Summary: A successful person will know how to handle the bad time as well as the good time. This is a very practical post on how to manage yourself in the tough tough times and good times.
Life is a mixture of ups and downs, good times and bad times, victories and failures. As life proceeds, we all have our own share of success and failures. It is a fact that people rejoice in their good times, but find it difficult to navigate through the tough times. Here is the key, a successful person will know how to handle the bad time as well as the good time.
When we last left Joseph, he was serving out a sentence for a crime he didn’t’ commit in a place where the sun never shines, the dungeon for the king’s prisoners. Joseph is going through a tough time. So, the first question I want to answer is:
1. Navigating the tough times.
How to navigate through a tough time? Now, it has been two years since Joseph had told the royal cupbearer who spent some time in jail as well to remember me when it is well with you. Only three days after Joseph made this request, the cupbearer was released and restored to his former position serving Pharaoh directly. But he forgot about his former cell mate, who had been so helpful. It is so funny how friends forget us when they do not need any more favors.
When you are going through a tough time, you will come across situations where the people who you count upon will not stand for you.
a. Don’t get bitter with people.
When people let you down, turn it over to God without vengeance. Count on the Lord to handle the cupbearers in your life – the people who take but don’t give back, who forget you, who abandon you, who break their promises to you. It’s God’s job to deal with the cupbearers of your past. It’s your job to be faithful to a God who will not forget you.
Joke on Revenge: A young boy in Korea was a houseboy for some American soldiers. Sometimes they thought it was funny to play harmless jokes on him. They would tease him. They would tie his shoe strings together. They would lock him out of the house.
Eventually they realized that their practical jokes were not viewed as funny by the boy so they apologized. He said, “That’s okay, I will stop spitting in your soup now.”
Now, Joseph faces what looks like a non-ending trip to death in a foreign dungeon. Each day was nothing more than a monotonous, slow-moving grind, to be repeated the next day. It must have looked like nothing was ever going to change. He must have felt like his whole life was stuck.
It is here, in the place of continued suffering, that our faith is attacked with doubts, anger, confusion, loneliness, and sorrow. Suffering always changes us, but not necessarily for the better. In his book, ‘A Grace Disguised,’ Gerald Sittser, who lost his wife, his mother, and a daughter in a head-on collision, writes about the struggle that happens to us all in our losses: “Loss creates a barren present, as if one were sailing on a vast sea of nothingness. They find themselves living in a barren present that is empty of meaning.” Joseph was there, in that empty middle ground, going nowhere. But he clung to a single truth that kept him. It is inferred in every word he speaks, every action he undertakes.
b. Rely on God.
When nothing seems to change, count on God’s purposes without panic.
Affliction is always work for the better for the child of God. That is the truth that is repeated throughout pages of Scripture. Even though it looks like nothing is happening, like nothing will ever change, circumstances are being aligned and you are being refined by sufferings.
1 Peter 4:12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. Your suffering, your losses, your heartaches are not a surprise, they’re a plan. They’re not meaningless or purposeless. They are part of God’s refining process. He’s distilling your life and designing your circumstances. Pain, properly handled, can shape your life for greatness. This is the staying power of Godly character during the test.
c. Be faithful in little things.
Luke 16:10 Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.
In a tough time, do what you can the best. While Joseph was in the prison, not knowing what is the future, he served in the prison. He was in-charge of the entire affairs of the prison. He was helping people. He helped interpret the dream regarding the cup bearer and the baker.
Friends, if things are not going well with you. Don’t get bitter. Do what you can the best.
There are many of you here going through a tough time today. Don’t lose hope, turn your bitterness to God, trust God and do your best, elevation is coming.
After two whole years, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing by the Nile, and behold, there came up out of the Nile seven cows attractive and plump, and they fed in the reed grass. And seven other cows, ugly and thin, came up out of the Nile after them, and stood by the other cows on the bank of the Nile. And the ugly, thin cows ate up the seven attractive, plump cows. Pharaoh awoke and went back to sleep.
He dreamed the same dream again, only this time it involved ears of grain instead of cows. In the morning his spirit was troubled, and he called for all the magicians of Egypt and all its wise men. There was none who could interpret his dream.
The light clicks on for the royal cupbearer. The cupbearer spoke about a Hebrew guy he met while in prison a couple years before who accurately interpreted his dream and that of the former royal baker. In less than an hour, Joseph is transported from the stinking prison where he had whiled away two years of his life to the courts of the ruler of Egypt. Pharaoh addresses the prisoner by explaining that he’s had a baffling dream and that he heard reports of Joseph’s ability to explain it.
Stand there with the broken man, Joseph. Pharaoh has rolled out the red carpet for him. This is the golden moment for Joseph. This would be his chance to win over Pharaoh and to manipulate the situation to his favor, to promote himself. This is when fear can make you desperate: “I’ve got to convince Pharaoh that he needs me here in the palace. I can’t go back to that dungeon again! I need to tell Pharaoh how right and innocent I am. I need to make use of this opportunity.”
What does Joseph do? How does he handle this moment of opportunity? Genesis 41:16 “I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.”
d. Give God the glory.
Even when he gives the meaning of the strange dreams of this pagan king, Joseph constantly gives God the credit. He determined to point this human king to the King of all kings.
Genesis 41:25 Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “The dreams of Pharaoh are one and the same. God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do.”
Genesis 41:28 “It is just as I said to Pharaoh: God has shown Pharaoh what he is about to do.
The dream apparently was about the 7 years of bumper harvest followed by 7 years of severe famine. After interpreting the dream, Joseph does not look for position with Pharaoh. Genesis 41:33-34 33“And now let Pharaoh look for a discerning and wise man and put him in charge of the land of Egypt. 34Let Pharaoh appoint commissioners over the land to take a fifth of the harvest of Egypt during the seven years of abundance.
e. Don’t be an opportunist.
Leviticus 25:17 Do not take advantage of each other, but fear your God. I am the Lord your God. Notice that even here, he doesn’t try to hedge his position before Pharaoh. He doesn’t offer his resume. He doesn’t drop hints. He isn’t grasping or selfishly ambitious.
Joseph exudes a Godly character that lets the Lord have His way, in His time, for His purposes! He believed that if God wanted this to happen, it would happen. James gives us the principle. James 4:10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
What happens? Genesis 41:39-44 39Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. 40You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.”
Joseph in Charge of Egypt
41So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.” 42Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph’s finger. He dressed him in robes of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck. 43He had him ride in a chariot as his second-in-command, and people shouted before him, “Make way!” Thus he put him in charge of the whole land of Egypt. 44Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I am Pharaoh, but without your word no one will lift hand or foot in all Egypt.”
The next stop in Joseph’s experience is the golden moment in his life. Soon, Joseph is elevated to the second in command in Egypt. He has got power, authority, and money now. Joseph uses his resources and steers Egypt through 7 years of severe famine.
Listen, your attitude in your tough times will determine your future elevation and how you deal your good times will determine how you can face the next challenge of your life. Let’s look at Joseph’s life when things were going good.
2. Navigating success.
Assess risks and opportunities. After assuming office, Joseph immediately went Joseph went on an inspection tour. Genesis 41:46 Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from Pharaoh’s presence and traveled throughout Egypt. As the senior administrator, Joseph’s work touched on nearly every practical area of the nation’s life and he wanted to get familiarized with his work.
It is very important for us to assess the risks and opportunities wherever God has placed us. For that Joseph takes a tour. He wanted to have a personal look into things. He would have to become familiar with the people who managed agriculture, the locations and conditions of the fields, the crops, the roads, and means of transportation. His office would have required that he learn much about legislation, communication, negotiation, transportation, safe and efficient methods of food storage, building, economic strategizing and forecasting, record-keeping, payroll, the handling of transactions both by means of currency and through bartering, human resources, and the acquisition of real estate.
This principle is very prevalent, tested and proved in the Bible. Know your dynamics well, assess the risks and opportunities. Moses sent 12 spies to the promised land. Joshua sent 2 spies into Jericho. Nehemiah reached Jerusalem with the assignment of rebuilding the walls and he set out at night with a few men to inspect the walls.
Today, you may be in the ministry, working a job, or doing business, God wants you to assess the risks and opportunities, know the dynamics surrounding you.
Plan Ahead. Alan Lakin said, “Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.” Many argue that plans do not normally work especially in this fast-paced world where everything is changing so quickly. Some even say, don’t worry about tomorrow, so don’t plan. Don’t worry, but we are to plan for tomorrow.
Luke 14:28 Suppose one of you wants to build a tower, will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it.
Luke 14:31 Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand.
Proverbs 21:5 The plans of the diligent leads to profit.
Proper plans, however, when they are formulated ahead of time help people, family, leaders and organizations to execute projects, reach their goals, and fulfill their vision. The Chinese philosopher, Confucius said, “A man who does not plan long ahead will find trouble at his door.” Successful people and organizations are aware of this concept.
Planning ahead gives us confidence to take the risks that others may not take and so it moves us ahead without worrying about competition or loss. Without proper planning we would not be ready to respond to challenges. Hence we become reactive. Planning ahead helps you become proactive. By becoming proactive, you will be able to take the right action in the face of challenge and adversity.
During the seven years of abundant harvest, Joseph had the grain stored in cities. Genesis 41:47-49 47During the seven years of abundance the land produced plentifully. 48Joseph collected all the food produced in those seven years of abundance in Egypt and stored it in the cities. In each city he put the food grown in the fields surrounding it. 49Joseph stored up huge quantities of grain, like the sand of the sea; it was so much that he stopped keeping records because it was beyond measure.
All of us have our own share of golden times in life but a successful person will save for the future.
Proverbs 6:6-8 6Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! 7It has not commander, no overseer or ruler, 8yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.
Happily, by applying his God-given skill and wisdom, Joseph successfully brought Egypt through the agricultural catastrophe. When the seven years of good harvests came, Joseph developed a stockpiling system to store and save the grain for use during the coming drought. When the seven years of drought arrived, “Joseph opened the storehouses” and provided enough food to bring the nation through the famine. His wise strategy and effective implementation of the saving plan even allowed Egypt to supply grain to the rest of the world during the famine
Manage your affairs well. When God lifted Joseph up to a position, he managed it very well.
During the seven lean years that followed, Joseph dispensed grain to the Egyptians and other people who were affected by the widespread famine. Joseph helped the people in need, however, he never gave anything free. That is management. Genesis 41:56-57 56When the famine had spread over the whole country, Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold grain to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe throughout Egypt. 57And all the world came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe everywhere.
Genesis 47:14 Joseph collected all the money that was to be found in Egypt and Canaan in payment for the grain they were buying, and he brought it to Pharaoh’s palace.
After the people ran out of money, Joseph allowed them to barter their livestock for food. This plan lasted for one year during which Joseph collected horses, sheep, goats, cattle, and donkeys. Genesis 47:15-17 15When the money of the people of Egypt and Canaan was gone, all Egypt came to Joseph and said, “Give us food. Why should we die before your eyes? Our money is all gone.” 16“Then bring your livestock,” said Joseph. “I will sell you food in exchange for your livestock, since your money is gone.” 17So they brought their livestock to Joseph, and he gave them food in exchange for their horses, their sheep and goats, their cattle and donkeys. And he brought them through that year with food in exchange for all their livestock.
When all of the livestock had been traded, people willingly sold to Pharaoh the ownership of their lands as well. Genesis 47:18-21 18When that year was over, they came to him the following year and said, “We cannot hide from our lord the fact that since our money is gone and our livestock belongs to you, there is nothing left for our lord except our bodies and our land. 19Why should we perish before your eyes—we and our land as well? Buy us and our land in exchange for food, and we with our land will be in bondage to Pharaoh. Give us seed so that we may live and not die, and that the land may not become desolate.” 20So Joseph bought all the land in Egypt for Pharaoh. The Egyptians, one and all, sold their fields, because the famine was too severe for them. The land became Pharaoh’s, 21and Joseph reduced the people to servitude, from one end of Egypt to the other.
Joseph also, had a future management plan for the treasury. Genesis 47:23-24 23Joseph said to the people, “Now that I have bought you and your land today for Pharaoh, here is seed for you so you can plant the ground.24But when the crop comes in, give a fifth of it to Pharaoh. The other four-fifths you may keep as seed for the fields and as food for yourselves and your households and your children.”
Genesis 47:26 So Joseph established it as a law concerning land in Egypt—still in force today—that a fifth of the produce belongs to Pharaoh.
Conclusion: Listen, the life of Joseph is very much like our lives today, the times in which Joseph lived can be easily compared to our times today in terms of inflation, scarcity of food, abundance and lack. What we see is that Joseph navigated well through his trials and when blessings came he handled it well and so well that not only he, but he could lead a whole country out of crisis.
Some of you are going through tough times. You do not know what is your tomorrow. God has something amazing coming for you. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume.
Some sitting here are going through the time of your life. For some, you are seeing breakthroughs in different areas. Give all the glory to God, plan ahead so that you can prepared and face the next challenge in your life without being a failure. Let’s pray.