We see so many stories of people launching ministries, or selling everything to move into an inner-city, or striking off to a mission-receiving nation. They are doing Big Things for Jesus.
Sometimes I receive a comment where a Christian woman feels ineffective and insignificant for Jesus. She is either a stay-at-home mom, or works in a job in which she is not a decision-maker, a person droning away in a cubby somewhere. She feels like she would like to make a bigger impact for His kingdom but is not in any kind of powerful position to do so. How can we make a Gospel-impact for Jesus where we are?
I’d first like to celebrate the fact that there are women who yearn and strive to obey her King and to make a difference in souls. Like David, there are many women who adhere to this verse from Psalm 119:59–
I hastened and did not delay To keep Your commandments.
And yet, many wonder since their sphere is so small, how they can minister effectively? Are they making any difference at all? Could we do more?
Our pastor is teaching through Genesis. We learned about Joseph last Sunday. By Genesis 39, Joseph has been sold into slavery by his duplicitous brothers. He is working in the house of Potiphar the Captain of the Guard, as a slave. He is a slave, remember. Bought with money as property to do a master’s bidding. Joseph had no say, no power, no sphere in which he wielded decision making capabilities. He was just chattel, slaving obscurely away in a palace of a captain of Egypt.
Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, had bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there. (Genesis 39:1)
The Hebrew word sar is sometimes rendered chief (Genesis 40:2, 41:9), prince (Daniel 1:7, KJV), ruler or governor (Judges 9:30, 1 Kings 22:26). This same Hebrew word denotes a military leader, official, commander, or captain (Exodus 18:21; Deuteronomy; 1:15; 1 Samuel 18:13, 1 Samuel 22:2, 2 Samuel 23:19; 2 Kings 1:9), the “captain of the bodyguard” or “the captain of the guard” (Genesis 39:1, 41:10), or, as sometimes shown in marginal references, it may be rendered “chief of the executioners.”
The “captain of the guard” or “captain of the body-guard,” both titles meaning the same thing, was responsible for the security of the king’s prisoners and for executing their sentences upon them. He was also the official guardian of the person, or body, of the king—the chief of the king’s bodyguard. Source: Freeman, J. M., & Chadwick, H. J. (1998). Manners & customs of the Bible
From that Commentary we know that Potiphar was no low person on the totem pole. When Joseph arrived at “Potiphar’s house”, it wasn’t a bungalow. Perhaps Potiphar did not even see Joseph much at the beginning, or if he did, it was in passing.
The Bible is silent on Joseph’s exact circumstances, but much has been written about slavery in many different eras, especially Roman times. In the Roman era, as many as 10,000 slaves per day were auctioned off. The Master or the Master’s representative would buy them off the block, usually in bunches. Initially, the Master would not know what each slave was capable of. Their skills were a mystery. They were just faceless laborers, an unknown quantity. At first, they would usually be put to menial work and as the Master or his representative got to know the slaves better he would re-distribute them around the property or give them tasks according to their strengths. This is what happened with Joseph.
The LORD was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. 3His master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD caused all that he did to succeed in his hands. 4So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had. (Genesis 39:2-4)
Joseph slaved away, and yet the LORD was with him. He was apart from his family, alone…but the LORD was with him.
Matthew Henry says of this situation in his complete Commentary,
His master preferred him, by degrees made him steward of his household, v. 4. Note, (1.) Industry and honesty are the surest and safest way both of rising and thriving: Seest thou a man prudent, and faithful, and diligent in his business? He shall stand before kings at length, and not always before mean men. (2.) It is the wisdom of those that are in any sort of authority to countenance and employ those with whom it appears that the presence of God is, Ps. 101:6.
Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume
And we know how the event ended. God used Joseph in a mighty way for His purposes. (Genesis 50:20).
If Joseph, a slave, persevered in Godly character enough to influence an entire household and then an entire nation, what can God do with us? Anything, no matter where we are or no matter how small our own sphere seems. Use your vocation for Godly influence, doing all as to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). Even then, we don’t have to save an entire nation. The biggest things on the planet are influencing people with the Gospel, the true words of Christ. Even one soul impacted for the Kingdom is the highest work one can accomplish. InZechariah 4:10 we read,
For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. “These seven are the eyes of the LORD, which range through the whole earth.”
What does that verse mean? John MacArthur comments,
In that case, the re-building of a temple smaller than the one smaller than Solomon’s may have been discouraging to some, (cf Ezra 3:12, Haggai 2:3), The Lord announced that His pleasure was upon this work, and that His omniscient care was watching over and taking pleasure in its completion. He said in effect, don’t despise what God is pleased with.”