Acing the Test, Part 5

Atop Wheeler Peak, the New Mexico high point
Atop Wheeler Peak, the New Mexico high point

Joseph aced so many tests of faith and endurance on his road to the fulfillment of the promise God had given him.  From disbelieving family members to being the lowest member of society, Joseph somehow held on to the promise of God and remained faithful through it all.

The old and new swinging bridges at Kootenai County Park, Montana
The old and new swinging bridges at Kootenai County Park, Montana

When Joseph was finally raised to the status of ruler, he received the promise of God: His brothers came and bowed down before him.  But in the fulfillment of the promise, He faced yet another test.  What would he do when everything was going well?

There are tests in our lives that are pretty obvious.  Cranky coworkers, frustrating situations, unfulfilled promises, mean people, and the consequences of Adam and Eve’s fall can be pretty trying at times.  Staying faithful to God and His word during those times and situations is sometimes a trying test of faith.

Waterfall above Gavilan Falls, Carson National Forest, New Mexico
Waterfall above Gavilan Falls, Carson National Forest, New Mexico

But there is another test that we face: The test of success.

Broken Bow Arch, Glen Canyon Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah
Broken Bow Arch, Glen Canyon Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah

Our actions and attitudes are seeds that are sown, and more times than not we reap the fruit of those seeds, be it good or bad.  When things are not going well, we tend to be a little more aware of how we are acting and thinking, knowing that we are tested.  But when things are going well for us, it’s easier to think that we’re doing fine whether we are or not – or to forget to be careful because we’re not being noticeably “tested”.

A hawk wheeling over Exclamation Point, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado
A hawk wheeling over Exclamation Point, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

Did Joseph ace the test of success?  From reading the story in Genesis 41-48, I would say that Joseph only half aced this final test of the promise God had given him at the age of 17.  He aced the part of loving his bothers – he played games with them, but he brought them all down to Egypt and fed them through the famine.  That’s loyalty, and that is kindness to people who hated you so much that they sold you into slavery.  Joseph aced the test when it came to his brothers.

Sunrise on No Man's Land en route to Coyote Gulch, Utah
Sunrise on No Man’s Land en route to Coyote Gulch, Utah

But when it came to ruling, I’m not as certain that Joseph aced the test.  As Joseph ruled the land, he had the people pay for food.  That makes sense enough.  When the food was gone, the people sold themselves into slavery to Pharaoh (Genesis 47:18-21).  In the day, that did make some sense.  People would sell themselves as slaves when they couldn’t pay their debts.

A little stream in Hellhole Canyon, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California
A little stream in Hellhole Canyon, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California

Effectively, Joseph went from slavery to ruler.  Then, as ruler, he reduced the entire population to slavery (Genesis 47:21).  It was within his power.  He had the authority to do so.  But was it God’s best plan for the entirety of a nation to be slaves?

On the Duck Pass Trail, Inyo National Forest, California

I’ve watched a few people go through the road to fame.  From their experience (and a bit of my own), I’d say the most difficult tests don’t come when we are fighting for something.  It comes when everything looks good; when we are effectively “ruling”; when we have prestige and power.  Perhaps pride creeps in or we don’t see the negative results of our attitudes or actions because people are mitigating the immediate implications.  On top of that, if we’re in a place of power, we’re also in a place of prominence and any mistakes we make may be front-page news.

Near Ingalls Pass in the Teanaway of Washington
Near Ingalls Pass in the Teanaway of Washington

To put it in wilderness terms, what do we do when we finally reach the mountaintop? Do we look down our noses at the people who couldn’t make it so far? Are we consumed with how amazing we are that we could do this? Making it up the trail is only one part of the test. The rest is in what we do once we reach the mountaintop.

The Dragon's Back from Reynolds Mountain, Glacier National Park, Montana
The Dragon’s Back from Reynolds Mountain, Glacier National Park, Montana

In the good times – remember that this, too, is a test.  When the promises are being fulfilled – remember that the testing of our faith is still very real.  Remember that you are not given favor to enslave others but rather to lift them up.

2 thoughts on “Acing the Test, Part 5

  1. Jason Bennett

    Hey Anne – I write this on a Wednesday night as we’re (my 16 yr old and I) livestreaming our service here in Mukwonago, WI. We’re preparing for a two week trek across country to visit the Utah NP system. I came across your blog and have never commented on one before.

    In addition to loving the descriptive hiking posts, I am LOVING your tie in to the bible. My son and I are devout Christians. Thanks for taking the time to post these and God Bless.

  2. Anne Post author

    Hi Jason – So glad the blog is useful to you! I hope you both have an amazing trip – if you have questions I might be able to answer some of them 🙂