I turned 62 and I’ve come to the conclusion that the life cycle is backwards. I think you should die first, get it out of the way. Then live 20 years in an old age home and then get kicked out because you’re too young. Get a gold watch and then you go to work. You work 40 years until you’re young enough to enjoy your retirement. You go to college and you party until you’re ready for high school. Then you go to grade school, you become a little kid, you play, you have no responsibilities, you become a little baby, you go back into the womb and you spend the last ten months floating and finish off as a gleam in somebody’s eye.
I am so delighted, so delighted to be back with you at the Crystal Cathedral, and be with Dr. Schuller. My newest book, Put Your Dream to the Test has just come out, in fact I’m so honored because the Hour of Power has made this a very special edition and they have it available for you here, they have it also available for the television audience.
In the life of Joseph, we begin to find out very early that the dream is free but the journey isn’t. That’s true of all of us, is it not? Do you remember when you first had maybe your first dream as a child and it was so enjoyable and it was so wonderful to think about. And yet very quickly, as we begin the dream journey, we realize there’s a price to pay. The dream is free. That’s why I think we like it so much in the beginning. But then the journey has a great price to it.
In my book Put Your Dream to the Test, I talk about ten questions you need to ask yourself to make sure that your dream comes true. One of those ten questions is the cost question. The cost question just simply asks: Am I willing to pay the price for my dream?
Perhaps you’ve heard of the.. if you go to a little side shows once in awhile, there’ll be a canister jar with fleas in it and they’re just kind of jumping up and down and there’s no lid on it and you look at these fleas in the jar and you ask why don’t they just jump out. They certainly have the ability to do this, why don’t they jump out of the jar? Well it’s very simple. When they put the fleas in the jar, they put a lid on it. And those fleas, as they start to, obviously, want to get out of the jar, they start jumping up and every time they smash their little flea brains against the lid. And after a while they say to them self, self oh that’s better. Wow, that just feels so much better. If I only jump this high, I won’t get hurt again. Happens with all of us.
Every one of us as we have had a dream, and as we’ve started out on this wonderful dream journey, we’ve had high expectations, we’ve had wonderful thoughts about what’s going to happen in our life, only to find out that as we journey in the dream, there is a cost.
There is a price and Joseph, he’s about to find this out, too. As a very young man, he begins to have a dream of being a ruler. But Joseph very quickly is going to find out that there’s a price to be paid and in his life, the price to be paid is sooner than he thought. It was much higher than he thought and he was going to pay the price more than once.
And I would like to take you on that journey now for a few moments.
As we follow the path of Joseph, we’re going to discover the surprises he had in his life. In fact the title of the message is “How to Survive the Surprise” because when you and I begin to pursue our dream, trust me, we’re going to have some negative surprises on our journey. Joseph had four.
First of all, the first surprise he came was the fact that his family reacted negatively to his dream. As a teenager, as he began to share with his family what he sensed that had been birthed in himself by God and as he began to share his dream, they began to look upon him in a very negative way and talked to him about it in a negative way.
In fact, in Genesis chapter 37, let me just read a couple of paragraphs. When Joseph, who was sent out by his father to go out to his brothers who were watching the sheep, when Joseph reached his brothers, because they were jealous of the dream, they ripped off his fancy coat, they grabbed him and they threw him into a cistern and the cistern went dry and there wasn’t any water in it. Then his brothers sat down to eat their supper and looking up, they saw a caravan of Ishmaelite's on their way from Gilead, their camels loaded with spices, ointments and perfumes to sell to Egypt, and Judas said, brothers, what are we going to get out of killing our brother and concealing the evidence.
You see they’d already had a plot to kill him, and this next phrase, I have a sense of humor, this always brings a smile to my face, the brothers are there talking and they said let’s sell him to the Ishmaelite's but lets not kill him, he is after all our brother. Nice family. How would you like to have brothers like that, huh? Let’s not kill him, I mean after all, he is our brother. Let’s just sell him to be a slave.
Now already, already Joseph, who had this amazing dream of being a ruler, is finding a very negative surprise and the surprise is the fact that his family has reacted in a very difficult, negative way to his dream. We know what its like if somebody close to us, a family member, if we share something that is important to us, perhaps an idea, a thought, or a dream we know what its like if they disapprove of it. Maybe disagree.
My father’s been very important in my life and when I had my call into the ministry, I was so blessed by the fact that he was affirmative to that call and when I was wanting to change and make an important decision of going from one organization to another and I got his affirmation; I thought to myself how wonderful, how wonderful is a son to get the affirmation of a father.My wife Margaret is here today and we’ve been married now for 40 years. And Margaret has been my best friend and she’s my wife and when I share ideas, I can tell you if everybody else is against the idea, but she’s for it, then I’m okay. In fact I’ve always said to God, if there’s going to be any major change in my life, He doesn’t have to talk to a lot of people; He just has to talk to two: me and Margaret. I want her affirmation, I want her support.
And when the dream begins, it is very fragile. And so that fragile dream in the birthing, in the beginning of it, if the people that are closest to us don’t affirm the dream as in Joseph’s life, it’s a negative surprise.
The second negative surprise in Joseph’s life as he began this dream journey was that he was going to live and grow up in a strange country. He always thought that he would be close to his family, always thought that the culture, the customs, the people that he knew, the things that he felt comfortable with, he always had felt that that’s where I’ll live, that’s where I’ll grow up. That’s what I will experience. But very early in this dream, we find him leaving the people he knows and the culture and the custom that he loves and he goes to another country.
The third surprise that he had in this dream journey was that he had more downs than ups. You see we like to talk of life as being full of ups and downs. We have our good days, we have our bad days. We have our days that just seems like everything’s kind of doing really well and going our way, we have those days when we’re kind of set back and taken by surprise. And we talk about having ups and downs and ups and downs. Joseph didn’t have ups and downs. He had downs, and ups. In fact he had a lot more downs than he had ups.
When you begin to follow his dream journey, first of all, he was misunderstood by his family that would tempt you to give up. Then he was sold into slavery. Again I think you’d be tempted to give up. Then he was in a strange country, well that would be enough for you to want to give up your dream. But then a good thing happened. He was put in charge of the household of Potiphar. Well now I think Joseph wants to go on. But then he’s wrongly accused by Potiphar’s wife, I’m sure Joseph said I’m going to give up. And then he was put in prison, well that’s a give up. And then he was put in charge of the prisoners. Well okay, now he can go on. And then he spends two years in prison. Well that’s a give up. And the cup bearer, after interpreting his dream, doesn’t remember him before Pharaoh, well that’s a give up and then finally Pharaoh does call him to interpret his dream and that’s a go on and then he became ruler of the country, well that’s a go on.
If you look at Joseph’s life, he had a lot more give ups than go on’s and in your dream and in my dream, as I teach in my book Put Your Dream to the Test, is it not true that we have a lot more give ups than go on’s? That we have more downs than ups?
You see another question I ask in the Put Your Dream to the Test, is the passion question. Do I have enough passion, does my passion compel me to hold onto and keep the dream that I have, because passion has a tendency to pull us up. It pulls us up above the crowd, it pulls us up above average, it pulls us up above ordinary. And passion pushes us onward. When everything else would say stop, when everything else would say give up, when everything else and everyone else would say quit, passion pushes us on.
Let me share with you where I learned that. I call passion the great energizer. Passion gives you energy. A person that has passion has energy. Just as a person who doesn’t have passion lacks energy. I’ve never known a person that lacked passion that was full of energy. Basically as life comes, they’re ready to take a nap. And I’ve never known person that had passion that lacked energy.
It pushes us out and when I was a young pastor in our first church in Southern Indiana, small country rural church the building that we had was an old country building, over a hundred years old, roof sagged, walls bowed, got the picture? Seated about 85 people. Just a handful going to the church when I began and I had a dream of building a great church for God.
I’d been there for about a year and I remember one Sunday in summer, standing up in front of the congregation and saying in October, the first Sunday, we’re going to have three hundred people in attendance. Now you have to understand, Southern Indiana, poorest county in the state. And when I said 300, it was way beyond anything they could imagine. And most of them hadn’t seen 300 people. The little town we were in was Hillham: eleven houses, two garages, one country store. We were a suburb of French Lick, if that makes you feel better.
And when I said we were going to have 300 people, these wonderful farmers came up afterwards and said pastor, it’s a wonderful goal; it’s a wonderful dream but it’s just too much. And I said will you help me? They said well we’ll help you but it’s just too many people. We just can’t have 300. It’s more than what we could ever reach.
And for the next three months, we worked hard, I kid you not. Everybody worked hard. In fact, everybody asked everybody and there’s not a lot of bodies so everybody asked everybody to come to church. In fact everybody asked everybody to come to church and by September, when somebody would see one of our church people coming, they’d just throw their hands in the air and say I’m coming, I’m coming. I’m coming. No more, no more, I’ll be there, I’ll be there.
The Sunday arrived. We not only had the church full but we had the basement full, we had rented a house beside it and put sound over there, we had it full. And then people were all around the outside and it was a beautiful October day so the windows were up so they could hear from the outside and we were so excited. It was the biggest crowd we’d ever had and I was getting ready to preach the message and the elder of the church stood up and told the congregation this is the largest attendance we’ve ever had. He said I just want you to know that today we had 299 people.
Immediately I stood up. And I said it’s wonderful to have 299 people but what is our goal? They all said 300. I said absolutely. And I’ve made a decision that I’m not preaching till we get 300. So I’m going to ask the worship leader to come up and lead the singing, I’m going to go outside, I’m going to find one more person, I’m going to bring them to church and when we have 300 I will preach the message.
I’m telling you, when I walked off of that stage and I went back that middle aisle, those farmers were patting me on the back. They’re saying go get them preacher, go get them! Go get them, preacher. By the time I got to the back I was so excited, I was pumped! And then I went outside and I thought now what am I going to do? I have to go find one.
I looked across the street and at the old service station there was Sandy Burton, who owned the station, old man, never been to church, never been to church. And with him was Benny Harris or his brother Glenn and I went across the street and I saw them and of course they knew that we were trying to have 300. Everybody knew. Everybody knew; you didn’t have a chance not to know. They said well preacher, it looks like a big crowd over there. Did you get your 300? I smiled and I said not yet. But I have a question to ask you. We have 299 over there. I need one of you to go to church with me. So the question is, which one of you wants to be a hero for the entire valley? You just got to learn to ask the question right. And as soon as I asked which one of you wanted to be a hero for the entire valley, they looked at each other, they both smiled and they said we both want to be heroes.
Old Sandy Burton put a closed sign on the filling station, Glenn was on one side, Sandy was on the other, I walked across the street, I opened up that church door, those people were singing but I promise you as they were singing, they were watching the door. And when I came in with two people, they threw the hymn books in the air, they clapped, they applauded.
I went down to the front row, kicked two members off, set Sandy, Glenn there and I preached the message. Three hundred and one. That night, as we all do with something that was a dream, as I was reliving the dream, all of a sudden it hit me. Passion is what made it happen. Who in their right mind would stand up in front of people and say I’m going to get one more person. You keep singing till I’m back. Who in their right mind would keep on singing! Waiting for the preacher to get back with the other one! What happened? What caused the dream to be a reality? It was passion. It pulls us up. It pushes us out.
You see Joseph in his dream journey, he had the surprise of his family reacting negatively to the dream, he had the surprise of going up in a strange country, had the surprise of having more downs than ups, and fourthly, he was surprised that God was with him in tough times.This is probably the most important part of the lesson. He was surprised that God was with him during the dark days.
Now it talks continually throughout the dream journey of Joseph, how God was with him. For example, when Joseph was put in charge of Potiphar’s home, and he became kind of the manager of the household, the bible says and it turned out that God was with Joseph and things went very well with him. Well when things go very well with us, we want to say well look what God’s done for me. Look at how God is good to me. When things go very well, of course we say well thank you God. Thank you for my blessings, thank you for helping me, thank you for what You’ve given me. But in chapter 39, after he was wrongly accused by Potiphar’s wife and he was put in jail, notice this. But there in jail God was still with Joseph. He was still with him. He wasn’t just with him when he was kind of leading and managing and running Potiphar’s household, but when he was in jail, when he was wrongly accused, when things went bad.
And one of the surprises that we have in our dream journey its not only that God is with us in the good times, but God is with us in the difficult times. In fact I think that’s where in the dream journey, we become closely attached to God because we see that He loves us when things are going good and He loves us when things are going bad. In our good days, in our bad days, that He is the same yesterday, today and forever, and that He is a constant companion who never leaves us nor does He ever forsake us.
The moment we begin to understand and realize that God is with us through our ups and downs, it’s an amazing beautiful surprise. Now I don’t know what that does for you today, but in the times that we live, where our country’s in turmoil, and people don’t seem to have answers to the questions of the economy, in a time where people are losing jobs and it’s not the best of times for us. Isn’t it kind of nice to know that during these low difficult, dark, extremely hard times that God is with us? That He’s here to help you, to guide you, to support you, to strengthen you.
There’s a passage of scripture that says if God is for us, who can be against us. Or the Maxwell translation that says if God is for us, everyone else might as well be. And in Joseph’s life, God was for him. He had birthed a dream within him. Dr. Schuller and I were talking between services of how the fact that we believe the dream that God births within you is the gift and the calling that God has for you.
And Joseph, in his dream journey, discovered that God was faithful. There are things I do not understand. In the last week, I just lost a wonderful friend to pancreatic cancer. There are questions that you have. There are hurts that you experience within your life. And sometimes we wonder where is God? Can I trust Him? Is He faithful? Does He see me where I am? Can He meet my deepest need? Many years ago when going through a difficult time, I memorized this very short poem that has kind of helped me get through the tough times. God is too good to be unkind and He’s too wise to be confused. If I cannot trace His hand, I can always trust His heart.
Ten years ago I had a heart attack. And while I lay in the hospital at a very difficult time for a couple of hours, I experienced something that I’d never experienced before because I was facing death. And I had an amazing peace in my life. I cannot describe to you the peace that I had in such a difficult time. I’ve heard of people talking about God giving you dying grace or dying strength, and here I am kind of hovering there for a couple of hours and the peace that I had, it was an amazing experience. I wouldn’t trade it for anything because it was during the difficult time, it was in the down time, it was in the darkest hour that God was the closest and God really says to you.
When He says to me in those darkest hours He is saying you can trust Me. See if Noah were here today, Noah would say you can trust God to send the rain. Abraham would say you can trust God to give you descendants. Moses would say you can trust God to deliver the people. Joshua can say you can trust God to give you the Promised Land and David would say you can trust God to slay the giants in your life. And John the Baptist would say you can trust God to send the Messiah. The little boy with the loaves and fish, he would say you can trust God with your lunch. The sick people can say you can trust God to bring healing, the lost people can say you can trust God to bring salvation. And Joseph, in his dream journey, would say you and I can trust God.
We can trust Him to fulfill His plan and the dream that He has planted in your life and regardless of the surprises, whether it’s a fact that God is with you during difficult times, or you have more downs than you have ups, or you’re in a strange country with strange land or the fact that those closest to you have been negative to you regardless of all those things, in the most difficult times, you can trust God.
So I close. I close with the words of my friend S.M. Lockridge who points us all to God and I read to you the following: God can satisfy all our needs and He can do it simultaneously. He supplies strength to the weak; He’s available for the tempted and tried. He sympathizes and He sees, He guards and He guides, He heals the sick, He cleanse the leper, He forgave the sinners, He discharged the debtors, He delivers the captive, He defends the feeble, He blesses the young, He regards the ages, He rewards the diligent, and He beautifies the meek.
I’m trying to tell you today, you can trust God. He’s the key to knowledge. He’s the well spring of wisdom. He’s the doorway of deliverance. He’s the pathway to peace. He’s the road to righteousness. He’s the highway to holiness. He’s the gateway to glory. Listen to me crowd.
I’m telling you, you can trust Him. His mercy is everlasting. His love never changes. His word is enough. His grace is sufficient. His reign is righteous. His yolk is easy but His burden is light. I wish I could describe Him to you. He’s indescribable because He’s incomprehensible. He’s irresistible because He’s invincible. Listen crowd.
You can trust Him. You can’t get Him off your hands, you can’t get Him out of your mind, you can’t outlive Him and you can’t live without Him.
I’m telling you at the Crystal Cathedral, during your dream journey in the difficult times and the surprises come, you can trust Him. God bless you.
Pilate couldn’t find any fault in Him and He couldn’t stop Him. The witnesses couldn’t get their testimonies to agree, Herod couldn’t kill Him, death couldn’t handle Him and thank God the grave couldn’t hold Him. There was nobody before Him. There will be nobody after Him. He had no predecessor, He’ll have no successor. You can’t impeach Him, and He’s not going to resign.