Joseph served in Potiphar’s house for 11 years. We know this because Joseph was 17 years old when he was sold as a slave (Genesis 37:2), and he was thirty when he was appointed prime minister by Pharaoh (Genesis 41:46). As we will see next time, Joseph spent two years in prison (Genesis 41:1). So, 30 (years old) minus 17 (years old) gives you 13 (years), minus two (years in prison), gives you 11 years that Joseph spent serving as an employee in Potiphar’s house.
Some folks have the idea that success should come quickly, but this story shows us a better way. If God should grant you sudden success, be on your guard. Sudden success is fraught with spiritual dangers. It is fertile ground for pride, presumption, and ambition. Why? Because you don’t have the opportunity to prepare for the responsibility that comes with it.
Martyn Lloyd Jones used to say, “The worst thing that can happen to a man is that he should succeed before he is ready.” God knows when you are ready to be trusted with more.
Trust is earned. Nobody has a right to be trusted. You earn trust by proving faithful over time. Joseph had the favor of God long before he had the favor of Potiphar. The favor of God is a gift of grace that flows to you in Jesus Christ. You don’t earn it.
But Joseph won the favor of Potiphar by his loyalty. He earned it by the quality of his work over time, “Joseph found favor in [Potiphar’s] sight” (Genesis 39:4). This growing trust that was earned was the reason why he kept being promoted.
Here’s the principle, right from the Bible: “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much” (Matthew 25:21). Be faithful over what God has entrusted to you now.
Focus your best effort on what God has given you to do right now. It’s easy to waste your life, always looking at the next thing, but the best place to flourish is where God has set you down. Whatever God has given you to do, do it with all your heart! My pastor used to say, “Colin, there are no perfect places. The best place to flourish is where God has set you now.”
It’s easy to get taken up with what you are going to do. Whatever opportunities may open for you in the future will in large measure be shaped by the way you apply yourself to what you are doing now. Always do your best work. Others are watching, and you never know who might be measuring you for a larger task.
[This sermon clip is adapted from Pastor Colin’s sermon, “Blessed and Successful,” from the series Snapshots of a Godly Life.]