Joseph, and the Grace to Be Great

The Path to Greatness is in the Call to Be a Servant

Genesis 39-41


August 9, 2015 AM

Pastor Craig Ledbetter

Bible Baptist Church, Ballincollig, Cork, Ireland


I.       Introduction (Galatians 5:13)


A.    Remember my main Question from last week? How is YOUR Serve? How good are you at serving, and being a servant?

B.     All this month We are focusing on how GRACE helps us serve God and serve people.

C.    Grace is amazing!


1.      What it MEANS is amazing – a kindness towards someone that does not deserve it!

2.      But also what it DOES in the life of a believer, a follower of Jesus

3.      In short, Grace enables every one of us to forget about ourselves, and to serve others


D.    It is not a popular goal – to serve


1.      We usually want to be in charge – to be the boss – to be able to tell people what to do every day, and get paid more than everybody while you do it!

2.      We usually want to have people looking up to us, and hanging on every word, and doing what WE think they should do

3.      We usually want to be successful, to gain, to enjoy life

4.      Oh, the last thing we all think about is the command to serve!


E.     There are so many, even Christians who believe the world is made up of two kinds of people:


1.      Those who serve

2.      And those who have worked hard, and earned the right to be served.


F.     Jesus says His kingdom only has room for servants!


1.      Matthew 23:10-12 Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.

2.      Luke 9:48  And said unto them, Whosoever shall receive this child in my name receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me receiveth him that sent me: for he that is least among you all, the same shall be great.


G.    What does it mean, to serve? (Philippians 2:3,4)


1.      To supply another person’s needs

2.      To put someone else’s needs ahead of your own

3.      To make someone happy

4.      To do what someone else wants, instead of only what you want


H.    Grace Is The Power Behind Serving – the force that both makes it possible, and fruitful!


1.      So, To actually BE a servant, by nature, naturally, without grumbling, complaining, revolting and hating it – requires one powerful ingredient – ATTITUDE.

2.      And the most important thing God gives us so that we can serve, is the power of GRACE!

3.      Grace is an attitude that God first has towards us


a.       Towards those who hate Him

b.      Towards those that resist Him

c.       Towards those that crucified Him

d.      Towards those that mock Him – belittle Him, and amuse themselves by making fun of everything about God that they do not understand

e.       Towards those that want nothing to do with Him

f.       Towards those that are so selfish and uncaring about anything he cares about

g.      Towards unworthy, unlovely, ungodly people

h.      THAT is the kind of people that God shows grace towards!

i.        And God expects us to show that same kindness and attitude towards others!


I.       So, How is YOUR Serve? How good are you at serving, and being a servant?


1.      Are you doing any better since last week? Hmmm.  I didn’t think so!

2.      Young Joseph, back in Genesis shows us what grace looks like and what it takes to serve God the right way! Not OUR way, but the right way!

3.      There is just no way Joseph or ANYONE could ever serve under the conditions that Joseph gave of himself so freely, if it wasn’t for grace in his life!


II.    Background


A.    We first meet Joseph when he is a young 17 (Genesis 37:1-3)

B.     He was the Favourite Son of the Home (Genesis 37:3-11)

C.     He was a Busy Helper to his Dad (Gen 37:12-36; 39:1,2)

D.    And… He was HATED by his brothers


1.      They only wanted one thing – to get rid of Joseph (37:18-28)

2.      And got rid of him, they did!

3.      His own brothers sold him into a foreign country, into slavery in far away Egypt. They took Joseph 150 miles away from home! It might as well have been a million miles away! He would never see his family again! He was no longer a simple serving brother. He was a slave – with no rights, no protection, no friends, no hope!


E.     And… They RUINED His Life – at least that what you and I would have thought!


1.      As far as everyone acted and believed, Joseph was finally dead and gone!


a.       His father was broken hearted.

b.      His brothers would never tell what really happened to him


2.      Joseph was in chains, and was forced to work as a slave in Potiphar’s house now


a.       Here, now, in Egypt, it made it hard to be a servant

b.      Alone, missing his family, full of hurt

c.       And it was here, that Joseph found grace enough to serve

d.      He found something inside him that enabled him to see the needs of others, and see that God was still in charge of his life, and not Potiphar


3.      You see! God was with Joseph yes, but God was with him AS he served (39:2)! Don’t miss that!


a.       God is NOT with the proud, arrogant, superior minded leader

b.      God is with the humble, the broken, the little man

c.       Not in their depression, but in their determination to be a blessing – to serve!


F.      But then… Potiphar made Joseph the HEAD of his entire household (39:3-23)


1.      Huh? How did THAT happen?

2.      Grace happened!

3.      Just look at the result of that attitude!


a.       Potiphar saw an attitude, and energy, a joy in Joseph’s demeanour! How refreshing it is to be around someone who just wants to be a blessing to those around them!

b.      So Potiphar started giving young Joseph more and more responsibilities in the household

c.       And Joseph gladly did whatever he was asked

d.      And Potiphar would honour Joseph, and appreciate him, and reward him for his hard work, and gracious attitude


4.      Potiphar ultimately made it easy for Joseph to be a servant.

5.      Joseph GLADLY served such a loving, kind, appreciative master/employer!


G.    That should have been the end of the story.


1.      But it wasn’t! If the story ended right there, it would have been fine with Joseph. It would have been a good ending.  But that was not how Grace works.

2.      It was THEN that he faced the most intense and harsh temptation


a.       Potiphar’s WIFE became attracted to such a kind, hard working, attentive young man

b.      And she began to try and seduce him

c.       Again and again she tried

d.      And again and again he would walk away


3.      And then everything went terribly wrong


a.       He did everything right

b.      Yet everything went wrong

c.       PRINCIPLE: The life of a servant is no guarantee of protection from troubles and disasters

d.      He was almost trapped

e.       Then he was lied about

f.       Then his own loving, kind, appreciative master believed everything AGAINST Joseph – dumped Joseph into prison. Never even asked for Joseph’s side of the situation!

g.      Then he was sent him to prison without any justice, no court date, no defence, no rights!


4.      That would have been a very hard time to be a servant


III. Message


A.    In Prison Now (39:20-21) – as low as you can go, and still be alive


1.      Here is the very first time PRISON is mentioned in the Bible


a.       The worst kind of prison too – for people who committed high treason

b.      Death row.  No trial, just waiting for execution


2.      Back to ZERO again.  Rejected AGAIN.  Abandoned AGAIN.  Alone AGAIN.

3.      Yet, even in prison, what did Joseph end up doing?


a.       I know what you and “I” would have been doing…

b.      Screaming for justice – for our lawyer

c.       Demanding our rights

d.      Going on a hunger strike

e.       Bragging to all the other prisoners about how innocent I am, and how this was totally unfair

f.       Sitting and sulking and crying and moaning about having to endure such hurt

g.      But none of that is what Joseph did.


4.      Joseph served – was a servant


a.       Something inside Joseph drove him to allow himself to be humbled, to be hurt, and his needs ignored. Something drove him to see the people around him needing to be served.

b.      That something was God’s grace, that was active in his life


5.      And God stayed with him AS he served (39:23)



a.       God gave him favour (made him look good) in the eyes of the Prison guard

b.      Why?


1)      Do you think it was because of his murmuring and complaining?

2)      Or because of his yelling? Demanding for his rights?

3)      No! It was simply because of his silent, serving spirit – his self-sacrificing attitude (See Gen 41:38; Ex 35:21)


6.      God’s GRACE does that – it so often takes you down, but never puts you down!


B.     In Prison, But Not In Chains (Gen 39:21-23)


1.      Joseph was in prison, but he was not bound in that prison – not in chains


a.       That’s a good difference!

b.      Joseph started off in chains, in stocks, in irons when he was thrown into that prison (Psalm 105:17-22)

c.       He didn’t get put in charge of anything at first – he was treated like the worst kind of offender!

d.      But he determined to not stay there


2.      But, how did he change his circumstances?


a.       Could he escape those chains by digging a tunnel, or bribing his way out?

b.      No! He escaped those chains by serving!


3.      He found that every level of his life, was simply another place, and another way to serve


a.       That is what God’s grace can do – change the way you and I live instead of always changing our circumstances

b.      He did not deserve being in prison

c.       But he earned a HIGH place of service, while in prison


4.      He became more free than most people are outside of a prison!

5.      He was free to SERVE (just as you and I are… Romans 6:17,18)

6.      And was put in charge of the entire prison and all the prisoners!

7.      And that came about because of nothing else than his SERVING OTHERS


a.       What an attitude to have. What a way to live!

b.      Religion doesn’t do that. Meditation doesn’t do that. Money doesn’t do that!

c.       Only God’s GRACE does that to people! It enables, empowers, frees them, to keep serving!


C.     Divine Appointments (Gen 40:1-4)


1.      God was fully in charge of directing all the events in Joseph’s life – you and I have got to believe that he is the doing the same in OUR lives too

2.      So, in comes two new prisoners – very special prisoners – very high ranking men


a.       Butler – one of the most trusted men in the court. Was always overhearing every conversation by the king, making sure Pharaoh’s cup and dinner plate was always full

b.      Baker – was responsible for making the king’s favourite foods, and keeping him happy


3.      Both had done something to anger Pharaoh, so he commanded them to be put in the same prison as Joseph was in. The Bible doesn’t say what they did, but were in serious trouble!


a.       They probably had been beaten, rough-handled before they were thrown into the prison

b.      They probably had never seen the inside of a prison, and so now were terrified


4.      And here came this young man, a Jewish slave

5.      And what do you think Joseph did? He served them! Took care of them. Ministered to their needs. Was kind to them. Showed them GRACE!


D.    Dreams, Dreams and More Dreams (Genesis 40:5-22)


1.      Remember, Joseph was a dreamer


a.       God gave him a sense of something great for his life – a calling

b.      But instead of him demanding the everyone fit that dream, he did the opposite

c.       He became servant of all

d.      Even though his dreams did not match his life anymore, he just kept serving


2.      Here were two more dreams (40:6-22)


a.       The Butler’s dream – 3 branches of grapes, squeezing grapes into the king’s cup


1)      Joseph instantly understood that the Butler would be forgiven and returned to his place in Pharaoh’s court

2)      And knowing that the dream would come true, he asked the Butler to “Remember him” when he got out, and do something to free Joseph from that awful prison!


b.      The Baker’s dream – 3 baskets of bread, and the top one was being devoured by the birds


1)      Joseph instantly understood that the baker would be executed in three days


c.       Both came true!

d.      Wow! Joseph is pretty good

e.       That is the help that the Holy Spirit gave him (Gen 41:38)


3.      And then came Pharaoh’s dreams in the next chapter


a.       Everybody seemed to be dreaming at that time


4.      What was going on?


a.       God was at work! (40:8) And Joseph believed it.

b.      God was moving and shaking everything so that He, and He alone could get all the glory through the life actions of a lowly, Jewish servant named Joseph!


E.     Dashed Again (Genesis 40:23-41:1)


1.      The Butler FORGOT about Joseph


a.       Now you wouldn’t believe it unless you read it with your own eyes

b.      Joseph expected the Butler to have great power and authority with Pharaoh and would have him out of the prison in a day or two for sure!


2.      It is so easy to forget about people’s kindnesses


a.       We usually remember all the evil someone does to us – oh, some people keep records!

b.      We rarely think of the Moms and Dads who faithfully sacrifice their time and money for us to have what they didn’t

c.       We rarely think of the Nurses who work unbelievable hours just so that people can get in and out of hospital and back home

d.      We easily forget about the goodnesses of God, that lend to us our every breath, our strength, our families, our church

e.       Oh, the wickedness of modern mankind


1)      This generation is the LEAST serving

2)      And so they are the MOST nit-picking, fault-finding, critical, disrespectful of all time


3.      Where am I going with all this?


a.       Well, that Butler owed Joseph big time – gave him hope, and showed that God was with Joseph

b.      And what did the Butler do? Forgot about him


4.      You see, a servant is easy to overlook as not important.

5.      How do you think Joseph felt, as day after day, Joseph’s expectation of being released dimmed?


a.       The days stretched on into weeks

b.      And the weeks into months

c.       And the months stretched out to two full years!

d.      Could anything be more painful?

e.       Only if you didn’t know the rest of the story!

f.       Remember that Joseph is experiencing this in real time – he has not seen the end yet


6.      Just trust me, GOD had not forgotten Joseph, and he has NOT forgotten you!


F.      Perfect Timing (41:2-36; Ecclesiastes 3:11)


1.      Joseph is exactly where he needed to be… DOING exactly what he needed to be doing


a.       THAT is why a Christian doesn’t just jump around all the time at every opportunity, simply because they see a lot of greener grass, and better options

b.      Sometimes, the hard places are God’s better will for your life

c.       Sometimes, the adversities are the precious hand of God moulding and fashioning something beautiful, in His way, in His time

d.      Think about it


1)      If Joseph had not ministered to those two men, and had let himself be locked up and defeated, he would have missed God’s will, and God’s timing

2)      If Joseph had not been falsely accused, and then put into prison, he would not have been around the Butler, and then brought before Pharaoh


e.       Psalm 37:23 - The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord – ALL of his/her steps are paid out, planned by God

f.       NOW it was time. The perfect time for Joseph to be used in the greatest way possible


2.      Pharaoh had two really weird dreams


a.       One about fat cows being eaten by sickly skinny cows

b.      And one about full, healthy ears of corn being eaten up by wimpy, sickly ears of corn


3.      No one had any good explanation about what they meant

4.      THEN the butler remembered Joseph (41:9)

5.      THEN, after YEARS of being in prison, in slavery, rejection, abandoned…

6.      Joseph was brought before Pharaoh and asked to explain the dreams


a.       A repeated revelation – God repeated the dream so that Pharaoh would take it very seriously

b.      Seven years of prosperity

c.       Followed by seven years of the worst famine imaginable

d.      So, you and all Egypt had better get ready for it


G.    The Honour of a Servant is the Greatest Honour of All (Gen 41:37-46)


1.      Joseph told Pharaoh what needed to be done to save the country. Remember, this was the country that had done nothing for him since he had arrived

2.      Pharaoh saw something in Joseph – he saw the Spirit of God (41:38)


a.       Joseph had no ambition – some might say that was wrong, but God liked it and so did Pharaoh!

b.      He saw softness towards authority, and towards others

c.       But he also saw firmness and stability towards corruption, and self-centeredness


3.      And so Pharaoh honoured Joseph! A Jewish slave boy!


a.       Not just in word, but in deed

b.      Made him second ruler over all of Egypt (41:40)

c.       Gave Joseph his own name on the ring, so that whatever Joseph needed to do, he could be trusted and obeyed as if he was Pharaoh himself

d.      Honoured him with royal clothes and jewellery

e.       Caused everyone to bow before him, as if HE was Pharaoh

f.       Put Joseph in charge of the actions of every person in Egypt

g.      And in charge of saving Egypt from the coming famine

h.      And gave him the best wife of the whole country

i.        And he was only 30 years old (40:46)


IV. Summary of What We Ought to have Learned


A.    Notice the unseen power behind everything going on – is GRACE


1.      Not manipulation

2.      Not money

3.      Not mood drugs

4.      Not politics

5.      Not smartness and great wisdom

6.      Just God’s amazing grace and kindness

7.      Grace did the following…


a.       Kept Joseph humble

b.      Kept him serving, no matter who he met

c.       Kept him focused on the needs of others ahead of his own


B.     You don’t get to choose who you will serve – Joseph would have never chosen to serve all the people around him, but that was God’s call


1.      A God called missionary doesn’t look at the world and decide the kind of people he would love and serve – God will almost always take you to a people that mock you and hate you and reject you, and are hard of hearing, and then will ask you to love them and serve them – See Jonah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and JESUS!

2.      Sunday School teachers teach – and to them, it doesn’t matter who or where, or how long!

3.      People only want to serve when they are appreciated and noticed. But the servant of the Lord serves everybody!


C.    You serve as a way of life – God’s calling again!


1.      Serving IS the life of a believer

2.      Not only 9-5, Mon-Fri


D.    We serve the Lord Christ. Period.


1.      Everything we do is supposed to be, “As unto the Lord”

2.      Eph_5:22  Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.

3.      Eph 6:5  Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ;

4.      Eph 6:6  Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart;

5.      Eph 6:7  With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men:

6.      Eph 6:8  Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.

7.      Col_3:23  And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;


E.     Here is the great truth – God gives an outpouring of His Spirit to SERVANT people (Isa 42:1; Mt 12:18; and Joel 2:29)


1.      God was with Joseph, not because he was so good, and so innocent – because he wasn’t

2.      It was because he was tender, and teachable, and humble towards others

3.      AND, most of all, because he served others, without thought of reward

4.      Serving is a spiritual exercise (Rom 1:9; 7:6; 12:11) – you won’t do it long in your own strength!


F.     Lastly, Serving, Hurts


1.      It hurts our pride

2.      It hurts our reputation

3.      It hurts our flesh – adversity goes hand in hand with serving (2Cor 4:1-18)

4.      It allows others to have rule over us, and have power over us

5.      It means you will get blamed when things go wrong

6.      And it means your enemies will be others who will seek to keep you down, and trample on you, hindering you as you just try and serve


G.    So, The ONLY way to serve, and stay serving, and be blessed AS a servant, is by the power of God’s grace, being allowed to work in YOUR heart – even when it is not being allowed to work in anyone else’s hearts and lives! Grace can make serving bearable, and even enjoyable!


V.    Application (Philippians 2:3-8)


A.    Oh this is not the end of the story. And it is not even the best part!

B.     But it is the theme of the life of Joseph – the life of a servant, whom God constantly blessed, and ultimately used to save a lot of people!


1.      Oh the emptiness of a life without the presence of God

2.      And Oh the need for grace in our hearts to make room for the Lord

3.      God’s grace is what enables, equips someone to be what God created us all to be – servants!


C.    So, What does it mean, to serve? (Philippians 2:3,4)


1.      To supply another person’s needs

2.      To put someone else’s needs ahead of your own

3.      To make someone happy

4.      To do what someone else wants, instead of only what you want


D.    Did you know that Jesus served you and me (Philp 2:5-8)


1.      He gave up everything, and took on the form of a WHAT?

2.      He Allowed cruel men to torture, crucify Him, in OUR place, so HE could bring us to God

3.      All because of GRACE! (Ephesians 2:8,9)


E.     How is YOUR Serve? How good are you at serving, and being a servant?


1.      Probably bad, like mine. Pride keeps me from just being honest, humble and real, and low

2.      Oh that word, LOW. Lowliness of mind

3.      How much I depend upon respect. How little Christ got!

4.      God’s grace that saves, will always be enough to enable all of us to SERVE too!