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Joseph came to have clout. He could spend and hire, send and receive. Merchants reported to him and other people noticed him. Most significantly, women noticed him. “Joseph was a very handsome and well-built young man” (Genesis 39:6 NLT). A Hollywood head turner, this guy—square jaw, wavy hair, and biceps that bulged every time he carried Mrs. Potiphar’s tray. Which was often. She enjoyed the sight of him. “And it came to pass after these things that his master’s wife cast longing eyes on Joseph, and she said, ‘Lie with me’” (Genesis

39:7 NKJV).


The first lady of the household made a play for the Hebrew slave. . . . She courted him “day by day” (v. 10). He had plenty of opportunities to consider the proposition. And reasons to accept it.

Wasn’t she married to his master? And wasn’t he obligated to obey the wishes of his owner, even if the wish was clandestine sex?


Powerful Potiphar had his pick of women. His wife was likely a jaw-dropper. Joseph didn’t lose his manly urges when he lost his coat of many colors. A few moments in the arms of an attractive, willing lover? Joseph could use some relief.


Didn’t he deserve some? These were lonely days: rejected by his family, twice bought and sold like livestock, far from home, far from friends. And the stress of managing Potiphar’s household. Overseeing the terraced gardens and multitude of slaves. Mastering the peculiar protocol of official events.

Joseph’s job was draining. He could have justified his choice.

Can we talk candidly for a moment? Egypt can be a cruddy place. No one disagrees with that. But Egypt can also be the petri dish for brainless decisions. Don’t make matters worse by doing something you’ll regret.


Joseph went on high alert. When Mrs. Potiphar dangled the bait, “he refused” (v. 8). He gave the temptress no time, no attention, no chitchat, no reason for hope. “He did not heed her, to lie with her or to be with her” (v. 10). When her number appeared on his cell phone, he did not answer. When she texted a question, he didn’t respond. When she entered his office, he exited. He avoided her like the poison she was.


“[Potiphar] has committed all that he has to my hand” he announced (v. 8). To lie with her was to sin against his master. How rare this resolve. In a culture that uses phrases like “consenting adults” and “sexual rights,” we forget how immorality destroys the lives of people who aren’t in the bedroom.


Actions have consequences. Joseph placed his loyalty above lusts. He honored his master.

And his Master. Joseph’s primary concern was the preference of God. “How . . . can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (v. 9).


The lesson we learn from Joseph is surprisingly simple: do what pleases God. Your coworkers want to add a trip the gentleman’s club to the evening agenda. What do you do? Do what pleases God. Your date invites you to conclude the evening with drinks at his apartment. How should you reply? Do what pleases God. Your friends hand you a joint of marijuana to smoke; your classmates show you a way to cheat; the Internet provides pornography to watch—ask yourself the question: How can I please God? “Do what is right as a sacrifice to the LORD and trust the LORD” (Psalm 4:5).


“My true brother and sister and mother are those who do what my Father in

heaven wants.” * I will not be afraid, because the LORD is with me. People can’t do anything to me. * “I will not

leave you all alone like orphans; I will

come back to you. . . . Those who know my commands and obey them are the

ones who love me, and my Father will

love those who love me. I will love them

and show myself to them.” * Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his great power.

MATTHEW 12:50; PSALM 118:6; JOHN 14:18, 21; EPHESIANS 6:10

In Her Own Words:


Losing your best friend, the father of your children, your husband—that’s what happened to me on May 5, 2006. And grieving has to be the hardest thing to do in life. But having God on your side makes the experience truly amazing.


I lost my husband to liver disease sixteen years after his first transplant in 1990. By 2006 he needed a second liver transplant as well as a kidney transplant. When he died, my family, my friends, and, most important, God saw me through the darkness of grief. Fifty years old at the time, I was working in the medical field as a medical assistant. Unsettled at first and for the next couple of years, I was very blessed to have adult children by my side, and I found great solace in God and in the church. And he enabled me to return to college and complete my degree in nursing.


As I write this, six years after my husband’s passing, I smile to see that there is still life in me. I know, however, that there is no way I could have walked this journey alone. I needed God, and he was there for me.


You’ve probably heard it said: God is the answer. I’m here to say it’s true. God embraces me with his grace, he loves me, and he guides me. I moved to a new city where I am starting a new life. Soon after my husband passed, I felt like a tumbleweed just rolling along. Every once in a while my feet touched the ground, and the burden of grief and change got to be too much. In those times, God carried me. Just as my heavenly Father carried me, he will do the same for you. When life’s burdens are too heavy to bear, trust him. You are the Lord’s treasure.




On November 28, 1965, the fighter plane of Howard

Rutledge exploded under enemy fire. He parachuted into the hands of the North Vietnamese Army and was promptly placed in the “Heartbreak Hotel,” one of the prisons in Hanoi.

When the door slammed and the key turned in that rusty, iron lock, a feeling of utter loneliness swept over me. I lay down on that cold cement slab in my 6 x 6' prison. The smell of human excrement burned my nostrils. A rat, large as a small cat, scampered across the slab beside me. The walls and floors and ceilings were caked with filth. Bars covered a tiny window high above the door. I was cold and hungry; my body ached from the swollen joints and sprained muscles. .

. .

It’s hard to describe what solitary confinement can do to unnerve and defeat a man. You quickly tire of standing up or sitting down, sleeping or being awake. There are no books, no paper or pencils, no magazines or newspapers. The only colors you see are drab gray and dirty brown. Months or years may go by when you don’t see the sunrise or the moon, green grass or flowers. You are locked in, alone and silent in your filthy little cell breathing stale, rotten air and trying to keep your sanity.3

Howard Rutledge came to appreciate his time as a POW in Vietnam. He wrote:

During those long periods of enforced reflection, it became so much easier to separate the important from the trivial, the worthwhile from the waste. . . . My hunger for spiritual food soon outdid my hunger for a steak. . . . I wanted to know about the part of me that will never die. . . . I wanted to talk about God and Christ and the church. . . . It took prison to show me how empty life is without God.


On August 31, after twenty-eight days of torture, I could remember I had children but not how many. I said Phyllis’s name over and over again so I would not forget. I prayed for strength. It was on that twenty-eighth night I made God a promise. If I survived this ordeal, the first Sunday back in freedom I would take Phyllis and my family to their church and . . . confess my faith in Christ and join the church. This wasn’t a deal with God to get me through that last miserable night. It was a promise made after months of thought. It took prison and hours of painful reflection to realize how much I needed God and the community of believers. After I made God that promise, again I prayed for strength to make it through the night.


When the morning dawned through the crack in the bottom of that solid prison door, I thanked God for his mercy.4

Few of us will ever face the austere conditions of a POW camp. Yet to one degree or another, we all spend time behind bars.

  My e-mail today contains a prayer request for a youngmother just diagnosed with lupus. Incarcerated by bad health.

  I had coffee yesterday with a man whose wife battlesdepression. He feels stuck (chain number one) and guilty for feeling stuck (chain number two).

  After a half century of marriage, a friend’s wife began tolose her memory. He had to take her car keys away so she wouldn’t drive. He has to stay near so she won’t fall. They had hopes of growing old together. They still may, but only one of them will know the day of the week.

Each of these individuals wonders, Where is heaven in this story? Why would God permit such imprisonment? Does this struggle serve any purpose?

Every day God tests us through people, pain, or problems. Stop and consider your circumstances. Can you identify the tests of today? Snarling traffic? Threatening weather? Aching joints?


Don’t see your struggle as an interruption to life but as preparation for life. No one said the road would be easy or painless. But God will use your mess for something good. “This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children. . . . God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best” (Hebrews 12:8, 10 MSG).


God is at work in each of us, whether we

know it or not,

whether we want it or not.


[God] takes no pleasure in making life hard, in throwing roadblocks in the way.

God began doing a good work in you, and I am sure he will continue it until it is finished when Jesus Christ comes

again. I pray that the God of peace will

give you every good thing you need so you can do what he wants. . . . I pray

that God will do in us what pleases him, through Jesus Christ, and to him be

glory forever and ever. * For . . . when

your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for

when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.




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