When an athlete is new to a team or there are more experienced players in front of him, he may have to sit on the bench for a while. Sitting and watching the game just like any other spectator is a difficult task for these self-motivated, driven athletes. In the Bible’s story of Joseph, God shows us exactly what to do when we find ourselves on the bench.
In Genesis 37, the favored-by-his-father seventeen year old Joseph has two dreams about his older brothers bowing to him; much to their dismay, they respond, “’Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to rule over us?’ So they hated him even more for his dreams and his words.” (v. 8) His brothers initially want to kill Joseph and throw him into a pit, but they decide to sell him into Egyptian slavery and simply say he’s dead. However, “The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master.” (Genesis 39:2) Like a great player being sat on the bench when he dreams of more, Joseph was banished to a strange land despite his dreams of royalty – but the Lord was still with him, blessing him.
Later in Genesis 39, Joseph is again sent to the bench, after his master’s wife wrongly accuses him of making advances towards her. His master sends him to prison, “But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison.” (v. 21-22) With this new position, Joseph begins interpreting dreams for other prisoners and even the Pharaoh, who ultimately puts Joseph into the biggest game of his life, declaring, “You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command. Only as regards the throne will I be greater than you….I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” (Genesis 41:40-41) Years later, when famine strikes the land and Joseph had stored enough grain to save his entire family, Joseph’s dreams come true. “And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground.” (Genesis 42:6)
Jesus told a story about a servant being faithful with what his master gave him. “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.’” (Matthew 25:21) When not in the game we want to be in, but on the bench, we tend to hang our heads. If we’ll hold our heads high and look to God who knows our struggles, we’ll find we’re not out of the game at all, but just in another. Whatever game you’re in today, play!