by Mike Ratliff
7 Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! 8 Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. 9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (NASB)
10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:10-13 (NASB)
I believe that what ails the visible Church the most at this time in the early 21st Century is actually the root of most, if not all, of the growing apostasy we are witnessing. This ailment is the product of decades of poor doctrine and man-serving preaching and teaching. God has given the Church, except for His Remnant, a spirit of stupor that has blinded them so that they have believed the lie that the center of all things is not Christ, but themselves. Their felt needs are far more important to them than God’s glory. They view God as being good when their circumstances are ok, but not good when they aren’t. They have bought their goods at Vanity Fair and they have become their idols. Let us look at a wonderful Biblical example of a man who did not devalue his relationship with God in order to have temporal pleasure.
1 Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an Egyptian officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the bodyguard, bought him from the Ishmaelites, who had taken him down there. 2 The Lord was with Joseph, so he became a successful man. And he was in the house of his master, the Egyptian. Genesis 39:1-2 (NASB)
His own brothers had sold Joseph into slavery. Those who bought him sold him again in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh. Potiphar’s name can mean, “the one whom the god Ra has given.” His position in the Egyptian government was that of Captain of the guard. He was responsible for the political security of Pharaoh. Joseph went from Jacob’s favorite and privileged son to a slave. Not only that, he was in a foreign country and an alien culture where he probably didn’t even speak the language. Remember, he had the gift, from God, to interpret dreams and had been given dreams by God of his future greatness. Now, he is slave. This makes the statement in this passage that the LORD was with Joseph puzzling to our 21st Century minds where he is called successful, but he is owned by another and he himself owns nothing.
Christians today would look at Joseph’s circumstances and believe that God had abandoned him. If their cars won’t start, or they lose their jobs, or a spouse walks out on them, or their child becomes a prodigal, or a fire takes all their possessions away they would cry out to God and, in despair, believe that they are being sorely treated. Why? Their religion tells them that they are supposed to be able to name it and claim it. They should be able to never be sick or suffer these things if they have enough faith. However, God is with Joseph as He is with all of His children. Their part is in how they respond in the place God has them.
3 Now his master saw that the Lord was with him and how the Lord caused all that he did to prosper in his hand. 4 So Joseph found favor in his sight and became his personal servant; and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he owned he put in his charge. 5 It came about that from the time he made him overseer in his house and over all that he owned, the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house on account of Joseph; thus the Lord’s blessing was upon all that he owned, in the house and in the field. 6 So he left everything he owned in Joseph’s charge; and with him there he did not concern himself with anything except the food which he ate.
Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. Genesis 39:3-6 (NASB)
Joseph’s excellent character shines forth so brilliantly that his master, a pagan, finds that he has a wonderful slave. The LORD is with Joseph, but for this to be made evident to Potiphar then Joseph must have come to grips with his circumstances, fully knowing that God is sovereign. He made up his mind to be the best at whatever position God had placed him. He was in the lowest position in the land of Egypt, but God was with him and he was a successful man. Joseph was an excellent servant to his master because he worked at it. God was with him, but Joseph still had to do the work. He also, did everything in such a way that his master did not suffer loss. Potiphar put him in charge of his entire household.
What must we take from this? The place you and I are in right now is the best place to be because God has placed us there. Therefore, what are we to do? We are to serve Him for His glory no matter what our circumstances are. We are to obey Him. We are to do all of this not from the motivation of self-glory or with the expectation that if we do well we will receive in kind. Perhaps we will, but more than likely we won’t. Those in love with their religion don’t want to hear the truth. The messengers of God’s truth often suffer much at their hands. No, we are to look at our circumstances, and like Joseph, be the best we can be there by God’s grace. Where God has placed us in the best place for us to be.
Soli Deo Gloria!