I am looking at the life of Joseph as a case study to learn about success. In my journey to learn and be more successful, I am revisiting Bible stories using this new lens (success) and am enjoying the lessons that I am learning from each one of them.
When we hear the word hard work, generally, the reaction is one of discomfort. Almost all the time, the word carries a negative meaning because it is made up of two words that do not necessarily bring any good memories. Hard work can be replaced with diligence, perseverance, or determined work, and these words encourage us to think about the values that drive the action.
Yes, hard work does pay off. When time and effort are invested in something that adds value to both the creator and others who have the same need, the diligent effort put forth by the person who created pays off.
In this blog post, I would like to share with you Joseph’s life and see how he used hard work for success.
Joseph demonstrates 4 fundamental principles that formed the foundation of his diligence. Joseph is introduced in the Bible as a farm boy, a father’s favorite, a son who lost his mother at a young age. He does odd chores at home, and one such job is to take food for his brothers, who are out in the desert taking care of the sheep.
Joseph has a clear vision about his future which he shares with his family. The vision’s content is interpreted as arrogance and adds to the causes of his brother’s jealousy. We begin to see who Joseph is after he starts his life as a slave in Egypt. His values become evident while he lives a life in undesirable circumstances.
Joseph was patient and focused
At least 13 years had to pass by before Joseph’s dream came true, but Joseph was patient and went about doing the job at hand. Even after requesting the cupbearer to remember his help, Joseph had to wait two more years for his request to be fulfilled.
Waiting was a regular part of Joseph’s life, and the same is true in our lives as well but see how Joseph stands out as he does not sit idly by waiting for an opportunity that will make his dream a reality; instead, he demonstrates focus in work at hand.
Joseph took his time to reveal his identity to his brothers because he wanted to know if they had changed in any way. Joseph does not demonstrate a hurried approach to life but instead is willing to wait for God to work his way, all the while doing the best that he can by looking for opportunities even small ones.
The most challenging thing to do when things are going our way and plenty resources are available to you is to be patient and wait for something. Here, Joseph demonstrates the need for us to stick to the plan and not become distracted. Indeed, the seven years of plenty were followed by the seven years of famine, and the work that Joseph had done in the plentiful years helped him, the country, and his family during those tough times.
Joseph’s life was built by values, and those values formed the foundation on which his actions were executed. Joseph was given a dream, but it came to pass because he lived his life making that as his identity. What is your dream today? On what have you built your foundation?
The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did,
Joseph was sold as a slave at the age of 17. Soon after he joins Potiphar’s household, Joseph is promoted as one in charge of everything in Potiphar’s house except for his wife. Soon after he lands in prison, he is given in-charge of all the king’s prisoners within the prison; this tells us that Joseph behaved the same way wherever he was. He did not let his circumstances decide his behavior but rather his values.
Joseph demonstrated honesty and integrity in his work, which helped him gain his superiors’ trust. He behaved that way because that was who he was. His outward actions were based on his inward values.
Joseph was conscientious in all his activities, which made him predictable in a good way, which then propelled him to his success.
Joseph was a leader
Joseph showed initiative in whatever situation that he found himself in, whether it be in Potiphar’s house, the prison, or in the palace. Joseph identified a way in which he could serve. He looked for ways he could add meaning to the life of the people around him.
Joseph did not consider any job below himself; instead, he took that as an opportunity to do it with all his might for the glory of God. While at home, he comes across as an arrogant individual telling everyone that they will serve him, but now he has made a 180 in his thinking. Success follows those that seek to serve and not the ones who lord it over others. They may have a moment, but true success stays with people who serve others.
Genesis 39:22, 23
So, the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. 23 The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.
This desire to serve helped Joseph exercise restraint and evaluate his choices when he sees his brothers again. Joseph had all the power, but he did not choose to lord it over them but rather show compassion even though the brothers did not deserve it.
Joseph chose servant leadership, the best kind, and this choice was made long before he was a leader in any capacity. In Egypt, he served as a slave, then he served others while being a prisoner, and then when he had real power as the Prime minister, Joseph was prepared to give his utmost service to the one who gave Him that opportunity.
Joseph was anchored
All through his life in Egypt, we find that Joseph was anchored in the word of God.
Joseph says to Potiphar’s wife, “How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” This shows us that Joseph evaluated his every thought and action against God’s word and his priority was to obey God than man.
We again see Joseph with the king’s officials in prison when they are troubled with their dreams. Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams.” He is saying to the officials this problem may be too big for you but not for God. It also reveals how Joseph approached any challenge he faced; this is easy for God.
When Joseph is brought into the king’s presence to interpret his dream, he is honest about his abilities. Joseph says, “I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.” The first thing that Joseph does is to give credit to the one who deserves it. It is not by our might or our ability but by the one who is our author of our lives.
Again, we see Joseph in Genesis 45:5 And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. Joseph realized everything happens for good to those who have put their faith in the God.
In any situation, Joseph placed God’s word before his action so that his life will reveal the glory of Him. Where are you anchored today? Examine your actions, and what does it show? Your own desires or the glory of God.
Did Joseph have to work hard? But of course. He entered Egypt as a slave, and he worked in less than ideal conditions. Repeatedly the Bible says that the Lord was with Joseph. Are you in a situation in your life where your circumstances are similar to Joseph’s? What can you learn from Joseph today?
I’ve learned that Joseph was built by his values, guided by patience, driven by service, and was anchored in the word. Living life this way helped him not to despair in his present circumstance but live out his life in service, doing his best work every day for the benefit of the people around him.
If we asked Joseph today the secret to his success, I believe he will say belief in the vision that God has given you and know that He will bring you to it no matter how impossible that vision may seem, in light of your current situation.
Success is a lifelong process and this journey is more about getting to know yourself and changing the way you think and live for others. When you serve with pure intentions you will be as the Psalmist says, like a tree that is planted by the waters yielding its fruits in due season.