I always love stories where somebody has been given or put in charge of a kingdom. Most of those stories whether true or fictional follow the same narrative, a person is given dominion, goes through a phase of losing his purpose or sight of their original calling either through pride, greed, or self-righteousness and either fall or are redeemed. Look back at any place in the world, there was once somebody who was put in power who started with good intentions and then gave way to something else or went against those intentions for the bad; a long list of bad motives, idols, and actions. This is the storyline that dates all the way back to Adam and Eve. I tend to love the stories more where I see someone who started good, struggled with the bad but then was once redeemed. It’s funny because I truly believe that narrative is wired in our DNA and we as humans are immensely attracted to those stories. It’s much rarer to see a true storyline where a man was not swayed or didn’t become self-righteous when put into power and had dominion.
Joseph was a man who had a crown held over his head by God and God gave Joseph dominion, as well as abundant life for seven years in Egypt. God then struck the region with famine; another example of God keeping his promise of a life and world of suffering. God called Joseph to rule over and be in charge over Egypt which he did through a Pharaoh. After Pharaoh had told Joseph he would rule over this land, he then prepared Joseph for his new role by giving him a ring, dressing him in robes and nice linens, and then placing a gold chain around his neck. This isn’t much different when God calls us to places of dominion, authority, and ownership such as work. God calls us to have influence and dominion over our positions. Whatever that may entail day to day may change, but the calling is the same. I wonder why Moses had decided to write verses 41-43, I mean he could have just said God put Joseph in charge of Egypt. However Moses wrote about the preparations of Joseph embracing his calling and position.
Why should it be any different for me? God calls me to positions of influence, dominion, and power such as being a friend, brother, son, and an engineer at a small construction company. I look back in my life and see that God put me in several positions of leadership and ownership such as soccer captain, a YoungLife leader, an athletic coordinator at UMW, etc. Any and all positions require preparations like Joseph, to cloth myself in certain things to know my role/place which will better help me serve in that calling as long as I stand firm in the fact that I was and am called to these positions by God, not on my own power or doing.
This made me think what exactly do I need to put on at work and the obvious answer is what we read in Ephesians 6, the armor of God. The Armor of God will stand against the enemies schemes, Satan will try and convince me or tempt me in my job to take credit, to bend my faith or concede it, in order to obtain success or whatever selfish desires arise. Ephesians 6, I feel, speaks perfectly of Joseph; verses 13 and 14 in particular, which say, “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness. Joseph stood firm when faced with famine, took ownership of his role that God called him to rule and provide for Egypt and its people not for his own personal righteousness but for God’s because he fully knew that he was where he was because God had put him there.
I confess I don’t know if my faith would be as strong ad Joseph’s when famine hits my life or in my intense and tough work environment. As an engineer for a construction company, again, I see this environment of anger and blame. We need to get things built and when something doesn’t get built on time or is done wrong (both of which always happen), then somebody gets in trouble. As the general contractor it’s our job to limit those errors and handle the mistakes when they are made and try to best organizing the project so there are the fewest errors possible. This dynamic can create a very dog eat dog environment, an environment I’ve been thrown into head first and had to hit the ground running, which is great and all, but I need to take the preparations Joseph did before he stepped into his role. Joseph is a great a model of how to embrace our callings, the preparation/acknowledgement that is needed upon stepping into a calling, and the importance of sustaining and standing firm in faith and our identities in Christ.
I wonder when Joseph learned more about God, during those 7 years of abundant life or the time of the famine. Obviously, he learned through both but speaking from personal experience I think our identities in Christ are tested and thus grow more in the times of famine. God provided on paper so to speak seven amazing years for Joseph and then tested his faith when the famine struck and Joseph stayed true to his calling, to his God, to his faith, and to the truth of who he was and why he was there. Times of famine in my life or the struggles in my workplace really help call out where my dependency is, what my identity is in, and what I’m glorifying. I think those are 3 great questions to ask myself in the midst of suffering or when life and work get hard. At work I often find myself in a plagued land, not necessarily bad but an environment corrupted by human desire and sin. It’s definitely tough there, my faith is tested, and identity is challenged, and surrounded by an environment that glorifies worldly things. On the other hand when we are living “abundantly” it’s easy to be prideful in a title or role, in “my work”, to glorify other things, become self-reliant and righteous, to turn our backs from the one who put us there and turn back to our sinful nature. Joseph was consistent, steadfast, faithful, and rooted in his calling/leadership role/position. However, most importantly Joseph embraced God through a life of abundance and a life of famine.
It’s easy for me to think that when things are hard and things that are against my faith in my relationship with Jesus that the Lord has no part in that; which just isn’t true. One of my good friends Tim said, “I don’t think God creates evil, but he allows it and because he allows it he can and does prove again and again that his goodness far surpasses and conquers it.” This is what God is teaching me right now, that in the midst of my struggle, suffering, and tough work environment, God is using this to transform me by testing and growing my faith. Romans 5:3-4 “not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” I need to embrace my identity, my calling, my suffering and my job all the same; all are for and by the glory of God. There is a lot of freedom in that.
Image: freeimages/Saulius Vaivada