Published October 16, 2014
As the single drop of water echoed through the walls one more time, thoughts would turn to days gone by. Little hope dwelt among the patrons and tomorrow would seem to be more like a curse than a blessing.
The musky smell and body odor lingered so long they were no longer noticeable. Darkness would come and squeeze the breathe of freedom from every man. However, one man seemed less affected by his circumstances than all the others, a man in prison on false accusations. A man who experienced the same dreadful place, but seemed to rise above the dire situation. His name was Joseph.
Even in the midst of prison, Joseph continued to use his God-given abilities. He seemed not to let his circumstances dictate his usefulness. What would cause the chief jailor to notice Joseph and put him in charge of all the prisoners?
First, God granted Joseph favor in verse 21. The favor shown by the warden was not self-inflicted, but God-induced. Any favor shown is a gift from God.
Second, Joseph must have responded to his situation in such a way that set him apart. His actions would reveal his heart and his character. The chief jailer would never have found favor with Joseph if God had not found favor first.
Determining God’s favor
When faced with difficult circumstances, especially those undeserved, a person’s response can be to turn inward and resent everyone. Joseph responded by allowing his exemplary work to include serving others in prison.
Two of the king’s officials found themselves in the same quarters as Joseph. For some time, he would take care of them (v.4). One day he “observed” and noticed they were dejected. He cared for those he led, noticed their emotional state, and inquired.
Joseph could have offered some kind words and went on his way. However, he made a choice that would be pivotal in his future position to save a nation. He chose to help by using his God-given gift and declare where his gift was from.
Joseph interpreted the dreams and gave God the credit. He did not let his circumstances keep him from pointing to God. Joseph was a man that lived beyond himself in the midst of his circumstances. His right perspective caused him to respond in a way that would eventually lead to everything changing.
Obstacles for using your gifts
Ministry and good work is not always immediately rewarded or noticed. Joseph had done well, but the timing of being remembered would not be soon. He would remain in prison for two more years.
If Joseph had been playing to an audience of people or circumstances, he would have given up. However, his audience was God. The gut-wrenching words “forgotten” became another companion to him in the prison he was already living.
The cupbearer had forgotten Joseph in prison, but Joseph never forgot God. Joseph remembered God, served Him, and responded in a way that would lead to him changing the fate of an entire nation.
Remember who God is, what He’s done
In our life, we can find ourselves suffering for doing what is right or feeling forgotten and overlooked. Our reaction may be one of despair and disappointment. We can have thoughts of giving up.
However, the pain we experience never negates either the Lord’s presence nor his ability to work in the midst of the mess. Peter wrote in 1 Peter 2:20, “But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.”
When we see a mess, God sees an opportunity to show us favor as we patiently endure. The perspective Joseph had in the undeserved prison was one that kept his faith and hope in the Lord rather than in the situation. Joseph did not measure the success of his calling in the circumstances of being forgotten or being in prison, but in his faithfulness and seizing the opportunities to use his God-given gifts.
The question becomes, how do we respond when we feel forgotten or persecuted? First, we must remember Who places us where we are. Joseph was wrongly accused and thrown in prison, but God, in His sovereign plan, planted Joseph to impact those to whom he would not reach otherwise.
Second, we must remember Who gives us favor in the midst of our circumstances. Genesis 39:21: “But the Lord was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer.”
No matter how hard you try when things get tough, the favor will come from one source. God will see your faithfulness and will grant you favor as you focus on him.
Third, focus on the Lord more than on the circumstances. Do not let the circumstances around you deteriorate your faith, rather strengthen your faith by being patient, intentional, and focused on Christ! Use the gifts He has given you right where He has placed you.
Nevertheless, intentionality is required. Thomas Jefferson once said, “I never did anything worth doing by accident nor did any of my inventions come by accident.” Neither will faith be strong unless you intentionally use the gifts God has given you, regardless of your circumstances.
How we respond is critical to the present and the future. Be patient and serve well. Lay your own desires to the side and employ your gift to the best of your ability. When things are the toughest, you should serve your best.
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