Triumph Over Temptation
Scripture: Genesis 39:3-12
It seems like everything these days comes with a warning label. Often they are very helpful & necessary, of course. But some warning labels are downright silly, like the following:
On a hairdryer: “Do not use while sleeping.”
On a carton of eggs: “Caution: May contain eggs.”
On a scooter: “This product moves when used.”
On a small tractor: “Avoid death.”
I even heard that one company that had made step ladders for almost 100 years simply shut down because it cost more to label the ladders than to manufacture them!
We can laugh, or shake our heads, but we also know there are times when we need to be warned. For example, wouldn’t life be easier if temptations came with warning labels? Sin promises great things up front, but it is only after we give in that we may learn about the consequences.
Joseph was a man who clearly saw the consequences of giving in to temptation. His example can help us heed the warning labels we encounter as we face temptation each day.
< Genesis 39:3-6a >
Joseph was not where he wanted to be. Having been betrayed by his brothers, he was no longer seen as the favored son of a wealthy man. Instead, he was a slave in Egypt. Joseph became the property of a man named Potiphar. We know very little about Potiphar, except what we are told in Genesis 39. The key thing to remember is that Potiphar saw the hand of God was on Joseph. Consider:
His master saw that the Lord was with [Joseph].
The Lord made everything he did successful.
The Lord blessed the Egyptian’s household because of Joseph.
The Lord blessed everything he had, both in the household & in the field.
God was with Joseph, even though God’s presence was not always clear. It is true that God eventually brought Joseph full circle & blessed him in tangible ways. But even in the darkest moments, God was there.
What I find interesting is the way God’s presence in Joseph’s life became a blessing to others:
Potiphar became wealthy & prospered.
Pharaoh’s kingdom was rescued from the famine.
Joseph’s family was preserved through the famine.
God does not bless us so that we can hoard his blessings. Rather, God blesses us so that we can serve as a blessing to those around us. In other words, with blessing comes responsibility.
Joseph served with great faithfulness. Verse 6 summarizes Joseph’s integrity. Potiphar didn’t pay attention to anything except the food he ate. The Hebrew phrase translated didn’t pay attention literally means Potiphar “did not know what was in his house.” Joseph took care of things to such a degree that Potiphar did not have to think about them at all!
< Genesis 39:6b-10 >
Potiphar not only trusted Joseph with his house & his fields, but also with his wife. He believed Joseph was trustworthy. At the same time, Joseph knew his behavior needed to reflect that trust in order to remain esteemed by his master.
Unfortunately, because of Potiphar’s wife, Joseph had to continually stand his ground in order to remain faithful. Day after day after day, she attempted to seduce Joseph. She tempted him to do wrong.
But Joseph stood firm in the face of temptation. Time after time, he wouldn’t agree to sleep with her or even to be with her.
Notice that Joseph put a roadblock at the top of the mountain instead of a first aid station at the bottom. Instead of putting a plan in place to fix a problem, he put a plan in place to make sure there wasn’t a problem to begin with.
Why? Because Joseph knew what was at stake.
In the early days of Billy Graham’s ministry, he met with his evangelistic team to discuss the pitfalls & dangers that had damaged the credibility of several evangelists. That meeting produced the “Modesto Manifesto.” One of the standards they set in place was to avoid even the appearance of any sexual impropriety. Billy Graham made it a point to never travel, meet, or eat alone with any other woman other than his own wife, Ruth.
Joseph obviously had similar convictions. We know from verse 9 that he valued his position in Potiphar’s house. And he valued even more his relationship with God. Again, he knew what was at stake.
Potiphar’s wife did not make her move once & then give up. She persisted. And Joseph persisted in saying no. In fact, Joseph’s perseverance may have been tested for as long as 11 years! I doubt Joseph could have held firm witho a relationship with God - & the conviction to maintain that relationship no matter what.
< Genesis 39:11-12 >
We should avoid temptation whenever possible. But there will still be times when temptation is unavoidable & demands a response. That is what happened to Joseph.
When you think about it, verse 11 describes an ideal opportunity for Joseph to give up his principles & give in to temptation. The house was empty. Potiphar’s wife literally threw herself at him in her zeal for an affair. No one else was around, which meant that no one would know about any wrongdoing – that is, no one except Joseph, Potiphar’s wife, & God.
Once again, Joseph did not hesitate in making the right choice. He fled the scene in order to retain his integrity. It is important for us to remember that even when we are as careful as we can be to avoid temptation, we may still find ourselves in situations where the only option is to do what Joseph did: RUN!
Sadly, Potiphar’s wife chose to lie about what happened. With Joseph’s abandoned garment as evidence, she accused him of attacking her. Despite his righteous actions, Joseph ended up in prison. Some of you might ask, “What’s the benefit of resisting temptation if it still lands you in hot water?” We will find the answer to that question as we continue looking at Joseph’s story in the weeks ahead. Yes, Joseph paid a price for his moral stand, but it wasn’t final. In the end, God was at work even in Joseph’s darkest days & ultimately brought him to a place of prominence, influence, & full restoration with his family. But that is getting ahead of ourselves.
Every one of us encounters temptation from time to time. When we do, let’s take these 3 simple steps in order to make the right choice.
Look inside. The first step in fleeing temptation is recognizing that temptation comes from our own desires. James 1:14 reads: Everyone is tempted by their own cravings. Spend some time evaluating which inner desires often tempt you to do wrong.
Remember what’s at stake. When faced with temptation, we always have a choice, & there is always a price to be paid. Choose to consider the consequences – whether spiritual, relational, or physical – before you choose to sin.
Remember God’s Word. Memorize 1 Corinthians 10:13 as a reminder that temptation always creates a choice. God won’t allow you to be tempted beyond your abilities. With the temptation, God will also supply a way out so that you will be able to endure it.
So much in our culture is designed to pull us away from God’s plan & God’s Word. But read the warning label whenever you face temptation. There is always more at stake than meets the eye.
But if we should fall into sin, we have a Savior who has given his life to save us from our sin – Jesus Christ. With a confession & repentance, we can be forgiven & begin anew to resist Satan’s temptations.