The way that people, even church people, understand God is all over the map.  To some, God is the violent dictator crushing people under his feet.  To others He’s like a capricious child, subjecting the world to His whims.  Still, others believe him weak and impotent or removed and distant.

This series is designed to help you encounter the God we wish you knew, the God who is personal, present, caring, and powerful, the God who fills the void in your soul.


Introduction

Have a volunteer read Genesis 37:3-8.

Joseph was a daddy’s boy, his father’s favorite—a blessing and a curse when you have 11 brothers.  Jacob gave Joseph this sweet coat.  It was like wearing ancient Gucci while all of your siblings were running around in a JC Penney special.  Great for Joseph, not so great for everyone else.

Pretty boy decides his dream about ruling over his whole family would make good dinner conversation… because picturing your spoiled little brother as your king is super-endearing.

Eventually, that dream would come true, but it doesn’t always pay to speak your mind.

  • When is one time you’ve said something that you later regretted?

God had work to do on Joseph before he could become one of the most powerful men in the world.

Joseph’s brothers hated him.  So when the 10 oldest brothers are on a business trip taking care of the sheep and dad sends the chosen one to check up on them, they’re none too happy.

In fact, he comes walking up in his Gucci jacket, and they’re really unhappy.  They’re so unhappy, they decide to kill him.

Fortunately, they back off of that plan, but what they do instead is only a bit better.  They throw him in a pit until they can figure out what to do with him.  Some slave traders are passing by, so they sell Joseph to the slave traders, but not before taking his coat.

They take that jacket they hate so much, soak it in animal blood, and bring it back to their dad as evidence of Joseph’s death.

Have a volunteer read Genesis 39:1-6.

The slave traders bring Joseph to Egypt where he’s sold to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s top officials.  But in spite of the fact that Joseph has just been sold into slavery, the Bible tells us that God was with Joseph.

Potiphar recognized that Joseph had both great integrity and great aptitude.  Potiphar ends up putting Joseph in charge of his entire household.  And don’t think white picket fence with two cars, a dog, and 2.5 kids.  Think Downton Abbey.

I don’t know that any of us would want to be in Joseph’s shoes: betrayed by our brothers and separated from our family, probably for the rest of our lives.  That said, as situations go, this was likely far better than Joseph had expected after his brothers sold him.  He could have easily ended up in an Egyptian brick factory.

  • When has a situation in your life turned out better than you expected?  This could be something bad that ended up not so bad (or even good) or something good that ended up even better than you thought it would be.

  • Has there ever been a time when you’ve been rewarded for doing the right thing?

Joseph did have one problem, however: Mrs. Potiphar.  She was the one part of Potiphar’s household that he didn’t give to Joseph… for obvious reasons.

Joseph was an attractive young man, and Mrs. P had a thing for him.  But Joseph refused to betray Mr. P like that.  So, one day when no one else is around inside the house Mrs. P grabs Joseph by the jacket and demands that he comes to bed with her.

He refuses and runs out of the house leaving his jacket in her hands, and when Mr. P comes home she claims Joseph tried to sexually assault her.

Mr. P has Joseph thrown into jail.

  • Has there ever been a time when you’ve paid the price for doing the right thing?

  • What character defects have you seen in each of the people in Joseph’s life (Jacob, Joseph himself, the brothers, the slave traders, Potiphar, and Mrs. Potiphar)?

  • Which of these characters do you most identify with?

Have a volunteer read Genesis 39:20-23.

Once again, Joseph finds himself in a place he’d rather not be.  He went from being daddy’s favorite to a slave in Egypt, but at least he was in a pretty posh position.  Now he finds himself in prison as a slave in Egypt.  But notice that again the Bible says that God was with Joseph.

And just like with Potiphar, the warden puts Joseph in charge of the entire jail.  It’s crazy, but the warden put a prisoner in charge of the prison.

While in jail Joseph meets Pharaoh’s cupbearer and his baker.  These are pretty important people, especially the cupbearer.  Each of these guys has a dream that Joseph interprets for them.   Unfortunately for the baker, the dream foretold his death.  Fortunately for the cupbearer, his dream foretold his release from prison and his restoration to his position.

Joseph tells the cupbearer that he was falsely accused and asked the cupbearer to put in a good word for him.

But the cupbearer forgot for two full years.  At this point, Joseph has been in Egypt for 13 years.  Talk about a dream deferred.

  • Have you ever found yourself waiting, hoping, longing, even striving for things to change only to find circumstances going from bad to worse?

After the cupbearer has been out of jail for two years, Pharaoh has some troubling dreams that no one can interpret, and finally the cupbearer remembers Joseph and tells Pharaoh about him.  Joseph tells Pharaoh that his dreams predict that there will be seven years of abundant harvest in Egypt, followed by seven years of famine.

So Pharaoh puts Joseph in charge… of the country.  To make a long story short, Joseph devises a plan to store enough food during the years of plenty to make it through the years of famine, saving countless lives—including those of his own family, with whom he is eventually reunited and who do end up bowing down to him.

Joseph became the prime minister of Egypt—making him one of the most powerful people in the world, but it took thirteen years of separation, slavery, and imprisonment for him to get there.  The truth is that the coddled prima donna that Joseph was before life threw him a curveball would have never been able to effectively lead a country.  It took trial by fire to develop him into the kind of person who could lead a country through such a dark period.

We can learn many things from Joseph, but one key lesson is that God is more concerned with our character than our comfort, more concerned with our holiness than our happiness, and it is often life’s challenges that God will use to develop our character.

God was with Joseph in the midst of his difficult circumstances, just as God promises to be with us no matter what is going on around us, but God didn’t and doesn’t promise deliverance from those circumstances.  He promises to keep us through but not necessarily keep us from.

  • How has God used circumstances in your life to develop your character in the past?

  • How might God want to use current circumstances in your life to continue developing your character?

Have a volunteer read Romans 8:28-29.

Paul teaches us—and we see this in Joseph’s life—that God uses our experiences to not only shape our character but for good.  God uses the challenges that we experience to make a positive impact on the lives of others.

  • How can God use your past experiences to meet the needs of others?