By T. F. Tenney
Joseph of the Old Testament is one of my special heroes. The pit couldn’t hold him. Potiphar’s house couldn’t seduce him. The jail couldn’t discourage him, nor could the prime ministership of Egypt exalt him m pride. He was the same Joseph wherever he went. It is a unique man whom circumstances, debased or exalted, cannot change. I am convinced that God is bringing forth Josephs for this age who have the same spirit.
Seeing the great need for the preservation of the people of God in a unique manner, the Lord dispatched a Joseph to Egypt. There was no missions program, so he went as a slave, placed in bondage by his own brothers. It is unique to note that no one can bind you like your own brothers. The only time Samson, prior to his haircut, was successfully bound it was by his own brothers. Dreams oftentimes bring men into collision with their brothers. Joseph was despised for his dreams.
On your way to being a Joseph for last-day revival, being the provider for and depositor of revelation for Egypt, you may find yourself hi like circumstances. Yours may not be a literal pit, but it can be a pit just as lonely, just as desolate as the one Joseph found himself in. Can you imagine looking up from the bottom, with all of your brothers at the top of the pit looking down on you? Joseph’s circumstances never altered his spirit.
Paul’s secret to success was the fact that, though he had a thorn in the flesh, he never allowed the thorn in the flesh to become a thorn hi his spirit. He kept his spirit pure and right before God. The Scripture tells us that Joseph was “brought down to Egypt.” It is apparent that there will always be a corning down, or a bringing down, before there is a lifting up. if you do not know how to take your period of obscurity there will be no period of honor. If you don’t know how to live hi the darkest pit, there will never be the bright lights of the throne. How did Joseph make it? The Scripture decrees in Genesis 39:21—”The LORD was with Joseph. . . .“ That means He was in the pit, at Potiphar’s house, in the prison. There was never a place where Joseph was that the Lord was not there. I am quite sure at times Joseph did not have the emotional sensation that assured him God was with him. He didn’t have a Bible; he didn’t have a pastor; he didn’t have a church; he didn’t have fellow saints. As one man said, “How easy it is to be carnal people who have to feel to be convinced that something is true. There are times when you don’t feel anything but you just know that the Lord is with us, that He will never leave us nor forsake us.”
What a roller coaster! Joseph, caught in the rhythm of life and of God, experienced the humiliation of being thrown hi a pit and dragged to a slave block. Then there was the honor and acclaim that came with finding favor in Potiphar’s eyes followed by being lied upon and being thrown into jail. Finally—at last—he was trusted with the throne.
Consider this: If Joseph had not been thrown in the pit, he would have never met the Ishmaelites. If he’d never met the Ishmaelites, he’d never have been sent to Egypt. If he’d never been sent to Egypt, he’d never have been in Potiphar’s house. If he’d never been in Potiphar’s house, he’d never have met Potiphar’s wife. If he’d never met the wife, he’d never have been thrown in prison. If he’d never been in prison, he would have never met the butler nor the baker. If he’d never met them, Pharaoh would never have heard of him. Consequently, as we track his life, we have to admit that like Paul would write centuries later, ‘~All things work together for good”—though at the moment of its living he could not explain it. It was part of preparing a Joseph for his dispensation.
Someone has said, “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Crisis reveals and absolute crisis reveals absolutely. Some may observe that circumstances are what made Joseph. No, circumstances are what revealed Joseph.
What’s the flip side of this? Why is it that some men become Josephs of restoration, provision, revival, and leadership while others in the same era fail? Edwin Cole made a unique observation. He said, “Your talent can take you places that your character cannot maintain.” How true! I have seen people thrust into positions for which their character was not prepared. They have talent—yes! But, as you’ve heard me say, God is dedicated to character not talent. It takes time in the pit and Potiphar’s house and the prison to reveal true character.
The psalmist said, “The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree.” In ancient times when a palm sprout would first stick its head above the sand, they would take a large rock and place on it. This forced the palm’s roots to grow down before the exposed tree grew up. Consequently, its roots wrapped around rocks before its branches and trunk ascended to the sky. When the winds came it was already gripping the rock and could not be blown out of the sand. Sometimes the palms will bend all the way to the ground and then pop back up. Why? Because they are anchored to the rock. How often does God do that? He places things upon us that we don’t understand to make us grow down before we grow up. Beware of unsanctified talent.
Downfalls and failures don’t come suddenly. Charles Swindoll teaches in one of his books that Solomon’s downfall was due to:
1) An unwise alliance with unbelievers (I Kings 3:1)
He was always marrying new wives to form political alliances. This could be due to lust or the fear of man.
2) An unholy involvement with idolatry (I Kings 3:2-3)
When the Temple was built the high places were not torn down. Preoccupation with things is just another form of idolatry.
3) Unresolved conflicts with a friend (I Kings 9:10-14)
Solomon entered an agreement with King Hiram to provide building supplies. He cheated King Hiram and never made it right. Infection was set- ting into his soul.
4) Unrestrained preoccupation with sex (I Kings 11:1-8)
Sensual gratification became his downfall. His illicit wives and concubines turned his heart toward other gods. You may have one wife but your concubine could be the internet or x-rated videos. His character caved in, not his talent.
One man observed, “We dabble in what we know is wrong, whether provocative television, internet porn, or compromising fashions.” We justify ourselves with the excuse that “We’re not hurting anyone.” Sometimes we see other people we respect go into questionable places or looking at questionable things and we think, “I must just be a prude” and soon we’re going into the movies as well, saying, “There’s really no difference in seeing it at the cinema than watching it on video.” All I’ve got to say is, “You’ve got to draw a line somewhere” or you won’t be a Joseph for this age.
My observation has been that once a man is destined to be a revival Joseph he can expect a lot of conflict. He can expect circumstances that would divert him, people that would detour him, pride that could ultimately destroy him.
Watch your unwise associations. How often have I seen preachers who have been greatly used of God who changed their friends. They started running with those who were more “open-minded and understanding” and turned their ear from those who call for the old paths. One thing leads to another. Someone wisely observed that it follows this path: tolerating things becomes accepting things and finally it becomes embracing such people who do these things and instead of excusing what they were doing we begin to participate with them. Tolerance— Acceptance—Embracing—Watch these words. It all starts with tolerating things you once wouldn’t.
I talked to a man a few days ago who once walked tall and powerful, positive and prayerful. He pastors a great church, but of late I’ve noticed something has changed. A cynical spirit has taken hold of him. Author A. R. Bernard says that when we are cynical or bitter we can fall into any kind of unethical or mimoral behavior. This is what happened to Solomon.
Ecciesiastes 2:20-24 bears this out. The NKJ version says: Therefore I turned my heart and despaired of all the labor in which I had toiled under the sun. For there is a man whose labor is with wisdom, knowledge, and skill; yet he must leave his heritage to a man who has not labored for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. For what has man for all his labor~ and for the striving of his heart with which he has toiled under the sun? For all his days are sorrowful, and his work burden- some; even in the night his heart takes no rest. This also is vanity. Nothing is better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that his soul should enjoy good in his labor This also, I saw, was from the hand of God.
He despaired of his labor. He was tired of it. He said, “What good is it going to do to obtain wisdom and knowledge? I’m not going to be able to take anything with me. . . . And I don’t trust the people I leave it to.” He said, “A man’s days are sorrowful.. . his work is nothing but a burden; even in the night his heart takes no rest.”
There’s one word for this: cynical. He became cynical. He didn’t enjoy his work, it was a burden. He couldn’t sleep at night, continually worried about what had happened during the day. Finally he concluded, “The best thing I can do is just eat and drink and enjoy life.” He even went so far as to say, “I deserve it—it came from the hand of God.” This, my brothers and sisters, is a dangerous cynical attitude. It will lead to loss of integrity and ultimately, as it did with Solomon, to immorality.
God is looking for Josephs today who will lift up their heart in faith in our land of Egypt—to have provision for God’s people and hope for the darkness of our day. Some are reading this who are Josephs in the making. Some are in the pit—some are being dragged by circumstances you didn’t create to an auction block you’d rather not be on. Others are even now in the throes of lustful temptation. Some feel imprisoned by your circumstances. Be faithful. Love God. It’s part of the divine design to prepare you for what He has in mind. After all, we are all living to hear seven words at the end: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
I have often noted that He did not say, “medium rare”—He said “well done.” The only way to be (and hear) well done is to stay on the fire.
Are there any Josephs out there? Are you a Joseph in the making?