An amazing fact of the life of Joseph, the Patriarch (the son of Jacob), is that, out of the 50 chapters of Genesis, 10 of them (chapters 37 to 47), are dedicated to him, proving God’s desire to exult this son of His. However, it is not only because of Joseph, but God has desired this narration for our own success, His future children. God has used this detailed account to communicate and guide us along His blueprint of success. Perhaps if there were detailed accounts (right from the childhood) of other great models, like David, Moses, Abraham, etc, we would have greater insight, as to how God raises leaders from their birth.
Before planning creation, God may have already been saying this about Joseph (as taken from Jeremiah 1:5):
“Before I formed you Joseph in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born, I set you apart and appointed you as the leader of Egypt and a light for the nations.”
But then again, God also places such value on us, “For thou hast made him but little lower than God” (Psalm 8:5). Did you know that He values all of us so much, that He has indeed called most of usto be leaders, giving us a chance at it, while also assisting us in proving ourselves, to uplift us to greater leadership.
Being a leader, is mainly to do with leading people and for most of us, who have taken to the vocation of marriage, He allows us to steer or lead the mind of His innocent children (whom He treasures with pride, as we know that of all human beings, the Kingdom of God belongs to such as them).
Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it, and have dominion …” (Genesis 1:28)
Just like the account (from Matthew 25:14–30) of the three servants who were entrusted by their master with talents, to invest and multiply, the Lord leaves these precious children in our care, and if we prove ourselves to be good leaders, with these precious children of God, He bestows greater positions upon us.
The difference between boss-like leaders and God’s leaders are that, the former, do not realize that the people they are leading are most valuable, whom they should take greatest care of and make sacrifices for, rather, it is the material goal that far outweighs everything else.
“Even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
The latter however, realizes that as such, no one deserves the title leadership (especially if they seek to be served and given comforts). He/she must see the people as highly valuable and work to serve by leading them to a better life. This is why God begins by giving us children to lead, for we too can see from His eyes that children are precious and we will make sacrifices to build and nurture them into good adults.
Another great leadership vocation is being a priest or nun, where God’s precious children are put under their care.
As per scripture and the Catholic Church, there are three leadership positions that are upheld, namely:Priest, Prophet and King. Believe it or not, God has really marked out a blueprint for many of us, shaping us into one of these roles and we will see His example of how this worked out beautifully, in the life of Joseph.
As stated previously, a true leader is one who realizes that no one deserves to be made leader, especially for the goal of exerting their importance over others. Leading people, because you love God and desiring His peaceable way of life for the love and freedom of the people you lead, is the true calling of a leader; a shepherd.
It does not mean that God is only calling you to be a leader of a Christian group. He may require you to be a kingly leader of a very lucrative organization, so that under your leadership, scores of employees would be happy, safe and greatly motivated workers. This is what happened in Joseph’s life; we note that under God’s guidance, Joseph ended up with not only one, but two positions of leadership; a king and a patriarch (father to Israel). Joseph painstakingly became, the temple of the living Kingdom of God.
“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches” (Matthew 13:31-32).
Before Joseph ever understood (through dreams) that God was calling him to lead, He first schooled Joseph in His ways. From his birth, Joseph enjoyed the deep love, favour and importance received from his father, Jacob. Not only did he know he was important in the eyes of Jacob, but through dreams, he realized that His heavenly Father, honoured him with importance and this made him follow Jacob’s God.
Secondly, Jacob had undergone a life of hardship and deceit under his Godless uncle, Laban (who unlike Abraham, did not worship the true God). Rachel, his wife’s father posed as an enemy, cheating him but he repaid Laban with painstaking good deeds, for years on end. Now, these examples were picked up on by little Joseph, his father’s pet. Though Joseph was exposed to a deceitful uncle and a mother who was not born a believer, he chose to follow his father’s ways, unlike most of his ten brothers.
Joseph was also willing to put great efforts; he was willing to learn for he was literate and had a smart and sharp mind to work. Though almost the youngest, his father sent him to audit his elder brothers’ work (who were shepherds) and Joseph had to provide reports to his father.
Equipped with understanding that he was truly loved and considered important by God and desirous to follow God’s pathway for his own life’s conduct, God could now use him for his great plan. This is how it should ideally be for us.
Joseph’s desire to be holy was now under trial, being abused by his brothers, separated from his father, from his comfortable life and insulted by being sold, that too as a slave.
Yet, with the understanding of how precious he is to God, he did not despair but held on to the dreams and the Holy Spirit was working with an optimistic Joseph, who was firstly and miraculously blessed by being spared direct slave work. He was immediately made manager of Potiphar’s household.
As if so many setbacks including forcefully working in Egypt, was not enough, but after repaying all of this, with holy conduct (like his father Jacob did, for Laban) by doing the best quality work at Potiphar’s home, he was indicted of rape.
This is where most of us would give up on God. The one thing Joseph knew, is that God did not fail him, or enjoy his suffering, but God was sorrowing at his trials and the unjust rape accusation.
Often in life, when we are moving up the pathway, God marked out for us, there will be challenges and great hits we have to take. When we try our best to follow God’s design (like Joseph did), we may be shocked that though being innocent like him, someone will stand in our way to such an extent, that they will trample down all our years of hard efforts (harder still because we had to follow God’s way). We may be brought down to such a low point, like in Joseph’s case, lower than when he started out. But now is the point when God gives us a very important lesson on leadership, by urging us to make peace within by pardoning in our hearts, those who brought us so low. In fact it may seem so cruel to ask this of us at this point, that it could very well appear to be our final breaking point, but note:
Years later, Joseph who was now the governor may have reflected that God had really chosen none other than him to take on the role of governor of Egypt. He may have been so thankful at the way God’s plan worked out because perhaps God’s initial plan could have been to train Joseph in the home of Potiphar, the government official for many years. Then through him, Pharaoh would one day meet and recruit Joseph, after seeing his exemplary skills but in that case, he may have been raised to an ordinary minister and only many years later, after slowly gaining the trust of Pharaoh, he would become governor.
However the reality was that Potiphar’s wife, got Joseph incarcerated but being confident in God, he wasted no time in holding on to pain and anger towards her. To God, this schooling of a leader was more important that schooling him, by physically climbing ranks, till he became governor.
In fact, he kept moving on, trusting God’s good plan and boldly requested the cupbearer, to influence Pharaoh to get him out of prison (Genesis 40:14)
A leader’s key to forgiving, is faith:
Forgiving is not easy but with Joseph’s mindset it was. As angered as he could have been, Joseph understood one thing, the God who had always been with him, who surprisingly and immediately made him manager instead of a slave, also had a full plan for him.
Joseph believed that God who was on his side, despised what was done to Joseph! By this point many of us would deduce that God does not care at all for us. But after so many trials, Joseph never stopped believing that God (who was always his Father) did care. He realized God’s own initial plan was thwarted and had come under heavy attack by Potiphar’s wife, though it could not be defeated. Being even bolder in the Holy Spirit, he sought Pharaoh’s help (who he never saw), realizing it was not Potiphar nor his wife who were the important chessmen, but God was.
God especially needs a leader, to have a cleared up and uncluttered heart and calm mind; a clear slate to move into the next greater phase of his life. Thus, he has to work to restore the joy of his heart by forgiveness – this is God’s way of schooling.
God’s VIP fast track forwarding plan
Prerequisites: Since Joseph was a dedicated, honest, keen and hardworking, great worker, because he ensured that he was totally trustworthy (by not holding onto material things) and never gave into sinful lustful ways, rather he was always prayerful and confident in God and was willing to forgive, he caused God to move gears from the 1st to the 5th, with his fast-track promotion.
Joseph’s two year sabbatical: God had thoroughly schooled Joseph to take on the position of governor and nothing was stopping him anymore. Therefore the two year prison period became more like a sabbatical, where he took a break from the hectic life of a manager dodging Potiphar’s wife. We note that though in prison, Joseph the foreigner was not punished by being made to do any labor or slavery.
Only God could have such ingenious ways, whereby after just two years of Joseph completing his “sabbatical” He got him fast tracked to the position of governor, at the sweet age of 30!
God’s way of upgrading: God’s fast tracking meant, no need of 10 to 20 years of hard work and waiting for a meager upgrade. God’s ways are; work like you work for God, trust in His plan, that He truly cares for your pain and your importance to Him, clearing your heart and waiting upon Him, in an almost holiday mode!
The leverage of being in prison or in a humble disposition: Being in prison as an Israelite slave, Joseph posed even less of a threat and this acted as leverage for his promotion. Pharaoh had no fear in recruiting such a person as Prime Minister, as opposed to an untrusted foreigner who, if still working with Potiphar, would have to be quite high ranking in the government and would have to prove himself still further for years to gain his trust. Coupled with this, he may have heard of his diligence and humble nature from the prison guards and the cupbearer, to immediately favor Joseph.
Confidence in God and His prophecy: One thing we need to be very clear about is that, through all challenges where we feel God is so silent, we have to believe that He truly upholds us and though we feel others let us down (knowing God allowed it), we must realize we are very important in God’s eyes. God has a good plan and destiny for us, but we must not limit our thoughts to God having only one clear-cut path of achieving this and if it appears to have been thwarted, the whole plan and efforts have failed.
When God allowed His own plans to be thwarted: God wanted the Israelites to leave Egypt and knowing Pharaoh, why did He strangely enough made many attempts through Moses, to appeal to Pharaoh, but of no avail? Was it not easier for God to warn Pharaoh the first time round and kill the first born instead of producing many signs and wonders? God knowingly allowed His own efforts to “seem” wasted, but in His wisdom He chose to do this, to prove His identity to all men. Even if God’s first way for your life’s plan does not seem to be successful, do not be dismayed and think, God is suddenly angry with you, changed His mind, does not love you, that you are suddenly being punished and plans are called off.
No, realize when your heart is clean, He is also suffering to see people come in the way of the plan He is carefully and painstakingly working on with you. However He is thoroughly ingenious enough, to then justify and execute, not normal but a fast track VIP channel, if only you have confidence in Him.
Reason your path is thwarted: He sees you have the potential to be purified even more and though it involves added pain, it means you will do even more wonders with the role He will give you and to compensate, He will also fast track the gift to you. Do not give up!
While most boss-like leaders invest most of their time only to learn how to achieve the material objective, leaders that God hones, are supposed to do not only this but painstakingly invest a double portion of their time, in learning to deal well with people!
This takes more skill and it also comes with one of the greatest prices a to-be-leader has to pay, rejection! Though rejection by the people can feel like a put off, it is not to be thought of as a permanent “no”, it is a learning curve, for the leader will have to undergo a lot of such hurdles along the way. The greatest example is Moses and the rebellious Israelites.
God’s state of the art leader: A leader is like a strong and powerful state of the art vehicle, having the unique ability to move through rough terrain and get to better heights, but the purpose of doing so, is not so much for the leader to marvel at the vehicle or the higher ground, but he is to prize and safely transport God’s precious passengers, to higher ground.
Let us ask the intercession of the great Patriarch Joseph, to help us see things as per his vision and optimistically climb God’s ladder, never looking back!