I have a saying that I often share with others: You’re never sitting still in life. You’re either moving closer to God or further away from Him. We tend to drift if we’re not intentionally taking action. I want to take that idea in a slightly different direction, with the word direction being key.
The story of Joseph in Genesis portrays many of the experiences we encounter in our lives, although not in a literal sense. The brief summary of Joseph’s story is that he had several brothers who envied him and threw him into an empty cistern. At the same time, they contemplated how to dispose of him. Later, a group of traders arrived, and his brothers decided to sell Joseph as a slave. Joseph becomes Potiphar’s overseer and personal servant, managing everything in his household except for one thing.
At this point, Joseph had been working in Potiphar’s household for some time now, and he was known for his dedication and hard work. However, everything changed when Potiphar’s wife started to take a deep interest in him. At first, it was just subtle hints and flirtatious remarks. Still, Joseph remained steadfast in his loyalty to his master and refused to give in to her advances. One day, however, she made her intentions fully known. She didn’t ask but told him to “Sleep with her.” Look at Joseph’s response.
But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Look, with me here, my master does not concern himself with anything in the house, and he has put me in charge of all that he owns. “There is no one greater in this house than I, and he has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do this great evil, and sin against God?” Genesis 39:8-9
Joseph demonstrates great love and respect for Potiphar’s immense trust in Joseph but also for God – Joseph doesn’t want to sin against God by sinning against Potiphar. Let’s keep moving…
One day, Potiphar’s wife took her temptation a step further and made a physical demand. She grabbed Joseph by his garment and said, “Sleep with me!” Joseph was taken aback by her boldness and refused her again, determined to remain faithful to his master.
And look at what Joseph does…
But he left his garment in her hand and fled, and went outside. Genesis 39:12
He doesn’t sit still but runs instead. He doesn’t consider it or try to rationalize it by convincing himself that he deserves this moment. After all, he has worked hard, right? No, Joseph runs! Joseph is fleeing from temptation, which leads me to question what he flees towards. The narrator doesn’t share.
And this is where I want to step out of the narrative.
The thing with fleeing is this – we will naturally flee toward something else. We’ll run toward something else. What is that something else? The clarifying question with temptation, then, is this – what do we run toward when fleeing? Because running toward another vice won’t work. Running toward an escape avoids but weakens our resolve as we miss an opportunity to get stronger.
The only thing that Joseph could run toward was God, and look at God’s response…
But the LORD was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor… Genesis 39:21
I would like to bring back my earlier phrase into the conversation. In temptation, we also never sit still. We are either moving progressively toward it or moving away from it. But we never sit still. And when we run towards Jesus, we find that Jesus provides only that which Jesus can give. His presence. And in His presence, we discover His kindness and His grace.
I know what you might be thinking, “That’s great! But what does running toward Jesus look like?” That’s a great question! Let me tell you what it looks like for me. My number one go-to will always be Scripture. It’s my offense – my sword! Temptation is ALWAYS a lie of some sort. The best way to expose a lie is to replace it with Truth. So knowing the truth or finding the truth is ridiculously important! The psalmist writes that…
I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11
So, let’s look at two “swords” that I’ve fought with.
The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. 1 Corinthians 10:13
That verse reminds me that I’m not meant to face it alone. God has given me the Holy Spirit and others in my life. A good accountability partner is excellent here! If you don’t have one, find one and run towards him or her! Next sword!
So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. James 4:7-8
The closer God is, the further you are from giving in. When you resist and flee toward God, the devil flees from you. Especially when you declare the authority you have over him in the name of Jesus. He has to flee. He has no choice. The humble part that James writes is submitting to God. You are choosing to obey. And when you obey, you move closer to Him and realize His hand is still there, waiting for you to run toward Him, and in Him, you find your strong tower.
So, what do you run toward when you face temptation? Remember, you’re never sitting still when in the middle of it. You are either moving toward or away from temptation. What you flee towards is on you.
And things turned out really well for Joseph. Really well, in fact. Oh, he spent some time in prison, but it was all God getting Joseph ready for what was to come, what was next.
I wonder if God’s also doing that with you.
You are loved!