Joseph: Ministering in Misery (Genesis 40)

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Joseph Interprets the Dreams – Foster’s Bible Pictures (Public Domain)

Are you a fair-weather fan? Fair-weather fans only show their support during the good times. For devoted fans, being called a fair-weather fan is an insult. They might reply: “I support my team win or lose because I’m committed!” A more important question is: “Do you have a fair-weather faith?” In other words, is it only visible during the good times? Fair-weather faith is deadly because it is not true, saving faith. True faith is revealed during the good times and the bad times. Specifically, true faith endures in adversity. In Genesis 40, we witness Joseph’s faith in the Lord on display in the midst of great hardship. As we study Genesis 40, let us examine ourselves by asking three important questions:
  1. Does adversity diminish your empathy? (1-7) Poor Joseph. He was mistreated on two previous occasions. First, his brothers sold him into slavery. Second, Potiphar’s wife falsely accused him of rape. The result of the first was Joseph being sold into slavery in a foreign land. The result of the second was Joseph confined in an Egyptian prison. The good news for Joseph was that the Lord continued to sustain him and make his work successful. Even in the midst of adversity, Joseph was aware that the Lord was with him and his faith grew. For example, in verse 7, Joseph asked two of his fellow prisoners an ironic question: “Why do you look so sad today?” It is ironic because they are all in an Egyptian prison, but this question reveals that Joseph actually cared about these men. Why would he care? Joseph had genuine faith that enabled him to have empathy for others. His empathy was not diminished by adversity. This is why Joseph asked his fellow prisoners, “why do you look so sad today?” Faith sustains even in misery and gives a genuine love for others. We are able to take our eyes off of ourselves long enough to see the needs of others and have concern for them. One reason God allows us to suffer is to empathize with others who suffer. We comfort others with the comfort we receive (1 Corinthians 1:3-4).

  2. Does adversity devour your ministry? (8-19) Both the baker and the cupbearer had dreams they could not interpret. Look closely at how Joseph replied, “Don’t interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams.” Consider for a moment that Joseph is in prison for a crime he did not commit. He is only in this foreign land because his brothers mistreated him by selling him into slavery. In spite of all of Joseph’s adversity, he desired to be a faithful instrument in the Lord’s hands. Joseph told the baker and the cupbearer what the dreams meant. What did the dreams mean? The cupbearer’s dream indicated that he was going to be released from prison and restored to his position. The baker’s dream indicated that he was going to be hanged. Joseph’s faith in the Lord enabled him to minister to others. His ministry was not devoured by adversity. For instance, Joseph was not complaining in prison; he was ministering in prison. He could have decided that he did not want to serve the Lord if it led to prison, but he knew that God had enabled him to interpret dreams and did not withhold his gifting in the presence of adversity. Faith sustains you in the hard times and fuels your ministry in the midst of adversity. Do you only serve God when you feel well? Do you only minister to others when you are doing well yourself? Have you considered that the difficult moments in your life are allowed by God to reveal the genuineness of your faith?

  3. Does adversity destroy your faith? (20-23) Chapter 40 ends on a somber note. Joseph empathized with the cupbearer and baker and interpreted their dreams. Joseph specifically asked the cupbearer in verse 14, “when all goes well with you, remember that I was with you. Please show kindness to me by mentioning me to Pharaoh, and get me out of this prison.” Joseph knew the Lord’s interpretation of the dreams was true because he did not ask the baker to remember him because the baker was going to die. Sadly, in verse 23, the cupbearer was released “Yet…did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.” How long did he forget him? The very next verse tells us that two years passed before the cupbearer remembered his promise to Joseph. It is easy to ask where is God in all of this? Why is God allowing Joseph to suffer in prison? Chuck Swindoll said, “It would have been so easy, it would have felt so right, for Joseph to become bitter and revengeful. But, he chose, instead, to patiently endure prison. And the Lord gave him an inner peace, as well as favor in the eyes of those around him.” Joseph’s faith in the Lord enabled him to endure adversity. His faith was not destroyed by adversity. Even when things did not go according to his plan, Joseph trusted the Lord and was able to endure.

Joseph did not have a fair-weather faith; he was committed. Joseph’s life illustrates the endurance of faith in adversity. True faith endures through hardship because it is not dependent on good times; it is dependent upon Jesus Christ. Take some time this week to examine your faith in adversity:
  • Does adversity diminish your empathy? Do you genuinely care about other people? Or are you only concerned with yourself and what you are going through?

  • Does adversity devour your ministry? God calls His followers to serve Him at all times. Regardless of whether things are good or bad, Jesus is always worthy of worship, praise, and service.

  • Does adversity destroy your faith? True faith endures! Do not let the devil cause you to distrust the Lord during difficult times. Trust Him and depend upon Him. He will sustain you in the faith, if you have genuine faith.