PROSPERITY IN PROBLEMS
Chapter 38 is a parenthesis in the study of Joseph, though it adds a wonderful contrast to what the brothers were doing, compared to what Joseph experienced. Judah, the ringleader in the rejection of Joseph, is revealed as an immoral man. Joseph is portrayed as one who refuses the sin of immorality. In chapter 38 Judah fails miserably in his relationship with the Lord, while this chapter shows Joseph prospering under the hand of God.
Verses 1-6 describe Joseph prospering in the midst of being rejected by his brothers, being removed from his home and father, and being relegated to the position of a servant. In a sense this passage reveals the true success that should be ours regardless of our circumstances. Four characteristics are revealed concerning the success of Joseph.
I. TRUE SUCCESS IS CONTRADICTORY v.1-2
We think if we have the right circumstances, if we know the right people, or if we have enough money success will come or it is ours now. God’s version of success is a paradox. Success in the Lord has nothing to do with our position, preeminence, or pennies. Joseph has been sold into slavery, traveling in a caravan on the way to Egypt. He has lost his father, his brothers, and his coat, the claim to an inheritance. Everything is against this young man, yet we read in verse 2, “he became a successful man.” We feel in our culture that in order to succeed one must get the breaks, have money, or have the will to better himself. This young man prospers in spite of his circumstances.
How many feel and even say, “I could never be successful, because of my family, my lack of education, or the problems in my life.” Many have become trapped by their circumstances. It is always so encouraging to hear of someone who left the ghetto and became a success. Many of these stories involve sheer will power or hard work. Yet our story is not related to man pulling himself up, but to a supernatural success spawned by the Lord Himself.
The key phrase here is, “The Lord was with Joseph.” True success begins with the Lord’s presence in the life. When one has a right relationship with the Lord, the potential is there for the individual to succeed regardless of his circumstances. He can be successful in his responses, his attitude, and his character. Negative circumstances are not a hindrance, but rather the Divine paradox used to enhance the Lord. Divine success is inexplicable in human terms. The only explanation for Joseph’s prosperity was the Lord.
II. TRUE SUCCESS IS CONDITIONAL v.1-2
There is one condition for Joseph to succeed – the Lord. God gives success. Throughout Scripture God reminds us that it is His grace that enables man to prosper. In the case of Joseph, God had handpicked this man for a certain purpose. Yet Joseph was not some puppet that was manipulated without his will being involved. Two factors are implied in the text.
A. The Power of the Lord 2-3
Joseph did not have the capacity to prosper or to be free from bitterness in and of himself. This capacity was recognized by Potiphar as being the Lord in Joseph’s life (v. 3). So, a man may work himself out of a difficulty, but either he would be full of pride, or full of anger over having to work so hard. True success affects the person inwardly, not just his circumstances. The power of God in the life of Joseph is the explanation for his success.
B. The Preeminence of the Lord 1-9
We see two conditions that Joseph met to experience success.
1. His Relinquishment to Service v.1-2
Joseph had been the heir apparent to his family’s fortune. He was the favorite son, now he has become a slave. He had a dream from God that he would be a ruler, instead he is a purchased servant in a Gentile home. Joseph could have been bitter and become a rebel, refusing to serve this master. However, Joseph was yielded to His heavenly Master, so that if the Lord wanted him serving in an Egyptian home, that was His business. It is the attitude of total surrender that brings prosperity to the soul.
2. His Resistance to Sin v.7-9
Further, Joseph was a man of purity, refusing to give into the immoral temptations from Potiphar’s wife. One cannot know success from God’s perspective and live with known sin in his life. Joseph desired to be right with the Lord, regardless of what his circumstances were. This is the true expression of yieldedness to the preeminence of the Lord.
III. TRUE SUCCESS IS CONSPICUOUS v. 3-4
“Now his master saw that the Lord was with him…” When one is experiencing the supernatural success from the Lord it will be obvious to those around the individual. Again, Joseph was just an instrument whereby God manifested His success through His servant. Think of it, a servant making this kind of impression on his master. The Lord was so prevalent in Joseph’s life that he became Potiphar’s personal servant. Everything in Potiphar’s house was placed under the authority of Joseph. God not only revealed His power and presence through Joseph, but elevated His servant in the process. When one comes in contact with a godly individual he will either fear him or favor him.
IV. TRUE SUCCESS HAS CONSEQUENCES v.5-6
Obviously in our text Joseph prospered and was given a higher position in Potiphar’s house. So, success had personal consequences for Joseph. Also, notice that those around Joseph experienced the benefits of his success. Potiphar’s house was blessed on account of Joseph (v. 5). Everything Potiphar owned was affected by God’s blessing in the life of Joseph. Thus, if one is experiencing true spiritual success it will impact those in his family, job, or church.
1. True success is supernatural, based on God’s presence and power in our life.
2. True success has nothing to do with our circumstances. Our circumstances can be horrible, but we can be successful.
3. Our relationship with the Lord is the “key” to spiritual success. We must be willing to be placed where He wants us and to deal with sin in our life.
4. Others will see success and know God is in it.
5. God’s success will impact those around us.