Sin corrupts our godly desire for glory. Sin convinces us that fleeting success and momentary glory will satisfy our hearts. Sin keeps us from seeking success that lasts. It moves us to seek our own glory, rather than to share in the glory of God along with our sisters and brothers in Christ. But sin does not have to get the last word. By God’s grace, our yearning for success can be redirected, our desire for glory purified. We can invest our lives in God’s kingdom work, thus earning treasure that will last.
The early Joseph, the dreamer who boasted about his own greatness and glory (37:5-11), has become a more mature and humble man, one who refuses to take credit for that which comes from God. We can easily imagine the early Joseph standing before Pharaoh and saying, “Yes, I am a wise interpreter of dreams.” But the latter Joseph, one who has been humbled through suffering, points to God’s greatness rather than his own. He does not claim his success as his own, but rather sees it as a gift from the Lord.
You have been given gifts, opportunities, and possessions from God so that you might use them well for God’s purposes. You have been created in God’s image so that you might be fruitful and multiply, filling, governing, tilling, and keeping the earth. You have been created anew in Christ so that you might do the good works God has prepared for you. Your success, like that of Joseph, is a matter of stewarding well all that God has entrusted to you.
The reality of Joseph’s life and work at this time doesn’t exactly match our notion of being “a successful man.” We think of success in terms of position and power. Successful people run their own lives and are doing extremely well financially. The identification of Joseph as “a successful man” challenges our notions of success. It also encourages those of us who do not fit our cultural ideal of success.
God is the ultimate source of all goodness, including success in the workplace. This does not mean that human effort makes no difference; but, the example of Joseph shows us that success is not a matter of simply getting the right principles, laws, or mindset. Our success depends on God, on God’s grace, wisdom, provision, and sovereignty. If we want to be successful in our work—not to mention other aspects of life—we begin by relying on God in all things, seeking his ways and his glory.
But what if the Gospel really does involve all the ordinary stuff? Every bit of the “very good” creation that God smiled down upon… If the world, and everything in it, has an important place at the beginning of the very important Christian story, then they must matter. If everything God made then was “very good,” then surely, even sin-tainted, a spark of goodness and the potential for redemption remains—just like it does for us.
In the beginning, God creates the heavens and the earth. He organizes this earth, and ensures that everything is working and functioning properly. This great big God then makes humankind in his image and likeness and calls this first man Adam… For our purposes today, it is worth focusing on Adam’s role as the first human being to receive a vision or plan from God.
Ash Wednesday has everything to do with work. We see this in the biblical passage that provides the basis for the Ash Wednesday worship… Until we die, we will do battle with “thorns and thistles” in our work (3:18). We will be productive, but only “by the sweat of [our] brow” (3:19). Thus, our mortality, which is signified through the ashes of Ash Wednesday, is first experienced in our work, which, because of sin, can be painful and unhappily toilsome.
In my last devotion, I underscored the need for clarity at the beginning of our pursuit of God’s vision for our lives. When you turn on the lights at the infancy stage of your project, you can clearly see what you have. Resources are made visible, and inadequacies are often highlighted. So what do we do once the lights are on?
When we look closely at the account of creation in Genesis, we see that the earth God created was formless and dark… Before God separated the waters, surfaced the land, made the plants and animals, and even created people, he said four important words: “Let there be light.” In essence, he was bringing forth clarity. How do you bring light into your genesis phase?