Thank you very much, Dr. Schuller. Good morning. Let me ask you a question. How many of you would raise your hands and say John, I’ve had, in the past, a bad morning. How many of you would raise your hand and say in the past I’ve had a bad day. A bad week? Maybe you’d raise your hand and say I’ve had a bad day this week. Bad days happen, don’t they? And in Joseph, as we follow him on his dream journey, he had a lot of bad days. He had a lot of misfortunes. As a very innocent young teenager, he was sold into slavery in Egypt, and then he was, as an innocent person, framed and put into prison, and when he was in prison, he helped a fellow and began to share with him his dream and asked to be remembered and then he was forgotten.
If you look at the journey of Joseph, the thing that absolutely stands out is that he had a lot of very difficult times. In fact, he lost some of the best years of his life. And yet, not one time do we see Joseph have a bad attitude. Not one time do we see him do something or say something that would perhaps be disappointing in his reaction. You see Joseph realized, it’s not what happens to you, it’s what happens in you that really counts. You see you and I cannot choose all the time what will happen to us, but we can choose at all times what happens within us. We cannot always choose the spirit of another toward us, but we can always choose the spirit within ourselves toward them. Why? Because our attitude is a choice. The attitude I have today is an attitude that I have chosen. The attitude that you have right now is the attitude that you have chosen. It’s a choice. That’s a disgusting thought, isn’t it? Wouldn’t we rather blame someone else for our attitude? Oh it’s my boss, it’s my work, it’s my physical ailment, it’s my spouse. We all would like to kind of blame someone else for the attitude we have when it’s not a good attitude but to be honest with you, it’s a personal choice.
Several years ago, my wife Margaret and I were having a conference and we were doing a question and answer period of time, and one of the ladies at the conference looked at my wife Margaret and said I have a question for you, and Margaret said sure. She said does John make you happy? Now I’m standing right beside her when she asked the question. You’re going to get the picture real quick. And to be honest with you, I was kind of glad the question was asked because I just kind of think I’m an awesome husband. And Margaret looked at the lady who asked the question and she answered it immediately. I mean have you ever seen or heard somebody answer a question so quickly that you knew that they had been waiting for that question all of their life. And immediately she looked at the lady who asked the question and she said no, she said, he doesn’t make me happy. Again, I’m standing beside her. It’s my conference. And I said Margaret, honey, sweetheart, explain to the people what you mean, and she said well yes I’ll be glad to. She said I realized that the first six months of our marriage he would never make me happy. I don’t know if you have the gift of discernment. But we’re going downhill rather quickly. And then she said because for the first six months, that’s exactly what I expected. We were married, we were in love and she said I expected him. She said, I was a schoolteacher, he was a pastor of a little church, and I expected when we’d come home together in the evenings that we’d be able to spend the time together. Sometimes he had to go to the hospital, sometimes I had to grade papers, she said the first six months I realized that he would never make me happy. And then one day she said I understood that happiness was my responsibility. She says I realized that if I’m going to be happy, it’s a choice that I have to make and other people can’t make me happy, other people can’t choose or form my attitude, I choose it myself. And then she said and when I made that decision that attitude was a choice and I would make myself happy, then she said now John adds immeasurably to my happiness. That was close.
Well you see, what Margaret said that day, Joseph knew. Joseph knew that even though bad things were going to happen to him and he was going to have a lot of bad days, he understood very quickly that those could not control his attitude. Those could not control the spirit that was within him. Now I’m not here to share with you some kind of fluffy message on attitude where you basically just think that if you can see it you can believe it, or that attitude is everything. I don’t think attitude is everything but I think it’s the main thing that makes a difference in your life and my life. I mean attitude won’t overcome incompetence. I mean you may have a great attitude at work but if you’re incompetent you’re still going to probably get fired. The only difference is you’ll be happy.
And as we watch the dream journey of Joseph, there are three things that just stand out to me in this story that I want to share with you as we follow his life that helps us to understand how to do the right things when things turn out wrong.
Number one: He added value to others. While things were going badly for Joseph, he invested in others and he continued to add value to their lives. Instead of being consumed with what was wrong with his life and what was not going well in his life, he said instead of that I’m going to think of others and I’m going to add value to their life. Let me give you two examples as I read some scripture. Potiphar. Here’s an example. Joseph ended up living in the home of the Egyptian master and his master recognized that God was with him and saw that God was working for good in everything that he did and he became very fond of Joseph and he made him his personal aide. In fact he put him in charge of all of his personal affairs, turning everything over to him. And from that moment on, God blessed the house of the Egyptian, all because of Joseph. The blessing of God spread over everything that he owned and in the fields and all Potiphar had to concern himself was eating three meals a day. Joseph did such a good job adding value to Potiphar that he didn’t have major concerns. When Joseph was in jail, here’s the response of the jailer to Joseph. The head jailer put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners. He ended up managing the whole operation and the head jailer gave Joseph free reign, never even checked on him because God was with him. Whatever he did, God made sure that it worked out for the best.
As you go through the life of Joseph, you can see whether it’s the cup bearer’s life, the jailer, Potiphar, Pharaoh, Egypt, even Joseph’s family, what you see is examples of somebody who constantly invested in others. Isn’t it interesting, while Joseph’s dream did not seem to be coming true over the years, he invested in helping others with their dream. Again, the natural tendency for all of us is to pull back and to kind of withdraw and go inside of ourselves when difficult times come and kind of think of ourselves and our bad situation and how difficult it is, but Joseph is teaching us in this dream journey, that what we do when we’re going through difficult times is to forget ourselves and to invest in others and add value to them.
Now there are four ways to add value to people. In my life of adding value to people, I have discovered number one if you want to add value to people you must value people. It’s impossible to add value to people that you don’t value, in fact if I devalue you, if I don’t think much of you, if I don’t think highly of you, then I’m not going to invest in you, I’m not going to add value to you. In fact, to be honest with you, I’m going to withdraw that investment.
I have a non profit organization Equip that trains leaders in over a hundred countries. And we’re a lot of times in developing countries and one of the tendencies I find many times in those countries is leaders who kind of devalue their people and kind of live for the best for themselves and not for the best of others, not understanding of the leadership responsibility. Well if I’m going to add value to you, the first thing I must do is I must value you.
When I was given the privilege of coming to the Crystal Cathedral, and having a little part in helping Dr. Schuller, I wanted to do it immediately, Dr. Schuller, because I value you so much. I value who you are, I value what you stand for, I value what you have taught, I value the principles I’ve learned from you. And when you value somebody, you want to invest in their life and add value to them.
Now secondly you add value to people when you know and relate to what they value. Isn’t it interesting how Joseph always said tell me about your dream? Open your heart to me. Let me listen to you. What was Joseph doing? He was finding out the things that were closest to their heart and the things that were closest to their mind. He was adding value to them by knowing and relating to what they value.
Thirdly, we add value to people by making ourselves more valuable. As we get better, we’re able to help more people so as we improve; now we have the potential of helping others improve and finally we add value to others by doing the things that God values that has an eternal nature to it. So here’s Joseph. Things are not going well. He’s having several bad days, weeks, months, years. But what is he doing during those times? He is investing in others. He’s adding value to their lives.
The second thing that Joseph did that was right when things were going wrong in his life is he was patient. He had the ability to wait on his dream. Now that’s not easy for me. When I teach on patience, you have to understand this is not a strong suit of mine. I have to admit, I’m not a very patient person. And I wanted to be patient; years ago I did, until I realized that tribulation brings forth patience and so I haven’t been praying for patience.
But Joseph, he was willing to wait on his dream. You see, dreams are conceived long before they’re realized. Again, if you have a great dream, its worth waiting for. A great dream is like a large aircraft on a runway. If you have a large aircraft on a runway, if you have a large dream, it takes a long time for you to ramp enough speed up for that plane to get in the air. You see, you don’t do it on a short runway. You’ve got to have a long runway. Now if you’ve got a real little dinky plane and just like if you have a real little dinky dream, you can get that up real quick. I know some people who have helicopter thoughts.
But if you have a big dream, you’ve got to use the whole runway. It takes a long time for you to be able to lift it off. Again, I know. I was a pastor in Lancaster Ohio during the 1970’s and on July 4th, 1976, the 200th birthday of America, as a young pastor, we were outdoors, having an outdoor “I love America” rally on Sunday. A few thousand people were there as I was teaching and as I was doing the teaching that morning, I just sensed God speak to me like I had never before. And I sensed that he said John I want to give you a ministry to train leaders. In fact on the way home that day, I shared with my wife Margaret, I said, you know I sensed today that God is going to give me a ministry to help and develop trained leaders and she asked me, she said John, what are you going to do about it? I said well nothing, I said if its God’s idea, God will open the door. You don’t need to take a crowbar with you. God will open the doors.
And pretty soon an opportunity came for me to train leaders, I’d like to tell you it was a great leadership conference, but it wasn’t. I didn’t know that much about leadership and not very many people knew about me and so we had 17 in Kansas City. And I taught them for five days. Five days, nonstop from 8 to 8. Those poor people. By the end of the last day, they had their heads laid on the table and they were hitting their hands on it and they were basically saying I give up, I surrender. Just let me out. I’ll lead, I’ll lead, just let me loose, just let me loose. And then I said well if I’m going to fulfill the dream that God has given me, then what I want to do is I want to influence people that I’ll never talk to and so I decided I wanted to write books. People like Dr. Schuller inspired me and so I wrote my first book, Think on These Things. Only a hundred pages. Took me a year to write it. Thirty-three chapters. That’s three pages a chapter. In fact a lady came up recently and had that book and said oh this is the first book you ever wrote. Would you sign it? Well I’ll be glad to sign it but I said honestly, it was my first book. It’s not really good. Oh she said I love it, I love this book. I said well what do you love about it? I never heard anybody say that about that book. She said oh I love the short chapters. Oh she said I just love those short.. she said oh where did you ever think of just putting real short chapters together. I said lady, it was my first book. In fact, to be honest with you, I’ve had three pages was about as good as it could get. In fact some of the chapters are two pages too long!
But the dream expanded and the books began to cross over and go into the corporate, in the secular community. And I began to say well God’s enlarging my borders. And then 12 years ago, I began to have the opportunity to speak internationally, which was really on my heart, and we began this organization called Equip that now has become an amazing, amazing ministry. We’re in over 100 countries, 47 different languages, and in 1976, I had the dream to train leaders and in 2006, 30 years later, we had through Equip trained one million leaders internationally. And now it’s just amazing. In fact we’re up over three million, we’re training in over a million a year because it’s now beginning to compound and it’s just an incredible blessing. But you see what you have to understand is it took Joseph a long time to get there.
Now when he got there, all of a sudden things began to compound and things weren’t very exciting, in fact in my next message, I’m going to talk about what happens when your dream does come true. I’m going to talk about what do you and I do once that dream comes true and how do we respond to it? Because that’s exactly what happened to Joseph. He had to wait for 30 years, he had to wait for a long time, he had to be patient before he realized his dream. So he was patient, he showed the willingness to wait on a dream because it was a big one and he realized it was worth his while. He invested in added value to others and the third thing he did when he had those bad difficult times is he was forgiving. He learned that no matter what somebody did to him, that the greatest way to rise above ill will and things that are difficult is to have a forgiving spirit and the story I’m going to read now is very touching to me. It’s when Joseph’s brothers have come to Egypt because of the famine. He is now second in command, he is a ruler over Egypt, his brothers don’t realize its Joseph, and they’re in desperate financial, physical conditions. And Joseph is about to reveal himself to them. So listen to the language as I share it with you.
Joseph couldn’t hold himself any longer. He cried out to his attendants leave, clear out, everyone leave. So there’s no one with Joseph when he identified himself to his brothers, but his sobbing was so violent that the Egyptians couldn’t help but hear him. In fact the news was soon reported to Pharaoh’s palace. And Joseph spoke to his brothers, I am Joseph, is father really alive? But his brothers couldn’t say a word. They were speechless. They couldn’t believe what they were hearing or seeing and Joseph said to his brothers, come closer to me, and they did. He said I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. But don’t feel badly. Don’t blame yourselves for selling me. God was behind it. God sent me here ahead of you to save lives. There’s been a famine in the land now for two years. The famine’s going to continue for five more. Neither plowing nor harvesting, God has sent me on ahead to pave the way and make sure that there was a remnant in the land to save lives and in an amazing act of deliverance, so you see, it wasn’t you who sent me here, but God. He sent me to this place. He put me in charge. He made me the ruler of Egypt. Then Joseph threw himself on his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept. And Benjamin wept on his neck. He then kissed all of his brothers and wept over them. And only then were his brothers able to talk with him.
Forgiveness is not forgetting. We hear people sometimes say well I forgive you and I’ll forget. No, no. Forgiveness is not forgetting. We don’t forget. Forgiveness is remembering. Forgiveness is remembering what has been done to us and be willing to choose to forgive a person for it.
My friend, only God can change a life and forgive sin. And He gives us the spirit within us to be like Joseph because he modeled forgiveness to us to forgive others. So when things are not going well, and you’re having a bad day, bad week, bad month, invest in others, get your mind off of yourself, put others first. Be patient. It takes time sometimes to realize the dream. And always have a spirit of forgiveness because that spirit will let you soar on high and be the person that God intended you to be. God bless you.