God's Creative Call

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Slave & Prisoner: Performance Under Pressure

Lesson 21
Slave & Prisoner: Performance Under Pressure
Genesis 39-40

How do you react when you are treated unjustly? How do you feel when you do everything you can to serve God well, only to have the bottom drop out of your life?

I don't like it at all. However, I have found that when sharing the gospel with non-believers and encouraging people to repent of their sins, I should expect negative and harsh treatment. Jesus told us that this would be so. When bad things happen in my life, I need to step back and confess any sin in my life and try to find out what God is teaching me by allowing this in my life.

GROUP DISCUSSION. Share a time in your life when you felt you were treated unfairly.
When I was working for a grocery store chain in the HABA division. My immediate boss was an overbearing, mean and critical man! I was told that I wasn't working fast enough or efficiently enough and thus did not deserve overtime pay when I stayed later to get all the work done. My boss made me stay later to finish some of the work, but he craftily made sure that I didn't go over the 40 hr. work week maximum so I couldn't collect overtime pay. I found out much later that this was illegal, but I was so grateful that I could finally quit that job when I got married that I didn't bother pursuing legal action.

PERSONAL REFLECTION. What is your attitude toward people who believe unjust accusations about you?
I used to worry when I knew that people didn't like me for my personal expressions and speaking out about ideological, political, and/or moral reasons. But over time, I learned that I am living my life to an audience of One. What others think or say about my faith, walk with Christ, and adherence to Biblical principles and ethics doesn't really matter. What matters is what God thinks about me. Following His ways and Word in my life is more important than the popular opinions and moral relativism of those who want to live in a secular humanistic society.

Joseph faced unfair treatment after he became a slave in Egypt. His example of perseverance under pressure and the way he coped with a shattering reverse can be helpful to us in similar difficulties. Read Genesis 39.

1. What are the steps to Joseph's success when he comes to Potiphar's house (39:1-6)?

Joseph was blessed by the Lord in all that he did. Potiphar noticed this and put him in charge of all that he owned. Potiphar's household was blessed because of Joseph. Joseph was trusted by Potiphar.

2. Describe the increasing pressure Joseph now experiences (39:6-12).

Joseph was handsome and well-built. Potiphar's wife tried to tempt and pressure him into having sex with her. He refused even though she continued to tempt him each day.

3. What can we learn from the way he resists temptation?

Joseph had gained the trust of Potiphar and he didn't want to ruin that trust. He stated that doing what she wanted was a wicked thing and a sin against God. Despite the temptation, Joseph refused her advances and even avoided being anywhere near her.

4. How does Potiphar's wife put pressure on her husband to get revenge on Joseph (39:13-20)?

The day that she tried to trap him into being with her alone in the house, Joseph ran but left his cloak behind. Potiphar's wife used that cloak as evidence when she lied to Potiphar and claimed that Joseph tried to seduce her.

5. How do you suppose Joseph might feel about this second injustice?

Unfairly accused, sentenced to prison and without recourse because Potiphar isn't going to believe that his wife was a liar. He probably knew that he didn't have a chance to convince Potiphar that he was innocent of his wife's charges.

6. When you have been in a situation where you were treated unjustly, how did you feel about God's letting it happen?

At the time, I wasn't thinking that "God let this happen to me." But as a result, I was glad to be able to get out of a job that I disliked anyway. The unfair treatment of my superiors there was all the more reason to quit that job. When I returned from my honeymoon, a month later I found out I was pregnant. I found a temp job working in an income tax prep office and learned a lot about income tax preparation. This enabled me to do our own taxes for many years.

7. In what way does Joseph now seem different than when we saw him in his father's house?

He was more humble than when he lived at home with his father and brothers. The Lord continued to bless him and the warden of the prison put him in charge of the other prisoners.

8. As the chapter ends (39:20-23), how does Joseph's prison situation parallel his experience in Potiphar's house?

They were similar because both Potiphar and the prison warden saw that Joseph was trustworthy and blessed by the Lord. They both put him in charge of things.

9. Read Genesis 40. Describe the new situation in which Joseph now finds himself (40:1-8).

The king's cupbearer and baker were put in prison with him. Each had a dream but didn't know how to interpret them. Joseph told them that the interpretation of the dreams belong to God. He asked them to describe their dreams to him.

10. In 40:9-19 how do the dreams and Joseph's interpretations differ?

Since these men were trusted in preparing and tasting Pharoah's food, one of them must have been suspected of doing a serious wrong which threatened Pharaoh's life. Joseph's interpretation of the cupbearer's dream was favorable and led to his release, but the baker's dream led to the baker's execution.

11. What are the results for the cupbearer, the baker and Joseph (40:20-23)?

The cupbearer was released and restored to his original position, the baker was executed and Joseph was forgotten by the cupbearer so he stayed in prison for 2 years.

12. At this point how do you think Joseph feels?

He probably felt betrayed, once again, by this ungrateful and lying cupbearer. He may have wondered if he would ever get out to the prison, but he didn't dwell on this and continued to work hard for the warden. He kept a positive attitude and the warden noticed and promoted him to administrator at the prison.

13. What impresses you about Joseph in light of these incredible disappointments?

He didn't give up hope. Despite the unfair treatment by other people, he continued to trust and rely on God in his present circumstances. At this point, the odds of Joseph getting out of prison probably seemed hopeless. But he didn't let his current circumstances get him down or defeat his trust in the Lord. Joseph's faith was deep, even in trying, unfair and troubling situations. We find out later that God sees Joseph's good efforts and even though it appeared that it would take overwhelming odds to get out of prison, two years later Joseph got another chance.

How can Joseph's example encourage us?

Remember that deep faith can get us through even the most trying, unfair, and troubling situations. The lies and mistreatment of others should not get us down to the point where we don't trust God anymore. That is exactly what the enemy of our souls wants us to do. Instead, we are to trust in the Lord with all of our heart, mind and soul even when we don't understand why we are going through a terrible or trying time in life. We can say, "Lord, what are you trying to teach me in this?" or "Lord, what can I learn from this?" For me, I almost always find out why something happened the way it did...even though I may only realize the reason(s) much later in life.

Thank God for giving us the example of Joseph's life.

Now or Later
Think about unfair treatment you have had in your life and how Joseph's example of grace under pressure speaks to you.


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