check on his brothers.


Joseph’s honesty perhaps tip-toed into brutal honesty. He probably could have used more tact in telling his dream that essentially said he would rule over his family and they would bow down to him. In my opinion, I would chalk up his saying that to youthful ignorance. I seriously doubt he meant anything negative by it. We can all look back at times we said or did absolutely ridiculous things in our childhood that we wouldn’t dream of saying or doing as an adult. Even though he could have said it differently, the fact is that Joseph could be counted on to tell the truth.


2. Joseph was reliable and persevering


This attribute has a lot of similarities to the first but manifests itself differently. When Joseph’s brothers sold him as a slave to the Ishmaelites, he was taken to the land of Egypt, where Potiphar purchased him as a slave.


If any of us were in this position of not just living in a foreign country but also having to work as a slave there, most of us would input the minimum amount of effort just to get by. Humanly-speaking, he had no chance to succeed from this point on. He had no connections, no family, and no opportunity. However, he consistently did his job, and Potiphar noticed that God was blessing him on account of Joseph. He could be counted on to do his job. That’s why Potiphar put him in charge of his entire household.


Just as Joseph appeared to be getting somewhere, Potiphar’s wife lied about Joseph’s immoral attempt, which landed Joseph in prison. After coming that far, it would have been easy to quit, but Joseph didn’t. Instead, he adapted to this new, yet very unpleasant, situation. Soon enough, the jailer also effectively put him in charge of everything there.


The time came that Pharaoh threw his baker and butler in prison, and they both dreamed dreams that disturbed them. After Joseph interpreted their dreams and they were fulfilled accordingly, it took yet another 2 years before the butler remembered Joseph. Throughout all of this, the Bible tells us that the Lord was with Joseph. God made him to be able to succeed, adapt, and persevere in even the most seemingly hopeful of situations.


3. Joseph recognized God’s providence


In any given trial in Joseph’s life, he was unable to see the big picture. Although he tried to make the best of his time as a slave at Potiphar’s house and in the Egyptian jail, he couldn’t have predicted what would happen next.


After 2 additional years following his meeting the baker and butler and interpreting their dreams, Pharaoh dreamed a dream, and nobody could interpret it. The butler remembered Joseph, God miraculously revealed the dream’s interpretation to Joseph, and Joseph explained it to Pharaoh. The world would experience 7 years of exceptional harvests, but then it would be followed by 7 years of extreme famine. That meant they needed to prepare. And then Pharaoh immediately appointed him to oversee this project, making Joseph the top man in Egypt, second only to Pharaoh.


When the famine got worse and worse in Canaan, Joseph’s brothers came to buy food, and Joseph tested his brothers to see if they had changed over the long period of time. On his brothers’ second trip, Joseph revealed that he was their brother and told them to bring his father and the whole family to Egypt so that they could be provided for in this time of famine.


God worked all things together for good. He used the tragic situations of Joseph’s being thrown in a pit, sold into slavery, lied about and thrown into prison, and forgotten by the butler to save the known world and His chosen people from starvation. Years later, Joseph’s brothers wanted to apologize for their sinful actions towards him, but by this time in Joseph’s life, he saw the big picture.


He responded to his brothers in Genesis 50:20:


“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” (NKJV, Genesis 50:20)


God meant it for good. Those difficult times of having to persevere were preparing him for the day when he would be in charge of the largest empire in the world of that time. He recognized that God had sent him there for a purpose, and because God was with him, Joseph succeeded in all he did.


Like Joseph, we should seek to be honest; to be reliable and to persevere in the tasks in front of us, whether or not they seem inconsequential at the moment; and to recognize that God can and will use all things in our lives and work them together for His glory and our good.

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