That happened to me recently with the story of Joseph.
The Lord’s working of His purposes through Joseph has always encouraged me during difficult times in my life. I am sure many of you, as well, took comfort in how God used Joseph’s trials to shape him into a mature godly leader who rescued his family from possible extinction.
Recently, however, I saw how Joseph’s life illustrated another amazing truth.
Before I get to what I missed, let’s refresh our memories with some highlights from Joseph’s rise from a slave to ruling alongside Pharaoh.
He experienced rejection from his family. Can you picture Joseph pleading with his brothers as they sold him to the Midianites? Later, when standing before Joseph (but not yet recognizing him), his brothers remembered Joseph’s “distress” amidst his agonizing appeals to them.[i]
He experienced slavery. The Midianites took Joseph, bound in chains, to Egypt where they sold him to Potiphar, a high ranking official to Pharaoh.[ii] What humiliation to be sold to the highest bidder!
He experienced false accusations. After being bought by Potiphar, Joseph quickly found favor with him and became the overseer of all that belonged to the Egyptian official. Potiphar’s wife, however, did not handle rejection well and accused Joseph of making unwanted sexual advances. As a result, Joseph ended up in prison.[iii]
He experienced imprisonment. Can you imagine Joseph’s frustration? He faithfully obeyed the Lord by rejecting the advances of another man’s wife and found himself locked up in an underground dungeon. Despite this, Joseph remained faithful and the Lord remained close to him.
Here is what I had always missed (you knew I would get to it eventually, didn’t you?). God has more in mind for the outcome of our trials than spiritual growth and preparing us to minister to others, although that is hugely important. The Lord also has plans for what we endure that extend well beyond this life, purposes we cannot yet grasp or fathom.
How could Joseph have known as he trudged toward Egypt shackled in chains that God was preparing the way for him to reign alongside Pharaoh? If someone had suggested this scenario to Joseph at the time, he likely would have felt mocked or insulted. “Are you ridiculing me because of my dreams?” he might have replied to such a suggestion. Yet Joseph’s time managing the household of Potiphar and in prison became the training ground for his storybook rise to power.
Could not the same be said of our experiences in this life? Could they not be preparation for our roles in reigning with Christ during the millennium? I believe so.
If God can use Joseph’s time as both a slave and prisoner to prepare him to later rule over Egypt, He can certainly do the same with our life experiences to prepare us for our future roles in eternity.
This is what I missed for so long. The Lord is preparing us now to reign with Christ in His kingdom, which He will establish after He returns to earth in great power. There is a glorious long-lasting purpose for all we faithfully endure in this life. This is clearly implied in the rewards for faithfulness given out in Jesus’ parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30.
As author John Eldredge so often writes, our lives are a story. As the drama of our lives unfolds, however, we sense there is something more. The Bible says God “has put eternity into” our hearts.[iv] For those of us in Christ, our current life stories carry over into Jesus’ future kingdom. We cannot fully understand all the twists to the plots of our stories until that time. But then, like Joseph, we will be able to look back and clearly see the Lord’s purposes. In the light of Jesus’ coming kingdom, the stories of our lives will make much more sense.
Is this not a huge motivation to remain faithful to the Lord during the dark and stormy times of our lives?
Perhaps this is why the idea of a literal kingdom or millennium has been so passionately opposed at times during the history of the church. Satan surely hates the idea of Christ reigning on earth. How much more must he detest the coming kingdom as a source of encouragement for us to walk faithfully with our Savior?