Part 2 of the series “Dream Big” by Pastor Tim Douglas, adapted from Andy Stanley
What would someone who is you do, if they were absolutely confident that God was with them? This is the question we began asking several weeks ago. We talked about a revolutionary principle which says that when we start looking at circumstances and situations as if God is with us we will begin seeing God in all our circumstances. With that in mind I asked us all to apply this principle and begin to write down what we experienced this week. I hope you did that. You can write some of those things down on your connection card even today so we can share them together.
This should become the lens through which we view every situation of life. What if we asked this question in the face of every opportunity, every need; through prosperity, through our temptations to manipulate and control? This question can bring balance and integrity to all your decisions. It can dig out and trench out all your insecurities. Looking for and seeing God in our circumstances can repackage and reformulate your tendencies to react and over react and can help us all with our issues of control, allowing us to focus completely on God.
So what WOULD someone, who is you, do if you were completely confident that God was with you? I hope you had a revelation this week. If not, keep looking for God in your circumstances and get ready to take a walk of faith. That’s what we are seeing in the story of Joseph. We know very little about the religious upbringing of Joseph and his brothers. We do know that God called his grandfather Abraham out from his homeland to become a great nation. Abraham had Isaac, Isaac had Jacob, and Jacob had 12 sons, the 11th of which was Joseph. But we read very little about the religious upbringing of Joseph and his brothers. We do know this, however; Joseph was given some significant dreams as a teenager, dreams that his father knew were of God. And Joseph refused to give in to the immoral advances of his masters’ wife because it would be a “sin against my God.”
Despite the challenges of being thrown into a well for dead, sold into slavery by his brothers, being taken to a foreign land as a slave, being accused falsely of rape, being thrown in a prison unjustly and being forgotten by the only ones who could get him out of prison, Joseph chose to trust God, to see God in his circumstances, and patiently wait for God’s plan to work out – as we will see today. What’s so important about today is this – Joseph followed God when things were bad, but he also followed God when things begin to get real good for him. Now it’s hard to see God when things are bad. We all know this. It’s so easy to get down and depressed when things are bad. But it’s REALLY REALLY hard to FOLLOW God in the good times. Because in the good times we kind of don’t need God! Or at least that’s what we reason in our heads. How do you maintain the attitude that “I’m going to stay the course and follow God even in the good times?” Well Joseph is going to show us how to not only keep following God in the good times, but to lean even HARDER on God in these times of prosperity.
1 Two full years later, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing on the bank of the Nile River. 2 In his dream he saw seven fat, healthy cows come up out of the river and begin grazing in the marsh grass. 3 Then he saw seven more cows come up behind them from the Nile, but these were scrawny and thin. These cows stood beside the fat cows on the riverbank. 4 Then the scrawny, thin cows ate the seven healthy, fat cows! At this point in the dream, Pharaoh woke up.
5 But he fell asleep again and had a second dream. This time he saw seven heads of grain, plump and beautiful, growing on a single stalk. 6 Then seven more heads of grain appeared, but these were shriveled and withered by the east wind. 7 And these thin heads swallowed up the seven plump, well-formed heads! Then Pharaoh woke up again and realized it was a dream.
8 The next morning Pharaoh was very disturbed by the dreams. So he called for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt. When Pharaoh told them his dreams, not one of them could tell him what they meant.
Here you have it. The Pharaoh, the ruler and de facto god of Egypt, is disturbed by a bad dream. So he does what every Pharaoh before him did – he called all the wisest people in the country to help him with his problem. Magicians, soothsayers, mediums (and larges)… Magi, politicians, news reporters, but no one can. They are all dumbfounded by these dreams. Then, out of the blue, the cup-bearer, who Joseph helped two full years before has an epiphany, okay, actually more of a “duh” moment. “Maybe this guy that helped me can help the Pharaoh.” So he tells Pharaoh about Joseph and Joseph is sent for out of the dungeon.
14 Pharaoh sent for Joseph at once, and he was quickly brought from the prison. After he shaved and changed his clothes, he went in and stood before Pharaoh.
First of all, the quickly of the Pharaoh was not so quickly for Joseph. Joseph had been waiting for two years for “quickly.” He had been stuck in the dungeon for two more years after he helped out the cup-bearer. And even though he had position of authority in the prison that doesn’t mean his accommodations were palatial. He wanted out! So they came and got Joseph from prison, cleaned him up, which tells us that prison was not the Hilton Inn, and then presented him to Pharaoh.
This is the chance Joseph has been waiting for all these years. He gets an audience with the most powerful person in the known world. Pharaoh has the power of life and death in his hands, and now this Pharaoh needs the little Hebrew boys help, the slaves help. They bring him into the palace. They place him in front of this god-like ruler. Then comes the million dollar question, the opportunity to be the hero, to be THE man.
15 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I had a dream last night, and no one here can tell me what it means. But I have heard that when you hear about a dream you can interpret it.”
The whole room lights up with anticipation. Expectancy is at an all-time high. All the other servants secretly root for this underdog of the dungeon world. And as Joseph opens his mouth to answer everyone gasps with anticipation. He could be THE ONE!
16 “It is beyond my power to do this,” Joseph replied. “But God can tell you what it means and set you at ease.”
Then they all gasp in disbelief. “Did you just hear that? He didn’t really just say that? He CAN’T do it? And what’s this about God, Pharaoh is god? This guy is not only stupid, he’s dead.” And they all stood in silence waiting for the Pharaoh to indicate separation of Joseph’s head from his body. But that is NOT what happens. Pharaoh is not phased in the least and simply goes on to tell the story of the cows and the grain. The others in the room can’t believe it. They stare in disbelief as their ruler begins to listen to Joseph, as if Joseph really mattered!
25 Joseph responded, “Both of Pharaoh’s dreams mean the same thing. God is telling Pharaoh in advance what he is about to do. 26 The seven healthy cows and the seven healthy heads of grain both represent seven years of prosperity. 27 The seven thin, scrawny cows that came up later and the seven thin heads of grain, withered by the east wind, represent seven years of famine.
28 “This will happen just as I have described it, for God has revealed to Pharaoh in advance what he is about to do. 29 The next seven years will be a period of great prosperity throughout the land of Egypt. 30 But afterward there will be seven years of famine so great that all the prosperity will be forgotten in Egypt. Famine will destroy the land. 31 This famine will be so severe that even the memory of the good years will be erased. 32 As for having two similar dreams, it means that these events have been decreed by God, and he will soon make them happen.
Here’s the interpretation of your dreams. There is no doubt about it for God has prescribed it firmly with two dreams. And not you, little god, and not one of the other many gods you all worship, but MY GOD, the Hebrew God, the God of my father’s Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who, by the way, hasn’t done much for me lately! So, if you want to survive and keep it all together after these next seven years, you’d better listen to me and the wisdom of my God!
Once again the room is silent. It’s that calm you often experience before the tornado sirens go off. It’s the silence that comes in the eye of a hurricane. Anticipation. Dread. But not for long. You see, Joseph followed the interpretation of the dreams the same way anyone would who was completely confident that God was with them – he offered advice. Naysayers whispered to one another, “He’ll be dead before he hits the doorway. Can you believe the audacity of that guy? He’s really had some guts.”
Joseph lays out an economic plan complete with supervisors and a description of the person who should run the whole operation. The plan includes how much and when the food should be gathered, where the food should be stored and a warning that failure to do this would result in, well, failure for the whole country. And once again the masses are left wondering how in the world this guy is still alive, who he thinks he is and if, maybe, he was talking about recommending them for one of the jobs.
I’m not sure if this would have been my way of dealing with the Pharaoh. It’s incredible that this young man had the confidence and where with all to stand up for truth, wisdom and God’s directive. Why did he do it? This is what anyone, whose life is on the line, whose livelihood is at stake, whose reputation is at risk, does – when they are fully convinced that God is with them. Joseph didn’t fall for the line that his life was in Pharaoh’s hands. He knew that God was more powerful than pharaoh, knew more than pharaoh and could see into his future. He had BIG God with him while he was interpreting dreams for “little, wanna be” god.
Have you ever been in the situation where you think that he or she controls your destiny, your job, your sobriety, your sanity? Have you ever thought that those bad choices in the past or even in the present have robbed you of the love of God or the love of others; made you unworthy as a person or spouse? I have. Have you ever cowered to someone that, in the end, controls nothing of your life or your destiny but it seems almost impossible to get out from under their influence or control of you? Most of us have been there on some level or another. We need to take a cue from Joseph and finally, purposely, definitively place our life and circumstances in the hands of the God who promises to be with us. In fact, God promised through Jesus to “never leave us or forsake us.”
“Really,” you might say. “Tell that to Joseph when he was in the well or bound for Egypt or sleeping in a musty dungeon. Better yet, tell it to the ones who have been beaten down and trampled by injustice, manipulated and controlled by those in power over them, abused or neglected by their family. Tell it to them.” Well that’s why we’re here, today. God never left Joseph, and Joseph knew it. And when we hold firmly to that truth we will begin to see God at work in our circumstances. We will begin to see God helping us with our children, our marriage, our boss or job, our failures. We can begin to do what anyone who is you would do, when they were completely confident that God was with them – because God IS with you, with us.
Back in the story, after Joseph gives all this unsolicited advice, Pharaoh does the unthinkable –
37 Joseph’s suggestions were well received by Pharaoh and his officials. 38 So Pharaoh asked his officials, “Can we find anyone else like this man so obviously filled with the spirit of God?” 39 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has revealed the meaning of the dreams to you, clearly no one else is as intelligent or wise as you are. 40 You will be in charge of my court, and all my people will take orders from you. Only I, sitting on my throne, will have a rank higher than yours.”
41 Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I hereby put you in charge of the entire land of Egypt.” 42 Then Pharaoh removed his signet ring from his hand and placed it on Joseph’s finger. He dressed him in fine linen clothing and hung a gold chain around his neck. 43 Then he had Joseph ride in the chariot reserved for his second-in-command. And wherever Joseph went, the command was shouted, “Kneel down!” So Pharaoh put Joseph in charge of all Egypt. 44 And Pharaoh said to him, “I am Pharaoh, but no one will lift a hand or foot in the entire land of Egypt without your approval.”
I might have been tempted to bow out and say, “Sorry, oh great Pharaoh. I don’t think I can help because I really don’t want to get this wrong.” But Joseph had the confidence that God was with him. In essence Pharaoh is saying, “I realize I’ve only known you for say, 30 minutes, but you are the right man for this job. God is with you! And all my advisors agree with me! (He looks around as the advisors stop rolling their eyes and say, “Yes, Pharaoh, good choice. Way to go!”)
So now, you’re in charge. Take the wisdom that your God gave you and do what you have said should be done. And that’s exactly what Joseph did. For the next fourteen years Joseph did what anyone who had been thrown into a well, sold into slavery, accused of rape, thrown into prison, gussied up for the Pharaoh and made second in command of the most powerful nation in the world would do, if they had complete confidence that God was with them. He took the opportunity and did all he could do with the help of God.
Do you know why Pharaoh did this? Pharaoh noticed in him what Potiphar has noticed early on, and what the prison warden noticed, and what the cup-bearer and baker knew first hand – this man’s GOD WAS WITH HIM! And Joseph had the confidence he needed to make wise decisions and make reasonable decisions because he stood on God’s plan.
This is very important: Do you know what Joseph did for the next 14 years? He did exactly what anyone who was put in charge of a whole nation and economy would do if they were confident that God was with them – he followed the plan and trusted God.
His newfound prosperity didn’t change his reliance on God. He still followed God like when he was in the well, like when he was in prison, like when he was forgotten. Those days and years of desperation didn’t rip his faith from him. But his new wealth and power and position didn’t change him either! He didn’t become arrogant and self sufficient like we might tend to do. He didn’t cling to his rugged individualism and personal power to gather the grain and prepare for the famine. He didn’t let pride and the kudos of the Pharaoh fill his life with a “look at me” perspective. He just kept following God with the confidence that God was with him.
Don’t you want that kind of confidence? Can anyone really ruin what God is up to? Can anyone really stop God’s plan from working in your life – other than you? Does anyone really, really have control over you? Really! We can all learn to respond in godly confidence, just like Joseph did: not with arrogance, not with false humility, not with condescension or dramatic guise, but with humble faith in God!
You might be thinking at this point – could something like this really happen? Did this really happen? Yes, it did. And it will happen again and again, when men and women take their unique opportunities, their unique gifts and talents, their life experiences good and bad, and live totally confident that God is with them – YES! One million times, yes! You have no idea what God might do through you if you lived life focused on Him rather than focused on your problems.
What if, what would happen if those of us in this room or listening on the web, what if we decided to live this way even for a week? What if we decided to lay aside our fears of failure and disappointment? Our thoughts of weakness or insecurity? Our thoughts of being better than or lesser than the people next door? The right to judge and discriminate against others or let them judge or discriminate against us? What if we put away our goals and dreams of climbing whatever ladder society is tempting us with to make us feel adequate, or superior, or successful and asked this question instead?
“What is it that the God who is with me wants to do with: my job, my house, my plans, my dreams, my family, my life? Better yet – what does this God who is with me, this God of all grace and love and power and mercy, have planned for me?” And then we all responded – “That’s what I want to do!” “I’m just going to be God’s woman or God’s man no matter what…my…circumstances.” Can you imagine? I want to imagine that. I want to see that for you, for me, for this church, and for our community.
One of the best things I have ever heard, and a thought that has helped drive our vision at Creekside is this – if you can accomplish your visions, goals, plans or dreams, then they are too small. If you can do IT, whatever IT is, without God, then you’re thinking way too small! God wants to accomplish God-sized visions, God-sized plans, God-sized dreams through us. When we accomplish things that only God can do, then God gets the credit and the glory. Life is too short, to short change God’s plans for you and for me.
We’ve only got one shot of about 70-80 years to live on this earth, only a short lifetime to live out the hopes and dreams and visions that God has for each and every one of us. Only one shot at impacting our world with the love of God. Only one shot to share the story of God’s forgiveness and grace and mercy with the community around us. And if we are truly confident that God is with us…if I am really confident that the all-powerful, all-knowing, ever present, God of love and grace and mercy is with me…then I want to live that God-sized life. I want to dream that God-sized dream. I want to see the world through a God-sized vision! Don’t you?
And if I, if you, are truly confident that God is with us, then we can live out that life, live out those hopes and dreams on a God-sized scale – because God is in control and God will see it through. That puts God in the rightful place in our life, our job, our family, our plans. So here’s the final question for this week:
Given all that you have – your training, your talent, your job, your resources, your family and your circles of influence – what would someone who is you do if they were totally confident that God was with them? I challenge you, I dare you to ask God for those answers each day, this week!
Let’s pray: God I admit, we admit, that we have a hard time giving up control of our life, our family, our jobs and our dreams. Our dreams and visions are boxed up into things we can do and see. Release us from the tyranny of small thinking and small dreaming. Help us to place simple faith in you each morning this week. Let your Holy Spirit work in us and through us to accomplish YOUR plans. Help us see clearly and give us the willingness to follow you no matter what.
In Jesus Name, Amen