Character is Forged in the Furnace of Affliction Part 3
by Gilly Mathiesen
We looked at the start of Joseph’s journey and suffering in part 2. How did he end up in prison?
Potiphar purchased Joseph and ended up putting him in charge of everything he owned. Things were beginning to really take off for Joseph, only for him to be falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife, all while walking with integrity. More suffering! He then found favour in prison and was given responsibility for the other prisoners. I believe it was here that his character was forged, preparing him for a key position in the world at that time.
Joseph thought his break had come when opportunity arose to interpret dreams for two of the King’s servants. In Genesis 37:5 (NKJV), Joseph says, ‘But remember me when it is well with you, and please show kindness to me; make mention of me to Pharaoh and get me out of this house.’ Joseph had not quite died to self yet. He was doing what we also can do, trying to change our situation in our own strength, rather than waiting on the Lord. Joseph was desperate to get out of prison, but his plan failed.
I believe a very interesting time of refining took place after this event, a time when Joseph experienced the refiner’s fire. When he realised that his prison mate had forgotten him, he had only the Lord to turn to. I would suggest, reading between the lines, that he cried out to the Lord over the next two years, and went through a ‘death to self’ process. I base this on what happens when he finally does get out.
Pharaoh had several dreams which no one could interpret. Suddenly the cup bearer remembers Joseph. Joseph gets summoned and is brought before Pharaoh and asked to give an interpretation of these dreams. Note his response to Pharaoh. Gone is the cocky young man, and we meet a humble Joseph, a Joseph who has really done business with God while in prison.
“I myself cannot do it,” Joseph replied, “but God will give Pharaoh a sound answer” (Genesis 41:16, Berean study bible).
We see here that the self-focus, which was evident a few years previously, was gone and had been replaced with a God focus. And now the man who would govern a nation, supplying food to the rest of the world during famine, the man who displayed a heart full of forgiveness to his brothers when they eventually appeared in Egypt, was ready to step into position. Sometimes it requires letting go and ‘letting God’. Suffering in Joseph’s life produced perseverance, which led to character formation, which gave birth to hope (Romans 5:3-4).
God disciplines the child that He loves, and sometimes this may feel like affliction or suffering. It does not necessarily mean that we have sinned, but it may just be that there is still too much of a self-focus and that our character still needs to be forged in the refiner’s fire.
Take hope if you are in a furnace today. You are going to come forth as gold (Job 23:10).
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