Do you have a clear understanding of leadership? Do you believe you are a leader? How would you describe the term leadership?
John Maxwell, a prominent leadership author and speaker says, “leadership is influence.” Some studies estimate that even introverts influence 10,000 people over the course of their lives. Our influence can be accidental or purposeful. We may never know the influence we are having on people so we should attempt to make it the most positive influence we can. That’s why God put you on this earth; to be a positive for Him to all you meet.
The famous president of Tennessee Temple University, Dr. Lee Roberson, once said, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” If this is true, it begs the obvious question: “What kind of leader are you?” Do you elevate people to higher places by your leadership influence or do you bring people down so that they underachieve in their God-given talents and abilities?
Below are five characteristics of a Godly leader that we can learn from the life of Joseph from Genesis 39 in the Old Testament. It’s not an exhaustive list but a powerful one to help each of us today be a more effective leader in our world that is crying for strong godly leadership.
God is the Controlling Influence of a Godly Leader’s Life (Genesis 39:1-2)
Joseph was just a Hebrew slave to Potiphar at first (39:1). Do you think Joseph saw himself as a leader at this point in his life? How much influence could a 17-year-old Hebrew boy have in a foreign land with a powerful political figure in Egyptian society? Potiphar would have just seen Joseph as a simple slave like any other slave. Joseph was a strong, healthy young man who had a long life in front of him and was a wise investment for Potiphar, nothing more than that. Joseph would be someone he could make a lot of money from if he lived long as a slave. How could Potiphar ever have his mind changed about a simple Hebrew slave boy? He was a piece of equipment to operate his business. Enter God.
The first half of Genesis 39:2 says that God was with Joseph. That’s the deal breaker in Joseph’s life and in any of our lives as well. God would take a lowly Hebrew slave, good only for menial, labor intensive tasks and make him one of the greatest leaders in the Jewish faith and even the history of the world. What made the difference for Joseph? “And the Lord was with Joseph and he was a prosperous man.” (vs.2). Do you sense that same powerful presence in your life? Do really know that God is with you?
When God removed the house of Eli from the priesthood, he did it by allowing the Philistines to capture the Ark of the Covenant. Eli fell back on his neck and died when he heard the news of the Ark. His son, Phineas, died in that battle. Upon hearing that news, Phineas’ wife also died in childbirth, but in her last breath named her son Ichabod. Ichabod means “the glory is departed.” God and his glory departed from Israel and as a result they were continually beaten down by the Philistines.
Consider Romans 8:31b, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” He said the same thing to Isaac, Jacob, Joshua, Moses, Gideon, Isaiah, Ezra (7:28), and to New Testament believers in general (Heb. 13:5) and guess what? God used these men greatly in their lives. God must be the controlling influence of any Christian leader!
A Godly Leader Displays God to Others (Gen.39:3)
Genesis 39:3 tells us that Potiphar knew the Lord was with Joseph. How could this be? Potiphar didn’t know the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob! How could he know God was with Joseph? It must have been how Joseph conducted himself while under Potiphar’s dominion. Potiphar perceived by the ingenuity of Joseph’s mind, by his ready and speedy learning of the Egyptian language, by his business savvy and administrative capabilities, and by the prudence and faithfulness with which he did everything, that he was highly favored by the divine Being Joseph must have spoken of. He made great achievements in a relatively short period of time, and was an extraordinary person for his age. Potiphar took knowledge that Joseph had a special relationship with his God. It reminds me of what the rulers and elders of Israel said about Peter and John after Jesus’ resurrection in Acts 4:13.
“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13)
Joseph was a living witness by his work ethic. Joseph must have been a verbal witness by letting Potiphar know that he was a servant of Jehovah God. Joseph must have identified Who he ultimately served. When Potiphar saw the blessings on Joseph’s life and his own business prosper as a result, he couldn’t deny that Joseph was an extraordinary young man, like no one else he had ever met. How did Potiphar respond to Joseph’s stellar character even though he was a slave? Genesis 39:4 tells us, “And Joseph found grace in his [Potiphar’s] sight.”
Proverbs 16:7 says, “When a man’s ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.” A godly leader unashamedly displays God to those around him! Could you recall a time when standing for God brought favor to your life and career?
A Godly Leader is Honest and Trustworthy (Gen. 39:4-6)
Joseph was willing to serve (vs.4). When someone has a servant’s heart, they are not usually a threat to the leaders above them. Why? They want to please their master. They are secure in themselves so nothing is too menial or below them. The master never has to worry about what that servant will do. He is loyal and faithful.
- He did what he was supposed to do.
“Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it.” (Proverbs 3:27)
John Wesley once wrote…
Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.
This was Joseph’s heart!
- He didn’t take advantage of his master.
“And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23-24)
- He never gave his master a reason to doubt.
Joseph won the confidence of his master because he gained credibility (vs.4,6) Credibility is the quality of being trusted and believed in. How did Joseph gain credibility with his master?
- He displayed a close relationship with God. (vs.3)
- His boss, Potiphar, saw the prosperity in Joseph’s life. (vs.3)
- He was a trustworthy servant. (vs.4)
Potiphar left everything in Joseph’s hand (vs.4,6,8). This is emphasized three times in the first ten verses of the chapter. Potiphar could trust his servant because Joseph’s God was in him and directing him. Shouldn’t this be said of all of us who know Christ?
- Joseph was promoted as a result. (vs.3,5)
He was both cheerful and obedient and this set him apart from everyone else in the house. Guess what happened as a result? Potiphar made Joseph overseer of his house and over all Potiphar had. God even blessed a pagan man because a man of God was present in that home. This goes back to the promise to Abraham, “I will bless them that bless thee…” America is blessed because we have been a strong ally of Israel. We are the beneficiaries of the Abrahamic covenant!
A Godly Leader Has Moral Convictions (Gen. 39:7-9)
Talk about being a desirable man! Verse six in the Hebrew would read like this, “Joseph was a beautiful person and extremely good looking.” In English, “he was a hunk.” Potiphar’s wife came on to this fine specimen of a man. But Joseph didn’t fall. He was prepared for victory.
He refused an immoral opportunity (vs.8). It would have been so easy for Joseph to do this with Potiphar’s wife since she had come on to him so aggressively! But he refused. That’s the character of a leader! He rehearsed his loyalty towards his master (8,9). He resisted temptation (vs.9). He remembered to give God the glory (vs.9). He said, “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” He knew God was right there in the room with him. He knew God would not approve of playful misconduct with his master’s wife. He knew that what she was requesting of him was great wickedness and sin against God.
Godly leaders don’t live in the moment nor do they live for self-gratification. They carefully consider the consequences of their actions before going forward with a decision on that matter. They live by their convictions. Our convictions come from our hearts. God must be the primary influencer of our hearts in order to make godly moral decisions. The beautiful temptress was no match for the godly leader’s moral character and conviction! May we all have that type of commitment to God!
A Godly Leader Doesn’t Cave Under Pressure (39:10)
There is a strong contrast between Joseph and Lot (Abraham’s nephew and Joseph’s distant cousin). This contrast is found in 2 Peter 2:7-8, “And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;)”
Joseph faced the daily propositions of Mrs. Potiphar who clearly wanted to seduce Joseph. Joseph had to continually fend off this serious and persistent seduction until it escalated into a physical accosting while alone in the house. Joseph wisely responded with the only safe thing to do…he fled and got out! This loyal, faithful, disciplined, and godly leader didn’t fall into the devil’s trap. He escaped! Even though he would be framed and cast into prison, God would use this second imprisonment to get Joseph in front of Pharaoh to display his wisdom and character and ultimately elevate him to second in charge of all of Egypt. Only God could do this!
Sadly, Joseph had to suffer in prison due to false accusations (39:19-20). Joseph had similar lies and mistreatment at the hands of his brothers who had sold him into slavery. He was lied about here and imprisoned a second time. He was forgotten later by the butler and baker and left in prison for another year or two! That’s three times he was mistreated by those over him. But God used this to elevate Joseph because he maintained his integrity and godly leadership through it all!
Based on the character qualities Joseph displayed in Genesis 39, would you say you are a godly leader? Strive to emulate the life, actions, and attitudes of Joseph. You will make a difference in the lives of those around you.
Author: Lamar Eifert
Pastor Eifert serves as the Adult Bible Fellowship and small groups Pastor of Valley Forge Baptist. Pastor Eifert also oversees counseling ministries and addiction recovery ministries of VFB. Pastor Eifert serves as the director of the Valley Forge Biblical Counseling Center.