Convictions without Compromise: A Study of the Influential Life of the Great Ancestor Joseph
Pr. Phinni Joseph
Influence is the power at work to affect somebody’s action, character or beliefs. As we live in this world, we are subject to many influences: of people, places or events. Such influences can be for good or bad and it often relates to the most subtle area of human behavior. Hence it is mandatory for each individual to be cautious of the varied influences that we are welcomed with or exposed to. This is more significant when it comes to the lives of the children of God. Since they are exposed to hostile surroundings of this world, people of God should be influenced by divine patterns or people that can lead them in a godly life here on earth. The scripture introduces numerous people and events so that we can be exposed to better paradigms and thereby influenced by them to shape our behavior, character and actions. Here is a simple attempt to portray the influential traits of a significant character from the patriarchal stories.
Joseph was the son of Jacob and Rachel. Though the God of patriarchs is not called God of Joseph, the promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is transmitted through Joseph. The story begins with a young, energetic person who was the favorite child of his father. Since the father Jacob loved him dearly, his brothers were jealous of him and hated him. The colored robe became the token of his father’s love and a constant reminder of his status with the father. Hated by his brothers, sold to strangers, sent to prison for no reason, Joseph had to tread a difficult path until the Lord delivered him and honored him as the second in the Egyptian empire. However, the story of Joseph with all its ups and downs, failures and success, uncertainties and unexpected honors offers strong impetus and remain influential for people of all generations. Especially those who want to lead a dynamic and vibrant spiritual life and commitment. Here are some of the influential traits drawn from the story of Joseph.
i) The Mission of the Uncompelled Hour
When Joseph was seventeen years of age his father sent him to Shechem, where his brothers were herding the sheep. Joseph went to Shechem but his brothers had already moved to Dothan. Though Jacob sent him to Shechem Joseph went an ‘extra mile’ to meet his brothers in Dothan. This was in fact the uncompelled mile for Joseph, unobligated mission prompted by his concern for his brethren. This route which he had taken by himself turned out to be a challenging one; for betrayal, slavery and imprisonment awaited him in this path. It was a voluntary move to the unknown with the welfare of his brethren in mind. Jesus himself in the Sermon on the Mount reminded us of the ‘extra mile’ as a kingdom value. (Mat. 6: 41). Though Joseph took the route to Dothan with the immediate need of meeting his brothers, the mission of the uncompelled hour turned to be the mission of meeting the need of a nation, in fact a generation (Gen. 45:5).
ii) Dare to Dream Big
Joseph in his young age began to see dreams that contained his destiny. His double dream implied the obeisance of parents and brothers to him, absolutely for a cause that is greater than him. It contains a perfect vison of future mission. It was a dream that challenged the existing foundations, parents/elders would bow before him, and that he is going to lead. It was beyond ordinary that implies unusual and unconventional destiny! He made a public declaration of dreams not mindful of the approval of his hearers. Dreams or visions give clarity to our behavior/attitudes and serves as the catalyst for advancing to the destiny. What we lack today is not wealth/titles or honors but vision or right perspective of things. The spirit filled community is specially empowered to have dreams and visions. Joseph was not only seeing the dreams but also interpreting the dreams. Eventually he turned out to be the one who designs or interprets the vison for a nation in times of crisis – the master plan to save a generation. The challenge before us is to dream big, for a better cause, a higher purpose of saving a generation.
iii) Detachment for Development
Yet another influential aspect that we see in this story is detachment that is destined for development. He was taken away from the comforts of home, detached from parents and immediate relations through unexpected events. Though it seemed to be mere pressure of circumstances, it was the developments stages of a future minister of the Kingdom of Egypt. The deep pit, Potiphar’s house and prison were the schools of development. In all these places the hand of the Lord was with him to sustain and shape him. Abraham was also detached from his immediate surroundings so that he will be the father of nations. Jacob had to leave the home for unusual reasons so that he would become Israel. Yet another challenge before us, as we face the challenge of being detached from the comforts of lives is that we should be humble enough to see the moulding and shaping hand of the Lord at work. He is in the process of developing his chosen ones to make them perfect according to His purpose and call.
iv) Conviction without Compromise
Joseph was highly honored in Potiphar’s house because the house of Potiphar was blessed by his presence. He was appointed as the steward of the house over everything that Potiphar had. But the greatest challenge that he faced is the call to compromise on his convictions. Beauty, wealth and power are chief enemies that people often confront and yield easily to compromise. Though Joseph confronted these three enemies in one single challenge, woman, wealth and power, he was not ready to compromise his conviction and sin against the Lord (39:9). He would rather choose prison than enjoying the pleasures at the cost of his convictions. The Hebrew children in the fiery furnace and Daniel in the Lions’ den proved that they would never compromise on their convictions even at the cost of their lives. As we are people who belong to God we need to have deep convictions of what we profess. When the call to compromise confront and greet us at the root of our convictions Joseph is a better model to follow.
The characters of the past often influences us with values and models for present. Especially the biblical events and people provide us with spiritual values that enable us to lead a godly life. Being influenced with better models helps us to achieve our destiny, the purpose of God for our lives. One of the glittering personalities of the Old Testament the great patriarch Joseph, his life and work can be a better arena that we should be exposed to even in this generation.
Walking an extra-mile with the ‘other’ (individual, family or community) to lead them to salvation, peace and joy is a better vocation for a Christian. This path would be of uncertainties, pain and loss. But in the end we will realize that the Lord was directing our path and sending us ‘ahead’ of nations to lead them for God’s blessings. Do we have ‘Big Dreams’ for the future, Dreams that lead nations to higher blessings? Or do we limit ourselves and the work of God through the narrow vision that we cherish? It is the high time to enlarge our visions and expect greater thing from God and thereby leading an entire generation to the untold promises of God. However, nothing comes to us without paying the price due! ‘Take up the Cross’ and save the world! Say not to the comforts and to the situations that does not match with God’s purposes in our lives. In fact, detaching from our wishes and attaching to His wishes is painful! But it implies the immense possibilities of His promise, ‘you will be a blessing’, and’ the nations will be blessed through you’.
Finally, we need to keep the condition of being faithful to our convictions. Is there anything that contaminates us from being a channel of His blessings? Do we invite anything to our lives that brings obstacle in our relationship with God by compromising the truths that is revealed to us in the Scriptures? Never compromise our convictions on the altar of momentary gains. The tempting invitations will be cancelled, fiery furnace will be quenched and lions’ mouth will be shut before the ones who never compromise on their convictions! The Lord will strengthen them.