It was Charles Spurgeon who described Joseph as ‘the swan in the duck’s nest’: he was just that bit different from the rest of his family. Joseph became a young – and highly influential – leader. Here are five things for aspiring young leaders to learn from his story:
- Learn to look for early pointers to your calling. For Joseph, there were two, both of them bound up in his dreams. One was the fact that he had these dreams and that they appeared not to be the fruit of a grandiose imagination but, rather, God-given. Later, it was Joseph’s God-given ability to discern the meaning of dreams that led to his promotion. Then there was the content of his dreams which, much to the chagrin of his brothers (and even the annoyance of his father) pointed to future exaltation.
- Accept that not everyone will appreciate your sense of calling. Sometimes Joseph gets a hard time from us moderns who regard him as an annoying little boy who should have done less boasting. To be fair to Joseph, the text of Scripture does not explicitly accuse him of anything along these lines, although there may be at least a hint of an immaturity and insensitivity about the way he shared his news! But it’s the brothers who are the villains: their jealousy (fuelled, in part by the unwise favouritism extended by their father to their little brother) becomes hatred which leads most of them to a point where they are prepared to kill Joseph.
- Realise that being surrounded by nasty people who do not appreciate your dreams does not mean that God will not be able to get you where he wants you. Sure, it would be easier if everyone around you was excited for you because of your vision, if they encouraged you and did all they could to help make it happen, but just because they don’t does not mean that God will not see you through.
- Understand that your leadership journey may not always run in a straight line. Joseph had to endure both pit and prison before his calling was realised. Moses had forty years in exile before God called him. David spent years on the run between the time of his anointing and the day he took the throne. Along the way, Joseph was tested in terms of his integrity and character. While in prison (unjustly), the word of the Lord tested him (Psalm 105:19) – perhaps meaning that his faith and trust were tested by the delay in God fulfilling his word.
- Keep an eye on God’s providence. Joseph’s eventual reunion with his brothers is one of the most moving scenes in Scripture. And he forgives them. It’s not that he had forgotten what they had done, or that somehow it didn’t really matter. Joseph was able to forgive his brothers because he could see hand of God at work in bringing about a great plan of salvation.