There is a story in the Bible about a young man who probably felt a lot like that “old donkey that fell down into a well. The animal cried piteously for hours as the farmer tried to figure out a way to get him out. Finally, he decided it was probably impossible and the animal was old and the well was dry anyway, so it just wasn’t worth it to try and retrieve the donkey. So, the farmer asked his neighbors to come over and help him cover up the well. They all grabbed shovels and began to shovel dirt into the well. At first, when the donkey realized what was happening he cried horribly. Then, to everyone’s amazement, he quieted down and let out some happy brays. A few shovel loads later, the farmer looked down the well to see what was happening and was astonished at what he saw. With every shovel of dirt that hit his back, the donkey was shaking it off and taking a step up. As the farmer’s neighbors continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal, he continued to shake it off and take a step up. Pretty soon, to everyone’s amazement, the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well and trotted off! Moral: Life is going to shovel dirt on you. The trick to getting out of the well is to shake it off and take a step up. Every adversity can be turned into a stepping stone. The way to get out of the deepest well is by never giving up but by shaking yourself off and taking a step up. What happens to you isn’t nearly as important as how you react to it.” (http://www.naute.com/stories/donkey.phtml).
The young man’s name was Joseph. He was the son of Jacob, the supplanter, who became Israel, the overcomer. Joseph was the youngest of 11 sons at the time, and he was the obvious favorite of his dad. The only son of the favorite wife, Joseph was treated better than all of the rest of the sons to the point that his father made him a special coat – the coat of many colors. Some say that the coat indicated that Jacob had named Joseph as the supervisor over his brothers and had even named him as the future tribal leader. That may be supposition, but there is no supposition in this one area — it says in ch. 37 that Jacob loved Joseph more than all of his other sons, and it was so obvious that the other brothers hated him for it. Can anybody here say, “spoiled rotten?” Joseph tattled on his brothers, and they hated him for it. Joseph breathed the same air as his brothers, and they hated him for it. Actually, he had a dream about them bowing down to him – it was a dream from God – but he made the mistake of telling them about it, and they hated him for it, and the plan was made. They would get rid of him.
I imagine that Joseph probably felt like that old donkey many times in his life. He probably felt that way for the first time as his brothers stripped away his prized coat and dropped him in a pit. When they pulled him out of the pit, his spirits were probably elated as he thought the game was over; but only for a moment as all hopes were destroyed when they sold him into slavery. For years Joseph worked as a slave, and again his spirits must have soared as he gained prominence in Potiphar’s household. Joseph was in charge of everything, trusted by his master, until Potiphar’s wife leveled false charges against him and he landed in prison. Joseph knew what it was like to be back in the well with the dirt raining down. Then he was back on top again when the Pharaoh’s chief steward remembered that Joseph could interpret dreams, and he became the second most powerful man in all of Egypt. He saved millions of lives, including his own family. And then perhaps the cruelest blow of all landed him back in the well, and the shovels began making those awful noises again. And the dirt began to fall when, after many years, Jacob died. Back in the well.
And as if it were not enough that Joseph had cared for his brothers and their families for all those years in Egypt, the brothers began to fear that Joseph might retaliate against them for what they had done to him. And maybe they would have had the situations been reversed. Maybe we would have given the opportunity, but not Joseph. Not Joseph – because he had learned some things from all those times in the well. You see, that’s where we learn the best lessons, and that’s where we learn the lessons that we can teach our children and our children’s children and their children that will help them to break the cycle of sin and rebellion. Our time in the pit is where we learn how to lead – at least when we trust God to do what only God can do. Not all of the stories we tell are about men who keep falling down and having to get back up again. Some of the stories are about men and women who remain faithful to God, and He remains faithful to them, but they still find themselves in the bottom of the well because here is the truth: life is hard no matter how good you are. Did you hear me? Life is hard no matter how good you are.
For the rest of the story, come back and read part two tomorrow, or you can listen to the sermon by clicking on this link: https://tinyurl.com/jueon45.