[This post is quite long. It’s an insightful look at the life of Joseph. I would also want to read your thoughts at the end. Feel free to share your own perspectives on the concepts of wisdom, luck, divine favour, opportunities, hard work, personal initiative, destiny, and prophecies.]
In one day, Joseph metamorphosed from a prisoner to the Prime Minister of the most powerful nation of his day. Rising from the lowest cadre possible – an alien, slave, and prisoner – to prominence in the then world power, Joseph experienced a ‘magic day’ in his life. Was he merely lucky, or was he justly rewarded for years of diligence and hard work?
The more I studied Joseph’s story, the more I’m inclined to think his accomplishments were more of the results of wisdom and diligence, than of luck.
Lets examine the facts.
He was called up on very short notice and told to interpret a dream that none of the smartest minds in the nation had been able to interpret – and this is the nature of opportunities; they are transient and will never give you a chance to prepare.
Nevertheless, Joseph wasn’t just good at his job, he was too good. He interpreted the dream accurately and achieved, with seemingly uncanny ease, what the best intelligence of Egypt could not do. Then, he went over and above expectations to proffer solution to a national problem.
What if he had failed to perform on both counts?
Clearly, his appointment was a hard earned reward for an excellent performance – the result of years of developing and mastering his gift.
You see, true success and greatness are never given; they must be taken – earned. The truth is, you will never sustain any position in life that you did not earn.
I agree that Joseph was ‘lucky’. However, his ‘luck’ was simply the offspring of His wisdom and diligence. God rewarded his hard work. Divine favour is God’s answer to diligent labour!
Many today are trying to get something for nothing, all in the name of luck, or ‘divine favour’. Well, it is actually possible to get something for nothing; but be assured that in the ultimate scheme of things, all you can get that way are only crumbs. True riches, true greatness, true success, must be earned.
An important lesson from Joseph is this: Invest the necessary time to discover, develop and master your God-given talents.
I teach that our greatest ‘talent’ or ‘advantage’ is God himself, in the person of His Holy Spirit. I imagine that a lot of religious folks will use this as an excuse for pious irresponsibility and mental indolence. Well, that would be unfortunate – and foolish; because if the Holy Spirit is your ‘talent’, you still need to develop a strong working relationship with Him.
Joseph’s ‘luck’ – as I’ve already noted – was the fruit of his wisdom and diligence. What of his recommendation to Pharaoh by one of his officers? Was this based on luck, or merit?
Again, let’s examine the facts: Observe how he wisely and diligently planted the seeds for his future recommendation before Pharaoh.
First, note how he maintained a cheerful and helpful attitude towards others, in spite of the fact that he was unjustly cast into jail for an offense he did not commit. Remember how he was jailed for trying to be an upright man? He had good grounds for self-pity and an attitude of selfishness. However, instead of being negative and cynical, he went out of his way to use his gift and position to help others.
Then, observe that he did something else that reveals his attitude towards life; he proactively suggested to the butler what to do!
"But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. For I was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon"." (Genesis 40:14-15).
The man didn’t just leave things up to God – he knew how to insinuate himself! He did not miss the chance to plant this thought-seed in the mind of Pharaoh’s cupbearer. As we see later, this bore fruit – this official later recommended Joseph to Pharaoh.
Here we see a man who learnt to distinguish himself by doing more than expected. He learnt to go the extra mile.
When Joseph was brought before Pharaoh, he did more than interpret Pharaoh’s dreams; he also gave his suggestions as to how the looming dangers could be averted – Genesis 41:33. That was excellence and wisdom put together! Not only did he know his job as a dream interpreter to his finger tips, he also worked to see that this skill fetched him what he wanted – his freedom, and more!
Also notice the three things Joseph did in one meeting with opportunity:
· He wisely created a position, and promptly detailed the job description for it.
· He carefully disqualified all of Pharaoh’s magicians and wise men from the job.
· He subtly insinuated himself as the only one qualified for the job.
"And now let Pharaoh LOOK for a discerning and wise man and put him in charge of the land of Egypt." (Genesis 41:33).
Pharaoh only asked for an interpretation, but Joseph gave him a solution as well! Then, he subtly discredited his wise men, disqualifying them at the same time by using the word ‘look’ or ‘search’.
There were already magicians and wise men in Pharaoh’s courts. Why didn’t Joseph just ask Pharaoh to appoint one of them? Instead, he subtly puts it into his head that the person has to be outside his courts, thereby guiding his mind and making room for himself.
Successful individuals are those who know how to present their cases and sell themselves. These people don’t usually wait for someone to give them a job; they create their own jobs.
Here we have another important lesson from Joseph: Don’t leave things entirely up to God. Wisely help Him out.
Due to my religious background, I used to think it was wrong to help God out. For instance, whenever I read the story of Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, and Ishmael, I thought that Ishmael was the result of Abraham’s impatience and inability to trust God.
Well, my thinking on that has since evolved.
Ishmael wasn’t the result of Abraham’s impatience. God blessed Ishmael, and there’s no point fighting with that.
Ishmael was rather the result of a missing link in God’s revelation to Abraham. God promised Abraham that he would become the father of many nations, but it wasn’t until after Ishmael was born that He specified that Isaac would be the channel.
"But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year"." (Genesis 17:21).
It’s easy to condemn Abraham today based on hindsight. The fact, however, is that there’s not a single place in the story where God condemned Abraham for Ishmael – as a matter of fact, God blessed Ishmael too!
Unless God specifies otherwise, when you receive His promises take wise steps to realize them. Work hard to realize them. In other words, when God makes you a promise without Him showing you how it will come to pass, you have one of two options: Either ask Him how, as Mary did, or use your initiative to produce it.
You’ve got to learn to do what you’ve got to do with what you have, while you can. It is easier to direct a moving car than a static one. Put in another way, it is easier for the Lord to direct you when you’re active or busy than when you’re passive or idle.
Remember that divine favour is simply God’s reward for diligent labour. God’s favours are not exemptions for labour; they are rather blessings upon your labours.
Life is governed by the law of cause and effect. When you create the cause, you get the effect. Things won’t just happen because God said it, but because you worked it too.
Prophecy is not a license to sleep, but rather a license to get to work. Jesus worked hard to fulfill prophecy. In Mark 11:1-11, he didn’t just wait for a donkey to appear in fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy; He sent for one, climbed it and rode into Jerusalem. So many times Jesus did things purely in order to fulfill the Scriptures. If he took steps to fulfill prophecy, so should we.
Joseph worked hard to realize His dreams. He invested the necessary time to discover, develop and master his God-given talents. Then he didn’t leave things entirely up to God; he wisely helped Him out. And when the opportunity presented itself, he was more than ready. The tragedy of life is not the lack of opportunities. It’s rather that when the opportunities come, we either do not recognize them, or we are not ready to profit by them. In this man’s life, I learnt one thing: The intercourse between wisdom and diligence produces an offspring called luck