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Sermons and Outlines

Genesis 39:20-23


Intro: The life of Joseph is one of the most remarkable stories found in the Bible. His life is a mixture of sadness and glory, or pain and of success. As a result, Joseph's life contains many lessons from which modern believers can learn. One of those lessons is found in this passage.

In these verses, we find Joseph at one of the lowest moments of his young life. We find him as a young man, having been sold into slavery into Egypt. There, he is purchased by a man named Potipher, and in Potipher's house, Joseph quickly rises to a place of authority and prominence. However, Potipher's wife has eyes for Joseph and attempts to get him to commit adultery with her. He refuses and actually has to run away from her, leaving his garment in her hand, Gen. 39:7-13. His coat had gotten him into trouble again, Gen. 39:14-18; Gen. 37:3-4. After she has been spurned by Joseph, Potipher's wife accuses Joseph of attempting to rape her. Her husband, who is a high ranking Egyptian official, has Joseph thrown into the King's prison.

It is in this Egyptian prison that Joseph learned some very valuable lessons. He learned some facts about the Lord that would serve him well in the years ahead. It is those facts that we need to learn this evening!

Now, Joseph wasn't alone in having to go through a prison experience. In fact, many of the great men of the Bible found themselves in one prison or another. For instance, there is Samson, Daniel, Jeremiah, Hosea, John the Baptist, John, Pater, Paul, and Silas. Many of the Lord's greatest servants had to go through the prison from time to time. In each of these prisons, the Lord revealed His power and providence on behalf of His servants.

What does all this mean for us? Well, we al find ourselves in the prison from time to time. Often, the trials, valleys and troubles of life can be compared to a prison experience. These times can cause us great problems, but they can also be the means to great success for the Lord. I just want you to know that the prisons of life do not have to defeat you! In fact, it is my conviction that God leads us into the prison experiences of life so that we might thrive in His work and to His glory.

I would like for us to take a few minutes this evening to notice some facts that appear in the account of Joseph and his prison experience. As we do, there are some truths taught here that teach us How To Thrive In The Prisons Of Life. Here is what you need to know to thrive in life's prisons.


A. The Bible tells us that Joseph was "bound" in the prison. He had lost his liberty and was held against his will. Certainly it was not the place that he has dreamed of years before, Gen. 37.

It was a place of harshness and suffering that brought pain into the life of Joseph.

(Ill. This is often our experience as well. There are times when everything around us seems to fall apart at the seems. This was the experience of Job, Job (Job 1-2), and it will be the experience of every other person who ever lives in this world, Job 14:1, Eccl. 2:23. It is these experiences of life that we all fear, but through which we all must go! These aren't fun times, but they are part of every life! No one is exempt from the day of trouble!)

B. However, in this prison, Joseph was going to learn the powerful lesson that a person who's life is lined up with the will of God is abundantly free despite the walls that enclose him!

(Ill. Here is the difference between the children of God and the rest of the world! While they struggle through their difficulties, the child of God can rest in the sure knowledge that God has us where we are for His Own purposes and that when we are walking in His ways, we are free despite the prison we find ourselves in at that moment, Job 23:10! That is a precious lesson to learn!)

C. G.A. Young, in his song, "God Leads Us Along" put it this way:

Sometimes on the mount

Where the sun shines so bright,

God leads His dear children along;

Sometimes in the valley,

In darkest of night,

God leads His dear children along.

Some through the waters,

Some thought the flood,

Some through the fire,

But all through the blood;

Some through great sorrow,

But God gives a song,

In the night season

And all the day long.

That is a lesson we all need to learn this evening. Regardless of the oppression we are under at the moment, God is still leading His children. This was the idea David had in mind when he penned Psalm 23! I may be oppressed by the circumstances of life, but I am blessed by the author of life when I am lead along by Him!

I. The Prison Is A Place Of Oppression


A. When Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers and then when he was locked up in the prison house, it must have seemed to him that all those dreams he dreamed as a younger man had really meant nothing, Gen. 37:7-10. He had dreamed that God was going to make something special out of his life, but here he is going nowhere fast. It must have seemed like God had forgotten all about Joseph. Surely, Joseph felt alone, deserted and defeated by the trials and problems he faced.

B. Ill. The prisons of life can leave us all feeling that way. When the problems of life mount up against us, it is easy to feel like we have been deserted by the Lord. When we are thrown into one of life's prisons we tend to fell forgotten and overlooked by the Lord. The devil uses those times to whisper his lies to us and he says, "Well, if God really cares about you then why are you going through this valley?" Or, "You trusted God, and what did it get you but trouble." My friends, if that is the way your are feeling this evening, let me remind you that God does care! Others may forget about us, but God knows exactly where I am and what I am facing. In fact, I have His promise concerning this matter, Luke 12:6-7; Heb. 4:15.

C. When we face the lonely times of life when it seems that God has forgotten all about us, just remember that you aren't the first, nor will you be the last, person who has felt this way. Remember that even great men of God like Elijah went through times of defeat and discouragement, 1 Kings 19:1-18. However, it the depths of his despondency, God knew exactly where Elijah was and God came to him, spoke to him and used him for His glory. He knows where you are serving too!

(Ill. Never forget the truth that God knows where you are! He knows about your prison this evening and He holds the key to your freedom. It may be a place of obscurity, but God will bring you out for His glory. The hardest part is learning to submit to Him, even when we don't like where we are!)

I. The Prison Is A Place Of Oppression

II. The Prison Is A Place Of Obscurity


A. In this prison, Joseph had the great privilege of learning some valuable lessons about God. He learns about God's Presence, God's Providence, God's Purposes and God's Power. He learned lessons that could not have been learned under more pleasant circumstances.

B. Certainly, one of the greatest blessings of going through the trials of life is the truths we learn about God. In fact, the trials of life teach us lessons about God that cannot be learned any other way. Think about it, Daniel could not have learned of God's power over the lions unless he was first cast into the lions den. The 3 Hebrew could not have learned that God was able to deliver them from the fire until they had been cast into the furnace. The Disciples would never have known that Jesus could still the storm until they found themselves in the midst of it. Mary, Martha and Lazarus would never have understood that Jesus is The Resurrection and the Life unless Lazarus had died. The multitudes would never have known that Jesus could multiply the loaves and fishes unless they had been hungry first. The women with the issue could not have experienced the healing touch of Christ, without the suffering and the cost of her illness. The list could go one, but the fat is, we learn more about Him in the prisons of life than in any other way.

C. When we go through the prisons of life, we learn that He is with us, that He is able to sustain us, that He is greater than our problems, that He does have a plan. We learn the truth that the prisons of life are not designed to stop us, but to strengthen us! Even in the midst of difficulty, Joseph was still being blessed and used by the Lord! God's hand was evident in the life of this young man!

D. If we really understood the fact that our prisons are opportunities, we would never allow ourselves to ask "Why?" when these times came about. Instead, we would realize that God was working out His divine purpose and plan for us and we would learn to ask "What?". We would know beyond a doubt that God was doing something good for us, Rom. 8:28!

I. The Prison Is A Place Of Oppression

II. The Prison Is A Place Of Obscurity

III. The Prison Is A Place Of Opportunity


A. Notice that even in the prison, Joseph remained faithful. For him, it was just another place of service. This tells us a lot about this man named Joseph. He was a man of integrity, who was going to remain faithful to the Lord despite his circumstances. Even in this prison experience, we do not find Joseph sitting in his cell whining about how unfair everything is. We find him being a man of God, even when nothing is going his way! What a lesson!

B. I can tell you this evening that it is God's will for you to bloom where you are planted! Regardless of the circumstances or problems that may be true in your life this evening, God expects you to remain faithful to Him and serve Him diligently!

(Ill. Some people point to their family and say, "Well, they won't serve God and it's too hard to do it alone. I might as well quit." Or, "You just don't know what I am facing." Or, "I have this problem or that circumstance that is hindering me from serving the Lord." May I say that all of these are foolish statements? My friends, each of us serves God to the degree we choose to! We can either choose to be faithful in spite of what we are going through, or we can allow the trials of life derail our walk with the Lord. God help us all to learn the truth that God has us exactly where we are for our good and for His glory! We can either honor God by a life of obedience in spite of difficulty, or we can dishonor Him by allowing our trials to hinder our service.)

C. I challenge each of us to remember that nothing in life "just happens". There is no such thing as coincidence! God is either in absolute control of the events of life, or He has nothing to do with them at all. Well, the Bible teaches that He is a sovereign God, Psa. 50:10-12; Psa. 115:3. The truth if the matter is that God is in absolute control of all of life.

Therefore, we can with be in submission to His will for our lives, or we can be in rebellion to His will. Submission means that we serve Him faithfully regardless of the prison we may find ourselves in at the moment.

D. The whole idea here is summed up in one word "faithfulness". God's desire for each of our lives is that we be faithful to Him and His will every minute of every day, regardless of what we are going through. Friend, nothing can happen in your life unless God allows it. Therefore, you can either serve Him through it in obedience and faithfulness, or you can deny His work in your life through rebelling. Either way, it does not change the fact that God has us where we are so that His light might be seen by a lost and dying world, Matt. 5:13-16.


A. Joseph remained in this prison for at least two years, probably for a while longer. However, while he was there, God used him greatly. Chapters 40-41 tell us that Joseph glorified God while he was there and that the Lord used him to touch the lives of the other prisoners. Eventually, the day came when Joseph was delivered from the prison. In less than an hour, Joseph went from being a prisoner to being the Prime Minister of Egypt, Gen. 41:38-45. His life changed in an instant of time!

What we need to understand is that the Lord used the trials that Joseph experienced to prepare him for the place of service God had planned out for Him. You see, God put him in the prison to have him in the proper place at the proper time.

Through his trials, Joseph learned compassion on others, administrative skills and he learned obedience and faithfulness. Notice the progression of the assignments he was given.

1. He was placed over an assignment - Gen. 37:13-14.

2. He was placed over a household - Gen. 39:4.

3. He was placed over a prison - Gen. 39:22-23.

4. He was placed over a nation - Gen. 41:40-41.

God used the prison as Joseph's proving ground. He learned all the lessons he needed to be able to flourish on the throne of Egypt!

B. As we pass through the prisons of life, God is merely training us. When we are found faithful in these valleys, we are allowed to experience greater levels of authority and blessing. God uses the difficulties of life to grow us so that He might us our lives in a more wonderful way than would otherwise be possible, Matt. 25:41; Luke 16:10. As we endure the prison experiences of life, we are trained for expanded usefulness b the Lord!

C. Therefore, we need to learn not to rebel against the prisons we find ourselves in. We must learn to yield to the Lord's work in our lives and trust Him to have His way in us and through us. He knows where He wants us ans He knows what He would have us do. Let us learn to trust Him and experience the best He has to offer us!

Conc: Friend, if you aren't in a prison of life this evening, you will be someday. In either case, you need what Joseph has taught us this evening. I challenge you to look deep into your heart and ask yourself whether or not you are in that place of alignment with the plan and purposes of God for your life. Are you blooming where He has planted you? Or do you find yourself struggling against the bonds that hold you? Whatever the need, there is hope and help in our glorious Lord this evening!

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