Don’t be selfish; don’t live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself. Don’t think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing. Philippians 2:3-4 (NLT).
When I graduated from Ontario Theological Seminary in 1994, I was pumped. I really believed I was going to be able to make a significant contribution to the Lord’s work and when I arrived back in South Africa I fully expected to be snapped up by a church or mission agency and pressed into service. But it never happened – certainly not like I envisioned it. For two and a half years I muddled along in the margins.
My full-time vocational ministry started with a desert experience. God needed to teach me that I wasn’t as valuable as I presumed. He didn’t need my gifts, passions, training, intelligence, talents or abilities. He could get along fine without me. There was nothing I could give to the church or to God. It was a profound lesson. Before God could use me, He had to humble me. I had to confess the pride in my life before I could move to fulfil God’s destiny for my life.
Pride was a problem for Joseph. He really thought he was the bees knees. Genesis 37:2 reveals the pride in Joseph’s heart. Joseph was keeping the flock with his brothers and he “reported to his father some of the bad things his brothers were doing.” Joseph’s brothers probably deserved correction but that’s not the point. Joseph had an inaccurate and inflated opinion of himself. He believed he was qualified to judge his brothers. And that’s pride.
Proud people focus on the failures of others. Proud people are self-righteous. Proud people have a critical fault finding spirit. And proud people look down on others. Joseph certainly saw himself as superior. He knew he was his father’s favourite and had a beautiful robe to prove it (cf. Genesis 37:3).
I find it interesting that God knew Joseph was proud yet still gave him a dream. But that’s how it is with God. God gives good gifts despite our sin. Romans 11:29 says, “For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn” (NLT).
Now you may wonder. Why did God give a big dream to a young man? Why didn’t God wait until Joseph was older, wiser and more humble? Because in order for Joseph to reach his destiny, he had to pass a number of tests (e.g. pride, purity, perseverance, power, prosperity). Furthermore, he had to start working on passing the tests as soon as possible. You see, you’ll never reach your destiny until you pass God’s tests.
Brutal! Right? When we hear the word “test” many of us feel intimidated, scared or overwhelmed. But we shouldn’t be fearful because God’s tests aren’t like the world’s tests. There are two things we need to know about God’s tests: We keep taking them over and over until we pass. And if we want to pass the tests God makes sure we pass. “God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished” Philippians 1:6 (NLT).