Once upon a time, there was a young boy named Joseph who was his father’s favorite. He came from a large family — eleven brothers (ten older, one younger) and one sister — but he was the beloved one. He had all the richest comforts his father could provide, the best robes and the easiest work. He had been chosen above all the other sons to be his father’s successor.
He innocently (or perhaps naively) shared this knowledge with his siblings — which, of course, made them jealous. After all, he was only a teenager. He hadn’t done anything yet to prove his worth. But eventually they got so jealous, they sold him to some foreigners who happened to pass through the area.
Suddenly he went from favored son — a prince in his father’s eyes — to unknown slave, treacherously sold by his family to a position no higher than livestock.
He was forced to live in a land with a strange religion, strange lifestyles, and strange values. But he endured the strangeness, and gradually progressed from entry-level slave to chief steward of the ruler’s house and land. He grew comfortable in his new position, although he was always lonely for his own country and family. But trouble was brewing: the ruler’s wife clamored for his attention. When he refused to give in to her immoral lusts and fled, leaving his coat in her hands, she threw a tantrum and manipulated her husband into throwing Joseph in prison.
Wrongfully imprisoned and forgotten by those he had faithfully served, he could have wallowed in self-pity or grown bitter. Instead, he endured this unjust punishment with steadfastness.
Eventually he prospered even within the prison walls. The jailer grew to trust him so much, he was made supervisor over two royal prisoners. The prisoners trusted him enough to share some of their most personal dreams with him. Several years later, as a result of one of those dreams, he was finally released. As he once again served the foreign ruler, he rose to an even greater position of leadership! He led the country to prosper during a difficult time of famine, and was eventually reunited with his family.
Joseph’s story is an inspiring epistle of endurance. He kept doing what was right, even when it cost him everything. And after years of testing — years of enduring — God blessed him abundantly and restored all that he had lost.
But how would you handle those same circumstances?
You probably haven’t been sold into slavery or wrongfully imprisoned (although that certainly does happen) but what about chronic health problems, unexpected financial loss, personal betrayal? What about being unjustly accused, deliberately overlooked, or forgotten by those in authority?
Are you enduring the hard circumstances you’re facing right now with a steadfast heart?
Or are you becoming stagnant, wallowing in self-pity, and growing bitter towards those who had a hand in destroying your comfortableness?
Joseph didn’t let himself be blinded by difficult circumstances. He didn’t keep meditating on how impossible things seemed. He didn’t give in to hopelessness or despair or self-pity.
Instead, he chose to focus on the God who had been faithful to guide his family for centuries. He focused his mind on God’s promises of faithfulness, deliverance, and strength. He focused his heart on God’s mercy and goodness and love.
That is the secret of endurance: keeping our eyes on God.
Endurance starts with having a personal relationship with Him, and grows through quality time in His Word and constant communication with Him. It matures as we learn from good preaching and teaching, and is strengthened through spiritually healthy friendships.
Joseph only had the memories of his parents’ teaching and a handful of visions to help him remain steadfast. But consider what we can take advantage of today:
- an entire Book containing the words and works of God through the ages
- churches and communities that nurture and edify the body of Christ
- books, sermons, and schools that teach us how to apply sound doctrine
- hymns and spiritual songs that encourage our hearts with truth about God
But it’s not enough to just know about God. We must also be faithful to deny temptation and follow hard after righteousness. We can endure external pressures only as we learn to deny internal pressures — our innate lusts for satisfaction, comfort, power, status, easiness.
Joseph was able to endure personal betrayal, the strangeness of slavery, the temptation of Potiphar’s wife, and wrongful imprisonment because he had learned to deny his internal desires for revenge, self-pity, power, or stagnating comfortableness. He chose success in God’s eyes, despite the personal cost. He withstood everything by keeping his eyes on God, even when everything around him went black.
What are you facing today that has you struggling to breathe?
Stop being blinded by the problems in your periphery, and turn your eyes and heart toward Jesus. Immerse yourself in His Word. Run boldly to His throne and plead for His strength. Purpose to obey Him no matter what, and reject those temptations to give in or give up.
Look to Jesus — and breathe. Clasp His truth close to your heart. Meditate on it, obey it, believe it.
Focus on Him, no matter how black things look around you.
He allows those circumstances, and He is sufficient to carry you through every one of them.
His strength is enough. He will not let you fall, if you lean on Him.
Endure, by relying on Him no matter what.