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Week 4 (February 1st)
Cultivate Your Character: The Example of Joseph


Our study is on cultivating a character like Joseph’s. To cultivate means to develop by education or training or to foster. So, if we want our character developed like Joseph’s we must be willing to be educated and trained as he was – by God.

That’s the kicker! He didn’t develop himself. He didn’t go to self-help seminars. He didn’t read Christian books and follow the latest popular Christian teacher. God was his teacher. And how does God develop people?

Psalms 119:67, Job 36:15, Ps. 119:124

God’s classroom is life. Joseph was an excellent student. He viewed his situations as full of providential blessings (Gen.39:8-9; 45:5, 7-8; 50:19).

Let me give you the first and greatest single characteristic of Joseph. It was his absolute faithfulness to God under all circumstances, and it is through this that God worked to exalt him so highly. And it was through this that all his other godly character traits developed.

We will see as we go through Scripture a pattern in Joseph’s life (39:21-23, 39: 2, 3, 5)

The Lord is with Joseph

Gives him favor with the authority over him

He prospers Joseph and causes him to succeed in whatever he does.

Joseph did faithfully and to his best ability whatever God gave him to do and God prospered him. That is the pattern we will see in his dealings with Potiphar, the Jailor and Pharaoh.
Paul tells us in 1 Cor. 10:31 that “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Joseph did all for the glory of God.

The authorities over Joseph saw the visible, tangible occurrences of God’s blessings on all that Joseph did and praised God because of him. Because God favored Joseph, they favored him and trusted him.

Whatever Joseph did, he didn’t neglect the interests of his masters and he worked hard to be sure those interests were furthered. He understood authority. He respected authority. He worked hard on behalf of others. There was nothing lackadaisical about Joseph.

There are two steps to success that can be seen in Joseph’s life:

Please God and seek His blessing. Just as Jesus said in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Do it over a long period of time.( Forget instant gratification)

Joseph was 17 when he was sold into slavery. He was 30 when Pharaoh promoted him to Prime Minister (41:46). Thus it took 13 years for the full measure of God’s blessings to Joseph to be recognized. Advancement doesn’t always come quickly. Normally success takes time. Joseph was patient (Hint: another characteristic.)

Joseph’s story is covered in 13 chapters in Genesis. We are going to look at as many of Joseph’s character traits as we can in our time together.

In our study we have divided Joseph’s life into four sections
Betrayal –The Relationship between Joseph and His Brothers

Joseph’s Temptation

Joseph is Forgotten

Joseph is Reunited With His Family

Here is a preview of what Joseph is going to demonstrate for us:

  • the value of self-control in the temptation
  • patience and perseverance in times of trouble
  • honesty, strong work ethics
  • fear of God and faithfulness to God

Opening Question

You have all heard the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Faulty question. There are no good people.

And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone (Mark 10:18).

As Christians we may ask, “Why do bad things happen to God’s people?Why did Joseph’s life contain so much harassment, temptation, affliction, and heartache? Why does mine? Lord what are you doing?

The Big Idea

Joseph acknowledges God’s sovereignty over the events in his life. God’s presence and steadfast love enabled Joseph to overcome all the difficulties he faced. He wasn’t overcome by his circumstances in life. His character grew and strengthened through his afflictions and setbacks.

Scripture Passage

1. Betrayal –The Relationship between Joseph and His Brothers

Gen. 37: 2-5, 8, 11

One day after his disclosures to his brothers about his dreams, they were tending their flocks out in the country and Jacob sent Joseph to check on them.

Gen. 37:14

When he got to Shechem, they weren’t there. Instead of going home, he wandered
around the countryside trying to find them. He wasn’t going home without a report for his father that his brothers were okay. But, when he found them they plotted his death, but Judah talked them into selling him to Ishmaelite traders.

Gen. 37:23-24 .

Later in 42:21 we are told how Joseph was feeling and how he reacted while his brothers were betraying him. Later, when Joseph, the Prime Minster, was giving his brothers a hard time about being spies, they decided God was punishing them for what they did to Joseph.


But at the time, the brothers didn’t care how much Joseph begged.

Gen. 42:28, 36: 39:1


What character traits did Joseph demonstrate in his response to his brother’s envy and hatred?

(Possible answers: concern for others – he searched for them, kindness – because he must have ignored a lot of unkind words and deeds, love – he loved his enemies, resisted the temptation to repay evil with evil)


Jesus said in John 15:18: “”If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” This is the same situation that Joseph was in. If the world sees you as different: sees your good deeds, it shows up their ungodliness. They will hate you as Joseph’s brothers hated him. If you have not already, when you do run into this situation, how will you respond?

  1. The story continues: Joseph’s Temptation

Gen. 39: 2-12.

Because of her accusations, Potiphar unjustly threw Joseph in prison.


What characteristics that you had identified in the previous section do you see developing in Joseph during this time of his life?

(Possible answers: work ethic, resisting temptation, loving his enemies, faithful)

What other characteristics do you see in this passage?

(Possible answers: Honesty, integrity, faithfulness, excellent work ethic)

What was Joseph’s response to temptation?

(Possible answers: flees, fear of sinning against God, doesn’t try to reason, doesn’t try to witness)

Joseph was able to fight off temptation because he had fixed one main truth in his mind? What was that truth?

(Possible answers: He knew God was omnipresent and omniscient. God knows everything Joseph did. He wouldn’t knowingly sin against God.)


In your life, what work habits do you have that line up with Joseph’s?

What evidence do you find in your life that God is with you?

Joseph’s temptation came after his promotion. That’s when Satan knows we are most vulnerable. Have you experienced temptation after victory? How did you avoid it? What have you learned from Joseph’s life that will help you in the future?

Joseph was aware that God knew exactly what he was doing. We call that God’s omnipresent and omniscient. How can you insure that you are always aware that God’s eyes are upon you?

What do we learn from Joseph about how to resist temptation in our lives?

  1. Joseph is Forgotten

Gen.39: 21-23

Then God intervenes and turns the heart of Pharaoh (Proverbs 21:1) to be angry with the chief cupbearer and the chief baker and they are thrown into prison with Joseph. They each have a dream and Joseph interprets the dreams for them. The cup bearer will be restored to his former job in three days, but the poor baker will be dead. Pharaoh will execute him.

In verse 14 Joseph does a very human thing and asks the cupbearer:

Gen. 40:14.

He proclaims his innocence and asks the chief cup bearer for help, because Joseph knows he will live. Then on the third day as Joseph had said Pharaoh restored the chief cupbearer and killed the baker.


Gen. 40:23. Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.

Then after two years God was ready for Joseph to be Prime Minister of Egypt, so he gave Pharaoh two dreams. None of the wise men of Egypt were able to interpret the dreams.

Finally, the chief cupbearer remembers.

Gen. 41:9-13

So, Pharaoh sent for Joseph and said he had been told Joseph could interpret his dreams.

Gen. 41:16. Joseph answered Pharaoh, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.”

Joseph does not take credit for what God does. Pharaoh tells Joseph his dreams. Joseph tells him the meaning: 7 years of plenty, 7 years of famine. Then Joseph continues:

Gen. 41:32. And the doubling of Pharaoh’s dream means that the thing is fixed by God, and God will shortly bring it about.

Joseph then goes on to give Pharaoh the plan to fix the problem and his proposal pleases Pharaoh and he makes Joseph Prime Minister, second in command of Egypt, so he can implement his plan.

Pharaoh recognizes Joseph enjoys God’s favor.

Gen.41:38 – 39

Pharaoh gave Joseph an Egyptian name and wife. He had two sons. The first born he named Manasseh.

Gen. 41:51 52

There were seven years of plenty and then the famine came.


Describe how God worked in the circumstances of Joseph’s time in prison.

(Possible answers: See the pattern, The Lord was with Joseph, gave him favor with jailor, prosper Joseph and makes him succeed, makes Pharaoh jail the cup bearer and baker)

How did God use this time to further develop Joseph’s character and prepare him for the positon of Prime Minister?

(Possible answers: developed work ethic (even in jail), patience, reliance and trust in God, how to get along with various people)

What indications do you find in the above passage that Joseph gave up on God?
(Answer: None, of course.)

What indications do you find that Joseph stayed faithful?

(Possible answers: No whining, no despair, he worked hard, used his gifts for other’s good and God’s glory)


The chief cupbearer forgot Joseph and so Joseph spent another 2 years in prison. If this happened to you how would you react?

What can you do now to prepare for times of waiting?

  1. Joseph is Reunited with His Family.

Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt to get food. They didn’t recognize him, but Joseph recognized his brothers. After much testing, many trials, and a few trips between Canaan and Egypt, Joseph is convinced his brothers have repented of the evil they did to him.

Gen. 45: 1-3

So, Joseph tells them:

Gen. 45:5-8.

The brothers went back and got their father and all the clan and brought them to live in Egypt. After some years Jacob, Joseph’s father, dies and once again he must reassure his brothers of his forgiveness and God’s good purposes in all that happened.

Gen.50: 19 – 21


What two things had to happen between Joseph and his brothers for this beautiful family reunion to happen?

(Possible Answers: The repentance of his brothers and Joseph’s forgiveness of them.)

What has Joseph learned through the last 13 years that allows him to so easily forgive his brothers for selling him into slavery?

(Possible answers: He saw the circumstances of his life as part of God’s plan, faith and trust in God)

How do you see God working in Joseph’s life to develop the character that made Pharaoh so impressed with him?

(Possible answers: Trails, afflictions, opportunities to prove himself, reliable and trustworthy, how to be patient)


Forgiveness of someone who has wronged us can be a struggle, especially if they haven’t acknowledged their wrong. What can we learn from Joseph to help us with this struggle?

What is something you will do to develop a forgiving heart?

If you have wronged someone and have not repented, what is keeping you from it?

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