Connecting the Dots

Bob RoanePrison Ministry, Providence, Theology

My brothers intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. (Genesis 50:20)

Note: We are repeating a class at Jester III Prison called “Detours: The Unpredictable Path to Your Destiny” by Tony Evans that covers the Life of Joseph.

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs (1955-2011) was a pioneer of the personal computer revolution in the 1970s and 1980s. He talked about the child’s game of “Connecting the Dots.” Dots are scattered over the page and you have to connect each sequential numbered dot to form a picture of a person or animal. Steve said: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards. So you also have to trust that the “dots” (events) in your life will somehow connect in your future. This mindset has never let me down and it has made all the difference in my life.” Steve Jobs was a self-proclaimed Buddhist, but he began questioning the meaning of life and God in the months before his death from pancreatic cancer. Did he ever turn to the Lord? We don’t know.

Joseph, son of Jacob

Joseph was an Old Testament believer who trusted and obeyed the God of the Bible (the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). He would have said, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand on the earth.”1 The Bible’s true account of Joseph contained in Genesis chapter 37-50 is packed full of life lessons for us.2

We can relate to Joseph because he began with God’s rich blessing upon him, but passed through big detours and his life didn’t unfold as he expected. He was mistreated by his envious brothers and wrongfully imprisoned. Everything seemed to go against the dreams the Lord had planted in his heart. But Genesis shows that it all worked out with a happy ending for Joseph, the whole region around Egypt, and in God paving the way to send Jesus Christ from Joseph’s family to be the Savior of the world.

Here are three take-aways from Joseph’s story helpful to men in prison and all of us.

Suffering Can Become the Key to Greatness

Joseph (Yosef in Hebrew) was the favorite son of Jacob and Rachel. Jacob gave Joseph a fancy coat of many colors. It was beautiful, ornate, distinctive, and had long with sleeves. It set Joseph apart from his brothers and that was dangerous. It signified that Joseph was special and didn’t have to do manual work like his brothers. Maybe Joseph was spoiled his whole life until his brothers’ jealousy erupted and they sold him into slavery. His easy days were over.

Now Joseph had to learn to work hard and wisely and the Lord developed Joseph’s gifts of administration and oversight. He blessed other people in the short run and long run. God was with Joseph, and even though a slave, he became successful and prosperous, serving in his Egyptian master’s household.

The Lord would later use Joseph’s God-given leadership and organizational skills to save Joseph’s family and all of Egypt from starvation. The Lord used Joseph’s pains for later gains to countless others. Losing his status of “favored son” and experiencing hardship made Joseph develop and grow in new and better ways. Likewise, even though Jesus was God’s Son, He learned obedience from the things He suffered.3

We Can Help Others in Our Dark Times

Joseph had many setbacks. But in God’s hands, these things sweetened him, matured him, and sharpened him up for God’s plan to be unfolded through him. In prison, Joseph was put in charge of the other prisoners because he was faithful and competent. With this higher position, Joseph could have lorded it over his cellmates. He could have been rude and disrespectful, but instead he was kind and compassionate, listening to the men, bearing their griefs, and helping them. Joseph trusted that God knew how he was living, and that when the Lord was finished testing him, he would come out like gold refined by fire.4

Steve Jobs was trusting in his gut, destiny, life, karma, or something else to govern his life. Joseph was trusting in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to hear him and help him. Joseph did not selfishly complain about his own troubles, but in humility he valued and looked to the needs of others, not himself. Joseph reminds us of Jesus Christ.5

We Must Not Push Our Own Agenda

Joseph helped another prisoner to be restored to his old job with Pharaoh and asked his former cellmate to help him to get freed from his wrongful imprisonment. But the cupbearer forgot about Joseph, and he remained in prison for two more long years. Maybe Joseph was tempted to get bitter and give up on God, but he didn’t. Instead he grew closer to the Lord. We can tell that by how he behaved after he was released. When he reached the end of his rope, Joseph tied a knot and hung on to the Lord by faith.

When Joseph was finally released from prison, he interpreted Pharaoh’s dream about the upcoming years of prosperity and famine, and advised Pharaoh about a wise action plan. Pharaoh asked, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?” Pharaoh recognized the Lord’s gift of wisdom in Joseph and made him Prime Minister in charge of all Egypt! Joseph was 30 years old when he entered Pharaoh’s employment. The same age of Jesus Christ at His baptism.

Thirteen hard years had passed since Joseph told his brothers his dream of success. Those years were full of humiliation, testing, and development of Christ-like character and faith. As a young man Joseph was self-confident in a cocky way, but now he grew into God-centered confidence. Joseph was very capable, but humble and quiet, waiting on the Lord to promote him. He reminds me of Psalm 40:

I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire;
He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in Him.6

Prayer: Father, let every trouble teach us more of Your love, grace, mercy, and peace. Send Your Holy Spirit to continue Your good work in us until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus re-appears for us. Help us to trust and obey You, even when we don’t understand You. Help us walk through this life in humble, grateful, joyful dependence on You and to serve others. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

You may also like God Designs the Detours.

Notes (various Bible translations): 1 Job 19:25.     2 Joseph’s story is also mentioned in Psalm 105, Acts 7, and Hebrews 11.     3 Heb 5:8.     4 Job 23:10.     5 Phil 2:3-4.     6 Psalm 40:1-3.