What does success look like? I think that for most men, the temptation to measure ourselves by status, wealth, career, or luxury is fairly tempting.
Here are some things I definitely do not put on my “successful living” list: exile, slavery, constant temptation, false accusations, betrayal, distrust from those I’ve served most faithfully, a criminal record, and life in prison. And yet, we read, “The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man” (Genesis 39:2), and “whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed” (39:23).
I see two powerful reminders in this passage:
First, God’s favor and blessings are not determined by circumstance, power, or wealth. God’s economy and man’s economy are not the same. Yet, too often, we see with the eyes of the world. We see as Potiphar and his wife saw: we look for those things which are handsome in form and appearance (Genesis 39:6), yet neglect the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy, and faithfulness (Matthew 23:23).
Joseph faced trial after trial, yet he kept his eyes fixed upon this truth: success is from the Lord. Indeed, “better is a little with righteousness than great revenues with injustice” (Proverbs 16:8). How quickly are we dismayed by circumstance? How much of our lives are driven by fear of worldly failure?
Second, it is tempting to think that the path to success is paved with our own righteousness. But, again and again, we read that Joseph’s success was the LORD’s doing. Genesis 39:21 says, “But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor…”
Both Potiphar and his wife could see Joseph’s many successes. Potiphar’s wife even found Joseph’s success and his dashing good looks impossible to resist. But neither comprehended the root of his success. Joseph, however, knew that his position of influence, and his physical appearance were none of his doing.
The moral of the story isn’t that if we are righteous like Joseph, we will live wealthy lives and have all our dreams come true. Genesis 29 reminds us that the Lord is the fountain of all blessing, which means our measure of success and failure is rooted in His good pleasure. As Paul writes, “‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’ For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends” (2 Corinthians 10:17-18).
Real success is a transformed heart, mind, and life. These are gifts of God’s great grace. And God has already extended to us His favor, for He “has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing” (Ephesians 1:3). May we therefore cling to Christ—our victory, our success, and our joy!
Written By Caleb Faires