Day 21: Positioned for People

Opening Prayer:Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.”

Daily Scripture Reading:

  • Genesis 39:20-40:4
  • Matthew 22:36-40
  • Philippians 1:12-14

The missionary Jim Elliot, who was killed in 1956 evangelizing to the people of Ecuador, wrote “Wherever you are, be all there.” It seems he took a page out of Joseph’s book. From the pit, to Potiphar’s house, to prison it seems that Joseph indeed was “all there” in each place. And although he had no control of his circumstances, he never wasted an opportunity to influence, love, and serve the people in his path.

It is difficult for us to read about Joseph’s years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit and not think of it as another devastating injustice and confusing circumstance in his life. But God was positioning him for relationships. You see, in God’s economy, people are much more valuable than the positions we hold or the places we occupy. We read in Gen. 39:21 that, “the Lord was with him [Joseph]; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden.” God’s kindness and favor were found even in prison, but that favor did not immediately lead to an acquittal and the restoration of Joseph’s good name. It did not materialize as the answer to the prayers we can assume he was praying. God’s kindness and favor looked like an opportunity to influence, love, and serve new people- first the warden, then the other prisoners, and then Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker, and eventually Pharaoh himself and all of Egypt.

The apostle Paul found himself in prison a time or two as well. We read in Philippians 1:12-14 that he believed his incarceration actually advanced the gospel as he witnessed to the “whole palace guard” and “everyone else.” He goes on to say, “And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.” Position didn’t matter. Place didn’t matter. Even prison didn’t matter. Only people mattered.

We live most of our lives looking up or down. We look up to the places and positions we are trying to get to… climbing our individual ladders. We look down, distracted by our to-do lists and daily agendas. I believe Jesus is asking us to spend a lot more time looking around at the people He has placed in our path. Our place is not an accident because the people there are on purpose. When Jesus was asked what the greatest command was He said, “To love the Lord your God with all of your heart and with all of your soul and with all of your mind.” But He didn’t stop there! He went on and said that the second greatest commandment was like it- to “love your neighbor as yourself.” The only way the warden, the prisoners, the cupbearer and baker were going to be Joseph’s neighbors was if he was in prison himself. God positioned him for people because that is His heartbeat… people. Our’s should be as well.

Today’s Big Questions: Do you find yourself living most of your life looking up or down rather than around at the people in your path? Honestly, are you more consumed with your personal position and agenda, or relationships? Do you find yourself frustrated by interruptions in your plans or do you see it as an opportunity to influence, love, and serve others. Is there enough margin in your life to pour into people when the opportunity arises?

Prayer Response: Today, ask the Lord to highlight someone on your path to influence, love, and serve for the glory of God. Every time you walk into a new place, ask for a new person to point to Jesus. Make this a prayer practice!

Optional Action Step: Make a list of all of your “places” or “positions.” For example: home, work, school, gym, etc. Then, next to each place or position, write the names of the people and relationships connected to it. This week, as you are planning your days, note the people you will encounter in each place and plan to invest well.

Closing Prayer: “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurable more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

Day 20: Sabotaging Sound Bites

Opening Prayer:Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.”

Daily Scripture Reading:

  • Genesis 39:20-23
  • Romans 8:12-13
  • Ephesians 4:22-24
  • I Peter 1:15-16
  • 2 Peter 3:9
  • I John 3:7-10

Recently a post come across my social media feed that said something like, “If you think your mistakes can mess up God’s plan for your life don’t worry- you’re not that important.” The words were written in lovely script overlaid on a peaceful stock photo of a mountain stream and at first I scrolled right past, silently agreeing with the encouraging quote. But the more I thought about it the more I wondered; can we blow God’s plans and purposes for our lives? Don’t our choices matter? Don’t our decisions, good and bad, play a role in how this thing will go or was it all set in motion before the beginning of the world? I think the Word teaches that we can, in fact, derail God’s best for our lives by the choices we make.

Our God is a God of redemption, forgiveness, and love. Like we read today in 2 Peter 3:9, He does not want anyone to perish but all to come to REPENTANCE. He is so passionate about the salvation of our souls that He sacrificed His own Son so that we could spend eternity in right relationship with Him. He is also passionate about the salvation of our lives today, here on earth. He is passionate about saving our minds, our motivations, our decisions, our character. When we come to Christ and submit our lives to His Lordship, He redeems our mistakes- past, present, and future. He forgives our sin- past, present, and future.

However, God is after our hearts and loves us too much to force right choices on us. When we continue to allow sin to rule our lives, we gradually slip back into the deadness of our “old self.” Robert Mulholland says in his book Invitation to a Journey, “If you continue to allow the dynamics of your deadness to shape your behavior, you will make a shipwreck of your faith.” That sounds very different than “don’t worry, you’re not that important.” Eventually, our loving Heavenly Father will give people over to what they really want, to what rules in their heart (Romans 1:28-32). He calls us to holiness. He calls us to live according to the Spirit and put to death the sins of the flesh. He calls us to life as our “new selves.”

We don’t know what would have happened in Jospeh’s life if he had taken the bait and fallen into sin with Potiphar’s wife. After all, he ended up in prison even though he had high integrity and chose righteousness. But sin is a prison of the heart and can keep us locked away from God’s best plans and purposes for our lives. Your choices matter too. Don’t choose the fleeting over the eternal. Don’t choose a good time over real contentment. Don’t choose distraction over purpose. Don’t believe a sabotaging sound bite over Truth. I believe we are that important and our actions and attitudes can, in fact, jeopardize God’s dream for us.

Today’s Big Questions: Do you have unconfessed sin patterns in your life that are jeopardizing God’s plans for you? Do you know of areas that you consistently choose to behave like your “old self?” Does the command to “be holy just as I am holy” feel impossible to you?

Prayer Response: Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any “old self” patterns in your life and repent of them. It is only by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit that we can ever “be holy.” Ask Him to infuse you with that power and tell Him today that you choose to live by the Spirit and not by the flesh.

Optional Action Step: Take a moment to look back on your life at decisions and choices you have made that have brought you to where you are today. Can you identify temptations and sin patterns you are glad you did not fall into or got out of? Make a list of the pitfalls you avoided because you chose righteousness like Joseph and “old self” ways that you have repented and grown out of. Let this list be an encouragement and give you strength in any current temptations.

Closing Prayer: “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurable more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Day 19: Identity Crisis

Opening Prayer:Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

Daily Scripture Reading:

  • Genesis 39:13-20
  • Romans 8:14-17
  • I Peter 2:9
  • I John 3:1

I’m not great at math but by my calculations Joseph was in Potiphar’s home for 11 years. He was 17 when he was sold by his brothers, and he was 30 when Pharaoh promoted him after 2 years in prison. So, 30 – 17 – 2 =’s 11. After 11 years of faithful service to Potiphar, Jospeh’s reputation was trashed, his integrity questioned, his character ignored, and his place of honor and employment ripped away through the false accusations of Potiphar’s wife. 11 years is a long time. And before that, for 17 years Joseph was Jacob’s favorite son. For 17 years it looked like his future would be in the family business and beneath the family umbrella of blessing. For 17 years his identity was wrapped in a coat of many colors. At the age of 28 Joseph’s identity had been shattered twice. No longer was he Jacob’s son. No longer was he Potiphar’s powerful attendant. In prison no one cared what his last name was or who his boss used to be.

Can you relate?

Have you ever had an identity crisis? Have you ever looked into the mirror of who the world said you were only to find it shattered by change? Have you ever been left asking yourself, “Who am I after? After graduation? After divorce? After the kids leave? After the lay off? After the move? After the death? After the dream failed?”

Finding our identity in Christ is something we talk about often, but it is more than a trite pat on the head in times of transition or loss. In fact, it is foundational in times of success and achievement as well. The world may call us student, husband, mother, infertile, single, employee, divorcee, leader, and so on. All of those titles can change as quickly as Joseph was thrown out of Potiphar’s home. God calls us His chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His special possession. He calls us His children, adopted into sonship. He rescues us out of the slavery of the world’s identities and declares us heirs to His eternal inheritance.

The truth is, even the best earthly identities become ill-fitting. They are supposed to. Maybe the biggest identity crisis of all is believing the lie that they can define us. Even when we get the promotion instead of the pink slip, even when we get the ring instead of the break up, even when we finally hold the baby we have prayed for, even when the dream comes true, we will never be completely satisfied. We aren’t supposed to be. Our identity in Christ is the only one that will remain and the only one that will fulfill.

Today’s Big Questions: If you were to meet someone new today and they asked “who are you?” what would your initial answer be? Would you identify yourself with earthly roles and identities? How can you change the way you think of your identity so that it lines up with who God says you are?

Prayer Response: No matter if you find yourself in an identity crisis today or not, God is our only constant. Pray into Psalms 62:8 which says, “Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to Him; for God is our refuge.” Confess where you have put your trust in any other identity and pour your heart out to God.

Optional Action Step: Make a list of all your earthly roles and identities (for example: son, wife, father, employee, teacher, etc) down one side of a piece of paper. Then reread today scriptures and list everything God calls you down the other side. Put a big “less than” (<) symbol in the middle to remind yourself that your earthly roles are less than your identity in Christ.

Closing Prayer: “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurable more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”