The first test of faithfulness, then, is standing on the Word of God. Now, I want to suggest to you that there are two elements of that.
Element number one is that we find out what it is that God is saying to us. What is His call? What is His promise? What is His crafted identity of our lives through His promise? You don't make that up. That's a very very important thing.
And secondly, having got that, having defined it, we hold on to that against the kind of thing that happens to Joseph, and that was pretty terrible stuff.
Now, that's key number one: the faithfulness. Faithful in believing the promise of God as defined in Psalm 105.
Here's the sting in the tail: The sting in the tail is that it was for the benefit of others, not just for himself.
If you're familiar with the story, you'll know that the beautiful, beautiful subsequent element in it when finally, finally, finally Joseph reveals to his brothers who he is.
In Genesis chapter 45 verse 4, Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come near me.” This was after all the business with Simeon and with Benjamin and back and forth, and Jacob saying “You gonna send me down to the grave in tears?” and all this kind of stuff, and finally Joseph... it's been interesting reading it.
Some people think Joseph was just being mean to his brothers. I didn't think so. I think that one writer that I saw had a beautiful, beautiful definition.
He fundamentally said that until the brothers articulated their sin against Joseph -- not in his presence when things were going really badly, they didn't know who Joseph was, the money is returned and they're in trouble, the money and the cup is found in Benjamin's sack and they're in serious trouble -- until they articulated this sin, number one, until Judah said to his father, “I will take responsibility for this issue,” and they cease to be the murderer of their younger brother and became the protector of Benjamin, the younger brother, in a way diametrically opposite.
And until that happened, I don't think Joseph was ready to reveal to them who he was, but he did in chapter 45 verse 4.
4 And Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come near to me.” So they came near. Then he said: “I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. 5 But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are still five years in which there will be neither ploughing nor harvesting.”
Remember, the interpretation of Pharaoh's dream said there are going to be seven years of feast and seven years of famine.
Joseph is saying, verse six, “We've had two years and there’s another five to come, and God sent me before you,” Genesis 45 verse 7, “to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So it was not you who sent me here, but God.”
Wow! They sold him. they betrayed him, they almost killed him, they treated him, to say the least, wretchedly, but he's able to say, “It was not you who sent me here, but God, and He made me a father to Pharaoh, the Lord of all his house and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father, and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph: “God has made me lord over all of Egypt; come down to me and do not tarry.”’ Verse 11, “I will provide for you, lest you and your household, and all that you have, come to poverty; for there are still five years of famine.”
The point then, the sting in the tail, very simply is that this standing on the promises was not for him, but it was for his posterity. Of course it was for him, it couldn't happen without him, but the intent, the purpose of it that Joseph saw, is this thing is for my people. This thing is for others. This thing is for the brothers who've treated me so lousily, for my father, for the family.
Now, if we lay a hold of this, this is quite, quite extraordinary, and it's absolutely critical: if we're standing on the promises for the benefit of ourselves, then we're way short of the purposes of God. If we understand that these promises are given for others, as well as ourselves, then we're really standing on the promises.