I love the Old Testament, and as I have studied the life of Joseph and looked at how he responded to various situations in his life, one thing is evident: Joseph did what any of us would do if we knew that God was with us.
The knowledge of God was Joseph's foundation. Joseph knew who God was; look at his lineage. His father was Jacob, later called Israel by God, the father of the Jewish nation. His grandfather was Isaac; his great-grandfather was Abraham. Now, growing up in a God-fearing family does not guarantee "spiritual success," but Joseph had a foundation of knowing who God was and of seeing God at work in the lives of people around him, and this influenced how he responded to various circumstances.
At the age of 17, Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers.
How would you respond?
Joseph knew that God was with him, and he knew how to respond to life's challenges and difficult times, because he had positive role models in his life that had modeled godly responses when faced with their own testing circumstances.
Here is what I mean: Joseph's father Jacob had conned his brother Esau into giving up his birthright as the firstborn son, and later tricked their father Isaac into giving him the blessing reserved for Esau. Physical distance had separated the two brothers for many years, but when God called Jacob to return to the land of his fathers, he feared Esau's reaction. Joseph's uncle Esau had every right to hate Jacob, and yet he chose a different response. Upon seeing his brother, "Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him." (Genesis 33:4) Joseph saw his uncle forgive his father.
If you get the chance, I would highly recommend reading Genesis 32 and 33, especially Genesis 33:1-4. Look at the list of the people who were with Jacob. Do you notice anything interesting? Of the fifteen people we are told were with Jacob, only three are mentioned by name: Leah, Rachel, and Joseph. None of Jacob's other ten children are named in this list. Why did the author of Genesis decide to list Jacob by name? I do not know for sure, but I wonder if he wanted us to take note, specifically, that Joseph was there that day watching his father and his uncle, that Joseph was witness to the humility of his uncle which served as an example to him many years later when he was faced with a similar situation of his own.
When Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery, he did not harbor bitterness. Joseph chose to do what was right. When Potiphar's wife asked Joseph to go to bed with her, Joseph asked, "How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?" (Genesis 39:9b) Joseph chose to do what was right. When Potiphar threw Joseph into prison, despite his innocence, Joseph chose to do what was right. When Joseph was confronted with the brothers who had betrayed him years before, he forgave them, just as he had seen his uncle forgive his father. Joseph chose to do what was right. Everything that Joseph did was, not to serve his boss, not to serve himself, not to serve anyone else, but was to serve God. Everything that Joseph did was a reflection of his relationship with God. Joseph did what anyone would do if he knew that God was with him.
How are we living reflections of our relationship with God? As we think about the men and women who have shaped us and influenced our lives, what was it about the way they responded to good and bad circumstances that made us want to become more like them, and ultimately, more like Christ?
God in his great mercy provides all that we need. We do not always see it. We do not always understand it. Why he allows certain things or certain people to come into our lives, we may never know, but he is working to bring everything together according to his plan. And in this process, you and I are influencing other people by the way we live our lives. Are we living in a way that makes people want what we have?