“God has sent me ahead of you to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors.” Genesis 45:7 (NLT)
The Be the Message faith-building challenge involves a process that will grow our faith deeper and break through the barriers that block God’s blessing in our lives. God’s faith-building process will take you to new heights in knowing God and serving Him. Joseph’s life offers a model for how God shapes our immature faith into a faith that changes destinies in four stages:
- The Faith-Forming Stage
- The Character-Building Stage
- The Selfless-Surrender Stage
- The Faith-Fulfillment Stage
In the final stage, we see God accomplishing the purpose for which he created Joseph. What began as a dream in the heart of a teenager finds fulfillment later in his life in a way he would have never imagined. Even when Joseph had been forgotten and his dream had died, God was very much alive and resurrected that dream in His time and His own way. But God was more concerned with what the dream would make Joseph rather than where the dream would take him. God is more concerned with our character than our comfort, and His goal is to shape us into the image of His Son. Very often, I’m asked the question, “How do you know when a dream is from God? How do you know it’s not just your own selfish ambition?” That’s a great question, and it’s wise to ask this before stepping out in faith or sharing your dream, believing it is from God. Sometimes, it’s difficult for me to determine whether a dream is from God or just my own idea. Here’s two ways to recognize if a dream is God given:
- First, a God-given dream will serve others.
At first, Joseph’s dream appeared to be self-serving. In the beginning, he was inflated with his own ego, supported by the favoritism of his father and the idea of his brothers bowing down to him! In his immature faith, he misinterpreted the dream. God’s purpose was not for others to serve Joseph; His purpose was for him to serve others. God’s will for Joseph was to save a nation from destruction and, ultimately, continue a race that would lead to the Savior Himself! This was his destiny! It took the first three stages of God’s faith building process to develop Joseph’s faith to the measure of understanding and maturity that he reached when he said to his brothers, “God has sent me ahead of you to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors.” (Genesis 45:7 NLT) In the original language, the emphasis is given to the amazing or extraordinary way in which God would do it. Joseph discovered that the dream wasn’t about others serving him but how God would use him in an extraordinary way to serve others! What a faith journey! Think about your own faith journey for a moment. You are exactly where you are right now because God is working to shape your character to match the destiny He has for you. He is maturing and growing your faith so that you are better equipped to serve others. And He will do it in extraordinary ways you could never imagine!
- Second, a God-given dream will benefit the body of Christ.
I love this passage from the Message in Ephesians 1:22, 23. It says, “The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which He speaks and acts, by which He fills everything with His presence.” The church is God’s plan for the world. The church isn’t about preaching sermons as much as it is about being the message to a lost and dying world that would rather see a sermon than hear one. God is saying that the church should be at the center, not the world. The world is peripheral to the church! Is that true in your life? How important is the church to you? Will the dream you have benefit the body of Christ? Will it enable Christ to clothe Himself with your humanity so that, through your voice, He speaks and with your body, He acts? What’s the motivation of your dream? The Bible says in Galatians 5:6b, “…The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” If love is not the motivation for faith, then that faith is destructive and harmful. It was love that motivated Joseph to believe God, forgive his brothers, and serve them. Love breaks through all the barriers so faith can express itself to fulfill God’s great and grand purpose for your life!