Have you ever heard of people who became successful, even when everything around them pointed to failure? When all the circumstances around them say, “No way,” but they heard God saying, “No, this way!”
There was a young boy in the 2nd grade whose teacher sent a note home with him to his parents. The note said he was having trouble trying to keep up with the class because all he wanted to do was look out the window and daydream.
I wonder how many children in this world do the same, and receive condemnation for it? Some of those children have their dreams pounded out of them early in life because others do not understand. And some of these children grow up to have chapters in the Bible written about them, like a boy named Joseph.
Others look out those windows to view a world that nobody else can see. They actually see a vision that seems to draw them to see a world beyond, and in some cases, they go on to become pastors, like I did.
Today, as we continue our walk through the book of GENESIS, I want to talk to you about a dreamer. His name was Joseph. We will hear his story and look at his faith. We will stare out the window with him and see what God revealed to him.
Now, there were several prominent people named Joseph in the Bible. One was the stepfather of Jesus. Another Joseph loaned his tomb out so Jesus could be buried in it. But the Joseph we are going to talk about today was a young boy. He was a dreamer. And he became one of the biggest successes in the entire Bible. In fact, if his story were written today, it would become a best selling book or a huge box office movie. It would have love, betrayal, mystery, and even some passion in it. It is a story that leads from a hole in the ground to a palace to a prison; from home to exile to greatness; from being the youngest of 12 siblings on a farm to being a leader of the world’s largest nation.
It is a story about a dreamer, and how his circumstances said, “No way,” but how God took those circumstances and said, “No. This way!” And it all stemmed from this young boy having a true faith in God Almighty. What we will see today is that God gives us the dreams as seeds planted in our souls, and the water that grows that seed is faith in the Lord.
Every one of us has dreams. It is our dreams that sometimes hold the fragile pieces of our lives together. What’s your dream? What does God have in store for you? Who are you? Better yet, as Mary Peterson often says, “Whose are you?” Some people will think your dreams are just fantasy, but in reality, your dreams are seeds that God has planted in your soul – and they are waiting to blossom, for His glory.
Years ago, I had a next-door neighbor. I was in my 20’s and he was in his 60s’. We liked each other and often sat in our lawn chairs and talked about life in general. His life had been very difficult, and because of that, his attitude was sometimes sour. He told me that he had no dreams, but he did have many regrets. I told him that a person never gets old until their dreams are replaced with regrets. And most regrets are caused when we do not follow up on our dreams.
Who was Joseph in the line of genealogy? We have spent several weeks talking about Abraham and his son Isaac. When Isaac grew up, he had two sons. They were twins. Their names were Jacob and Esau. When Jacob grew up, he had twelve sons. The youngest of these was Joseph, the young man we are going to talk about today. So, to answer the question of who Joseph is in the line of Abraham, he would have been Abraham’s great-grandson.
Turn with me to GENESIS 37:1-11.
‘Jacob lived in the land where his father Isaac had stayed, the land of Canaan. And this is the account of Jacob.
Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives – and he brought their father a bad report about them.
Now, Israel (that was what Jacob’s name was changed to) loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made a richly ornamented robe for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.
Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly, my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.”
His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said.
Then, he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. “Listen,” he said, “I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him, saying, “What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?”
His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.’
They dismissed Joseph’s dream as just that; nothing but a dream. And Joseph could have chosen to ignore it, too. Had he done so, he would have killed the seed that God had given to his soul – the seed of a Godly dream becoming reality in his life. And if he had killed that dream, he would have, in its place, created regret. It is the dream that God gives you that actually has the ability to shape your entire life.
Joseph was shaped by his purpose, and his purpose was shaped by his dream. They had no TV’s or other distractions in those days. The family sat around the tent after their evening meal and they talked. The fathers would relay the stories to them of what happened to their forefathers. And I am sure that young Joseph grew up hearing how God had been so active in Abraham’s life as well as in Isaac’s life and his own father, Jacob’s life. And somewhere during this time, God had planted that little seed of a dream in his heart. And as he grew and heard the stories many times, that seed started sprouting and God’s purpose for him was slowly being revealed – through two dreams.
As we will see, everything Joseph did was born out of those dreams. And God was using him to help shape the world for eternity, too. It may sound very simple, almost too simple to be reality, but it is in that reality that the simple truths are often the most impacting truths in life. And I think the most impacting truth is that the same God who made you; the same God who saved you through Jesus; is the same God who has put you here right now, today, to live out His dream of your influencing someone else for His kingdom.
We need to be more like Joseph. He had so much faith in God that there was no way he could have ignored the call he received in his dreams. He had to pursue them, even when things got ugly and times got very hard. The problem we have today is that most of us quit and change directions in life whenever things get rough. We do not persevere, for our sake or for God’s sake.
Today, I want to discuss three things that might help us learn how to live our dream and pursue our purpose. The first thing we need to do is …
1. ENCOURAGE YOURSELF TO BE A DREAMER
Have you ever noticed that when you have a dream that really uplifts you, one of the first things you do is tell someone else about it? It is hard to keep a good dream secret, isn’t it?
A lady had a dream and could not wait until she told her husband the next morning. She said she dreamed that he gave her a very beautiful gold necklace. She asked him what it meant and he said that she would find out the next Tuesday, which was Valentine’s Day.
The next morning, she told him that she had again dreamed that he had given her a beautiful necklace, but this one was made of expensive pearls. Again, she asked him what it meant, and he smiled and winked at her and told her that the next Tuesday, she would find out.
She was getting so excited!
Then, it was Tuesday; Valentine’s Day. When the husband finally got home from work, she met him at the door with a hug and kiss and said she had waited excitedly all day for him to come home so she could finally find out what her dreams meant. He smiled and gave her a present that was gift-wrapped. He said, “Here, Honey. Now you will know what your dreams meant.”
When she opened it, she found a book entitled, “How To Interpret Your Dreams.”
One day, the God who knows our innermost hearts gave Joseph a dream. Joseph’s problem was that he lived in a family of dream killers. He got mocked, warned, and rebuked. It seems his dreams were okay as long as they did not step on anyone’s toes.
Have you ever known somebody that has lost their dream? They no longer feel any excitement about life and they cannot stand to be around anyone who has that excitement. In Joseph’s case, he had something else going against him in addition to his dreams: He was loved more by his father, thereby creating hateful jealousy in the hearts of his brothers. And since they could not kill the dream, the brothers decided to kill the dreamer. And they had their chance when Joseph was sent into the desert to find his brothers.
GENESIS 37:17-20 reads,
‘ … So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dotham. But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him.
“Here comes that dreamer!” they said to each other. “Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of the cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then, we’ll see what comes of his dreams.”
Joseph was a dreamer, and because of that, he now found himself thrown into a deep hole that he could not get out of. What do you think ran through his mind while he was down there? Maybe he thought that there were things in the darkness down there that could do him harm. Maybe he thought he was stuck in that hole for life and would die a terrible death down there.
Maybe you have a dream, too. And maybe, like Joseph, you find yourself somewhere in a hole in your life. Maybe it seems that everyone is against you, and that you might be harmed, or that you just cannot see how you will ever climb out of it.
You might not see the light at the end of the tunnel, and feel like you are buried in the mire, but I have some good news for you! Don’t give up hope, and don’t give up your dream. What you do today has a direct impact on what will happen to you tomorrow. How you relate to those around you now will give you the character and discipline you will need later to live your dream when it does come your way. No matter how deep the hole you are in today seems, dare to dream.
Encourage yourself to dream those dreams of tomorrow. But as you do, always remember to …
2. PUT YOUR DREAMS UNDER GOD’S AUTHORITY
When I graduated high school, I was like most boys. I knew everything. I was going to get a job and get rich by the end of the year. I was going to be my own man and live life the way I wanted to.
My father was retired from the Air Force. When I got ready to join the Navy, he sat me down and talked to me about how I had to change my attitude so that I could accept being told what to do every minute of every day. When I finally got to boot camp, I still had that chip on my shoulder, and an officer noticed that one of my shirt pocket buttons was not buttoned as I marched to the chow hall.
He had me stand at attention and after calling me every name he could think of, he then told me that I was to keep all buttons buttoned at all times. Then he asked me if I understood.
My oldest brother had been in the service, and before I left home, he told me that regulations might say that I have to answer a question with “Yes, Sir!” or “No, Sir!” there were no regulations on how I had to say it. So, believing my loving brother, I said, “Yes, Sir!” but I said it in a purely smart-aleck tone of voice.
My brother was wrong. Evidently, there is some policy on how you have to say it. I found myself doing push-ups at that man’s count until my arms fell off, and then he had me run around the chow hall 20 times. By the time I was done, the chow hall was closed and I had missed dinner. That was okay, though, because I was so tired and sick to my stomach I could not have eaten anything anyway.
I did learn something that day. I learned what my dad tried to tell me, and that was I had to submit to authority or get myself into trouble.
ROMANS 13:1 says,
‘Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.’
Paul says God was the One who established authorities, and then he repeats it in the same verse. Why did he do this? He did this because it is that important for us to know and remember. I don’t care if you are in the military, in job, or even in church; you will always have some kind of authority over you, so you had better get used to it and become submissive to that authority, or you will be headed down a long and bumpy road.
As we continue learning about Joseph, we see that he learned very quickly to submit to the authority over him. He understood that all of us have to answer to somebody. Now, you can rebel against authority, try to evade it, or you can just sit back and complain about it, but the truth is - you can never get rid of authority.
In GENESIS 37:13-14, it says,
‘ … Come, I am going to send you to them. “Very well,” Joseph replied. So his father said to him, “Go and see if all is well with your brothers and with the flocks, and bring word back to me.” Then, he sent Joseph off from the Valley of Hebron.’
Joseph was an obedient son and submitted to his father’s authority over him. He was put in a difficult situation, but because of his proper attitude, Isaac knew that his son would do well.
When we are given a job to do, whether it be by a boss, a pastor, or by God Himself, offer up the proper attitude; the one that understand that all authority was created by God and that our charge is to submit to authority: Unless that authority demands that we do something contrary to God’s word.
But as you become more submissive, know that as long as you are working for God, things may not always go as smoothly as you would desire. But even when we are in the worst of situations, we must remember to be submissive – even when …
3. THINGS GO FROM BAD TO MUCH, MUCH WORSE
Joseph was a very obedient young man. But you will notice that his reward from his brothers was not a dinner thrown in his honor, but a beating and being sold as a slave to strangers from a foreign land.
Even when we are in the pits of life, we need to keep our faith in God, because He is working for you even when you cannot see any evidence of it. We don’t know what Joseph was thinking as he stayed in that cistern, but we do know one thing. God was sending that caravan of merchants his way to rescue him.
His brothers may have demoted Joseph, but they could not de-motivate him. He may have been treated very rough, but that didn’t keep him from being gentle to those around him. Joseph submitted his entire being to the will of the Lord God. And in that submission, he was able to build some very strong relationships.
The traders who bought Joseph took him to Egypt and sold him at a slave auction. Now remember, Joseph as just seventeen and could not speak Egyptian. Here is was, in a strange land with strange talking people, and he is being sold at a slave market. How could things get any worse?
A very powerful man named Potiphar bought Joseph. We have all heard the story where he took Joseph home and very quickly realized how capable Joseph was. He was honest and dependable and honest. So, he was blessed and Potiphar put Joseph in charge of the entire household.
Now, Potiphar’s wife was a sleazy lady and she tried to seduce Joseph. But Joseph was very trustworthy. The wife got spurned and claimed Joseph tried to attack her. Joseph, however, remained focus on three major principles in his life.
1) Keep your word,
2) Keep the covenant of marriage sacred, and
3) Keep God in charge of your life.
Potiphar had Joseph put into prison and he stayed there for many years. His immediate reward for faithfulness was wrongful imprisonment. Have you ever been falsely accused or attacked? It can turn a normal person bitter very easily. But Joseph was far from a normal man. He was a dreamer.
Much of what he learned from his father, he put to work for him as a slave, and much of what he learned as a slave helped him in prison. He soon proved to be very trustworthy and they ended up putting him in charge of the all that happened in the prison.
When Joseph was brought before Pharaoh to interpret a dream, he remained humble and said he couldn’t do it but God could. Even though Joseph’s conditions had gotten worse throughout the years, his attitude and faith kept getting stronger.
Joseph was finally elevated to the second most powerful man in Egypt, just under the Pharaoh himself, but Scripture shows that he always lived in peace with God as well as with non-dreamers.
Twenty some years after following his dream, Joseph arrives at the pinnacle of his life so far. And he, once again, comes in contact with his brothers. And guess what they did? Since they were visiting a dignitary of a foreign nation, they bowed down to him, just like Joseph dreamed they would.
After a few meetings, Joseph revealed his identity to his brothers, who were in shock. His statement to them reflected the faith in God that he had in his heart.
In GENESIS 50:20, Joseph says to his brothers,
“You intended it for harm, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done; the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children."
Joseph showed no animosity or revenge. He reassured them and spoke kindly to them. Nobody would have blamed Joseph if he had his brothers punished, or even killed, for what they had done to him. But when you have God in your heart, you cannot be mean to others.
Joseph treated them like family and talked to them of his great faith. But more importantly, along with talking about his faith, he modeled his faith so they could see it in action in his life.
Now it’s time for us to dream. Whether you are living on cloud number 9, or in pit number 3, you can also be living in a palace – it is up to you. If you’ve been sold out or betrayed…forgotten or ignored. It is time to dream again.
God has given each of us a dream. Some of us may have long forgotten what it was because life has been so difficult. It doesn’t matter, because with the glory of the Lord in our hearts, we can find that dream again, and we can live that dream if we choose.
A few weeks ago, I said that whenever God tells us to do something, our first instinct is to tell Him why we can’t do it. I want to tell you this morning that all you need, to find your dream again, is to open your heart up to the Lord’s presence. Receive Him fully, more than ever before, and don’t stifle the Holy Spirit as He tries to instill the excitement for God in your soul.
Will you trust Him today? Will you come forward as we sing?