I've been thinking a lot about Joseph, son of Jacob, as a missionary. The story of Joseph begins in Genesis 37 and concludes in Genesis 50. Now, I know that Joseph never intentionally left home to serve as missionary for the Lord. Still, one cannot get around all of the lessons that this man of God brings to light and the way those lessons parallel missions. The next few times I write, I will be focusing in on a few of these ideas.
One of the big struggles that so many of us face in life involve our dreams and expectations. What happens when dreams don't match reality? What happens when expectations are met with disillusionment and failure? I can't tell you how many times in ministry, missions, and life I have spoken with people about this very issue. Marriages ending in divorce because expectations weren't met. Preachers hanging their heads in failure, following the loss of dreams and hopes. Missionaries returning home, saddened by life's disappointments. This dark cloud of failure seems to follow so many of us throughout life.
Joseph had a dream too. Genesis 37 says that at age seventeen, Joseph dreamt of a future where he was respected and honored, revered and exalted by those around him. I seriously doubt that any of us have ever expressed such a self-centered dream to our family and friends as Joseph did. And yet, the core expectation of Joseph's dream is felt by all. Most of us want to succeed in life. We desire honor and fortune in our journeys. Who sets out to let people down? Like Joseph, the dream of accomplishment is ever before us.
The dreams of Joseph were indeed great. In all reality, God planned on fulfilling that dream, but not for the reasons that Joseph had planned. God's vision for Joseph was greater than making him a Lord to be worshipped. God's vision was that Joseph might serve and ultimately save his family (Genesis 45:5-7). To accomplish that goal, God had to take Joseph down an unforeseen path. What might have been perceived as failure to Joseph (becoming a slave, being falsely accused of wickedness, ending up in prison) was just the path God had chosen. Joseph couldn't have reached his destination had he tried to. So, God lead him down a different road, an unlikely one.
Well, we have dreams too. Sometimes those dreams are pure, and sometimes they aren't. Still, God is smarter than us. The road he leads us down may be filled with failures and disappointment. However, God sees the bigger picture. God sees the perfect path for us, not simply so that we can be exalted, but so that people can be saved (Acts 17:26-27). We should hand our dreams over to the Lord. Allow him to guide our steps. After all, we never know what is coming next. Whether pain or prosperity, failure or fortune, God knows our dreams and has his own dreams for us too.
- Chris Johnson