Monday, February 1, 2010

Joseph as a missionary- The dream and the reality

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


  1. Thanks Chris for your insight into Joseph as a disciple dealing with disappointment in his life. Richard Rogers used to tell me that we need to develop a good "theology of failure" in our lives. We don't understand that sometimes it is the failures (self-inflicted) or the disappointments (others or circumstance inflicted)that cause us to grow the most. God uses all of these things to shape and form us into his image.

    Thanks to all of your for this great website. I have recommended it to my son Ryan who is in AIM now! Keep writing and sharing.
    Jay Jarboe

  2. Man, if the failures cause us to grow the most.... I must be one "grown up person"... haha. Thanks for the insight Jay!

  3. Chris - Your point is dead on. Our culture teaches us that the most important thing for us to do is hold on to our dreams. Dreams are wonderful things and I believe God works through them to keep us moving and motivated. So if your dreams are submitted to God, fantastic. But there are too many stories out there that talk about what a person's initial dreams were and how they are so happy those dreams didn't come true. In my 20s I dreamed that at this point in my life(nearly 40 years old)I would be a dramatically wealthy counselor and never, ever, ever a minister who would be under the oversight of an eldership. Though that would be fine, I now realize that isn't me and I would be miserable in that role. (I am presently a minister who is under the oversight of an eldership.)God used my dreams to keep me moving, but He knew/knows what is best. I have to ask myself what do I want to follow more: my dreams, which are based on my awareness of what is going on at the time. Or God, who knows what is going on now and what will go on throughout all eternity. This doesn't mean that it will feel good when my dreams aren't happening, but it does mean that I can be confident that God is at work and building something that will be greater than my greatest dream. Hmmm...that reminds me of a verse I once read. Eph. 3:20 anyone?