In our Scripture today, Joseph, one of 12 sons of Jacob had a dream where he would rise up in authority over his brothers and they would bow down to him. He told his brothers about this dream and from that point on, his life and his family’s life was never the same. Zarius Silva writes, “The capacity to dream always was the great secret of those who changed the world. Dreams feed the soul and give wings to the intelligence (and) make a great difference in our existence.” Dreams can change your life and change the world. George W. Bush decided to run for president because of a dream. Ben Franklin encouraged the other founding fathers to push for independence for the colonies after he had a dream. Albert Einstein's theory of relativity was inspired by a dream. George Frederic Handel heard the last movement of his cantata, “The Messiah” in a dream. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech was inspired from an actual dream which moved him to the point of talking about it in his speech on the Washington Mall. Frederich Kekule discovered the chemical structure of benzene, one of the 20 most widely used chemicals in the United States, in a dream. He went on to say: "Let us learn to dream, gentlemen, and then we may perhaps find the truth." It is in our dreams that God not only speaks truth but where we can discover God’s purpose for our life.
But dreams don’t just happen when we’re asleep. Dreams can occur while we’re awake. Dreams happen when we let our imagination run wild, when we choose to think outside the box, when we throw off all of the constraints of the way things are and imagine the way things could be. So what is a dream? A dream is God’s picture, vision or blueprint for a preferred future that helps you fulfill your purpose in life. At age 16, Matthew Barnett dreamed of a church that would be open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year serving the inner-city’s physical and spiritual needs and bringing a message of hope to the hopeless. In 1994 at the age of 20, he moved from Phoenix to Los Angeles to pastor a small church of 18 people. One night, God woke him from his sleep and told him to walk to Echo Park. There, he was surrounded by crime, gangs, prostitutes, and the many homeless who made the park their home. It was then he heard God say, “I did not bring you here to build a great church but to build people-these people. You build the people. I’ll build the church. I don’t ever want you to think about success again. Think about being a blessing. Success is obedience to your calling. I have called you to bless people. Love them. Heal them. Help them. Serve them.” He started an outreach ministry to the people in the neighborhood and started to change lives. Seven years later an old 400,000 sq. ft. hospital with 9 buildings, only a few blocks from Echo Park, was put on the market for $10 million. He bought it for 3 ½. Today, it’s a 24-hour hospital and sanctuary, providing free help, counseling, food, clothing and medical services to those in need. Thousands of people who were addicted, abused, prostituted, abandoned, and disabled have been helped through their more than 200 need-based ministries, reaching 50,000 people each week in Los Angeles alone. The name of this ministry? The Dream Center. But it didn’t stop there. Currently, there are over 85 dream centers established throughout the world based on Matthew Barnett’s dream.
And then he writes, “God birthed a cause in me that has not only transformed my life over these years but millions have been reached as a result. God has called us all for a great cause that he wants us to embrace….to make a positive impact on others. If you live for a cause greater than yourself, you will live a life of peace, joy, passion, and lasting meaning.”
Indeed, God has placed in each of us a dream for a specific cause which transforms lives and builds His kingdom. And I’m not talking about a dream to win the lottery. I’m talking about a dream or vision that changes the status quo. I’m talking about a dream or vision that speaks to the very depths of your soul. God created us for a purpose and our purpose is directly linked to the dream or vision God gives us of a preferred life and future that impacts and transforms the lives of others for the sake of the kingdom. Listen very closely: The day you lose sight of your dream or your vision is the day that you stop moving forward with purpose. Some of you stopped moving forward and pursuing your dreams because it seemed too impossible. Others of you just said no to God. And others of you haven’t discovered God’s dream for your life. Yet all of us have been given a dream placed in your heart to pursue a purpose greater than you.
The life of Joseph teaches several things about pursuing God’s dream for our lives. First, expect opposition. After his dream, Joseph’s brothers threw him in a pit, and then sold him into slavery. Whenever you pursue great things for God, whenever you pursue God’s purpose, expect opposition. I remember when I was in first grade, I wanted to be an architect. I shared my dream with my mother who told me to go across the street to speak to Mr. Egan who was a very successful architect. I went and knocked on his door and told Mr. Egan what I wanted to be. Then he said, “Tim, let me tell you something. The field of architecture is so overcrowded that by the time you graduate you’ll have difficulty making enough money to survive. I wouldn’t do it if I were you.” Talk about crushing a young boy’s dreams. Hear me real close: everybody doesn’t have to believe in your dream. As long as you know you were chosen by God and for God’s purpose, dream on in spite of the opposition to your dream.
Second, expect hardship. No great purpose is ever achieved without experiencing hardship. For Joseph that meant he was sold into slavery and then Joseph’s master’s wife tried to get Joseph to sleep with him, but he refused. As a result, she falsely accused him of rape, landing Joseph in jail. No matter how hard we may try to pursue our God given dream, we will encounter hardship and difficulties. It could be a physical prison or a relationship or a lack of resources, or a failure, but difficulties will come. We have to recognize that we’re in the midst of a cosmic battle between good and evil. Now we know that the war has been won through Jesus’ death and resurrection but there are battles still raging on. So don’t ever be lulled into thinking that when you choose to follow Jesus and pursue his purpose and dream that life will get easier. It’s only going to get harder because the evil one is trying to do anything to wear you down and get you to quit. The moment that Jesus was baptized and started his public ministry, he was driven where? In the wilderness where he was tempted. And those challenges, difficulties, hardships and betrayals kept coming through his entire ministry all the way to and including the cross.
Expect hardship. That includes failure. The reason many of us fall short of pursuing our God given dream is because we encounter failure. Some of us fail one time and we quit or we scale back God’s dreams for our lives and we settle for less than what God has purposed for us. Yet God can use our failures to help us keep pursuing our dreams. Failure is the main ingredient to success. If you have never experienced failure, how can you ever experience success in God? Failure is never final and it always comes before success. Every time it seems as if Joseph had failed, God used it to help him pursue his dream. God used Joseph’s hardship as the means to fertilize and cultivate his dream and develop his character for the challenges which lay ahead. God uses hardship and even failures in your life too, so don’t shrink from it, embrace it.
In the midst of hardships, be persistent. When hardship and difficulties come, you’ll be tempted to scale back your God Dream and settle for less or give up on your God dreams altogether. Don’t let moments of difficulties stop you from dreaming on. Notice what happened to Joseph: Joseph dreamed he would rise up to a position of high authority but he found himself in prison falsely accused of rape. He couldn’t have been any lower. Yet Joseph realized that he had been chosen by God for a great purpose that extended far beyond the low and dark circumstances he faced. When Joseph was surrounded by difficulties, it literally emboldened him to continue serving God and pursuing his dream. Genesis 40:5-7 says, “While they were in prison, Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker each had a dream one night and each dream had its own meaning” and who do you think interpreted their dream? Joseph! Who gave him the meaning of those two men’s dreams? God! Joseph never lost hope and he never gave up. He learned he could live out his purpose in any circumstance so he made himself available to be used by God. As you pursue your dream, you must know without a doubt that God has called and chosen you to that dream and you are to serve him and pursue that dream no matter the circumstances you face. In faith, you have to have persistence because nothing is going to stop God’s plan. Joseph interpreted their dreams for them and in turn they told the king who needed his dreams interpreted. And that led to Joseph’s release. Because Joseph continued to be faithful, God was able to use that and keep Joseph moving forward to fulfill God’s dream for his life.
What are the keys to remaining persistent? First, Stay focused on the big picture. God calls us to remain focused on the big picture, that is his dream and purpose for our life, despite our present circumstances. Instead of wanting to give up, God wants us to stay focused on the dream or vision he has laid on us. And that’s exactly what Joseph did, which pulled him above his present circumstances. Don’t get mired down in the muck of life, stay focused on above.
Second, remember God’s faithfulness. Joseph didn’t quit because he was reminded of what God had done in the past. He remembered God had been with him all along. Joseph was reminded how God was with him in the pit. He remembered how God was with him when he was in slavery. He remembered God was with him when he was falsely accused. Now God was with Joseph even in prison. Too often in our lives, when we are surrounded by persecution and hardship, we forget how God’s hand has been with us all along. We have spiritual amnesia. But Joseph didn’t forget. Don’t forget how God has brought you out of every trial. Never forget what God has done for you in the past. Joseph didn’t forget and that gave Joseph the persistence to keep pursuing God’s purpose. So often in life we stop right there. But what ever you do, don’t quit. The same way God used Joseph, God wants to use you.
Third, tap your passion. The closer you get to fulfilling God’s purpose, the harder it seems to get. Have you noticed that? What got Joseph through was his passion for God and for God’s dream for His life. Passion is the thing that keeps you going and keeps you enthusiastic. Passion is the thing that you’re willing to die for. Do you know what your passion is? When Joseph knew his passion, he didn’t let hardship stop him from persisting. Joseph had passion and passion kept him dreaming. It helped him pursue his God given dream. Never let difficulties or failures diminish or cause you to lose your passion.
Fourth, utilize the power of prayer. James 5:16 says, “The prayers of the righteous person is powerful and effective.” Right where you are now, pray like never before, because when you remain fervent, when you keep your zeal and constant communication with God, then you better identify and hear what your purpose is for God. Keep praying. I believe calling + persistence + passion + prayer = connection to God’s Purpose.
Whatever you do in life, don’t you quit! You can’t quit because God hasn’t quit on you. Some of you have had that trial and you are ready to throw in the towel. Don’t quit. Failure may seem evident, but failure isn’t final. Don’t Quit. Don’t scale back your dreams. God is using your failure to push you foward to His purpose so don’t let it cause you to take a step back. Remember God has given you a big picture and you were born to achieve your dream. And when you do, the result is you will be a blessing to others. Through a series of circumstances, Joseph has risen to the second most powerful man in Egypt overseeing the collection and distribution of food and grain. Amidst a terrible famine and starving to death, his family comes to Egypt seeking food and unbeknownst to them encounters Joseph. Joseph asks his brothers to come closer. And then he said, 'I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into slavery in Egypt. But don’t be upset, don’t be angry with yourself for selling me to this place, but it was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives. This famine that has ravished the land for two years will last for five more years and there will be no plowing or harvesting. God sent me here ahead of you to keep you and the families alive to preserve many survivors. So it was God who sent me here, not you, and here is the one who has made me an advisor to Pharaoh, the manager of his entire palace and the governor of all of Egypt.'”
In that moment, Joseph realized his dream wasn’t about him, everything that Joseph went through wasn’t about him, but it was about being a blessing to others. When you pursue your purpose, others will ultimately be blessed. You are never too young or too old to pursue and achieve your God-given dreams. Claim the call of God to your dream for your life. Persist through everything. Remember God is always faithful. Tap into your passion, empower yourself with prayer and pursue that dream to the glory of God! Amen.