When you think of the story of Joseph, what comes to mind? His dreams? His brothers selling him into slavery? His years in Egypt as a slave and then a prisoner? His rise to one of the most powerful positions in Egypt?
We tend to feel sorry for Joseph as his not so nice brothers sell him into slavery. Joseph then has a journey of many years as first a slave and then a prisoner, before his happy ending. What we never talk about though is how God actually used those “bad” years to prepare Joseph for his important positions in Egypt.
Did you miss that part of the story? So did I until doing some research for a Bible activity. We missed it because our culture is so different from that of Egypt in the time of Joseph.
In that time period, slaves from other countries purchased by wealthy people were given some of the “better” tasks assigned to slaves. They usually served in the house, taking care of the family. They were given opportunities to learn to read and write the Egyptian language.
God blessed Joseph as a slave and Potiphar soon promoted him to the position of household steward. As steward, Joseph would have been responsible for overseeing all of the agricultural estates Potiphar had amassed as part of his wealth.
Then the incident with Potiphar’s wife landed Joseph in prison. While common today, prisons in the ancient world were very rare. In fact, Egypt at that time only had one major prison which was primarily used as a holding facility while prisoners were awaiting a sentence of death, fines or mutilation. For Joseph to have evidently been given a prison sentence was even more rare.
God also blessed Joseph in jail and he was promoted to what would be the chief aide of the prison warden. In this position, he would have been involved with a lot of government type functions on a smaller scale.
Fast forward to Joseph’s happy ending. Many scholars believed he was given two major roles as his reward for interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams. The titles aren’t as important as the functions – stewarding all of the agricultural lands in Egypt and handling major government duties.
Notice how God prepared Joseph for the important task of managing the years of plenty and famine? Joseph had experienced years of training to be ready to step into those roles and do what God wanted him to do. Without those experiences serving Potiphar and the prison warden, Joseph would not have been prepared to handle the major responsibilities God had planned for him.
So how does this have anything to do with your kids? God has good works planned for your kids to do. Some of them may require fully developed gifts, talents or skill sets. Right now God may be giving your kids opportunities to learn skills they will need later on to do the good works God has planned for them.
It’s vital that you allow God to direct your children’s paths on these developmental journeys. You should not force your desires and dreams of hobbies and careers onto your children – in essence possibly drowning out God’s voice and plans.
Encourage your children to take advantage of opportunities they are given to develop their obvious gifts and talents. Allow them to experiment with other areas of possible giftedness to find other more hidden gifts. Help them understand when they are given a chance to learn something that seems different or as if it doesn’t fit in to where they think God is eventually leading them to stop and consider whether or not it will teach them some unique skill God may use later.
Encourage them to do the good works God gives them to do now – even if they seem very small and insignificant. Remind them being faithful in those small opportunities, may lead to God giving them larger ones. They may never save an entire nation from a famine, but who knows what God has planned for your children? Sometimes the tiniest pebbles create the biggest ripple effect.
Giving them this godly world view of education, skills training and God’s paths for them will change everything. They will be looking for God’s direction and not feeling forced to choose lessons, hobbies and careers based on a whim or pressure from someone else. They will be ready when God wants them to use their gifts and skills to serve Him. They will be more aware when God gives them those opportunities to serve others and share their faith. They will have a sense of purpose and meaning in their life. They will understand why God wants them to be a part of a church family.
In short, they will be able to put together the pieces of their faith and create the Christian life God wants them to live. They will be engaged in God’s work. Their core identity will be as a child of God. Their lives won’t be free of pain and suffering, but will have the fullness and richness of living the life God wants them to live.
So tell your kids the story of Joseph. Show them how God has given them opportunities to prepare just like He did Joseph, Moses, David and so many others. Encourage them to look for opportunities to learn and grow so they are ready when God gives them a good deed. Teach them how to always be aware of the opportunities God gives them to serve others and share their faith. Then watch how God uses your kids. It’s one of the greatest joys of Christian parenting!