Not Your Average “Joe”: Believing, Praying, and Receiving God’s Strategy for Life

His name was “Joe”—part of a strategic movement of God, not only in history, but more importantly, in the Kingdom of God, in the overall strategy of God Himself—no better place to be. And, he was “not your average ‘Joe’” as the saying goes. Who was he? Where did he live? What’s the big deal about his life? Good questions. They apply well to five men named Joseph—none “average.” And they give us a picture of believing, praying, and receiving God’s strategy for life—something each can apply.

Joseph in Egypt, sold into slavery, but continually faithful as a God-centered man. He refused the seductions of Potiphar’s wife, declaring, “How then can I … sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9). When two imprisoned servants and, later, Pharaoh needed dreams interpreted, Joseph focused on God as the interpreter (Genesis 40:8; 41:16). Later, he said of himself to his brothers, “I fear God” (Genesis 42:18). When he revealed his identity, he told his brothers three times, “God sent me” here (Genesis 45:5, 7, 8). Later in life, he assured his fearful brothers of his care: “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? … You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…” (Genesis 50:19-20). Joseph was a God-centered man, genuinely fearing God.

Joseph of Nazareth revealed a God-led life, responding promptly whenever God spoke. When the Lord informed Joseph of the truth about Mary and the Messiah Jesus she carried, he continued as her betrothed and took care of her (Matthew 1:18-25). When the Lord warned him to flee from Bethlehem to Egypt, he left promptly (Matthew 2:13-15). When the Lord warned him not to return to Bethlehem, but to go instead to Nazareth, he promptly obeyed (Matthew 2:19-23). Joseph was God-led, obeying promptly and fully.

Joseph of Arimathea proved to be a man abandoned to God. He lived as “a good and righteous man”… “waiting for the kingdom of God” (Luke 23:50-56). He risked all in his standing up for Jesus against the Sanhedrin’s plots and schemes (Luke 23:51), doubtless receiving their rejection and ire. After Jesus died, “he gathered up courage,” went to Pilate and “asked for the body of Jesus,” a condemned criminal in the eyes of Rome (Matthew 27:57-61; Mark 15:43-46). Joseph gave Jesus a noble burial in his “own new tomb” fulfilling Isaiah 53:9 (Matthew 27:60). Joseph of Arimathea proved to be God-surrendered, abandoned to God.

Joseph of Cyprus, a Levite. Who? His Hebrew nickname was “Barnabas” which means “Son of Encouragement” (Acts 4:36), a great-hearted man, marked by encouraging words and deeds, evident in his giving heart, withholding nothing that could be useful in the kingdom of God (Acts 4:37). Barnabas encouraged the new believer Saul, urging the church in Jerusalem to receive him (Acts 9:27). He served as an able and encouraging communicator with Jewish and Gentile believers in Antioch of Syria, even enlisting Saul to join him (Acts 11:22-26).

Barnabas and Saul left Antioch on the first “missionary journey.” They led many to faith in Christ Jesus and planted many churches (Acts 13:1-5, 6-52; 14). He and Paul helped the church in Jerusalem better understand faith in Christ and the grace of God, even among Gentiles (Acts 15:2-35). Barnabas took his cousin John Mark with them on that first journey, but John Mark left at Pamphylia (Acts 13:4-5, 13; Colossians 4:10). When he and Paul disagreed over John Mark’s presence on the next journey, Barnabas took John Mark with him to Cyprus (Acts 15:39). John Mark became a useful servant in later years, as even Paul acknowledged (Colossians 4:10; Philemon 24; 2 Timothy 4:11). Joseph of Cyprus, aka Barnabas, proved to be God-hearted, encouraging others with a giving heart, giving of himself, his goods, withholding nothing.

Joseph Caiaphas of Jerusalem. Who? According to the historian Josephus, he was the Jewish High Priest from 18-37 AD (Antiquities Judaicae 18:33-35, 95-97). He is mostly known as the priest who declared “that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish” (John 11:50). Caiaphas focused on the temporal realm, fearing that “the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation” (John 11:48). The Apostle John focused on Jesus’ death as the “lamb of God” dying to take away sins for the salvation of all who believe in Him (John 1:29, 35; 11:51-52).

Caiaphas and his cohorts plotted to put Jesus to death (John 11:53). Soon after, Jesus stood trial before Annas, Caiaphas’ father-in-law, then before Caiaphas and the Jewish leaders (John 18:12-14, 24, 28). They sent him to Pilate and ultimately to crucifixion (John 19:1-16). After the miraculous healing of the  lame man, Caiaphas oversaw the trial of Peter and John and threatened them (Acts 4:5-22). He oversaw Stephen’s trial and merited the evaluation he gave, “you stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you” (Acts 7:1, 51-54, 57-60).

Joseph Caiaphas, in authority by God’s will, never truly knew all he was saying as High Priest—close to holy things, but unholy in heart and insight. He proved God-resistant, a self-serving, self-seeking man, fearing man more than God.

Not your average “Joe”—none average, all excelled, most were strategic in believing God. What can we learn from each? Ask yourself: Am I walking in the fear of the Lord, God-centered? Am I obeying promptly, fully, God-led daily? Am I God-hearted with a giving heart, withholding nothing, not only  “stuff,” but life—time, energies, influence? Am I God-surrendered, abandoned to what God thinks, risking my reputation on Him and His Word?

Or, am I God-resistant, self-willed, un-surrendered, fearing men more than God? Am I more concerned about “how I might look,” “how I might lose”? If your heart is “me and mine forever,” neither you nor anything you have will outlast you. If you want to live and last God’s way, then give all, surrender all, trust God and entrust all to Him—like Joseph of Egypt, of Nazareth, of Arimathea, and of Cyprus, not like Joseph of Jerusalem.

Copyright © 2015 Rick Shepherd. All rights reserved.

Rick Shepherd has served as Team Strategist for the Prayer and Spiritual Awakening Team of the Florida Baptist Convention since 2000. Before that he served in churches in Florida, Texas, and Tennessee. He is a graduate of Mobile College and has an MDiv and PhD from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Rick is one of the authors in the Following God Series. He has been married to Linda Gail since 1977 and they have four children and four grandchildren. They have had the privilege of ministering in several states and foreign fields and are always glad to encourage believers and witness to listening hearts wherever they go. They make their home in Jacksonville, Florida.