The biblical account of Joseph’s life is intriguing and touching. It is based on two dreams that he has. The dreams come from God and are about his future. Although we certainly can’t all have dreams like Joseph, God has a dream for each one of us. The dream is his plan for our lives, and the reason for our being. This is why Joseph’s story is so important for us. It illustrates how God’s hand guides us as we move towards the fulfillment of our destiny. Bible Reference: Genesis 37-47
Insights from Joseph’s life and dreams
God will give you a vision/dream for your future—if you let him
God has a unique plan for every one of us, this means there’s a vision for your life and that’s the dream he will put in your heart. Sometimes God reveals his plan in actual dreams or visions but more often than not it will happen gradually as we walk with him. Joseph had a relationship with God by the time the dreams were revealed to him. There is obviously no fixed pattern regarding how God will show you this purpose for your life but he eventually will. Stay within his will and it’s only a matter of time before you’ll feel this urge to move in a certain direction. Your purpose tends towards what you are naturally gifted at or passionate about.
We should be cautious when sharing our dreams
When God gives you a dream, it is something exciting and usually we want to share it with someone but we need to be careful about whom we tell. The reason for this is simple: most people you tell your dream will not encourage you or be happy for you. Some will, no doubt, but more likely you will get indifferent or discouraging responses.
Joseph told his brothers about his dreams and they hated him for it. Some people won’t like the fact that you may have big aspirations and the thought of you excelling may not be what they want to hear. If you can find someone you trust completely, then go ahead and tell them but do not share your dream with everyone.
Doing the right thing won’t make everyone like you
You must already know that trying to live the right way doesn’t make you popular. Your choice to do right may inspire some but you will also certainly convict others. Your lifestyle inadvertently highlights the wrong that others do, and this may make them dislike you.
Joseph’s brothers were not impressed by his obedience to his father and obviously didn’t like the fact that he told the truth whenever they did wrong. When we choose to live the way God expects, we will definitely offend some people.
The first steps toward fulfilling your dream may not be what you expect
God gave Joseph a dream about his future and this must have made him excited, imagining that one day he would be some kind of leader, that the ‘sun, moon and stars’ would even bow down to him (Genesis 37:9). The dream was accurate; he would eventually be a great leader but the path to this greatness was not exactly what he had in mind. Joseph was cruelly betrayed by his brothers, thrown in a dry well to die then sold as a slave. When one is going to be great, the worst place to begin is as a slave. This is the way most people would view it, but God allowed him to be sold anyway.
Just like Joseph, after God has put a dream in our heart, it may look like circumstances are taking us in the exact opposite direction and we may begin to panic and doubt what he said. This is the time to believe even more, because as God has said himself, his ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55: 8-9).
No one can stop your destiny
When God has put a dream in your heart, no one (with the exception of yourself) can bring it to a premature end. Joseph’s brothers had the intention of destroying him along with his dreams saying:
‘’Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits…then we will see what becomes of his dreams”, but God prevented them from doing this and they sold him as a slave. As long as you keep believing and don’t pull the plug on your dream, God will bring it to fulfillment and nothing will be able to stand in your way (Jeremiah 1:19). In fact God will use the very people/things that try to deter you, to lead you toward the fulfillment of the dream. God turned Joseph’s brutal betrayal around to allow him go into Egypt where he would eventually see his dreams come true.
God’s purpose will prevail in spite of your pain
Have you ever prayed desperately that God would change the circumstances that were putting you under enormous pressure, and you got no response? Well, Joseph felt the same way when he was sold off by his brothers. As the Ishmaelites carried him away, you can be sure he prayed that God would somehow save him and restore him to his father. He however did not get what he so desperately wanted.
In the same way, we at times pray that God removes certain circumstances that may be the stepping stones towards our dream. God will not grant our requests and we will have to trust him and believe that he knows what’s best for us. If God had answered Joseph’s prayer he would have saved him a lot of pain but he would have also stopped him from going to Egypt and ended the route to his destiny. So if you find yourself in certain circumstances that are uncomfortable but still prevail in spite of your many prayers, maybe God wants you to remain there for a reason—trust him.
God usually brings us to a place where we need to depend on him
As we are on our journey towards the fulfillment of our dream, God will teach us to depend more on him than on anything else. He will do this by removing the things that we tend to rely on. Whether it is people, our job, money or even some luxuries we are accustomed to having. Chances are that if we depend too much on anything, we will start to have less of it. This is not to deprive us but to make us understand that God is the only one we can truly rely on (Mathew 7: 24-27). In Joseph’s case, he was taken away from his family and his homeland. He lost everything that he could put his hope in—except God. As he lived in Egypt, he had to learn to depend more on God because that was all he had. When God is all we have, then we should be encouraged because in him you will find everything good (Mathew 7:11).
We will need to be trained for our purpose
Before we can get hired for a job, we must be trained for it. Likewise, God needs to train us for the role that is attached to our dream. While he may lead some to be trained formally, you will also join God’s very own school. God’s school is informal but extremely effective. In this place we learn a lot that will help us in future. Some of the things that are taught are patience, honesty, humility, love and many more. God tends to teach with circumstances rather than words. If he wants you to learn to walk in love, he would put you in the presence of someone who is difficult to get along with. If you submit to God, you will learn to love that person and the experience will help you elsewhere. The funny thing is that most times God will be teaching us something, we won’t even know it.
For Joseph, his training came while he was a slave working at Potiphar’s house. He worked every day in the fields and at the house and learned much about planting, harvesting and storing grain. Later on, Potiphar gave Joseph charge over all his servants. Joseph learned to submit to authority, trust God, be patient and remain faithful in trying times. As a leader, he learned to supervise people and how to deal with them on a personal level with fairness since he had been a servant himself. He would later draw from this experience.
God will give us grace wherever we are
As Joseph worked as a slave day-in day-out, and then year after year, he wondered if he would ever see his family again—let alone the fulfillment of God’s promise for his life. He needed the grace of God. This grace is the one that carries us beyond what we can do on our own. It’s the bits of encouragement that God gives us daily in many different ways. Just when you are considering giving up on your dream, God speaks to you through his Word, or someone shows you their appreciation for something you did and suddenly you have the strength to go on. Joseph needed grace and so do we.
Our faithfulness to God will be thoroughly tested
As we wait for God to bring our dream to fulfillment, we will be tested in all sorts of ways. Your integrity will be put to the test several times. Joseph’s key test was Potiphar’s wife trying to seduce him. God allowed Joseph to be in a place where he could be tried ‘day after day’ (Genesis 39:10) to make sure there was nothing in him that wanted to give in to the temptation. Eventually he passed the test and was taken closer to his dream and away from Potiphar’s wife.
We, just like Joseph, will have to be exposed to temptations in many forms. If we fail the test, we most certainly have to take it again. For instance, someone may offer you a shortcut to compromise on something that you know is wrong. In this case, if you accept, you fail the test and God will let you know. After a while when you are not expecting it, a similar test will come your way. If you accept again, still you will have to take yet another test—and another (you get the picture). In the meantime there will be stagnation in the fulfillment of your destiny. This is usually the reason why we at times get frustrated with God; we keep going round in circles of disobedience and consequently take very long to achieve what he has put in our hearts. God will test you continually so that your character can be strengthened in preparation for your role.
Obedience does not always produce the expected visible results
Joseph was faithful to God and did not give in to the advances of Potiphar’s wife. Because of his resistance, she accused him falsely and he ended up in prison. The lesson here is that sometimes a step closer to your dream can seem like a step further. Sometimes after you’ve passed a big test, things can appear to get worse as a result of your obedience. Joseph had no way of knowing that prison would be the passage to his promotion and in the same way we never know how God is going to lead us to the place he promised. One thing we know is that God does tend to use very unconventional methods but we must trust him whatever the circumstances.
The key to our promotion is within us
Did you know that you keep the key to the doors of your promotion? The key to Joseph’s promotion was his God given ability to interpret dreams—it was within him all the time he was in Egypt. God will get what is within us and use it to lead us to the fulfillment of our dreams. The process is very abstract and many times we don’t even know that it is happening but when the key is ready, it will be used. Although it is always there, it cannot be made effective until we let God work with us and he alone can take it and open the doors to our destiny. Our part is to submit to his will and let him work on us, in due time we will see our dream come to pass.
God will arrange for people to lead us to our promise
While Joseph was in the prison, God arranged for the cupbearer and the baker to join him. God also arranged for both of them to have a dream which Joseph would interpret, and it would ultimately lead to the fulfillment of his dreams.
It may not be as straightforward as this in our lives but there will always be people God uses to enable us advance towards our promise. That said if we try to fast track our promotion we will certainly fail. Joseph tried to find his way out of the prison by telling the cupbearer to make mention of him to Pharaoh so that he might be released. The cupbearer promised to do so but once he was out of the prison, he forgot all about Joseph. When it was the right time, God gave Pharaoh a dream and the cupbearer was forced to recommend Joseph so that he could find favour with the King. Promotion belongs to God; we should not try to go ahead of him.
Sometimes it may seem like all is lost
It’s not uncommon for God to allow circumstances to get so bad that it seems like all is lost and the dream cannot be fulfilled any longer. If you know that God gave you the dream for sure, then never give up on it. God allowed Abraham reach the age of a hundred years then his promise arrived in the form of Isaac: the son he longed for (Genesis 21:5). Sometimes God will make it look impossible so that he may make a strong testimony out of our lives. When Joseph was in prison, and had been forgotten by the cupbearer, he must have wondered about the dreams God gave him; how does a slave—who is locked up in prison—ever become a great leader? Well the answer is another question: is there anything too hard for God? (Jeremiah 32:27) He is not limited by anything that exists so there is indeed nothing impossible for him (as Joseph later discovered), but we have to adjust our minds to believe. If he promised it, he will certainly do it.
Perseverance over time will bring your dream to fulfillment
Joseph was around 17 years old when God gave him the dreams of his destiny; he was 30 years when he became Governor of Egypt. God will test you in many ways but the biggest test is the time test. Joseph had to endure many hardships but he remained faithful to God through it all. If we want to accomplish our destiny, we are going to have to persevere. We must know that like it was with Joseph, God knows what we will go through before he gives us the dream but he gives it to us anyway.
God will always wilful his promise and much more
It has been said that God always fulfills his promises but it’s more accurate to say that God always gives what he promised and more. When Joseph was made Governor, he was overwhelmed and said “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house” (Genesis 41:51). He was content to live without his family but God had something else in mind. On top of being Governor over all Egypt, having a lot wealth and power and being blessed with his own children, Joseph was reunited with his family in Egypt. When God is fulfilling that promise he gave you, be sure there will be surprise additions to it because he is a God that gives abundantly.
God always sees the bigger picture
For every fulfilled dream there is the bigger picture. In the case of Joseph, God used him to preserve the family of Jacob who were to become Israel. God was to use Israel to reveal himself to the nations of the world through the Scriptures but more importantly to bring salvation to the world through his son Jesus. Joseph understood a bit of the bigger picture (the preservation of life) but obviously not all of it. We likewise may see only a bit of God’s purpose but there is always more. One thing we should remember—if we consider letting go of our dreams—is that there is a lot at stake because there is the bigger picture.