Right now at Melbourne Heights, we’re in the middle of a series of sermons called “Before You Give Up.” And throughout this series, we’re talking about how we can keep going when we’re ready to quit. And this is important because there are times in life when every one of us wants to give up.
You may have a day at the office when your boss is acting like a complete and total jerk, so you think about putting in your two weeks' notice. Or you may have a day at the gym where every muscle in your body hurts, so you think about canceling your membership. You may be in debt up to your eyeballs, so you’re thinking about filing for bankruptcy.
And that list can go on and on, but the point is we’ve all had times when we’ve been ready to give up.
We’ve all had times when we’ve been ready to give up.
So there are lessons that we all need to learn that can help us keep going when we’re ready to quit. And to help us learn these lessons, throughout this series, we’re taking a closer look at the story of Joseph who was someone who had every reason to quit…but he never did. And we find his story in the Book of Genesis.
And over the last couple of weeks, we’ve learned a lot about Joseph. We’ve learned that Joseph is one of Jacob’s twelve sons. But even though he had eleven brothers, we’ve learned that Joseph was his father’s favorite. We’ve learned that Jacob doted on Joseph. So while his brothers worked all day, Joseph got to play. While his brothers were wearing hand-me-downs, Jacob gave Joseph a hand-stitched, multi-colored coat with embroidered sleeves. While his brothers slept in the bunkhouse, Joseph had his own room. While his brothers took care of the family’s herd, Joseph got to lounge around the house all day.
So Joseph was clearly Jacob’s favorite son…and we’ve learned that didn’t sit well with his brothers. So one day when Jacob sent Joseph out to the fields to check on his brothers, his brothers’ hatred boiled over. And according to Genesis 37, this is what they did:
23 When Joseph reached his brothers, they stripped off Joseph’s long robe, 24 took him, and threw him into the cistern, an empty cistern with no water in it. 25 When they sat down to eat, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with camels carrying sweet resin, medicinal resin, and fragrant resin on their way down to Egypt. 26 Judah said to his brothers, “What do we gain if we kill our brother and hide his blood? 27 Come on, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites. Let’s not harm him because he’s our brother; he’s family.” His brothers agreed.
Genesis 37:23-27 (Common English Bible)
So Joseph was sold as a slave. And that would’ve been enough for just about any of us to want to give up. But that’s not the end of Joseph’s story. And, today, I want us to take a closer look at what happened to Joseph after he was sold as a slave. So, if you’ve got a Bible close by go ahead and grab it and turn with me to Genesis 39. Genesis 39, where we’ll start reading in verse 1. It says:
1 When Joseph had been taken down to Egypt, Potiphar, Pharaoh’s chief officer, the commander of the royal guard and an Egyptian, purchased him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there. 2 The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man and served in his Egyptian master’s household. 3 His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made everything he did successful. 4 Potiphar thought highly of Joseph, and Joseph became his assistant; he appointed Joseph head of his household and put everything he had under Joseph’s supervision. 5 From the time he appointed Joseph head of his household and of everything he had, the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s household because of Joseph. The Lord blessed everything he had, both in the household and in the field. 6 So he handed over everything he had to Joseph and didn’t pay attention to anything except the food he ate.
Genesis 39:1-6 (Common English Bible)
So after Joseph’s brothers sold him to slave traders, Joseph goes up on the auction block in Egypt. And Joseph is purchased by a man named Potiphar, who just happens to be the commander of the Pharaoh’s royal guard. And that means that Joseph becomes a slave in one of the most prestigious houses in all of Egypt.
So there were worse places that Joseph could’ve been…but don’t forget that Joseph was still a slave. He may have been a slave in a prestigious household, but Joseph wasn’t permitted to leave that house. He couldn’t walk the streets of Cairo, or go site seeing at the pyramids. He couldn’t take a dip in the Nile River or really do anything that he wanted to do. He was a slave. So he had to do what his master told him to do.
Now, if most of us found ourselves in that situation – a situation where we had no freedom, a situation where we weren’t able to enjoy our lives at all – we’d be ready to give up. We’d stop listening to what our master told us to do. We’d stop caring about whether our master’s household succeeded or failed. We’d stop doing anything to help the person who held our lives in their hand.
And when you reach that point, when you reach the point where you’re ready to quit, you may be willing to compromise your character.
When you reach a point where you’re ready to quit, you may be willing to compromise your character.
And this is something that we see happen in one of the most well-known stories in the entire Old Testament. We find this story in 2 Samuel 11, and it begins by telling us:
1 In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army.
2 Samuel 11:1 (New International Version)
Now, that verse is only 25 words long, but it tells us a lot. It starts by telling us that at the time of year when kings go off to war, David – who is the King of Israel – doesn’t go off to war. He sends Joab – who isn’t a king – to lead his army into battle instead.
And why doesn’t David want to go off to war? Well, the Bible doesn’t explicitly tell us, but it’s pretty safe for us to assume that David is sick and tired of going off to war. David has been caught up in one war or another ever since he fought Goliath when he was just a little boy. He fought under Saul’s command and was celebrated for killing 10,000 enemies. Saul eventually became jealous of David, and David and Saul went to war for years. And even after David eventually became king, he was still constantly at war.
And after spending most of his life fighting war, after war, after war, David had had enough. So when this particular spring rolled around, and the kings went off to war, David said, “Nuh-uh.” David reached a point where he was ready to quit doing his kingly duties.
And remember what I told you a second ago when you reach a point where you’re ready to quit, you may also be willing to compromise your character. And that’s what David ends up doing. So let’s keep reading in 2 Samuel, and we’ll see what David does. In 2 Samuel 11: 2, we’re told:
2 One evening, David got up from his couch and was pacing back and forth on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing; the woman was very beautiful. 3 David sent someone and inquired about the woman. The report came back: “Isn’t this Eliam’s daughter Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” 4 So David sent messengers to take her. When she came to him, he had sex with her.
2 Samuel 11:2-4 (Common English Bible)
Now, the book of 1 Samuel alludes to David as being a man who is after God’s own heart…but that’s not the kind of person David sounds like in this passage. In this passage, David sounds like somebody who can’t control his own hormones. And because David has reached a point where he was ready to quit doing his kingly duties, he compromised his character. And David did something that he never would’ve imagined he could do.
And the scary thing is once you start compromising your character, there’s no limit to how low you might go. Because as bad as it was for David to sleep with Bathsheba, it gets a lot worse. Let’s turn back to 2 Samuel 11, and I’ll show you what I mean. This time we’ll pick up in verse 5, which tells us:
5 The woman conceived and sent word to David.
“I’m pregnant,” she said.
So not only did David sleep with Bathsheba, but he also got her pregnant. So is David going to do the right thing here and admit what he’s done? Well, since he’s already compromised his character by having an affair, it shouldn’t surprise any of us that David compromises his character again by trying to cover up this affair.
And David does that by sending a message to Joab – the commander of his army – and he asks Joab to send Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, back home. But David doesn’t ask for Uriah to come back home so that he can tell Uriah what he’s done and ask for forgiveness. No, David asks for Uriah to come back home so that Uriah can sleep with Bathsheba so that it will look like Uriah got her pregnant.
But Uriah won’t do it. Instead of sleeping wife his wife, Uriah sleeps outside his house. And he sleeps outside his house because Uriah hasn’t compromised his character. Uriah is a soldier, so he’s supposed to be at war. So Uriah isn’t going to sleep in his own bed with his wife while his fellow soldiers are out fighting a war.
So once again, David reaches a point where it seems like he will finally have to come clean and admit what he’s done. But if you’ve compromised your character once, you’ll do it again. And this time David does the most despicable thing he’ll ever do. In 2 Samuel 11:14, we’re told:
14 The next morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah. 15 He wrote in the letter, “Place Uriah at the front of the fiercest battle, and then pull back from him so that he will be struck down and die.”
16 So as Joab was attacking the city, he put Uriah in the place where he knew there were strong warriors. 17 When the city’s soldiers came out and attacked Joab, some of the people from David’s army fell. Uriah the Hittite was also killed.
2 Samuel 11:14-17 (Common English Bible)
David had Uriah killed to cover up his affair with Bathsheba. So when David reached a point where he was ready to quit doing what he was supposed to do as a king, he compromised his own character time, after time, after time.
So how do you keep from compromising your character when you reach a point where you’re ready to quit? Well, obviously, we can’t look to David’s story to answer that question. So if we want to know how we can keep from compromising our character, we need to look at someone who didn’t give into temptation when he was ready to quit…and that brings us back to the story of Joseph.
When Joseph was sold to Potiphar he undoubtedly reached a point where he was ready to quit. And when he reached that point, Joseph was tempted to compromise his character. So let’s take another look at Genesis 39, and see what Joseph was tempted to do. We’ll start reading in verse 7, which says:
7 Some time later, his master’s wife became attracted to Joseph and said, “Sleep with me.”
10 Every single day she tried to convince him, but he wouldn’t agree to sleep with her or even to be with her.
Genesis 39:7 & 10 (Common English Bible)
So what was Joseph tempted to do after he was sold to Potiphar? Joseph was tempted to sleep with Potiphar’s wife. And based on the verses we just read, Joseph had plenty of opportunities to take her up on her advances – verse 10 says “Every single day she tried to convince him.”
And if the constant temptation wasn’t enough to make Joseph compromise his character, he also had plenty of ways to justify his decision. I mean, this was his master’s wife, so wasn’t he supposed to do whatever she asked? And Joseph had either been betrayed or abandoned by everyone else in his life, so wouldn’t it be nice to feel loved and appreciated by someone? And, if nothing else, sleeping with his master’s wife would’ve given Joseph a little more leverage over his own life. If Potiphar was ever tempted to sell Joseph off to another owner, you know that his wife wouldn’t have wanted to see Joseph go.
But Joseph refused to give into temptation, and he taught us a valuable lesson that we all need to learn when we’re ready to give up. Before you give up make sure you don’t do something dumb because you’re feeling desperate.
Before you give up don’t do something dumb because you’re feeling desperate.
But how can you make sure that you don’t do something dumb when you’re feeling desperate? Well, let’s take a look at what Joseph said to Potiphar’s wife when she was trying to sleep with him. In Genesis 39:8-9, we read:
8 He refused and said to his master’s wife, “With me here, my master doesn’t pay attention to anything in his household; he’s put everything he has under my supervision. 9 No one is greater than I am in this household, and he hasn’t denied me anything except you, since you are his wife. How could I do this terrible thing and sin against God?”
That last sentence shows us how we can keep from doing something dumb when we’re desperate. Joseph said, “How could I do this terrible thing and sin against God?” And that shows us that even when he was in a situation where he was ready to give up, Joseph had not given up on following God.
You see, when you make the commitment to follow God, that commitment doesn’t change just because your circumstances do. Once you make the commitment to follow God, you’re supposed to follow God and live your life the way God wants you to no matter what the world may throw at you.
David forgot that…but Joseph didn’t. So when you’re going through a tough time, learn from Joseph. Cling to your faith. Remember who God wants you to be. And do what God wants you to do. And if you do that you’ll find it’s a lot easier to avoid compromising your character when you’re ready to quit.