“IMPACT PLAYERS”

GENESIS 40:1-15

JANUARY 25, 2009

 

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He wasn’t much to look at.  About forty years old.  Thirty pounds overweight.  Receding hairline.  Horned rim, black glasses which continually slipped down his nose.  His name was Dale Taufer.  He was my high school football coach, and during my senior year of high school he also doubled as my history teacher.  Of all the teachers I had in high school, I remember him most fondly.

Knowing that I was often not stimulated in his history class, he me had grade papers, and after football season when I wanted to stay in last period gym class at the end of the day with all the other athletes, he arranged it by appointing me equipment manager of the baseball team, which he also coached.  Thus I was able to stay in the last period gym class with all my buddies.

And during baseball season, Mr. Taufer and I would sit in the stands during batting practice and talk and talk and talk about what was happening in our respective lives.  I told him about my love life, or lack thereof.  He told me whom I ought to ask out on a date.  He told me about his faith and the difficulty he was having getting through to his junior high daughter, which was a mystery to me because he got through to me so easily.

As I look back on my life, this run-of-mill history teacher and football and baseball coach was one of the dozen or so people whom I could call an “impact player” in my life.  If you are not familiar with that term – impact player – let me define it for you.  An impact player is a person who makes his or her presence felt in a profound way in the course of a game.  They are a special breed.  There are not too many of them in sports – Kobe Bryant, Albert Pujols, Peyton Manning – people who can turn a game around, move the contest in a new direction, just by their presence, and that’s what Mr. Taufer was in my life – an impact player.  He was one of those dozen or so individuals who made a big difference in my life and he did it by simply being interested in me, and trusting me, despite the difference in our ages with some of the details of his life.

And this morning I want us to look at another impact player.  He lived a long time ago.  His name was Joseph and wherever he went and whomever and whatever he touched, he touched for the better.  What Mr. Taufer did with me, Joseph did with others.  People seemed to blossom and flourish when around him and today I want us to look at three things that endeared Joseph to others. 

First, people loved Joseph, he was an impact player in their lives because he was resourceful.   Remember that old television show, MacGyver?  My son Josh loved that show.  MacGyver never carried weapons, but he used everything around him to defend himself when he got into trouble.  He would use rope, car batteries, wire, ball point pens, whatever was handy to get himself out of a jam, and let me tell you that Joseph was as resourceful as MacGyver. 

Remember Joseph’s story?  At the age of 18 or 19, his brothers, who hated his guts, sold him into slavery.  He ended up hundreds of miles away from home, a slave in Egypt.  He had to learn a new language, adapt to a new culture, and he did.  In fact, it wasn’t long until Joseph rose to become the head slave and chief steward for the Pharoah’s five star general, Potiphar.  But then, he found himself in hot water once again.  After rising through the ranks, he was falsely accused of attempting to rape Potiphar’s wife, and was dumped into prison, where we find him this morning.  It didn’t take long, however, for Joseph to make the best of the situation, and he soon became one of the leaders among the prisoners.

Joseph’s story reminds me of Eddie Rickenbacker, not Orville Reddenbacher, but Eddie Rickenbacker.  Rickenbacker was a famous race car driver and World War I ace pilot who went on to found Eastern Airlines.  Rickenbacker was the third of eight children and at age eleven, he quit school to help support his family.  He found work quickly, but what he really wanted was to be an auto mechanic, so he enrolled in an auto mechanic course while working, and when he mastered the course, he began looking for a job in that field, and how he landed his first auto mechanic’s job was quite resourceful.

Here’s what he did.  He went to a local automotive company where he hung around until he caught the owner’s eye.  The owner asked him, “Who are you?”

To which he replied, “One of your new employees.”

To which the owner asked, “Who hired you?”

To which Rickenbacker answered, “Nobody, but I’m coming to work for you tomorrow morning and if you don’t think I’m worth hiring, you can fire me.” 

And sure enough, the next morning he reported to work and he noticed some iron filings and grease on the floor, so he found a shovel and a broom and cleaned the place up.  Then he found something else to do, and then something else, and it wasn’t long until the owner decided the couldn’t get along without him, and hired him.

We see a similar resourcefulness in Joseph.  Perhaps the jobs of household steward, which he held in the previous chapter, and that of prison manager, which he holds here weren’t all that desirable, but we get the sense that Joseph said to himself, “Until God gives me a better job, I’m going to give this job my best shot,” and he did.   He did the best with what he had.  All this reminds me of a comment made by Ann Landers.  She said, “Opportunity is usually disguised as hard work, so most people don’t recognize it.”  Joseph did and as a result he greatly impacted the people he served.

Second, Joseph endeared himself to others not only because he was resourceful, but also because he was reliable.  I’m thinking back to last Sunday, how Potiphar’s wife attempted to seduce him, but due to his reliability he was unseduceable.  Because he belonged to God, Joseph understood that giving in to Potiphar’s wife meant betraying himself and his employer, so he didn’t do it.   Joseph could be counted on to do what he said he would do, and not do what he was not supposed to do.

Are we reliable?  Is reliability a word that people would readily use to describe us?  Now don’t downplay reliability.  After all, many people do not see it as an exciting virtue.  For example, one little girl lamented,

 

Paula is the prettiest – the whole sixth grade agrees.

Jean’s the genius – that is undeniable.

Most popular is Amy.  Most admired is Louise.

Bur as for me, they say I’m most ... reliable.

 

Lisa’s the best listener – she always lends an ear.

And all the boys say Meg’s the most desirable.

Gwen’s the giggliest – but everybody thinks that’s dear.

Who thinks its dear to be the most reliable?

 

Jody and Rebecca tie for the cleverest.  Marie

Is best at sports (and also the most perspirable).

Cathy is the richest – she’s been saving since she’s three.

But who’ll save me from being most reliable?

 

I’d rather be most mischievous.  I’d rather be most deep.

I’d rather – and I’ll swear this on a Bible –

Be known as most peculiar.  Nothing puts the world to sleep

Like someone who is known as most reliable.[1]

 

I disagree.  Reliability does not put the world to sleep.  Reliability makes the world a fitful  place in which to live.  We expect reliable electric service.  We would hate it if we had daily or weekly power outages We expect the newspaper to be delivered every morning.  We expect the person to call us back when they promised to call us back.  We expect our elected officials to tell the truth.  Reliability is not boring.  Reliability is endearing.  In fact, it is becoming a rarer and rarer virtue, that’s why people who practice it stand out so much from the crowd.

So Joseph was resourceful.  Joseph was reliable, but there was one other thing that endeared him to others.  He was relational.  Now, let me define my use of that word.  By relational I’m referring to the uncanny ability to notice and be deeply interested and genuinely concerned about people.  It means being on their agenda rather than on one’s own and note how Joseph exemplifies that here.  Look with me at chapter 40, verse 6.

Remember the context.  Two officials in Pharaoh’s court, the cupbearer whose job it was to taste everything before the Pharaoh consumed it to make sure the food was not spoiled or poisoned, and the baker had offended the Pharaoh and the two of them, the cupbearer and the baker, are in prison.  What did they do to give offense?  We do not know.  Maybe the Pharaoh got sick on pineapple upside down cake and tossed the two of them in the pokey – who knows? – but they had been in prison for quite awhile and then they each have a dream which no one can interpret and they become despondent.

Now that does not seem like a big deal to us – to be upset because they couldn’t figure out a dream – but we need to remember that the Egyptians kept their own private dream books.  They felt the gods spoke to them in their dreams and they wrote them all down along with their meanings.  It was almost as serious business as filling out the sermon outline in your bulletin, and into this scene walks Joseph and we read, verse 6,

 

When Joseph came to them in the morning, he saw that they were troubled.  So he asked the Pharaoh’s officers, who were with him in custody in his master’s house, “Why are your faces downcast today?”

 

And the rest of the chapter goes on to tell how Joseph helped them, but the most important thing to note here is the insight we are given into Joseph’s character.  Note that Joseph noticed their despondency and he took a personal interest in them.

And those who have consistently had an impact on our lives share this quality, the uncanny relational ability to take note of and care for us.  David Burns a medical doctor and professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, says, “The biggest mistake you can make in trying to relate to others ... is to put your highest priority on expressing your ideas and feelings.  What most people really want is to be listened to, respected and understood.”  And that’s what Joseph did.  He could have gone around that prison and said to the cupbearer, “Have I told you about how unfairly I’ve been treated?  Listen, I’m innocent here, wrongly accused of rape.”  But he never did that.  Instead, he was concerned for the cupbearer and baker and he listened a lot and did what he could do to help. 

Are we resourceful?  Are we making the best of the situation in which God has placed you?  Are we reliable? Can people count on us to do what you say we will do?  Are we relational?  Do we regularly put the agenda of others before our own?  If so, we are exactly the kind of people the world needs today.   

 

  

           



[1]Judith Viorst, “Who’s Who,” If I Were in Charge of the World and Other Worries (New York: MacMillan, 1981), 14.