Today, Pentecost Sunday, is filled with so many different spiritual, power-packed themes. It is the birthday of the Church, the day the Holy Spirit was imparted to believers so that they could speak effectively for God to people of every tribe and tongue. On the Day of Pentecost, 3000 people were saved. It’s a day that was yet the fulfillment of another one of the Bible’s promises for Jesus had promised the disciples that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came on them and that they would be His disciples in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth. And on the day of Pentecost, while the disciples were gathered in Jerusalem, God brought the nations to them. They were supernaturally gifted to speak in languages they had never learned, and as they shared the Gospel message, people began to understand God’s invitation for them to trust Jesus and 3000 of them said, “Yes.”
I could highlight how the Holy Spirit empowers us and moves us, how the Spirit, like the wind or fire is forceful and strong to bring about transformation, but on this Pentecost Sunday, the day we have also chosen to celebrate and honor the graduates among us, I have decided to focus on another aspect of the Pentecost story. It takes place after the disciples were enabled to speak in those other languages. People were bewildered as to how that miracle had occurred. Some people even criticized the happenings saying that the disciples must be drunk, which makes no sense because how could someone who was drunk suddenly become articulate to speak the Word of God in a language they had never learned? When a person is drunk the exact opposite happens. They slur their speech. Some people are just quick to criticize what they cannot explain or immediately understand.
Listen to what Peter said in Acts 2:14: 14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:17 “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see VISIONS, your old men will dream DREAMS. 18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will PROPHESY.
Graduates, and all who are listening to this message, hear what God would say to you on this Pentecost: It’s time to dream some dreams! It’s time to embrace some visions! It is time to prophesy to the world in the power of the Holy Spirit! I believe the Holy Spirit wants to give God’s people God-sized visions and dreams and enable God’s people to declare the Word of God (to prophesy) in this moment in history!
A dream is the start of a new chapter. Graduates and all, Pentecost is an invitation to dream. It is an invitation to a new chapter in your discipleship, in your walk with Jesus.
When I think about visions and dreams, I think of the guy who was actually called a dreamer. His name is Joseph. The story is told in Genesis 37. Joseph had many brothers. One time when he was tending the flocks with his brothers, I guess he didn’t like the way they treated him or the way they were doing their job, so he came home and tattled on them. It didn’t go over well.
Joseph was a special son to his father. He had been born when his father was old. There was no doubt that Joseph was the favorite. His brothers hated him for that. Genesis 37:4 says they couldn’t speak a kind word to him. Imagine being bullied in your own family from the time you were born. I’m sure Joseph questioned why he had to endure such a difficult childhood. I’m sure he felt quite alone. I’m guessing every day was tough.
Maybe that’s why God gave him a dream. Maybe it was the dream that gave him hope that life would one day be better, that he would one day be valued and respected and loved. Maybe the dream gave him hope, something to hold onto. Joseph only added to his brother’s hatred when he told them the nature of his dream. He basically said, “In my dream, you were bowing down to me.” When he told them his dream, verse 5 says, they hated him all the more. They hadn’t been able to speak a kind word to him, and now they would soon put actions behind their angry words.
He had not one but two dreams, and the second dream was much like the first. His brothers were subject to him in the dream. This time he told his brothers as well as his father about the dream. His father even rebuked him.
Well, another time when he was sent by his father to check on the brothers, they plotted to kill him. Verse 19 says, 19 “Here comes that dreamer!” they said to each other. 20 “Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.”
They reasoned that if they killed the dreamer, the dream would die with him. But one of the brothers, Reuben, couldn’t go through with the murder. They actually wound up throwing him into a pit and eventually they sold their baby brother to slave traders who sold Joseph into slavery in Egypt to a man named Potiphar. How in the world would his dream ever come true if he was now even removed from their presence? He wasn’t just removed from his home, but he was removed from his homeland. How would they be bowing before him one day if they didn’t even live in the same proximity? The brothers made up a story and told their dad Joseph had been devoured by wild animals. The news decimated him.
Potiphar, the official who bought Joseph, was a Captain of the Guard to the Pharaoh. Genesis 39:2 says the Lord was with Joseph and he prospered as a servant in Potiphar’s house. Potiphar saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, so Potiphar put Joseph in charge of his entire household, in charge of all of his possessions. Potiphar prospered because God blessed everything Joseph did. Listen, when God gives you a dream, you can rest assured He will be with you to ensure it will come to pass.
All of this success was sabotaged when Potiphar’s wife took note of how handsome Joseph was. She tried to seduce him, and but he wouldn’t disrespect his master and he wouldn’t disrespect God by giving in to her. The text says she pursued him aggressively, day after day and he continually refused to go to bed with her. Rejected and scorned, she lied about him saying he tried to take advantage of her. Potiphar had Joseph put in prison.
How does a person survive abusive treatment by his family, being utterly rejected by them, being sold into slavery, being elevated in position and then being thrown into prison on false charges? Joseph was going to survive and thrive because the God who gave him the dream never left him. Just as God was with him in Potiphar’s house and caused him to prosper, we read in verse 20: But while Joseph was there in the prison, 21 the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. 22 So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. 23 The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.
Joseph was literally promoted in prison. While there, he met two of Pharaoh’s officials that had also been put in prison. They both had dreams they couldn’t understand, and we learn that not only was Joseph a dreamer, but he was blessed by God to be able to interpret dreams. One day Pharaoh had a dream he couldn’t understand and one of the two guys that had had a dream interpreted by Joseph was out of prison, and he told Pharaoh about Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams. Pharaoh summoned Joseph from prison and told him his dream. Joseph explained that the Pharaoh’s dream was about an upcoming famine on the land of Egypt. He said there would be seven years of plenty, followed by seven years of famine. They needed to get prepared. They needed to save up grain during the years of plenty so they would have enough food during the famine. Well, who better to put in charge of such an operation than Joseph?
Genesis 41:41:41 So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.” 42 Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph’s finger. He dressed him in robes of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck. 43 He had him ride in a chariot as his second-in-command,[b] and people shouted before him, “Make way[c]!” Thus he put him in charge of the whole land of Egypt.
Are you seeing this? Pharaoh gave Joseph his personal authority. He dressed him in royal robes. His brothers had stripped him of a special robe his dad had given him and had ripped it to shreds and soaked it in blood to fake his death, but Pharaoh dressed him in royal robes. Joseph had ridden as a slave in a caravan to Egypt, and now he was riding in a chariot as second in command of the entire country. His brothers had shouted angry words at him, and now people were shouting words of praise as his chariot rolled by. Joseph had gone from rock bottom to Rockstar.
He did a fabulous job prepping for the famine, and guess who came to Egypt looking for food when they got hungry? Guess who had to humble themselves and bow before their large and in charge brother? Guess whose dream had come true? And look at the gracious words Joseph spoke to his brothers as they came into his presence in Genesis 50:20: You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
Let me tell you something, When God gives you a dream it is bigger than you are.
Joseph’s dream wasn’t about his brothers having to grovel or bow before him, but it was about him getting to provide for them, about him getting to bless them, even when they had treated him so poorly, and even though he could have taken them out. The fulfillment of those dreams was about Joseph holding on to God and holding on to his God-given dream regardless of his circumstances.
Sometimes, when people get intimidated by your dreams, they don’t realize that what God wants to do through you will wind up for their benefit!
God wants to give you a dream today. Each one of you. I believe He wants to impart something supernatural to you that will keep you relying on Him. It will be something to spur you on in the tough times, and it will also be something that will enable you to be a blessing to others. God wants to send the Holy Spirit to open your mind to God-sized possibilities. Dare to be a dreamer. Dare to believe in God-sized possibilities. You can’t be small-minded and have big dreams. Your dreams will only be as big as your view of God and as big as your willingness to receive the Spirit of God! Joseph had a high regard for God! Joseph knew God was with him because Joseph never quit looking for Him. Graduates, don’t stop looking for God. Don’t stop trying to find him in every circumstance. We know that relationship with God kept the dream alive in his heart. Is anyone willing to receive a God-size dream this morning!
In addition to what I’ve already mentioned I have three takeaways for us all from this story:
Don’t view setbacks as the death of your dream.
Graduates, young people, fellow believers, each one of us will deal with life’s ups and downs. Every one of us will have obstacles to overcome. Joseph had so many reasons to give up on his dreams. He could have given up hope countless times, but he didn’t. Here is what I know: The Christian life is a life that is always on the rise. It is a Resurrection life. It is a get back up life. It is an overcoming life.
Every set back Joseph dealt with was a set up for a comeback and the fulfillment of the dream God gave him. God doesn’t do things the way the world does them. The world has a ladder of success that measures success as people simply climb higher and higher step by step. God doesn’t work that way. He has reasons for allowing us to undergo trials and tests. There are things we cannot know in the moment but that we can trust God for as we continually surrender our futures to Him.
If you will continually surrender your future to God, you will be good to go. You will stay focused. You will live undeterred. You will maintain a “can do” spirit. You will live out your God-given dreams. You see, Joseph refused to live with a victim mentality. He didn’t surrender his life or his dream when people did him dirty. Every set back Joseph had was taking him towards the next step which would ultimately result in his dream becoming reality. That’s how big God is. He can take the bad things that happen to us and turn them into blessings for us as we trust Him.
When you are living surrendered to the Holy Spirit, even when situations take a turn for what the world would say the worst, you can sit back with your bucket of popcorn and watch God work. The ending of your story is going to be epic! Keep dreaming, friends!
Being sold into slavery was God’s way of getting Joseph to Egypt. Being put in prison was God’s way of enabling Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams to become known. You may not know what role your setback will play in your comeback now, but the Spirit of God that created everything from nothing can surely work in the midst of your disappointment or pain to birth the new thing that He has willed will happen. You’re just along for the ride, my friend! Don’t get depressed over what didn’t happen. Get excited over what God will do with the ashes of your life!
Don’t view setbacks as the death of your dream.
Second, Don’t compromise your integrity or relationship with God on the way to your dream. Joseph could have reasoned that he deserved to be with Potiphar’s wife. He was basically the man of the house as Potiphar had put him in charge of everything. Why not help himself to the man’s wife? Why not have needs and desires met? He had worked so hard. He had been done so wrong. Why not take advantage of a situation that was clearly being handed to him?
Joseph refused to justify an immediate pleasure that could have defiled his character and compromised his relationship with God. He wasn’t going to take short cuts. There would be a time when he would have a wife, but this wasn’t God’s time for him. After he was made second in command to Pharaoh, he was given a wife, a reward for his faithfulness to do the right thing.
He could have begun an affair with Potiphar’s wife. Who knows how that would have ended? It could have gotten him killed. The death of Joseph truly would have been the death of his dream. Would his sin with Potiphar’s wife have caused God to withdraw His favor and blessing?
Listen, if you are going to realize your God-given dreams you will have to stay faithful in the hard times, in the hard places. Don’t go down the paths of lying, stealing, cheating, compromise and cover up. Sometimes we get in a hurry. Sometimes we feel as if things aren’t happening fast enough, and we think we need to do something to speed up the success, to speed up the realization of the dream. It will never be worth it to work your ways in the flesh. Let God lead you by His Spirit because His timing is perfect. I am sure when Joseph went through all of the heartache and difficulties it seemed as if it took a lifetime to get to the realization of those dreams, but do you know he was just 30 years old when he was elevated to Pharaoh’s right hand? He was literally ruling the happenings of Egypt at age 30. What did any of us over age 30 have on our resume’ by then?
Finally, Don’t become bitter towards people who try to crush your dreams. Joseph had every reason to hate his brothers. He could have hated his father for sending him to check on them so many times, for favoring him and putting him in the position where his brothers hated him from the start. He could have hated Potiphar’s wife and Potiphar and had a negative attitude in that prison which would have cost him the opportunity to gain that promotion where he was put in charge. He could have hated God for allowing Him to go through such unbelievable pain. He never became sour. He never became bitter.
Bitterness negatively changes who you are and keeps you from being in a position to bless others.
Joseph could realize his dream because he kept his heart free of offense. The dream wasn’t about a position, but it was about putting him in a place where God could use him to bless others.
I think too many believers have settled for mediocrity when they could have achieved greatness. They have let setbacks sit them on the sideline. They have justified giving into temptation and they have allowed what has happened to them to derail their dreams.
It’s time to dream new dreams. It’s time to let God do a new thing. It’s time to picture what God wants to do. It’s time to prophesy, to speak for God, as we allow Him to lead us by His Spirit with new visions and new dreams. Pray for the Spirit of Pentecost to rest on you the way it obviously rested on Joseph. Pray for the kind of dreams that take such hold in your life that you will tenaciously hold onto God no matter what. Never give up on your God-given dreams.
Pentecost. It’s an invitation for the sons and daughters to prophesy about what God can and will do. It’s an invitation for young men and women to have Holy Spirit-led visions and for the mature men and women to dream new dreams! Dream on and move on in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit to enable your dreams to come true.