Saturday, May 14, 2016

Journey with Joseph # 4 - "I Have a Dream"

In Life in His Body, Gary Inrig writes:
Several years ago, two students graduated from the Chicago-Kent College of Law. The highest ranking student in the class was a blind man named Overton and, when he received his honor, he insisted that half the credit should go to his friend, Kaspryzak. They had met one another in school when the armless Mr. Kaspryzak had guided the blind Mr. Overton down a flight of stairs. This acquaintance ripened into friendship and a beautiful example of interdependence. The blind man carried the books which the armless man read aloud in their common study, and thus the individual deficiency of each was compensated for by the other. After their graduation, they planned to practice law together.[i]

I have a dream that the church would function just this way. The truth is that we are all parts of the body of Christ. No one of us is complete. This is why God puts us together in a family of faith. Romans 12:5-8 (NASB) says:

We, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith;7 if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; 8 or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

Paul continues to explain that every part is useful, and that the body can’t do without any of its appendages. Like Overton and Kaspryzak, we all have individual weaknesses. But when we function together we can overcome and thrive.

I have a friend who is going through a difficult transition in her life. On a day when she needed encouragement, God brought several people along, who all gave her the encouragement she needed. But they also gave her some warnings about potential dangers that lay ahead. One of them, in fact, felt so strongly that he was hearing from God that he boldly phrased it in just that way. He told her that the Lord was giving the warning, and what God wanted her to do in response. I admire this friend of mine who realized she needed help in seeking God’s will for her life. I also admire the boldness of these people who were willing to be God’s mouthpiece by speaking both encouragement and waring to her.

In Genesis 40, we read about Joseph in prison. Fellow inmates, the king’s cupbearer and the king’s baker, tell Joseph that they suffered from disturbing dreams the same night. Using his gift of interpretation, Joseph reveals the secrets of their dreams. The cupbearer will be pardoned and restored in three days, and in the same amount of time the baker will be hanged. Certainly the cupbearer is greatly comforted by this interpretation, but of course the baker is not. Indeed, it works out just as Joseph predicts. Regardless of the outcome, the message of scripture is clear that God reveals God’s will though many ways—in this case, through dreams. And not just in this case, but in many cases, people need assistance in discerning God’s voice.

When I have difficult decisions to make, when I am stressed, when I need direction, I pray for God to speak to me. And I believe that God still does speak today. Sometimes the Lord whispers in a still, small voice that can’t be heard with the ears but with the heart. Other times, God operates through circumstance to make His will known. Things just “happen the right way.” God speaks through His written word, the Bible. God speaks through nature, through visions, and through dreams. God speaks through the voices of other people. If you’re in need of guidance, I hope that you’ll look for God to speak and show you what you need to know. But then I hope that like Joseph’s fellow inmates, you’ll have other people to reflect with, to help you interpret what you think you’ve heard. I have a pastor who cares for my soul. I have friends who listen and help me understand what God is saying to me. God gives us counselors and caretakers in all shapes and sizes. I hope you open yourself to hearing God’s voice, and to sharing it with those who can help you interpret God’s will.

I have a dream that the church would function so beautifully, that all God’s people would offer their gifts for the benefit of the body of Christ. Like Overton and Kaspryzak, each of us is part of the body of Christ, but none of us has everything we need. Only when we help each other can the body truly function. Maybe God has given you the gift of interpreting dreams—I know someone who has that gift and uses it whenever people need to understand their nighttime visions. Or maybe you have another spiritual gift, like wisdom or knowledge or discernment. You might be the baker or cupbearer in this story, needing to hear from God and seeking someone’s help interpreting. Or you might be Joseph in this story, specially gifted at helping other people. The only thing you need to do is say “yes” to the opportunities to help that the Lord places before you. 1 Peter 4:10 (ESV) says, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” This is what Joseph did when those in need came to him for help. I pray you’ll do the same.

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