Overcoming temptation is never easy. No matter how much we try to fight against it, our sinful nature gets the best of us.
Good news! The story of Joseph in the Bible gives us 9 promising secrets to making it possible.
But before diving into that, let’s get to know Joseph’s story first as a background for our main topic.
Let’s dive right in!
Getting to Know Joseph and His Story
The origin and meaning of his name
The name Joseph was taken from the Hebrew term Yôseph, which means “may he add.” It derived itself from the root word yasaph, meaning “to add” (Siegfried Horn, The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary 1979, 618-21).
Speaking of “to add,” Joseph’s mother, after giving birth to him, said, “May the Lord add to me another son” (Genesis 30:24, NIV).
But Joseph’s name also implied “taking away” as what the root word asaph means (Siegfried Horn, The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary 1979, 618-21).
This was evident in another statement by Joseph’s mother: “God has taken away my disgrace” (Genesis 30:23, NIV).
Disgrace? Why? Continue reading.
In Genesis 30, we meet Rachel, the wife of Jacob.
For a long time, she couldn’t give Jacob any children. This made her jealous of her sister, Leah.
Later, Rachel gave Jacob her servant Bilhah while Leah also offered her servant Zilpah and herself. And Jacob had many children with them.
But then, at last, “God remembered Rachel; He listened to her and enabled her to conceive” (verse 22, NIV). And yes, this child was Joseph.
Can you imagine how hopeless Rachel could have been before? She thought she would never have a child but God finally answered her prayer.
His family background
As you can conclude from the previous section, Joseph was a son of Jacob and Rachel.
From Rachel, Joseph had Benjamin as his only brother. The rest were half-brothers born from Leah, Bilhah, and Zilpah, who were as follows:
His story in brief
Joseph’s story is a bit long. But since our focus is on the instance of overcoming temptation, we will just go over the rest of his story briefly.
With his family in Canaan
Joseph grew up as his father’s favorite son. To show it, he made him a colorful coat made of “expensive garment such as was worn by noble youths” (Siegfried Horn, The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary 1979, 618-21).
This made his brothers jealous of him. But it became even worse when he told them about his dreams.
In the first one, his brothers’ sheaves of grain gathered around his bundle and bowed down to it (Genesis 37:7). In the second one, the sun, moon, and eleven stars, representing his family, all bowed down to him as well (verse 9).
These implied that someday, Joseph would reign over his family.
His brothers became angry that they threw him into an empty cistern (verses 19 and 20). Later, they sold him to merchants passing by, going to Egypt.
Coming home, they didn’t tell their father what really happened. Instead, they showed him Joseph’s colorful robe that they stained with a goat’s blood to appear as if he was devoured by an animal (verse 33).
What a betrayal! What a lie!
Because of this, Jacob tore his clothes, put on a sackcloth, and grieved for his son the following days. Even with his sons comforting him, he insisted, “No, I will continue to mourn until I join my son in the grave” (verse 35, NIV).
Poor father! He didn’t deserve it.
The temptation in Egypt
It must have been a cultural shock for Joseph to be in a new environment with new people in Egypt.
He started as a regular servant. But seeing his success in everything he did because God was with him, Potiphar promoted him to take charge of his household, among other responsibilities (Genesis 39:1-4).
One day, his master’s wife invited him to come to bed with her. But Joseph refused, saying that he couldn’t betray God by doing evil (verses 7-9).
Yet, Potiphar’s wife was persistent enough to entice him day after day but Joseph still refused.
Until one time, she grabbed him by his cloak and invited him to sleep with her. But Joseph ran away and left her his cloak (verses 10-12).
Taking it, she called her servants, saying, “Look, this Hebrew has been brought to us to make sport of us! He came in here to sleep with me but I screamed. When he heard me scream for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house” (verses 14 and 15, NIV).
Such an opportunistic liar, wasn’t she?
Come to think of it. Joseph’s own brothers had already disowned him. Now, he experienced another betrayal.
How would you feel if you were this innocent man? So unfair, right? You would probably even question God, “Do I deserve all of this?”
How the rest of the story went on
Joseph as a blessing to Egypt
Potiphar’s wife’s accusation against Joseph resulted in his imprisonment despite his innocence (Genesis 39:20).
Yet, God was with him in prison. He granted him favor in the eyes of the warden enough to appoint him in charge of all prisoners.
He even became a blessing to two of them—the king’s chief cupbearer and baker—by interpreting their dreams (Genesis 40).
The cupbearer dreamed of a vine with three branches. Bearing grapes, he took them and squeezed them into the Pharaoh’s cup, which he handed to him (verses 9-11).
Meanwhile, the baker dreamed he was carrying on his head three cake baskets for Pharaoh. But the birds ate them (verses 16 and 17).
Joseph interpreted that Pharaoh would restore the cupbearer in his position but would hang the baker. And it happened just like he had foreseen.
Two years later, Pharaoh dreamed of seven thin cows eating up seven healthy cows (Genesis 41:1-3) and seven thin ears of grain swallowing up seven healthy ears (verses 5-7).
None of Pharaoh’s magicians could interpret it, so the cupbearer remembered and recommended Joseph, resulting in his release from prison.
According to what God has revealed to him, Joseph told the king that there would be seven years of abundance all over Egypt. But seven years of famine would follow.
As such, he advised him to store up grain in preparation for the famine. Impressed by his proposal, Pharaoh made him governor of Egypt (verse 41).
Joseph as a blessing to his family
When famine came, people from different nations came over to Egypt to buy food. Among them were Joseph’s brothers themselves.
Seeing them, Joseph recognized them but they didn’t. So, he took the opportunity to test if they had changed (Genesis 42).
He accused them spies but the men proved they were honest men by telling him about their family history. With this, Joseph asked them to return with their youngest brother, Benjamin, who was not with them, and in the meantime, one of them should remain in Egypt in custody.
Returning with Benjamin, Joseph tested them further by placing a silver cup in Benjamin’s sack, which his steward found as they were traveling home (Genesis 44).
Coming back to Egypt to explain themselves to Joseph, they told him they didn’t steal it, insisting they were honest men.
When Joseph decided to let them go except for Benjamin, Judah volunteered to take his place. “For how can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? I fear to see the evil that would find my father” (verse 34, ESV).
Proving their honesty and sincerity and seeing how much they had changed for good, Joseph couldn’t hold his tears anymore enough to reveal himself. His brothers couldn’t believe it.
Later, Joseph asked them to bring with them their father. And they did, along with his descendants.
Seeing each other finally, Joseph fell on his neck and cried. Jacob said to him, “Now, let me die since I have seen your face and know that you are still alive” (Genesis 46:30, ESV).
What a dramatic reunion!
Through the years that passed, Joseph’s family lived with him in Egypt and God blessed them.
9 Secrets to Overcoming Temptation
1) Acknowledge the temptation.
The first step to overcoming temptation is to acknowledge its presence and nature.
But it is important to first distinguish between being tempted and entering into temptation. And from this, determine where you are.
“Temptation is not sin; the sin lies in yielding” (Ellen White, Christ Triumphant 218.6). In other words, temptation only becomes a sin the moment you indulge in it and let it control you.
In the story, Joseph acknowledged that he was tempted by “the woman’s charms, by the flattery of her lips and her lawless love” (Ellen White, From the Heart 265.5). So, he ran away to avoid falling into sin.
2) Don’t be deceived by the devil.
Satan doesn’t always tempt us in forms and ways we can predict.
Most of the time, he “conceals his temptations and his devices under a cover of light as when he approached Christ in the wilderness.” Just like that, he can also “approach us as a heavenly guest” (Ellen White, 1872 Testimonies for the Church, volume 3, 374.1).
You don’t want to be deceived by this cunning devil, do you?
“In this age of the world, when the end of all things is at hand, Satan is making a special effort to obtain victories” (Ellen White, 1910 Letters and Manuscripts, volume 25, paragraph 5).
“The great enemy knows that if appetite and passion predominate, the health of body and strength of intellect are sacrificed upon the altar of self-gratification, and man is brought to speedy ruin” (Ellen White, Redemption, volume 2, 57.3).
By yielding to his temptations, Satan “gains easy access to those who are in bondage to appetite. Through intemperance, some sacrifice one-half and others two-thirds of their physical, mental, and moral powers and become playthings for the enemy” (57.1).
But “if enlightened intellect holds the reins…Satan well knows that his power to overcome with his temptations is very small,” Ellen White adds.
This is evident when Potiphar’s wife failed to lead Joseph into sin. In that instance, “Satan was defeated” (Ellen White, From the Heart 265.3).
3) Acknowledge your sinful nature.
Being descendants of Adam and Eve, we have inherited their sinful nature. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, NIV).
Because of this, overcoming temptation is difficult. But that is if we rely on our own efforts.
“Human nature can endure but a limited amount of test and trial. The finite can only endure the finite measure and human nature succumbs” (Ellen White, God’s Amazing Grace 168.4).
4) Remember what God has done for you.
Christ came into the world “to bring to man moral power that he may be victorious in overcoming temptations on the point of appetite and break the chain of slavery of habit and indulgence of perverted appetite and stand forth in moral power as a man” (Ellen White, Temperance 264.3).
In overcoming temptation, Jesus “stood the test on the point of character. He made it possible for us to take hold of the divinity that He has clothed with His humanity so that we may overcome the temptations that were around us” (Ellen White, 1907 Letters and Manuscripts, paragraph 22).
By His sinless life, Jesus “demonstrated that through the power of God, it is possible for man to withstand Satan’s temptations” (Ellen White, 1903 The Review and Herald, paragraph 6).
5) Remember that God sees you.
When tempted, “Joseph’s first thought was of God; Thou ‘God seest me’ was the great truth controlling the thoughts of his mind, influencing the motives of his actions” (Ellen White, The Signs of the Times, Article A, paragraph 5).
Ellen White continues, “He looked upon God not as a tyrant watching his actions to condemn and punish him but as a tender, loving friend guarding his interests. He would not be persuaded by inducements or threats to deviate from the path of strictest integrity. He would not violate God’s law.”
As Jesus advised His disciples, pray for God to “lead us not into temptation” and “deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13, ESV).
We should “watch and pray” that we “may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak” (Mark 14:38, ESV).
“Joseph prayed and he was preserved from sin amid influences that were calculated to lead him away from God” (Ellen White, My Life Today 20.3).
7) Claim Jesus’ promises.
Through Jesus, “divine enlightenment may come to every struggling, tempted child of God in order that he need not fall in the strife with the powers of darkness, but be a conqueror in every battle” (Ellen White, 1894 The Youth’s Instructor, paragraph 2).
But “we are not to overcome in our own name or strength; for of ourselves, we cannot keep the commandments of God. The Spirit of God must help our infirmities” (Ellen White, 1892 The Review and Herald, paragraph 5).
And you should not worry because Christ has “overcome the world” (John 16:33, NIV). With this, you can have the same victory as His.
God also reassures you that He “will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13, NIV).
Also, “Christ is ready to pardon all who come to Him confessing their sins. To the tried, struggling soul is spoken the word, ‘Let him take hold of My strength that he may make peace with Me'” (Ellen White, 1902 The Signs of the Times, paragraph 9).
Ellen White continues, “We have a High Priest Who is touched with the feeling of our infirmities; for He was in all points tempted like as we are.”
These are just some of God’s promises we can cling to in overcoming temptation.
And speaking of promises, we have seen from Joseph’s dreams that God promised his family would someday bow down to him.
True enough, when he became governor of Egypt, he ruled his family and they submitted to his leadership.
8) Study and obey God’s Word.
Ellen White writes in Letters and Manuscripts, paragraph 34, “Let every one of us read the Bible and keep the Word of God. Let us stand in our position of holy trust…and teach others how to escape lust by resisting the enemy so that he will flee from us.”
Obedience to God “does not detract from our happiness and true pleasure in this life, but it has a refining, elevating power upon our characters. The daily study of the precious words of life found in the Bible strengthens the intellect and furnishes a knowledge of the grand and glorious works of God in nature” (Ellen White, 1872 Testimonies for the Church, volume 3, 374.2)
Continuing, “through the study of the Scriptures, we obtain a correct knowledge of how to live so as to enjoy the greatest amount of unalloyed happiness. The Bible student is also furnished with Scripture arguments so that he can meet the doubts of unbelievers and remove them by the clear light of truth.”
By communion with God through nature and study of His Word, Joseph “had gained strength of mind and firmness of principle” (Ellen White, Education 52.2).
When brought to Egypt, he “remembered his father’s God” and the “lessons of his childhood.” And “his soul thrilled with the resolve to prove himself true—ever to act as became a subject of the King of heaven” (52.3).
9) Be watchful.
Ellen White emphasizes that “the only safety for the young is in unceasing watchfulness and humble prayer. They need not flatter themselves that they can be Christians without these” (1872 Testimonies for the Church, volume 3, 374.1).
“Ever since the fall of Satan, there have been two parties in the world, the sinful and the righteous; and we are to identify ourselves fully with those who serve God” (Ellen White, 1910 Letters and Manuscripts, volume 25, paragraph 5).
By being prayerful and watchful, Joseph won his battles with God.
“In his life and character was manifested that which was lovely, and pure, and noble. In bearing his sorrows under trying circumstances and in enduring temptation, Joseph was one in character with Christ” (Ellen White, From the Heart 266.5).
What Have You Learned?
Has this blog enlighted you?
What have you learned from Joseph’s story about overcoming temptation? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.
But before you finally go, we leave you these words from Ellen White: “Let the character of Joseph be your character; let his strength to resist temptation be your strength. Your efforts will be successful if you make them in the strength of God” (Christ Triumphant 97.5).