It Is Not in Me

Joseph on camelRecently, we’ve been studying the life of Joseph in Sunday school class at church. I’ve heard his story so many times that I confess I’ve been guilty of glossing over the details in my mind. Maybe you’ve done the same thing. So when we came to Genesis 41, I was astounded when I began seeing applications I’d never seen before.

After going through a pretty difficult experience that included brotherly betrayal, slavery, temptation, false accusations, and forgetful friends (OK, I’ve had bad days but nothing like this), Joseph was summoned to Pharaoh, who needed someone to interpret his dream.

And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.” Joseph answered Pharaoh, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.” (Gen. 41:15-16 ESV)

Joseph’s answer blows me away: “It is not in me.” In other words, though Joseph had interpreted dreams before and could certainly interpret Pharaoh’s dream now, he immediately recognized that the ability to do this task was “not in [him].” In his own strength, he had no ability to help the Egyptian king.

How often do we men puff out our chests when our wives ask us to unscrew a jar they can’t open? “Look out, folks. Here I come.” Manliness steps in to rule the day, maybe even with a bulging bicep or two (or at least we try to muster one). Do we tell our wives, “You know, babe? The ability to do that isn’t in me. God will unscrew that jar through me”? But that’s the way of the Christian life, isn’t it? Or it should be. We are so quick to succumb to spiritual amnesia and think we can tackle tasks all by ourselves with nobody else getting any credit. There’s American individualism hard at work.

Hey, I’m guilty. How many times have I made this mistake?

Yet “it is not in [us]” to do anything in our strength: to get out of bed each morning, to draw our first waking breath. Not even to push the button on the coffeemaker. It’s not in us, but it’s certainly in God, and He delights to pour out His power through us so He can receive the glory.

What seemingly impossible task are you facing today? Maybe it’s the kind that makes your knees weaken and forces you to stare failure in the face. God is big enough to get it done, but don’t think for a minute that you can. Once you’ve seen His amazing strength on display once again, performing a task you know you couldn’t do yourself, pause a moment. Remember who really did that task, just as Joseph did. It wasn’t you. Not by a long shot. It was God all the way.

Have you experienced this sort of “God empowerment”? Can you recall a certain incident when you saw Him so clearly at work through you? List the event here so others can be as encouraged as you were at the time. And be sure to give God the glory.

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