I’ll brief you on a bit of the background story before I get to the meat and potatoes for today. It’s the story of a young man named Joseph from a place called Canaan. Joseph was the second youngest of twelve and began tending flocks of sheep with his brothers in his youth years. As a young man, he had dreams where he saw himself being ruler over his father and all of his brothers. And well, Joseph’s brothers didn’t like his seemingly pompous attitude too much so they beat him up, threw him in a hole, and then sold him into slavery to guys who were heading to Egypt. When he got there one of Pharoah’s officials, named Potiphar, bought him and made him a slave in his household… That’s the cut and dry version of the story, but at least you’re mostly up to speed at this point if you haven’t heard it before. Let’s pick it up there:
“And the Lord was with Joseph so he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all he did to prosper in his hand. So Joseph found favor in his sight, and served him. Then he made him overseer of his house, and all that he had he put under his authority.” ~ Genesis 39:2-4
At this point in Joseph’s life, I think we can confidently say that this isn’t quite what he had in mind for his future. These are much less than ideal circumstances. His present reality didn’t line up at all with the dreams and aspirations he had of being a ruler with some major influence. But here’s the part of the story that I want to focus on today: Even in the midst of all these challenges he still performed his tasks with excellence. He wasn’t where he wanted to be but he put everything he had into the work he was given to do. It was God that caused everything that Joseph put his hand on to prosper, but this required Joseph to maintain a willingness to put his best foot forward in all areas. Consequently, Potiphar began increasing his responsibilities greatly until Joseph was in charge of managing his entire estate.
So what do you do when you’re not quite where you think you should be? Many of us find ourselves in situations where we feel like we’ve been handed the short end of the stick. Maybe life hasn’t exactly turned out the way you’ve wanted. By now, you thought you’d be way ahead of where you are but instead you feel like you’re stuck serving as a slave. My challenge for us today is faithfulness. Be faithful with what God has entrusted into your care. If you have any responsibilities at all, you’re a leader. You’re charged with the responsibility of performing certain tasks at work, taking care of your children, being a greeter at your church, doing assignments at school… whatever it is, prosper there. At the end of every day, you should be able to say that you’ve given it our all no matter what you’re doing. We’re called to bloom right where we’re planted. So aim for excellence in all things, especially when you feel discouraged about your circumstances.
It’s so important to maintain your vision of the future. You may see yourself leading a business, directing a non-profit organization, performing on stage in front of thousands, having your paintings hung-up at prestigious galleries, leading a massive movement… keep that in your focus. But before you’re performing in front of thousands, God wants to see that you’ll give it your all when your mom is your only fan. This requires a major shift in perspective in that there is nothing that is actually meaningless. No task is truly menial. Everything we do has inherent meaning, if for nothing more than the fact that it is entrusted to us to do. See each task as an end in and of itself rather than a means to an end. People will start to take notice, and most importantly God will take notice, and promotion is soon to follow. As you’re faithful with the little, God increases your influence and responsibility. Instead of being consumed with thinking about where you want to be, be fully present where you are. After his time in Potiphar’s house, Joseph got thrown in jail in Pharoah’s palace for something he didn’t do. But what we would see as another terrible setback in the plan actually became his promotion. It’s definitely worth the read in Genesis chapters 37-45.
I’ll finish with this thought from Martin Luther King Jr.:
“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”