We all experience many sufferings and trials throughout a lifetime. Some people are even genuinely victimized by another person or event. But despite all of the bad stuff, we have the choice in our response. We can humble ourselves before God and become better. Or we can become bitter. In Genesis, the story of Joseph is an example of how to be an overcomer when you are dealt extremely trying and unfair circumstances. I mean, listen to this! As a teenager Joseph was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers. Just as he is successfully making a new life in captivity he gets wrongfully accused of attempted sexual assault by his boss’s manipulative wife. Because of that he gets thrown in jail for years. Just when he thinks he may get released he has to wait two more years. But even after all of that, when he is reunited with his brothers and has the power to get even and ruin them, he doesn’t. Instead, he forgives them, embraces them and goes out of his way to make them successful. Most of us wouldn’t blame Joseph if he had wallowed his life away always thinking of himself as a victim; or taken revenge on his brothers when he had the chance. But instead, Joseph gives us an amazing example of what can happen when someone is fully surrendered to God and trusts Him no matter what. Let’s look at Joseph’s story more in depth.
Humbling Times Build Character
Not only is Joseph sold into slavery, but a lie is told to harm him and he ends up being sent to the Pharaoh’s prison where he spends years of his life. Some scholars believe he spent 10-13 years imprisoned. And he was innocent! Talk about a reason to feel defeated and victimized! But instead, I believe that Joseph still trusted and worshiped God in the midst of this great trial, because he comes out of prison with humility, character and ready to walk into a hugely important job and place of honor that God prepares for him. This makes me think of 1 Peter 5:5-6, “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”
Undoubtably, God used the time Joseph was in prison to build great humility and character into his life. Joseph probably wouldn’t have excelled in his work or shown intense grace and forgiveness to his brothers if he had been stewing away in prison thinking about how he had been victimized. Instead, he continued to worship God in spite of his circumstances and moved forward with his life. Joseph came out of prison better….not bitter. And God lifted him up in due time.
Keep Using the Gifts God Gives You
Throughout Joseph’s life we see that no matter where he goes, God’s favor is upon Him. (That is also true of us as believers in Jesus). Just after being sold as a slave into Egypt, he is promoted to run the household of one of Pharaoh’s officials. This was a big job and Joseph obviously had gifts and abilities from God to immediately step into this role and thrive. We also see him using these gifts while he is in prison as he is promoted to be in charge of the other prisoners. Joseph does not want to be in Egypt. He is a slave. But….he doesn’t have a slave mentality. Even in times of intense trial Joseph still uses the gifts God has given him. He doesn’t sit on the sideline making excuses or thinking he is disqualified from life, rather he finds purpose and meaning in his present circumstances, no matter how difficult.
God Promotes Joseph
Pharaoh has two dreams that no one in the kingdom can interpret for him….until someone remembers that there is a prisoner named Joseph who has correctly interpreted dreams before. All of a sudden, after years of life ebbing away in the pit of prison, Joseph is called in to see Pharaoh and to interpret his dreams. If there ever was a time to try to promote yourself and make yourself look good to the ruler of the land as a way to get out of prison and “make something of yourself”, now is the time. But listen to the humbleness and truth of Joseph’s response to Pharaoh. “Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.” “I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.” (Genesis 41:15-16.)Even when the chance arises to promote himself, Joseph instead humbles himself and gives God the glory He is due.
True Wisdom & Reconciliation
After God gives Joseph the wisdom to correctly interpret the dreams, Pharaoh makes Joseph his right hand man, effectively having him run the entire country of Egypt. All of a sudden, Joseph is given great honor, respect and wealth and he becomes a really “big deal” in the eyes of the Egyptians. But Joseph doesn’t get haughty about his new found fame and power. Instead, full of the humility and character that God birthed in him through his awful experiences in the pits of slavery and prison, he runs the country with great skill and wisdom, while still honoring God. As a result, millions of people are kept alive during a famine that otherwise would have devastated them all.
After being reunited with his brothers, Joseph tells them, “Don’t you see, you planned evil against me but God used those same plans for my good, as you see all around you right now—life for many people.” (Genesis 50:20). God took the devastation other people wreaked in Joseph’s life and made something good and beautiful out of the situation.
We Are Victorious Because of Jesus!
Christ has made us victorious in Him! “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37) So, even when we are victimized, we have to decide if we want to stay in the mentality of a victim, or if we want to rise out of that with Christ’s help and live a victorious life….the life of an overcomer. Jesus was and is the ultimate overcomer. He could have sunk into the victim mindset but He had better things to do with His time, like redeeming our lives and setting us free.
My pastor, John Ettore, challenged us with this statement on Sunday, “Don’t be a victim, be a Christian.” Because Jesus has set us free and given us a victorious life through what He did for us, there really isn’t any place for us to have a victim mindset. Yes, we may have been victimized, but we have a choice in how we respond. God doesn’t victimize us, but He does allow us to experience certain sufferings because He is going to transform them into something better that will help other people and refine our character.
+ Are you living as a victim or as a victor?
+ When unfair or victimizing circumstances happen, like they did to Joseph, what steps can you take to have a victorious attitude in the midst of the pit?
+ Is there someone who has victimized you that you need to forgive? Forgiving someone doesn’t mean the thing they did to you was OK; rather it frees you to let go of being a victim and walk forward into the full and victorious life Jesus offers you right now.
Jesus, thank you for sacrificing Yourself on the cross and paying for my sins, so that in You, I find freedom, redemption and victory. Look into my heart and show me if there are any areas where I cling to a mindset of being a victim rather than a victor. Help me to turn from the false comfort and safety of the victim mentality and truly own the victorious freedom You died for me to receive. Also, show me if there is anyone I need to forgive. Help me to follow Your example of forgiveness. Amen.