"I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly," Jesus promised (John 10:10). Statements like this set my imagination to flight. I want to know more. Full life, abundant life, life the way God meant it to be when He created us—what more could we ask for? Promises crackle through the intercom of Scripture, telling us that everything we encounter will work together for our good, but does that mean everything will be good?
We think we know what to expect on the road ahead. Deep down we believe we have some idea of the Lord's game plan for our lives, yet God rarely follows the script we give Him. Sometimes we find ourselves wondering if He even knows what He is doing.
Joseph had to wonder this throughout his life. His name means "to add, to increase"; but the only thing God added to him was a heartache. Rachel gave him his name as a prayer asking God for another son. The Lord heard her prayer and granted her request, yet it came at the cost of her own life. Joseph was in his early teens when she died. When he was seventeen God began to work in his life. Dreams came to him in the night promising him a position of great glory and honor. When he told his dreams to his brothers they despised him. They already hated him because their father loved him more than any of them; his dreams made them hate him all the more. Soon they began to plot against him and, when given the opportunity, they seized him, threw him in a pit to die, and then compromised with the one brother who wanted to save Joseph's life by selling him as a slave.
In a few short years Joseph's life went from bad to worse. His original owners sold him to an Egyptian named Potiphar, one of Pharaoh's officials. Unfortunately, Potiphar had a wife who burned with desire for Joseph. When he rejected her advances she concocted a story saying that Joseph had tried to rape her. As if being a slave were not bad enough, the one who dreamed of glory found himself locked in an Egyptian prison with no hope of ever being released.
God is behind the scenes, but He moves all the scenes which He is behind. We have to learn this, and let Him work, and not think much of man's busy movements; they will accomplish God's. The rest of them all perish and disappear. We have only peacefully to do His will. —J.N. Darby
I find it ironic that throughout this entire period of his life Joseph was in the center of God's will. I know that sounds strange, but let me repeat it: his brothers' attack, his slavery, his time in prison, all happened to Joseph as a direct result of God's will for his life. God had great plans for him, because someday this slave-turned-prisoner would save his family from starvation and keep the seed of the Messiah alive. Joseph didn't know all that. As he looked at his life all he could see was one trial building upon another.
As we come to the end of the story, we find that the Lord had a plan in everything that happened to Joseph. Severe famine was about to strike the area. The Lord in His mercy warned Pharaoh ahead of time in a dream. As the events unfolded, Pharaoh turned to a prisoner who was able to give him God's interpretation of his dreams—to Joseph, and entrusted him with the task of saving enough grain during the years of plenty for the kingdom to survive the years of drought.
Joseph's experience brings us face-to-face with the harsh reality that living in the center of God's will does not always mean a happy, carefree existence. We often become so panicked in the midst of trials that we forget they are the training ground where God prepares you and me for the great works He has in store for us. We shouldn't be surprised at His methods. How many athletes prepare for the Olympics by sitting in a recliner, eating chocolate doughnuts and drinking mass quantities of carbonated beverages? Every champion goes through years of grueling, painful, and boring training, preparing himself for one moment of glory. If this is true of those who compete for a prize that will soon be forgotten, how much more should you and I go through the grueling training ground of trials to prepare for a work with eternal rewards?
God also uses trials to prepare us for His service so that, when He does a great work through us, there is no doubt who is responsible. Who in his wildest dreams would have ever thought that the one man qualified to save a nation from starvation was a Hebrew prisoner? Only God. Not only did the Lord use Joseph to deliver the world from famine, but He also used this man to place the sons of Jacob in a place where they could become a distinct nation. If they had stayed in the land of Canaan they would have been absorbed by the surrounding peoples through intermarriage and treaties. But the Egyptians loathed the Hebrews, so they refused to so much as eat with them, much less intermarry. Again, God used the least likely candidate, the one brother despised by all the rest, to preserve their distinctiveness and fulfill the promise made to Abraham. Joseph was the tool, but God received the glory.
No matter how big or how small the task, when God is at work He makes His handiwork crystal clear. Trials, adversity, unexpected twists and turns, all of these give Him the perfect stage to do His greatest works. Too often we forget this truth. We struggle to escape life's difficulties or we wonder why God has abandoned us. Remember the life of Joseph. It may well be that your greatest trial is evidence that God is at work in you.
—Condensed from Name of Heroes of the Faith by Mark Tabb. Used by permission of Moody Press.