January 13, 2008
God wants our lives on a HNL, a ‘hole ‘notha level. But you know what? I have a confession to make.
That’s the last time you’ll ever hear me say that phrase. My kids have been saying, “Dad, you’re wearing that phrase out. It’s old, it’s tired, and it’s predictable. Don’t say that anymore.” So I’m here to tell you, I will never say that phrase again. I will, though, use hand signals instead of saying the phrase. And here’s the hand signal [Gesturing]. God wants our lives on a [Ed does the hand signal of raising the level].
Joseph is all about that because Joseph was betrayed at a crucial time in his life. He was also betrayed by those who were closest to him. Think about Joseph, 17 years of age. Think about Joseph’s dysfunctional family.
Joseph could have easily played the crazy family card. His dad, Jacob, was completely wheels off. He had four wives, twelve sons, and one daughter. The name Jacob means, “the cheater, the supplanter.” Jacob, if you know anything about him, betrayed his father, Isaac, lied and betrayed his brother Esau.
Now we have Jacob’s sons doing the same thing, betraying, lying, lying, and betraying. They betrayed Joseph. Why did they betray him? Jacob made the major mistake of showing favoritism. Jacob said, “You know what? Joseph is the man.” So he bought Joseph this designer robe, the Bible calls it a robe that had all these ornaments on it. You could see him coming from miles away. And his brothers didn’t like it.
Put yourself in his brothers’ sandals for a second. They felt betrayed by their father. Betrayal hurts; it’s like living in a pit. They became the pit vipers.
Some of you right now are in a pit. You’re saying, “Ed, I have been betrayed in a marriage or two. I have been betrayed in a business relationship or two. I’ve been betrayed in a friendship or two, by a coach or a teacher.” You have this pit viper mentality. You strike at anything and everything that moves. Snakes are creepy aren’t they?
ILLUS: You know, last week I was out of town. And as I was running, I saw something kind of move in the path that I was running on. I stepped on a snake. Snakes are freaky, and a lot of you are freaky because you’re in the pit. You have all this bitterness and all of this emotion, and you’re angry.
Joseph could have reacted that way. His brothers did, yet he didn’t. You know what his brothers did? They wanted to kill Joseph. Now Joseph was 17. I mean, give the guy a break. He’s a teenager. He sits down with his brothers and says, “You know what? I’m going to lead and one day, dudes. You’re going to bow down to me. I’m the man and you’re not.”
Joseph made a mistake by giving that vibe to his brothers. His brothers, again, felt hurt. They felt bitterness, they felt anger, and they felt betrayed. So they thought, “You know what? Let’s kill him.”
Those who are closest to us will hurt us the most, won’t they? Joseph’s brothers said, “Let’s take him out.” So they discussed it and cooler heads prevailed. So his brothers saw this pit and they tossed Joseph in the pit. Then they sat down and ordered Dominos and began to eat right outside of the pit.
At the mouth of the pit, they are having a good time talking back and forth. And then one of them had this bright idea. He said, “Hey, let’s just sell him to these caravans that cruise by here because they’re going to Egypt. So let’s just sell him. We can make some cash. And then we’ll just take that nice Gucci robe, rip it to shreds, and dip it in goat’s blood.
“We’ll take it back to dad and tell dad that a wild animal killed his favorite son. It is a win win. We lie, we betray, we make money, and this dreamer is gone. He’s in Egypt. We will never hear from him again.”
Well, that’s what happened. Poor Joseph. He’s in the pit. When you’re in a pit, it is dark, it’s cold, and it’s lonely. You’re isolated and alienated from everything. He sees his brothers and says, “Hey, pull me out of the pit!” And they lift him out of the pit. I’m sure Joseph is thinking, “Okay everything is cool now. We can make up and be friends, you know? Why can’t we be friends?”
Then they say, “Hey Joe, guess what? See all those camels? You’re going to have to follow those camels through the desert on this camel caravan, and it’s going to take you like a month to get to Egypt. But we’ll see you, bye, bye, bye.”
So Joseph makes a 30 day journey through the desert, through all of the elements to get to Egypt. And his brothers go home. They felt betrayed. They betrayed their father and lied to him, and their father just goes on tilt. He is devastated because the apple of his eye, he thinks, has been killed.
Isn’t that interesting? Here Jacob did the betrayal thing in his family of origin, and now his families, his kids, are doing the same thing. We learn betrayal, don’t we? We see envy and jealously from authority figures, from parents, and a lot of us take it and say, “I will just betray people.”
Betrayal equals big bucks in our culture. Everybody is betraying everybody. There’s this kiss-and-tell mentality. Everybody is blogging and betraying. Everybody is talking about this and the innuendos and exaggerations and—we just love betrayal. “Give me some more betrayal, some more dirty laundry.”
Why do we love betrayal? Well, I know why. It’s a one word answer: Sin. S I N. That is what we do. It’s who we are and we like to hear about it, read about it, and experience it. And a lot of people who are hearing my voice right now, you’re either the betrayer or the betrayed. We have all betrayed people, let’s just be honest.
Some of us right now are in the midst of betraying someone. Maybe you totally committed to your spouse in marriage, yet recently you’ve been in territory that is all about disloyalty. You’ve been in territory that is totally crushing your commitment. You’ve betrayed your spouse.
Maybe someone shared a secret with you, told you something in confidence and you said, “Oh yeah, tell me, I won’t say a word to anybody.” Then you quickly go to about 15 friends and tell. And you’ve done that recently.
Others here have been on the receiving end of that. We’ve been pushed in the pit. We’ve had our 11 brothers just toss us into the pit. And we’re like, “Man, what is the deal?” You’re looking down and around. You’re in the mud and the mire.
Maybe some of you are thinking, “Okay, I have been out of the pit. People have pulled me out of the pit, and everything is cool. Everything is fine.” But, you have found yourself following a bunch of camels. You have found yourself enslaved. You’ve found yourself, like Joseph did, on the trading blocks.
Here is this kid from Canaan, a Hebrew hillbilly. Now he finds himself in Egypt, a foreign culture, and a new language. Think about him. He was bought by a guy named Potiphar.
Potiphar was the man, head of the CIA of Egypt. His wife was a former Miss Egypt 500 BC. She didn’t just have a good personality; you know what I’m saying? This lady was a showstopper. So Potiphar bought Joseph as a slave.
So a month earlier Joseph is the man of the hour, the tower of Hebrew favoritism power, with a Gucci robe. Suddenly, he finds himself in the pit. Now he’s out of the pit, and he’s a slave. He’s sold to Potiphar in a new culture. He walks up to Potiphar’s house—I’m sure in chains—sees the Sphinx guarded gates, the columns, the palm trees, and the weird people.
And you know Egypt was a very sensual and seductive culture. Just study the artwork and some of the writings. And this kid is single. The Bible says that Joseph was well-built and handsome. Did you know that? The girls would say, “He’s smokin’ hot, man.”
The Bible only describes three people as hot, three guys. Joseph, of course, David, and Solomon. A little Bible trivia.
Well, Potiphar’s wife takes notice of Joseph. She’s like, “Wow, man.” And that’s when the plot begins to clot. I want you to notice something, though, about Potiphar’s wife. Joseph was a man who lived on a [gesturing]. Why? Because of one word—are you ready for this word? Here it is: loyalty.
What is loyalty? Loyalty is trust. Loyalty is like, “I’m pledging myself to this stance, to this position no matter what.” Joseph was loyal to God.
When you’re in the pit—you’re going to get in the pit. We’re either pre-pit, in the pit, or post-pit. We’re all in that position. I don’t care who you are, how much money you have, how much you don’t have, what you look like, where you’re from, we’re either pre-pit, in the pit, or post-pit.
But here’s the deal: No matter where you are, trust God. You become loyal to him because when we’re loyal to God, here’s what’s going to happen—are you ready for this? This is phenomenal—we’re going to be prosperous.
“Now, Ed, are you talking about making money?” No. “Are you talking about being loaded?” No. I’m not talking about that kind of prosperity. I’m talking about real prosperity. I’m talking about success because in the scripture, here’s what it means to be successful: To be successful means to be walking and living in the will of God. That’s success.
It’s not money. It’s not fame. It’s not having this or that. It’s walking in the will of God. That’s what it means to be prosperous and successful.
Sometimes tangible things come along with that. Sometimes people are wealthy and this or that, but it’s deeper and more profound than that. It has to do with God’s purpose and plan for our lives.
So let’s see the prosperity that Joseph had because of his loyalty because it’s kind of strange. I mean, here he is a part of this family and then all of the sudden he’s thrown in the pit. He doesn’t become a pit viper. He doesn’t look down or around, he looks up.
They pull him out of the pit, and now he’s a slave. And now he’s sold to this guy named Potiphar and he’s working in his house, doing just menial tasks and things you would never think a guy like Joseph would do.
Well, let’s pick it up in Genesis 39:1, because verse 1 in Genesis 39 is a powerful verse because it says, “Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt.” That’s what our betrayers love to do to us. That’s what I like to do to people when I betray them. I want to take you down. And that’s what happened. They tried to take him down, but again, our boy Joseph was loyal. Look at verse two. “The Lord was with him and he prospered.”
Do you know what the word prosperity means? To have good fortune. “And he lived in the house of his Egyptian master.” Now it says this, “When his master,” again, Potiphar, “saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, something happened.”
Okay, God wants you and me to be loyal to him because obviously God is loyal. He’s fiercely loyal to you and me. When we’re loyal, we’re going to be blessed and people will watch us. The Potiphars in our lives will check us out because you learn about someone when they’re in the pit. I call it the pit perspective.
What is your perspective in the pit? When you’ve been betrayed, when you’ve been stabbed, when you’ve been abused, when you’ve been hurt, what direction are you headed? Where are you looking? Are you looking down, around? Are you a pit viper? Or are you saying, “God, I’m looking up to you. I trust you. I’m loyal to you.” Obviously Joe was loyal to God, and it snapped Potiphar’s head. He was thinking, “Man this guy has something special.”
Now hold that thought for a second. And if you have your Bibles turn to the book of Psalm 40:1 4. Here we go, “I waited patiently for the Lord, he turned to me and heard my cry.”
One of the most profound things that you can do and I can do in the pit of betrayal is to wait patiently for the Lord. Now this is not this passive way like, “Okay I will just wait. It’s dark and cold. Man, my family is all messed up. That’s why I’m here. If I hadn’t done this”—no, it’s not that. It’s an active waiting. It’s intense, and it’s remaining loyal to God.
Look at verse 2, “He lifted me out,” He being the Lord, “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.” And yes, we’re going to have some residue from the pit, we’re going to have some dirt and mud. And maybe we’ll kind of smell weird because of the pit. That’s okay.
God is working on you and working on me. He’s building prosperity. He’s building blessings. He’s building success. He’s building loyalty. So, “He lifted me out of the slimy pit. He put my feet on a rock, gave me a firm place to stand.”
Look at verse 3. “He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise, many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.” So my pit perspective, my loyalty in the pit can have a great influence in the lives of others.
Now, I think one of the things that is really going to mess us up when we get to heaven is that God is going to look at us and tell us all the people who were watching us, who were checking us out, and we had no idea they were watching us or checking us out. And we’re going to be like, “Wow, I didn’t know they were watching me and checking me out.”
That’s the kind of power, that’s the kind of influence that God wants each of us to have. When we’re loyal, man, loyalty brings and gives us incredible leverage for the things of the Lord because in verse 4, out of Psalm 40:4 it says, “Blessed is the man or woman who makes the Lord his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turned aside to false gods.”
So again, I’m loyal, I’m going to be prosperous, and I’m going to be successful. But notice this, when I’m loyal it is also going to open up opportunity after opportunity. What happened in Joseph’s life? He started at the bottom because of his loyalty to the Lord, to Potiphar, and to Potiphar’s wife and family.
Because of that, what did Potiphar do? He said, “Joseph, you’re going to go to a [gesturing]. He put him in charge of his whole estate and the scripture said the only thing that Mr. Potiphar had to worry about was eating. That’s how much confidence he had in Joseph’s abilities and his loyalty.
Now a lot of times people will read this and think, “Man, Joseph was on the fast track. This must have happened in like three or four weeks. Boom, he starts at the bottom and then he’s at the top.” Maturity and growth and loyalty is not a pill we swallow, it’s a process. Take a wild guess at how many years Joseph worked in Potiphar’s house. Ten years, a decade of loyalty, a decade of trust.
Who is your Potiphar? God has placed Potiphars in our lives over us. God has placed these authority figures in our lives. He wants us to get under the authority figures. To go up, I have to get under.
I did a series a while back called “Authority Issues.” It’s probably my favorite series I have ever done, and throughout the series I said one thing over and over again. I said, “We have to get under what God has placed over us, so we can get over what God has placed under us.”
Many people live their entire lives without ever realizing what should be under them. “Well, I don’t like my Potiphar.” You don’t have to like him. “I don’t like my boss.” “I don’t like my manager.” “I don’t like my coach.” If you wait to say, “Okay, I’m not going to submit to them until I like them,” you’ll never submit.
When you get under the authority structures in life, you’re in the zone. You’re in the blessed place. You’re in the place of prosperity. You’re in the place of success. You’re in the place where God will build phenomenal character.
As you’re loyal, though, something else will happen: temptation. You show me someone who is loyal, you show me someone who is blessed and who is prosperous, and I will show you someone who deals with temptation.
The half brother of Jesus said, “When you’re tempted.” Not if, not it might happen, not oh if circumstances and the stars all line up. No, he didn’t say that. He said, “When you’re tempted.”
Think about the temptation that Joseph had. Handsome and well built, hundreds of miles away from home, single in a very sexual culture, and who begins to hit on him? The former Miss Egypt 500 BC. The smokin’ hot, Mrs. Potiphar.
Day after day, the Bible said, she tried to tempt him. “Come to bed with me. Have relations with me. Come to bed with me. Have relations with me.” Do you know what Joseph said? “I’m not going to do that.” He said, “Number one, because of God. I’m not going to do that because of my position, because of my love and respect for Potiphar.” You see, he was loyal to God, he was loyal to Potiphar, he was even loyal to Potiphar’s marriage. Yet, Mrs. Potiphar didn’t even know it.
Well one day, she caught him alone in her mansion and she said, “Lie with me. Come on, let’s get together.” And she reached out and grabbed his cloak, and he broke away and ran. Some of you right now need to run. “Flee,” the Bible says, “sexual temptation.” Why did Joseph run? Why did he flee? Loyalty.
Now here is what really just messes me up about the story. Several hours later, Mr. Potiphar comes home. He drives up in his Maserati chariot, gets out, he’s whistling. He looks at his wife, “Honey, how was your day?”
“It was terrible. I was attacked by that Hebrew hick, Joseph, that kid from Canaan. It was awful!”
And here is what is so interesting about the story. Mr. Potiphar believes his whacky wife that quick. He doesn’t say, “Honey, are you sure? Explain it. Joseph, come in. What happened, Joseph?” No, he didn’t do that. He goes on tilt. He takes Joseph and tosses him in prison.
Now, if you look up the word dungeon in Genesis 39, the Hebrew word for dungeon is “pit.” Can you believe that? Pit. But it was just another pit stop for Joe. Yet, can you believe Potiphar believed the lies? That’s what happens. People betray others and then the betrayer begins to lie and then some people believe the lies.
ILLUS: I have the opportunity to speak to a lot of leaders, and one of the main questions they ask me about leadership is, “Ed, how in the world has Fellowship Church amassed such a phenomenal staff?” And they tell me that about our church here, in Miami, in Plano, in Downtown, and in Fort Worth. And when I begin to answer their question, they have their laptops ready and they’re getting ready to write like I’m about to say something really profound.
I say, “You know what, it’s really easy. Hiring a great staff is easy.” Because if some of you know the history of Fellowship Church, pretty much the nucleus of our staff today is the same nucleus we had 15 to 17 years ago.
“Well, how do you hire great staff members?” Just check people out in the pit of betrayal. Because remember, betrayal happens. We’re either pre-pit, in the pit or post-pit.
So when betrayal happens in the company, in the church, in the school, on the team, whenever you lead, whenever you influence, when betrayal happens, listen for the lies. Because the betrayer always lies to cover up he or she tail, I mean trail. They’ll lie, lie, and lie. And who believes the lies? The people who believe the lies are the posers.
And those who stand with the vision of the team, the company, the church, or the whatever, those are the players—not playa’—the players. Hire them quick. Hang out with them quick. They’re the right “they.”
“So it’s really very simple,” I say. “Go through a conflict, go through betrayal and then turn around and see who has your back. And whoever has your back, hire them quick!”
“Well, what about their intellect?” Intellect schminellect. We don’t hire for intellect, we hire for intensity.
“Well what about their head knowledge? Where did they go to school?” Head knowledge, schmead knowledge.
We want heart, man. That is the secret of great friends. That is the secret of a great marriage. That is the secret of a great church, of a great school, of a great company, of a great whatever.
So betrayal can be your buddy. It can be your friend. It can be your boy. You know what I’m saying to you? But there’s a good side to betrayal.
I can’t believe Mr. Potiphar believed that. Incredible. Yet, we want to believe the lies about people. Here is Mr. Potiphar. He is looking at Joseph. Joseph has had a great track record of integrity for ten years. And then his whack a doodle doo wife says one wild thing, “He tried to attack me, he’s a sex freak, he went crazy.” What? Amazing.
Loyalty will lead to prosperity and blessings. Loyalty will lead to character development. Loyalty will also be about temptation. Loyalty will take you to a [gesture].
Joseph, again, found himself in the pit. He’s back in the pit, back in prison. Now because of his loyalty, though, even in prison the warden says, “Man, you’re phenomenal!” The warden was watching his pit perspective. He didn’t become a pit viper. He looked up and trusted God. The warden of the prison put him in charge of the whole deal.
There’s nothing like loyalty. God is loyal to you and to me. He wants us to be loyal to him because when we are, amazing things will happen. I want to leave you with one question, and I want you to answer this question in your heart of hearts. Where are you right now?