There was a young boy who had a great home – a bit dysfunctional, well, a lot dysfunctional. His father favored him. His brothers hated him. He had a delightful place in life… holidays were huge. The entire tribe turned out to celebrate. They would have big events, eat lots of food. Their family had a bit of a favored status in the neighborhood, so they had lots of friends.
Holidays were a big deal – probably lots of pranks – you know how families with lots of boys can get. And the stories. They lived in a story telling culture. So they would sit for hours and tell stories of their ancestors, stories of their own escapades. Stories of their God. Joseph was one of the youngest, but he loved listening and taking part. Being part of a big family was particularly special at the holiday times.
Then, one day, Joseph got separated from his family – actually, his brothers got so mad at him that they sold him into slavery. They thought about killing him, but decided to sell him instead. Joseph’s life took a dramatic turn. There was no more family. No more favored status. No more support system. He was on his own.
He probably experienced what a lot of people experience when they are suddenly in situations that are less than desirable. First, there is fear. Then anger and then despair. Joseph was a person, just like you and I. He wasn’t super human. He experienced normal emotions, but he rose above.
He learned to survive in this new environment. Learned how to find his way, but there were times – on his birthday perhaps, or at a holiday, when the echoes of home were so loud in his head that it hurt. There were years when he lost track of time all together. Then something would remind him of home.
Joseph didn’t have Christmas. His holidays were different. But annual celebrations are important to people. His traditions were as important to him, as ours are to us. The loneliness and isolation that we can feel at this time of year can sink us into despair, or help us rise to new places of security. We can learn from Joseph how to deal with it well.
- Joseph lived today.
When he got up in the morning, he paid attention to what was in front of him. He had been a powerful young man. Now he was a servant. He became the best servant he could be. You can’t become the best at today if you are attached to yesterday. You have to let it go, and be the person God created you to be today.
2 Timothy 1:7 (Amplified Bible)
7For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), (What about me??) but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control.
2. Joseph fled wrong doing and short cuts.
In life there are lots of opportunities to relieve our pain. Joseph remained true to the giftings God had given him and didn’t try to make it on his own. He let God open opportunities for him, even when it made things more difficult for a while.
3. Joseph ministered to others.
a. Joseph found people who he could minister to.
b. While he was in prison, he used the gifts God had given him. Here is the thing that blows my mind: Joseph didn’t give up faith in God – God had given him a dream that hadn’t come true – in fact, he was far from having his family bow down to him, yet Joseph still had faith that God would use him to interpret dreams. Joseph was able to minister to others because he didn’t give up his faith in God.
c. If you have lost your faith, you need to ask God to return it, to restore it.
Joseph wasn’t the only one in the Bible to be completely removed from his element and put in a foreign place. The whole reason we celebrate Christmas is because Jesus left heaven – he left a place of peace, joy, love – he left his position of strength and security – to be born in a barn, as a vulnerable baby – to live and walk like you and I – He was isolated – he went away to pray regularly, a little different than sitting next to God on a throne and yacking it up.
He became Immanuel – God with us. God took on the form of a person – in a way that was so personal – he took on the role of isolation – so that He could understand us, feel with us, communicate with us. He knows you and what you are going through. He won’t leave you, and He will comfort you. When Jesus returned to heaven, he sent the Holy Spirit. When you accept Jesus into your heart, you receive the Holy Spirit – God living inside you – not with you when you’re good, but in you, not leaving. You are not alone this Christmas. God’s not leaving.
However, what is reality, and what we feel aren’t always the same thing. That is when we come back to walking it out. Joseph knew how to walk it out.
- He did his best today,
- fled from doing wrong and didn’t take short cuts,
- and he ministered to others along the way.
God had him there for a reason. He was building character in him. He was getting him ready to lead a nation. Look forward. Don’t look back. Get ready for what God is preparing you for. Get excited for what God is preparing you for. Get excited that you have a purpose. God wouldn’t be preparing you if you didn’t have a purpose. He’d be letting you sit in a lazyboy the rest of your life. God cares too much for you to let that happen.
Joseph didn’t know when his day was coming, and he certainly didn’t expect it would mean standing before Pharaoh and governing a nation. He just wanted out of prison. Preparation = perspiration. This is hard work. Keep your eyes on the goal – God is perfecting your faith, he is perfecting you for the jobs He has made you for. When you feel isolated this Christmas, reach out and find someone else to encourage. Don’t be tempted to take a shortcut – keep facing forward because your day is coming.