Not just any task…
Recently a good friend shared this quote with me: “We use people to get the task done, God uses the task to get us done.”
Of course I jumped right into what it might mean.
Initially my mind went to being “task driven” vs “people driven”. I repented of “using” some people that the Father has sent my way and I checked off that box.
My mind next went to:
Philippians 1:6 – being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
This verse reminded me of a great truth: Jesus never gives up on us. He never stops restoring us to the people we were created to be. That won’t end until the day He returns. And again I check of that box.
Both of those left me sensing there might be more…so I finally calmed my heart and mind to just listen!
What came next really surprised me – Joseph: the young favored son of Jacob. He was the BIG dreamer and interpreter of dreams turned slave by his jealous brothers; made a prisoner by Potiphar; and then in a crazy turn of events was made second in command of Egypt by Pharaoh. I began to journal about Joseph’s life and how the quote – “We use people to get the task done, God uses the task to get us done.” – might shed some light on his story. Specifically, I felt a pull towards Joseph’s time in prison. Unjustly, he was accused of “coming on” to Potiphar’s wife and ended up in prison. While there he met a few more characters in this ever unfolding story including the baker and the cupbearer to Pharaoh. They had both been thrown in prison for not serving well. While incarcerated they had dreams that troubled them and they needed interpretation. Joseph had the ability to do so, and he told them what their dreams meant. The cupbearer’s dream was of special importance. Let’s pick up the story…
Genesis 40: 10-15
So the chief cupbearer told Joseph his dream. He said to him, “In my dream I saw a vine in front of me, 10 and on the vine were three branches. As soon as it budded, it blossomed, and its clusters ripened into grapes. 11 Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes, squeezed them into Pharaoh’s cup and put the cup in his hand.”
12 “This is what it means,” Joseph said to him. “The three branches are three days.13 Within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your position, and you will put Pharaoh’s cup in his hand, just as you used to do when you were his cupbearer. 14 But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. 15 I was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon.”
I noticed something really interesting: Joseph helped the cupbearer, but he also immediately saw the opportunity to get something out of it for himself. The task was performed to gain a favor from the cupbearer. He then asked him for that “earned” favor – get me out of prison!
Now, let’s be honest, which of us would not do the same thing? If wrongfully put in prison, while enduring shame and injustice, wouldn’t you or I be more than willing to help this guy if it meant we might gain an ear with Pharaoh? We would be on it! “We use people to get the task done.” TRUTH!!!
Then another thought hit me. As my grandpa’s used to love to say to me, ”There is always more going on than meets the eye.” What else might be going on? Back to our quote. – ”God uses the task to get us done.” Certainly the completion of this task was needed, but it was not the end because the cupbearer forgot Joseph. He then sat in prison for another two full years (Gen. 41:1) Why? What was the purpose of more time in prison? What was the Father up to? We do not know for sure, but we do know that during that time Joseph gained favor with the prison guards who gave him some type of responsibility (Gen. 39:20-23). Joseph had more tasks to perform. Then one day, the opportunity came for Joseph to show himself of value and get out of prison. Pharaoh had a crazy dream and no one could interpret it for him. The forgetful cupbearer remembered Joseph, and on his recommendation Joseph was summoned to Pharaoh’s presence.
Now let’s talk honestly again. Joseph had to be thinking, “Don’t mess this up, you may not get another chance to get out.” He wanted to look good, to give Pharaoh a good interpretation, to perform well, to impress him, and most importantly to earn his freedom. How did Joseph handle the moment?
14 So Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was quickly brought from the dungeon.When he had shaved and changed his clothes, he came before Pharaoh.
15 Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.”
16 “I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.”
WOW! What a change in this arrogant young man from trusting in his own abilities, his good looks, and his influence to trusting His Heavenly Dad to answer Pharaoh and not himself. What caused this change in Joseph? When it most counted, what Joseph learned by doing all those tasks came flooding out and maybe for the first time. He recognized that all that he had and was comes from His Father. The outcome: Joseph became second in command during one of the most challenging times in this Pharaoh’s rule. And that is not all…
Let me propose that all he learned caused him to later proclaim to his brothers, “what you meant for evil God used for good.” That humility and submission to the Father of all that he was also allowed him to save his entire family from starvation and extinction. Because through His Father Joseph’s interpretation and service was so strong it brought them favor with Pharaoh and he invited them to come and dwell in the best of the land in Egypt. (Genesis 45:4-20)
What else WAS going on?
All those meaneal, humbling and maybe even unfair tasks that Joseph performed “completed the man”. It prepared him to lead, to manage a household, and to distribute food in order to care for an entire nation. It enabled him to rule wisely and to give mercy and then grace when needed. Most importantly his tasks taught him not to rely on His gifts and abilities but on the power, authority, unlimited ability, provision and purposes of His Father. The boy became a man.
So what does this say to us? Sometimes the task that we avoid or pass off to others are the same tasks that the Father wants to use. He wants to mold and shape, temper and harden, form and grow us into the men we need to be to lead well, to love well and to bring His purposes to pass. These tasks teach us, shape us, humble us and ultimately prepare us to do the work of the Father and bringing Heaven to Earth by healing the broken hearted, setting captives free and bringing sight to the blind (Isa 61, Luke 4). These tasks make us “whole and holy”. Complete, mature and set apart. So before we complain, pass stuff off, think ourselves too good for something, or avoid something hard, painful or seemingly pointless – humbly ask – is there more here than meets the eye? Is the Father up to something hard but good? You can know deep in your heart the answer if you truly seek Him. If you hear, “Yes, there is more going on.” You can know this comes from the good heart of our Father. It may be hard, but it is ultimately very good. So stay the course brother, press ahead.
“Finish the task set before you that you may attain the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus!” Phil 3:14