Hey leader, I know what you’ve been doing for the last few weeks—dreaming, right? It’s a new year! A whole 12 months laid out in front of us, with unlimited possibilities.
As I began imagining what God might have for me, my family, my church, and my community this year, I was moved to study one of the Bible’s biggest dreamers, Joseph. I think there are some lessons that we leaders can learn from Joseph’s story.
Dream, dream, DREAM!! Dream big dreams, ridiculous dreams, dreams that could never be possible without God. But make sure they are God’s dreams.
Thankfully, Joseph’s dream wasn’t just a great goal for his life, it was actually a picture of what God wanted to do. Joseph’s brothers didn’t understand this when they said in Genesis 37:20, Let’s do all this to him and “we’ll see what his dreams amount to.” If it had been Joseph’s dream for himself, it truly would not have amounted to anything—it would easily have been crushed by any opposition. But because it was God’s dream, nothing was going to stand in the way of its fulfillment.
Friends, let’s set aside our natural dreams…which all too often involve us looking like hot shots. Instead, let’s ask God what HIS dreams are, and then try to wrap our heads around our part in them. Then, and only then, will we find ourselves part of something greater than we could have imagined.
Rarely does God’s timing line up with ours.
Joseph had a fantastic dream, and immediately began to see how God was working it out. He was quickly lifted up into favor and power, and everyone around him recognized this 17-year old boy’s incredible character and gifts!
Um, nope. Genesis 37-50 tells the painful story not of Joseph’s ascent in the world’s eyes, but his DEscent…into obscurity, slavery, toil, false accusations, mistreatment, hiddenness, faithfulness with no reward…and all along the way that clock was ticking, ticking, ticking. The fulfillment of the dream did come…13 years after Joseph dreamed it. Can you imagine how difficult that process of waiting must have been for a teenager?
Why did God wait so long? Well, first to give space for Joseph to change. Thirteen years and a whole lot of crushing did wonders for Joseph’s character, so that he was actually able to bear the authority and influence he was given. Second, to give space for Joseph’s brothers to change. At the end of the story they were no longer the villains, but actually tools that had helped bring God’s will to pass. And third, God was kind of busy…He had rulers to set up, nations to bring down, and weather patterns to get in order. The world just wasn’t quite ready for Joseph to come onto the scene until the exact day that Pharoah called him from prison. God had His own timing and reasons, and they didn’t all revolve around the young adult God had called getting the credit he most definitely DIDN’T deserve.
If God has given us a dream and it isn’t coming to pass yet, maybe we aren’t ready yet to see the fulfillment. Maybe others aren’t (something we have no control over). Or maybe, just maybe, He is setting up world events to maximize the glory it will bring Him. If we want to see God’s dreams fulfilled, we must embrace His timing the way Joseph did.
The most important thing about the journey isn’t the destination, but the company.
I love Genesis 39:21: “But the Lord was with Joseph in the prison and showed him his faithful love.” And really, what else could we want? If we focus on the fulfillment of the dream, we will be disappointed when we aren’t seeing it, even though we have the King of the Universe in our jail cell with us. I have a faithful friend with me, regardless where I am in the process of His dream being fulfilled. And that is enough.
The fulfillment of the dream is for God’s glory, no matter who He uses to accomplish it.
So what if God had decided that it wasn’t going to be Joseph that He used after all? Could Joseph have been just as happy seeing His Kingdom come through someone else? If not, then it’s more about Joseph’s glory that it is about God’s. I have used this litmus test for myself many times, to gauge where my motives truly lie. (If I’m honest, I’ve failed it more times than I’ve passed it.) Could I truly rejoice just as exuberantly if God used someone else to fulfill a dream He’s put on my heart? If not, then I need to go back and remember that it’s all about Him. Somehow, that seems to happen more easily in a jail cell than on a throne.
As long as we keep these lessons in mind, we can be assured that God will absolutely do great things. So dream well, dreamer! You are in great company.