HANS FINZEL: Hi, this is Hans Finzel, president of WorldVenture, based in Littleton, Colorado. Our website is WorldVenture.com. Welcome to our radio program, Missions on the Frontline. WorldVenture supports over 1,000 mission projects and missionaries in over 65 countries. We’ve been sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ around the world since 1943. This program is part of our new initiative to educate our listeners on creative new ways to be involved in missions.
I’m in the middle of a four-part series on lessons from the life of Joseph from the Old Testament. Why Joseph? Well he’s one of the greatest missionaries in all the Bible. Joseph lived in the Promised Land, in Israel, and before you knew it, as we saw last week, he was sold by his evil, vicious brothers into slavery into Egypt. So he was thrust into a culture, into a language, into a place he knew nothing about against his will.
Most people who become missionaries actually become missionaries according to their own will. They volunteer for it but here’s a guy who was forced to be a cross-cultural missionary and actually saved not only his family but the entire nation. Joseph, a great missionary.
Today we are going to look at the second in a series of lessons from the life of Joseph. This is what I call winning the battle for our dreams.
Do we have any visionaries out there? Any dreamers? Joseph was a dreamer and so many things worked against the dreams that God had given him but he prevailed and his dreams came true.
The opposite of fulfilling your dreams is what I would call failure. And I find that life is filled with speed bumps and detours on the way to seeing our dreams and visions fulfilled.
I’d like to begin by sharing with you the same thing I did last week, in case you didn’t hear. What I call the Top Ten Things I Absolutely Love About Joseph. I spent a couple of years just sort of living with him and studying him. More air time, more pages, are given to Joseph than to anyone else in the book of Genesis.
Why? Well I think because he has so very much to teach us in a positive way about how to become a better person through all the negative things that happen.
As we saw last week, I mentioned that bad things happen to good people and really bad things happen to really good people. So it’s a fallacy to think, “Well God, why have you allowed these terrible things to happen to me? I have obeyed you; I’ve done what you asked me to do. I live a life of integrity and obedience. I’m a good father; I’m a good husband; I’m a good employee. Why do these bad things happen?”
Well, you read the life of Joseph and you’ll see that bad things happen to good people for a reason. And at the end, everyone understood that what man had intended for evil, God had actually used for good and for His purposes.
Here are the Top Ten Things I Love About Joseph.
1.He was a dreamer and this week we are going to talk about dreams and visions. Dreamers are often misunderstood. In our day I think he would have been called a maverick, a visionary, even an entrepreneur and if you are a visionary/ entrepreneur/maverick type person, creative, be sure to listen hard today because you are going to be encouraged.
2.He practiced faithfulness to God with no support group to motivate him or hold him accountable. It’s what I call obedience in solitude. He obeyed God when no one else was watching.
3.He kept his attitude positive in a very negative set of circumstances. He did not allow defeat to defeat him.
4.The Top Ten Things I Love About Joseph - he learned to grow where he was planted as what I call a Multiple Uprooted One. Missionaries, when they go overseas and they leave their homeland, they have to get adjusted to a whole new circumstance. New music, new food, new smells, new culture, new language. It’s called being uprooted and not everybody can handle it but he learned to handle it as a Multiple Uprooted One. Not only did he go from Israel down to Egypt but then he got thrown in prison in Egypt and he just went from circumstance to circumstance. The theme for me for the entire life of Joseph is summarized by his attitude – get over it; get on with it – and that’s exactly what he did.
5.He grew better as a person through his trials; not bitter.
6.He knew the source of his gifting – from God and not himself. That shows up when he has the opportunity to tell Pharaoh what his dreams meant and he said, “I am not the source of this wisdom, it is God.” I think that’s so cool.
7.He was the black sheep that survived and thrived. I was the black sheep in my family and I always kind of have a soft spot in my heart for people who had a tough time in their families but they survived it and they thrived. And that goes on to number eight.
8.He overcame a highly dysfunctional family with a passive father. If that’s the kind of family that you are a part of, that you are a product of that you came out of, you know we can blame our families for our entire lives for our problems and what’s wrong with our life. Here’s a great example of a guy who overcame that and became one of the most positive people in all of the Bible and in all of the Old Testament. In fact, he is very much a type of Jesus Christ. In the last of the fourth in the series when we look at comparisons between Joseph and Jesus, you would be surprised at how many comparisons there are. In fact, I would encourage you if you are studying your Bible on your own, and you read through Genesis 37 through 50, the life of Joseph, try to make a note of how many times it looks like he is very much a type of Christ in the New Testament.
9.He was extremely gifted; yet humble. It says he was strong, handsome, with unusual wisdom.
10.His whole life is a positive boost to the story of redemption. I think that is why there are so many pages given to him in the book of Genesis. He broke the sins of his father and his grandfather and his great-grandfather. He grew up in a very bizarre home but his life was just amazing.
So today we are going to talk about winning the battle for your dreams. Why is Joseph called the dreamer?
By the way, failure is what I call the flipside of visions and dreams. If we fail and we don’t see our aspirations in life, our dreams in life fulfilled, then, really, we have failure and a lot of people struggle with failure; with feelings of failure. I know I have and when you get to be later in life you begin to wonder why are all those things I used to dream about doing, why didn’t they happen? And why didn’t all the things I dreamed about for my children happen?
Failure is dreams not fulfilled. Visions abandoned; passion forsaken. And, again, one thing that is so great about Joseph is that he was a dreamer who persevered with the right attitude and saw all his dreams fulfilled.
Well let’s look at the story. The first dream that Joseph has is found in Genesis chapter 37:5-11. We looked at this last week. There are really two dreams here in Genesis 37:5-11.
He is seventeen-years old, he’s a teen-ager, he’s a shepherd, and I can just imagine him lying out on the ground out in the countryside and the sheep are all around him and he’s taking care of them and one night Joseph had a dream. He promptly reported the details to his brothers who were also out there and they’ve actually caused them to hate him even more, because they already hated him because he was the favorite. Benjamin and Joseph were the only sons of Rachel, who Jacob his father loved so dearly and so he had a favorite position in the family.
You know the story of his coat-of-many colors that his father gave him. You know, actually, not a great idea for his dad to give him that beautiful coat-of-many colors because you know what it did? It was like, “In your face” of the brothers, that “I’m the special one.”
So when he had these dreams, of course they got mad at him. It says, “They couldn’t say a kind word about him.”
Here’s what he said,
“Listen to my dream. We were out in the field tying up bundles of grain. My bundles stood up and then your bundles all gathered around and bowed low before it. His brothers taunted him, “So you’re going to be our king are you?” And they hated him all the more for his dream.
Then Joseph had another dream, and he told his brothers about it. “Listen to this dream. The sun, moon, and eleven stars bowed low before me.”
(Remember, there are 12 brothers in all so he has eleven brothers.)
“The sun, moon, and eleven stars bowed low before me.” This time he told his father as well and his brothers and his father rebuked him, “What do you mean?” his father asked. “Will your mother, your brothers and I actually come and bow before you?”
Well you know what? Yes, they will. But while his brothers were jealous of Joseph, his father gave it some thought and wondered what it all meant. Well after that dream, of course, Joseph is sold into slavery in Egypt.
The next time we encounter dreams in the life of Joseph is when he is in his 30’s now, over 13 years later in Genesis chapter 40. If you happen to know the story of how he landed in jail again, first of all he had landed in a well when he was still in his home country of Israel but then he got thrown into prison because he was working in Potiphar’s household. Potiphar was one of the personal staff of Pharaoh and Potiphar’s wife set him up; accused him of sexual harassment, and Potiphar threw him in prison. That’s a quick summary of how he got there.
One night, while he’s in prison, he happens to be in prison with the cup bearer and the chief baker of Pharaoh. One night, this is Genesis 40 beginning with verse 5, “One night the cup bearer and the baker each had a dream and each dream had its own meaning. The next morning Joseph noticed the dejected look on their faces. “Why do you look so worried?” And they replied, “We both had dreams last night but there was no one here to tell us what they mean.”’
Isn’t this great? Here’s Joseph’s reply.
“Interpreting dreams is God’s business,” Joseph replied. “Tell me what you saw.”
You know he didn’t have to say that. He could have puffed up his own ego and just told them what they meant because he had the gift to interpret dreams but he didn’t.
Well, long story short, he tells them their dreams and they are accurate and the chief baker is subsequently impaled and put to death, exactly what the dream predicted. And the chief cup bearer is re-instated into Pharaoh’s household but quickly forgets all about Joseph.
So two years go by and Joseph is again rotting away in prison. He’s got to be thinking to himself, “Not only am I so far away from my dad and my mom and my family, but I’m in a foreign country and I’m in jail in a foreign country and I was set up. I was obeying you, Lord, I was living in purity. I did not do anything wrong. That woman falsely accused me and here I sit rotting away.”
Isn’t it amazing that their dreams - the dreams of the cup bearer and the baker - actually made possible his being freed from prison and what happens next. It all fit together because of what their dreams meant.
So in Genesis chapter 41 we pick up the story two years later. Again, he’s in his 30’s and now Pharaoh is having dreams. Remember the first dream we looked at were Joseph’s dreams. The second set of dreams belongs to the cup bearer and the baker, and now he’s building up to Pharaoh. Two years later Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing on the bank of the Nile River.
In his dream, seven fat, healthy-looking cows suddenly came up out of the river and began grazing along its bank. And then seven other cows came up from the river and they were very ugly and gaunt. These cows went over and stood beside the fat cows and then the thin, ugly cows ate the fat cows. At this point in the dream Pharaoh woke up and he was sweating and he was shocked and he called everybody in the kingdom to try to get them to interpret his dream. But he wouldn’t tell people what he dreamed. He said, I want you to tell me what I dreamed and what it meant.”
Of course, long story short, Joseph was the one who came along. It was finally, finally, the chief cup bearer said, “Oh, by the way, I forgot. There was this guy in jail back two years ago… Remember when I had that dream? Well, he told me what the dream meant and I forgot to tell you. I’m so sorry.”
Pharaoh says, “Well go get this guy.”
And Joseph tells him. “You know what? Here’s what you dreamed and here’s what it meant. Egypt is going to have seven years of plenty and then seven years of great famine. We need to prepare during these seven years of plenty for these terrible, seven years of famine.”
Then Joseph says to Pharaoh, Genesis 41:33. “My suggestion is that you find the wisest man in Egypt and put him in charge of a nationwide program. Let Pharaoh appoint officials over the land and let them collect one-fifth of all the crops during these seven years. Have them gather all the food and grain of these good years into the royal storehouses. That way there will be enough to eat when the seven years of famine come.”
Joseph’s suggestions were well received by Pharaoh and his advisors. As they discussed who should be appointed for the job…
(And I can just imagine Joseph is just standing there and he’s delivered this amazing interpretation of this dream, and a perfect solution to this national crisis, and then he’s just sort of slipped there to the side and he’s standing quietly. Pharaoh and all his advisors are in this huddle and as they discussed who should be appointed they all just turned. I’m sure they just looked at Joseph.)
And Pharaoh said, “Who can do it better than Joseph? For he is a man who is obviously filled with the Spirit of God.”
That is so great how Joseph always gave God the credit for his gifts and everybody knew that God lived in him.
Turning to Joseph, Pharaoh said, “Since God has revealed the meaning of the dreams to you and you are the wisest man in the land, I hereby appoint you to direct this project. You will manage my household and organize all my people. Only I will have a rank higher than yours.”
Through the visions and dreams that were a part of Joseph’s life, amazing things happened. You see God had a plan to use Joseph to rescue his people. That was the end game. In Egypt he gave Joseph the interpretation to several important dreams. It was his ticket to prominence. Egyptians of that day were fascinated by dreams. Archeologists have uncovered lengthy text books on dream interpretation so Joseph soon found himself at the top of Pharaoh’s government.
Well, we’re going to fast forward to today and we’re going to talk about some applications to today. Now I don’t know how many people out there are having direct visions from God and I’m not going to get into a debate whether they are valid or not, but I would like to talk about vision in general because vision is one of the most important aspects for any local church and any ministry and really, any job.
I’d like to talk for just a moment about the great value of visionaries, dreamers, and mavericks.
Leroy Eimes wrote a great book years called BE THE LEADER YOU ARE MEANT TO BE. It says, “A leader sees more than others see. He sees farther than others see and he sees before others do.”
In our context, that’s what vision and visionary leadership means to me. It is to have a dream; to have a vision. Not so much a literal dream as an idea about a better future.
I think today visions are manifest in a lot of different ways, both in the marketplace arena and in the church.
Bill Gates had an idea and it became Microsoft. To me, that’s a better future.
It can be a counter-cultural idea like Steven Jobs and the invention of the iPod. An idea and against all odds it came into being.
Or how about Bill Bright? A great business man who decided there has to be a simpler way to explain to people how to come to Christ and he invented… wrote the FOUR SPIRITUAL LAWS and Campus Crusade for Christ was born and the rest is history.
What about a passion to make the world a better place like Gandhi? Or Mother Theresa of India?
How about a sense of dissatisfaction with the status quo?
How about Marie Curie who won two Nobel Prizes for her work in radiology?
How about a new direction for churches? I’m a big fan of Bill Hybels and Willow Creek Church who created a whole new way to bring in seekers into our churches and not just have a fellowship for saints.
How about a burden? Here’s a way that a vision can manifest itself. When Ronald Reagan stood at the Berlin Wall and he said, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
You see that was a dream. That was a vision of making the world a better place.
One of my all-time favorites, of course, Martin Luther King, Jr. who said, “I have a dream,” and his dream was about equality. It was about a better country; a better place.
These are dreamers. These are mavericks. These are entrepreneurs. I think today we need dreamers and visionaries. Dreamers are our way out of institutional bureaucracies in our ministries and in our churches. Large organizations usually kill dreamers before they can really take root.
Dreamers make messes by their very nature. The good messes we need and Joseph didn’t make anybody feel comfortable when he had his dreams but they were real and they were valid. We need truly useful dreamers in our own organizations because we always tend to slide toward deadness and a bureaucracy so I just think we need to appreciate those people who bring us visions and dreams for a better future.
If you are the kind of person that is a dreamer, that is creative… You know, your creative juices just flow and people are always pounding you and holding you back, well maybe it’s time for you to move to another place because I like to advise people, if you are in a place where none of your dreams are fulfilled, now maybe you are one of these people that they are all just completely unrealistic, but for a lot of people, they just might be in the wrong context and they need to move somewhere else.
Here is what I call the four deadliest phrases that you can tell any visionary or any dreamer:
1)“We tried that before and it didn’t work.”
2)“We’ve always done it that way; don’t try to change things.”
3)“We’ve never done it that way and what gives you the right to change things.”
4)“Your visions are silly. You know, just get back to work.”
We’ve been looking today at the life of Joseph in the book of Genesis. Genesis 37 through 50 and Joseph was a dreamer; he was a visionary and God gave him a dream as a young man. I’m not even sure he understood what his dreams were when he was 17-years old but as the years went on he never lost faith, I believe, in the purposes that God had for his life. He did not give up. He did not join the pity party. He did not give up on leading a life of integrity so that God could use him.
Here are some applications in the nitty-gritty from the life of Joseph.
Joseph really lacked probably diplomacy and humility as a young man. He should have known that the favor of his father, his dreams, and the coat-of-many colors would bring him trouble so maybe as a young man he needed to be a little more humble. If you are young and you are a teen-ager and you have some great ideas and you are listening today, could I just give you that one piece of advice? Be humble about your visions and dreams and be willing to be a part of the solution; not just critical of problems.
The second application - great visions must be tempered with even greater humility. The greater your vision the more humility you need.
Number three - protect and preserve your vision. I think it’s a good idea to write down your thoughts about what God is leading you to do; protect them and preserve them.
Number four - visions usually have to die and be re-born. There’s a birth to a vision and then a death to a vision, and then a re-birth.
Don’t you think when Joseph was sitting in that well, at the bottom of that well his dream had died?
Don’t you think during those two years as he sat in that prison – forgotten – that he thought his visions had died?
I think that usually happens of the visions, the dreams, the aspirations that we have in our lives – they often have to die before they can truly…
Like a kernel of wheat has to fall into the ground and die and then it can give birth to fruit.
Number five - these are just some applications in the nitty-gritty, dreams and visions are realized with great endurance and patience over many long years; over the long haul. If you look at the life of Joseph there were many years of separation - over 20 from his family before he was united with them. It can be a lonely place to be a visionary and a dreamer but I would encourage you - don’t give up.
My final application is - there are a whole lot more skeptics out there than there are visionaries but we in the church, in ministry, certainly in missions…At WorldVenture we are looking for dreamers and visionaries and creative people.
Bottom line, don’t give up on the vision, the dream, the passion that God has given you. Because where there is no vision, the people perish. And where there is no vision, the people lose heart. So learn that no matter what happens, to get over it and to get on with it with a vision, the dream, the aspiration, the passion that God has given to you.
Thanks for listening today. This has been Missions on the Frontline, a ministry of WorldVenture. We are here to extend your vision and to help make you more aware of creative ways you can get involved in sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ around the world. Our website is WorldVenture.com. Thanks for listening today. We’ll see you next week on Missions on the Frontline.