This morning I read the story of Joseph again. I thought about how, at about 17 years old, he had the personal fortitude to flee the lustful temptations of his master’s wife. His reasoning? After professing his loyalty to his master (her husband), which really was a greater loyalty to him than she had as his wife, he declares, “How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?” (Gen 39:9). It would be disloyal and wrong to dishonor his master, but it would be “great evil and sin” to dishonor God.
Potipher’s wife twists the story to falsely accuse Joseph, as you know, and off to prison he goes. Left to ponder his already unimaginable life–left for dead by his brothers, only to later be sold into slavery by them, taken against his will to a foreign land–things began to look up as he was number two in Potiphar’s house. But, once more, the floor of life drops out from under him, landing him right into a dungeon. Little did he know he’d be there for 13 long years, that same foundation holding firm in the trial.
In Temptation and Trials I Fear God
Miraculously delivered out of that temptation, Joseph literally becomes a rags-to-riches story a second time when he is elevated to be the right-hand man of Pharaoh himself. After famine sends his brothers to him in search of grain and everything that happens after, they fail to detect who they are talking to. He gives them instructions as they head back to their father once more. And in those instructions he makes his declaration, “Do this and you will live, for I fear God…” (Gen 42:18).
There is much more to the story, But for our purposes today let’s be careful to observe one thing: the strength of Joseph’s convictions. Joseph is a man’s man, and he is so because he is first God’s man, he “feared” (had reverential awe for) God.
Joseph is a man’s man, and he is so because he is first God’s man.
Jospeh: A Model of Lifelong Conviction
Conviction–no matter how strong it is–is utterly meaningless in the end if it is not conviction in God. Plenty of people have survived prison camps, like Joseph, and come out with great courage, resolve, and conviction. Remarkable men and women, no doubt. But apart from Christ, the most noble act, birthed out of the deepest conviction, has no eternal value.
Conviction–no matter how strong it is–is utterly meaningless in the end if it is not conviction in God.
The critical difference is what, or rather Who our convictions are established upon. The biblical record shows that for over a quarter of a century leading up to Genesis 42, in a land full of pagan idolatry, Joseph unflinchingly declaring his allegiance to the God of his fathers, the Lord. And he would do so until his dying breath, when he made them promise to carry his bones back out of Egypt when, by faith, he trusted God would lead them out someday.
And Joseph made the Israelites swear an oath and said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place.”Genesis 50:25 NIV
The Foundation of Your Life
The obvious line to draw across the pages of Scripture is to Jesus’ words of weal and woe at the end of His Sermon on the Mount. Joseph’s foundation of fearing God in the Old Testament is fulfilled as we today give up our idols and surrender our lives to the Lord Jesus Christ.
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practiceis like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”Matthew 7:24-27 NIV
If we are to withstand the temptations and trials of life, our lives must be built upon the foundation of the fear of God. For the first 34 years of my life I built my life on sand. It had some religion here and there, but not truly Christ; it was all still sand. Looking back, I praise God that he sent the storms and decimated the house of my life in September 2005. Out of that holy catastrophe He mercifully showed me to how to rebuild my house, my life, on the Rock of Jesus Christ. I have lived through 15 years of sun and storms since then. My house has shaken violently at times, but still it stands firm, and I owe it all to Him. Can you say that?
Standing Strong Against Temptations and Trials
Everything we do as Christians must have the weight of the Joseph’s convictions. You and I, if we are to be men and women as God designed us, must be like Joseph. Our spiritual backs must be straight, shoulders back, and chests out. We must stand tall against every temptation that is intended to dull us, or worse, destroy us.
As is often the case, what is true spiritually is not necessarily true physically. What do I mean? Spiritually our backs are straight with Godward conviction. Physically, however, our posture is the opposite. The world must see us bent low in meekness, in humility serving everyone as we beg them to be reconciled to their Creator.
Is Joseph’s foundation your foundation today?
Have your coworkers seen it in your actions that your life screams, “I fear God”? Husbands, in your wife’s most private estimations of you, does she see that conviction in you? (Or, if you’re not married, would she?) Wives, what about in you?
Are those three words the foundation on which you and I are building our lives and legacies? If you died suddenly and your loved ones turned over every stone of your estate in this life, what would they find? If they analyzed every file on every digital device you used, would their estimation of you change?
You want to leave a legacy? You want to leave your kids a legacy? Here’s the only legacy that matters,
“I fear God.”
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