Lasting Returns

Faithful. The idea of faithfulness has suffered in our generation. We more often hear stories of betrayal or unfaithfulness than stories about those who are faithful, especially when it comes to marital faithfulness.

According to a Gallup Poll, 73 percent of Americans under the age of 45 believe life spent with the same partner is both unusual and unnecessary.

In another Gallup Poll, 89 percent currently going through divorce cited a family history of divorce as a contributing factor to the demise of their own marriages. From this, we can deduce that when we model unfaithfulness, others are affected by our actions.

The opposite is also true. When we model faithfulness, we influence others to be faithful! When we observe someone who is faithful, whether in marriage or in their walk with God, we are encouraged to be faithful too.

We have some wonderful biblical examples of persons who were faithful. God has graciously given us these accounts to challenge and spur us to follow in their footsteps. Today, we’ll look at the life of one of the best examples—Joseph, the son of Jacob.

The first thing that we want to discover is that faithfulness is a choice. The story of Joseph begins in chapter 37 of Genesis. We are told that he is seventeen and the son of Jacob. Joseph and his brother Benjamin were born to their father at an old age from Jacob’s beloved Rachel. (You’ll remember that story from two weeks ago.) Joseph was tending his flock with his brothers and brought to Jacob a bad report about them. Joseph was the favored son of Jacob partially because he was the first born son of Rachel. Joseph was given a beautiful coat. (We call it a coat of many colors.) It made him stand out as the favorite. This did not go well with Joseph’s brothers. They did not like in fact they hated Joseph.

Things didn’t get any better when he bragged to his brothers about a dream he had. The dream symbolized his brothers bowing down to him. Talk about adding fuel to the fire. Then Joseph had another dream. In this dream, not only did his brothers bow to him, but so did his father and mother. This incensed his brothers and caught Jacob off guard, but Jacob kept it in the back of his mind.

Some time later the other brothers took the flocks to graze and Jacob said to Joseph, “Go check on your brothers. Tell me how everything is going.” So Joseph went. When he arrived his brothers decided to get rid of him. The initial plot was to kill him, but Reuben, said, “No!” Reuben had planned to rescue him and send him back to Jacob. The brothers took Joseph’s fine robe and placed him in a dry well. In the process, some traders came along. The brothers said, “Let’s sell him.” They sold their brother for 20 pieces of silver. Reuben somehow had not been in the loop and returns and finds his brother gone. That’s when they devised the plan to tear up the coat and spread it with blood and return it to Jacob. This upset Jacob immensely. While all this was going on the Midianite traders sold Joseph to Potiphar. Let’s pick up the story in chapter 39.

Genesis 39

1 Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there.

2 The LORD was with Joseph and he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. 3 When his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD gave him success in everything he did, 4 Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. 5 From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the LORD blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the LORD was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field. 6 So he left in Joseph’s care everything he had; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate.
Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, 7 and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!”

8 But he refused. “With me in charge,” he told her, “my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. 9 No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” 10 And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her.

11 One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. 12 She caught him by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house.

13 When she saw that he had left his cloak in her hand and had run out of the house, 14 she called her household servants. “Look,” she said to them, “this Hebrew has been brought to us to make sport of us! He came in here to sleep with me, but I screamed. 15 When he heard me scream for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.”

16 She kept his cloak beside her until his master came home. 17 Then she told him this story: “That Hebrew slave you brought us came to me to make sport of me. 18 But as soon as I screamed for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.”

19 When his master heard the story his wife told him, saying, “This is how your slave treated me,” he burned with anger. 20 Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined.
But while Joseph was there in the prison, 21 the LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. 22 So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. 23 The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the LORD was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.

Joseph made a choice to be faithful. It seemed that no matter what Joseph went through he made the right choice. He is one of those characters in the Bible who seems to have his act together. In fact, except for some of his boyhood boastfulness, Joseph becomes a real man of God. We see how Joseph became a faithful servant in Potiphar’s household. He moves all the way up to master servant. He makes a choice to be faithful. How many of us would be able to make mature choices the way Joseph did? His choices lead to trouble for himself. He gets thrown into prison, where once again he is faithful and gets promoted to head of the class, so to speak. He ends up interpreting some dreams for other prisoners and through a long process eventually interprets dream for Pharaoh. Through this Joseph is promoted to second in command of Egypt. Joseph made a choice to be faithful and through his faithfulness to God, God gave him lasting returns. Joseph was able to save the entire region of Egypt and Canaan from starvation. He was a wise and shrew manager of what Pharaoh gave him to take care of.

God gives us gifts and talents for a reason. Let me illustrate.

Once there was a talent show at a local hall. The first contestant played a saxophone solo. It was so brilliant the audience cheered wildly and gave him a standing ovation. Shortly after he walked off the stage, a prominent individual in the music industry offered the player a recording contract and a chance to play with some of the young man’s jazz heroes.

The second contestant read a poem she wrote. The words and the way she read those words moved some people to tears. When she was done, the audience cheered enthusiastically. Shortly after she walked off the stage, she was offered a position writing poetry for the local newspaper and an opportunity to publish her work.

The third contestant walked out to the stage carrying a guitar. “Well,” he stammered, “I had thought I would play this guitar my father gave me. But since there are other players so much better than me, I didn’t put anything together.”

The crowd fell silent. Shortly after he walked off the stage, his father seized the guitar and gave it to the saxophone player saying, “Take this and use it so others may hear the music this instrument makes.”

Waldo Weaning talked about three levels of giving:

1. You have to (Law). This level of giving takes care of the regular expenses of the local church.

2. You ought to (Obligation). This level of giving takes care of special projects beyond the scope of the yearly budget, such as building fund and improvements and our current hymnal replacement project.

3. You want to (Grace). This level of giving is above and beyond the call, but goes to important causes such as Global Partners, World Hope International, Gideon’s International, Heart of Ministry Offering, North American Missions Offering and others.

How many times do we do that with what God gives us? God has given us time, talent, treasure, and touch. As a way of committing yourself to faithful service in the Kingdom, will you offer your time, talent, treasure, and touch to God? Will you be like Joseph and be faithful to God wherever you are? Will you be faithful regardless of your status? Will you be faithful even when you don’t feel like it? Will you gladly give God yourself and your gifts in faithful devotion and service?

The benefits of your faithfulness may come to you in this life, or you may not receive them here. You will have great reward in heaven when you hear God say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into your Master’s rest.” But, you’ll only hear those words and receive lasting rewards if you’ve been faithful to keep God first in your life.

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