Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they quickly brought him out of the pit. And when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came in before Pharaoh. And Pharaoh said to Joseph, "I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it." Joseph answered Pharaoh, "It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer." (Bereshit / Genesis 41:14-16; ESV)
Last week I explained that the Bible is not about exceptional people, but rather ordinary people trusting an exceptional God. Joseph is certainly one of the shinier lights among Bible characters. Yet he wasn't perfect. Like the rest of us, he didn't always make the wisest of decisions. Still, he remains a remarkable individual, who endured great hardship and became a wise and able leader. That ordinary people like Joseph can accomplish exceptional things should encourage you and me to be ready to do the same - not exactly the same, of course, but to be ready to do whatever exceptional things God calls us to do.
Recognizing that greatness is not derived from ourselves but from God doesn't mean that we can't learn from the lives of people like Joseph. Giving God credit for our successes doesn't mean that we are to be completely passive. Far from it! The more we realize how much we need God to live effective lives, the more we will be actively dependent on him. This is evident in Joseph. Notice how he was confident to interpret Pharaoh's dream but knew that the ability to do so came from God, not himself.
How could it be, after all he went through, that Joseph could be so wise, clear, confident, and genuinely humble? Why didn't his years in a dungeon turn him into an animal? He had been imprisoned for something he didn't do - worse than that, he was doing what was right in resisting the lustful advances of Pharaoh's wayward wife, but in the end was spitefully framed by her. The reason why he was in Egypt at all was due to his brothers' murderous jealousy. His own brothers sold him into slavery! Stop for a second and think how such horrendous circumstances would affect you. Yet, when the time came he is advising Pharaoh in world affairs and becomes a key player in God's rescue operation for the whole world by preserving his own clan, the people of Israel. Why wasn't he completely dysfunctional?
The reason why Joseph was able to rise up to the occasion is he was ready. We don't know a lot about his life in Egypt prior to his appearing before Pharaoh, except that God was with him and made him successful, both as a slave and then as a prisoner. But that God was with him doesn't mean life was nice and easy. In spite of horrible circumstances, in both situations, he faithfully gave himself to his work, serving others diligently. He kept on doing good amidst the most dismal of environments. Reading through his story it is clear that the character of the person who advised Pharaoh was the same as the one who had spent years as a slave and wrongly convicted prisoner.
How many of us are waiting for our big break? How many people are wishing for some golden opportunity to come our way that will make us famous? Or perhaps you just want to make a positive difference, but wonder why you find yourself stuck in a boring job, doing nothing much for no apparent reason.
I don't know why you are doing what you are doing. I don't know why you are in the situation you are in. I don't know what opportunities are coming your way or if you will ever get that big break. But I do know this: opportunities are not going to make you into something you are not. Your problems might, that is if you remain teachable through them; so that you will be ready for whatever it is God might be preparing you for. But if you are simply biding your time, hoping your problems will disappear, thinking that one day you will show the world how great you are, you're deluded. It's time to get ready, before it's too late.