Etched in the annals of antiquity is a story about a boy named Joseph who had vivid dreams about becoming a leader. The first time he had this dream, he only shared it with his brothers. The second time, he told his father about it. His father scolded him, and then wondered what the dream meant. His brothers, who were already jealous, hated him.

One day, Joseph’s father sent him on a journey to check on his brothers, who were working away from home. When they saw him approaching, they said “Here comes the dreamer, let’s kill him and tell our father he was killed by a wild animal.” Joseph’s brother Reuben convinced them to throw him into a pit instead.

While Joseph was in the pit, the other brothers seized an opportunity to sell him to some passing slave traders. The slave traders travelled to a nearby country and sold Joseph to a man who was captain of the King’s royal guard.

Joseph served diligently, and was soon promoted to the position of assistant to the captain. Eventually, he was given complete administrative responsibility for everything the captain owned. Things seemed to be going well….that is, until the day Joseph was wrongly accused of attempting to seduce the captain’s wife. Upon hearing the news, the captain threw Joseph into the prison.

Joseph quickly found favor with the prison warden, and was placed in charge of all of the prisoners. During this time, Joseph shared his dream interpreting wisdom with two prominent prisoners and as a result one was released and restored to his position as cup bearer to the King. The released prisoner forgot all about Joseph.

After two years, the King needed help interpreting a dream, and the cup bearer remembered Joseph. He was summoned from the prison, shared his wisdom with the King, and was immediately released. Joseph used his God-given wisdom and insight to prepare the nation during seven years of good harvest followed by seven years of drought and famine. His plan worked so well that, along with providing for that nation, there was enough to help nearby nations.

By this time, Joseph was Second-in-Command of the entire nation. Joseph’s initial dreams of leadership came to fruition, and when his brothers arrived asking him for help, he was able to provide for them too.

There are at least three principles we can learn from this story of Joseph:

1) Joseph never allowed any person or circumstance, no matter how unfair, to cause him to waver in what he knew he should do. Of course, it is always good to seek wise counsel. The problem is that there can be jealous people who only want to hold you back, or who only see things through the filter of their own best interests. There are also people who simply don’t share your dream or vision. Don’t allow them to get you off course.

2) Regardless of circumstance or position, Joseph did excellent work with the gifts he had been given. You can’t control everything that happens, but you can control yourself. Wherever you are, do your best. You never know who is watching, and even if no one is paying attention, you will know inside your own heart whether or not you are giving your best effort. Excellent work is always worthwhile, whether in prison or in the throne room.

3) Joseph had compassion on those who treated him unfairly. We’ve all been treated unfairly, and we all react to that unfair treatment differently. If you think about the times you were vindictive, compared to the times you fought through the urge to strike back, you will most likely see that taking the high road is the path that usually leads to a quicker and stronger resolution.

In what ways are you like Joseph? In what ways are you different from Joseph? What do you need to change?