When I was a kid, there was a Richard Pryor movie called “Brewster’s Millions”. The plot of the movie was that Pryor’s character Brewster was down on his luck when he found out his great uncle died and left him 300 million dollars. The catch was that he had to spend $30 million in 30 days and have no assets to show for it or he got nothing. His uncle was testing him to make him to make sure he didn’t waste the full $300 million when he inherited it.
When Joseph was a young man, he had a dream that his brothers would bow down to him. They hated him when he told them the dream. He then had another dream showing not only his brothers bowing to him, but also his father and mother. His brothers were so angry they wanted to kill him. Instead, they threw him into a pit, sold him as a slave, he was then falsely accused of raping his master’s wife, and he was thrown in prison. It was nearly 14 years between his dream and the time he left prison to become second in command of Egypt.
When David was a teenager, he was anointed as the next king of Israel. It was then that he faced Goliath, was banished by Saul, hid in the desert, lived on the run, forced out of the nation, and fought many battles. It was nearly 15 years between the time that he was anointed king and actually became king. He was tested, just like Joseph, so that God could convert him from a shepherd into a king. This pattern is found all throughout the Bible, and I believe God still does it today.
Psalm 105:19 says, “Until the time came to fulfill his dreams, the Lord tested Joseph’s character” (NLT). When God puts a dream in our hearts, we undergo testing. The greater the dream, the greater the test. God uses those tests to prove our character to make sure we don’t waste the dream. He knows we aren’t ready to handle the fulfillment, so He tests us to help us become the person who will steward the dream well. If God has given you a dream, be prepared to be tested and to wait for the fulfillment of it. There is a king (or queen) inside of you waiting to come out, but it will take some perseverance to make that happen.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.
Romans 5:3-5 (NLT)
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The Bible only gives us a few clues about Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus. He’s only mentioned in a few verses, but from those verses we can tell a lot about him. I think it’s important to remember that even though he wouldn’t have a role in the DNA of Jesus, he was chosen by God to help shape the man jesus would become. God knew that he possessed the qualities He wanted in a man that would raise Jesus as his own and would take care of his family above all. That tells me that he was a man of character.
We know that Joseph received some news that was hard to swallow. His fiancé told him she was pregnant and he knew that it wasn’t his. The story she told him was hard to believe. It went against everything he knew. I wonder if he was furious, angry or just heart broken. No matter what emotions went through him, Matthew 1:19 says, “Joseph was a man who always did what was right, but he did not want to disgrace Mary publicly; so he made plans to break the engagement privately.” He must have struggled with the right thing to do.
His love for Mary overrode the letter of the law. Mary could have been put to death for getting pregnant with someone else’s baby. Remember the story of the adulteress woman? They wanted to stone her. It was custom to put her to death, but Joseph didn’t want to do that. He loved her and valued life. His decision to break the engagement privately spoke again to his character. He had every right to shame her and her family publicly, but he chose a better route because of his character. Doing what’s right isn’t always doing what you’re permitted to do.
As he thought of the consequences of his predicament, an angel visited him in a dream. The angel said, “Do not be afraid to take Mary to be your wife. For it is by the Holy Spirit that she has conceived. She will have a son, and you will name him Jesus – because he will save his people from their sins.” The angel corroborated the story Mary had told him. A few verses later we read that Joseph did what the Angel told him to do. Not only was he a man of character, he was a man of obedience. He obeyed even though it was the hard thing to do.
We know from the story of David being anointed king that God loos at our heart. When He looked at Joseph’s heart, He saw a man of character and a man of obedience. He knew He could trust Him with anything including raising His only son. When God looks at our heart, what does He see? Does He know we will obey even though it is inconvenient? Does He know we will act with integrity even though circumstances may be against us? It’s in the hard times and decisions of life that your character is revealed. Be a person of obedience so God can trust you with anything.