Steven Furtick - The Danger Of A Dream
This is a scripture in Genesis 37:5 that has in it so much. So many of you who know the story of the biblical character Joseph will be tempted to fast forward again to the end of the story and I'm gonna challenge you not to because this is where the sermon starts today in Genesis 37:5. This particular message, I was able to share some of the content with our staff last year and really been waiting for an opportunity to share it with you. And so I'm very excited about it today. But just one verse to get us started in Genesis 37:5. The Bible says, "Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more".
So for everybody who's thinking that when you get a good idea, everybody's gonna Go Fund you. They're not. And that everybody's gonna support you and understand you. Don't expect that. Because this message, I wanna speak to you about your dreams today, the dreams God has put in your heart, but I wanna talk about it from an unusual subject heading called, "The Danger of a Dream". And this message comes with a warning label. If you like your nice, little, comfortable version of the way life is supposed to be, slip out now, click off now, watch a TED Talk. But this message is for somebody who has a God-given dream or you're starting to sense it. And I just pray, in fact, let's pray right now.
Lord, open our hearts to receive what You say and then give us the courage to obey it. That's our prayer. In Jesus's name. Amen.
I wonder a lot of the time what my kids will remember about their childhood and I'm scared they'll remember all the scenes I want them to delete. And it seems like they remember the times I got mad more than the times I bought 'em stuff and I don't like it. But I will say that some of the things that stand out to me about my childhood, particularly my teenage years, are some of the more random incidents. One thing that I remember from my childhood, and my mom remembers it a little differently than I do, but she's out of town today so I can tell the story the way I wanna tell it, is when I was auditioning for this band and I won't bore you with the long story, but my dream from age 17 on was to be a pastor. But before that, I wanted to be a punk rocker. And I almost had the chance because I was at the North Charleston Coliseum... have I told you this story, Robert? Best story ever.
Green Day was playing at The North Charleston Coliseum and Billy Joe Armstrong called me up on stage and gave me his guitar to play a guitar solo. And it was something he had been doing every night on tour. He was looking for the most talented kid in the room, which that night was me, or just whatever kid looked the most excited or whatever the case was. And he put his Fender Stratocaster around my neck. True story. I'm 15 years old and I played the guitar solo for a three-cord song called "Knowledge" by the band, Operation Ivy.
I still remember how the song went, but I'm not gonna sing it for you right now because a waste of time. We need to get back to Genesis 37. But what that set off was kind of like a chain of events where I became a lot more popular in school. And I was so excited, the next morning I woke up and I was listening to the radio and the DJ, his name was The Critic, was talking about the Green Day show. And I was getting ready for school listening to the radio. Still excited, only slept about an hour. Excited to get to school, excited to be like how you like me now to all the girls who didn't pay me attention the day before.
And he said, "The Green Day show last night", he said, "it wasn't a very great show, but there was one part". He said, "There was a kid who got up on stage and ripped on guitar. He was the highlight of the show. He stole the show". His words, not mine. I'm very humble, I would not say it that way, but that's the way he said it. That's the way The Critic said it. And so I called the radio station. I was like, "You gotta put me through. That's me he's talking about. I'm about to go to school right now. I gotta leave in like five minutes. My mom's waiting for me. But that was me he was talking about on stage to play guitar. Put me through to The Critic".
And they put me through to The Critic. And I said, "Hey, that was me you're talking about". He said, "Well, hey, kid, bring your demo tape by". 'Cause I told him I had a band. And he was like, "Bring your demo tape by and we'll play it on the air". We didn't have a demo tape, but that's all right because we eventually saved $300, made a demo tape. I took it to The Critic, he played it on the air. And when I was leaving, this is several months later, he said, "By the way, I am putting together a band. It'd be kinda cool to have a 15-year-old kid in the band. So if you wanna audition for it, learn these songs and you can audition for my band".
Well, I thought that'd be amazing 'cause we'd be playing at the Music Farm and we'd be playing all around Charleston, South Carolina and that'd be a pretty cool gig for a 15 year old. So I locked myself in the room, I start learning all the songs on the tape. A tape. A tape is... and my mom walks in one night and this is all I'm gonna say about this 'cause I promise I know you didn't come to hear me talk about my nostalgic 15-year-old memories, but talking about a dream. My mom walks in, picks up the tape, and all of the songs on the tape had cuss words in the title. And then even the name of the band had a cuss word in the name of the band.
And Buck's laughing 'cause the name of the band is so inappropriate, I can't say it in church. I can't even allude to it in church. But that was the band I was auditioning for. And my mom who was a Methodist minister's daughter had old-fashioned Moncks Corner values and she's like, "What is this"? I'm like, "This is the band I'm auditioning before". And she said, "If you think I'm gonna let you go audition for this band, you've lost your mind. If you think I'm gonna let you audition for a band called the "...", then you've lost your mind". To which I said, "Then I'll run away from home. You will not stand in the way of my dream".
Right? Because a dream will make you bold. And we never got to find out whether or not I would've had the courage to pack it all up and head out on the mean streets of Moncks Corner on my own to chase my dream because I auditioned for the band and I didn't make it. But the point of the story that I'm trying to tell you is this: That a lot of times the dream we start out with, the dream that we think we see in one stage of our life will show up later in our life in a different dimension and it will be such a different dimension that we will not even recognize the dream as the original dream.
The Bible says that when Joseph was 17 years old, he had a dream, and his brothers hated him all the more for it. That phrase "all the more" lets me know that Joseph's brothers already didn't like him. And we can argue if we want to about whether Joseph was wise to share with his brothers the content of his dream. There is such a thing as talking too much, posting too much. There is such a thing as sharing too much. And there is such a thing as thinking that everybody else wants to hear what God has put on your heart.
But one thing that we can conclude from the text even from a biological perspective is that Joseph was different. And one thing I've noticed about having a dream is that a dream makes you different. Joseph was different from his brothers not only in his aspirations, but he was from a different mother. They shared the same father, Jacob. And if I listed their names, you might recognize a few of them. They were the patriarchs of the tribes of Israel, but Joseph didn't come through the same mom that his brothers came through. He was the son of Rachel, the pretty one, that his dad really liked.
And when Joseph saw that Rachel, his favorite wife... Holly, you're my favorite wife, by the way. Just wanna put that in this message. Had given him a son, he liked him extra special and he treated him special. And he felt differently about Joseph than the other boys to the point... I don't know if you've read the story lately, but you remember he bought him a Gucci coat and Joseph's always wearing it around all the time. He's like, "You like my coat"? And his brothers are like, "We hate your coat". "You like my coat? You like my coat"? You know, they're like, "We hate you. We hate you because you're different". Okay?
Now, I have a teenage son right now and one of the things that I'm trying to work out with him in real time is that people accept what is the same, but they eventually respect what is different. People eventually come around and respect what stands out. But what happens to most of us is that the moment we start to realize the differences between us and other people, we downplay our distinctives in order to fit in and conform with culture. One thing I'm proud about when I read about Joseph and I know it's weird to say that I'm proud of Joseph like he cares, but I'm proud that he had the courage to wear his coat anyway.
You know what I mean? It may have been unwise, but I'm proud of him that he was not afraid to show up in the room looking different because he was clothed with the fabric of the favor of his father. And I wonder are you courageous enough to wear your coat? Because a lot of times what I found is that God will begin to show you things about yourself, about your life, about your calling, about your direction, about what He's put inside of you, about the gifts He's given you, but someone will actually beat the distinctive out of you if you don't know clearly enough that I have a calling from God, who is greater than people, and if He is for me, who can be against me.
Touch somebody next to you, and say, "I'm gonna wear my coat even if people criticize me for it". I'm not ashamed to walk in the love and the favor of God. Oh, we need some Christians who don't check their coat at the door of culture, who are unashamed to be optimistic about the future because you know God is already there if He's the author and the finisher of your faith. You see what I'm saying? A dream will make you different and it takes courage to be different. It takes courage to speak different. If you get a hold of a dream or better said if a dream gets hold of you from the throne of God, it'll make you walk different, talk different, think different, eat different, drink different, party different, text different. It'll make you different.
A dream will make you different, and I'm glad that Joseph had the courage to be different. And I wonder do we have the courage to be different? The weird thing about our church is that a lot of times people will be attracted to our church because it's different and then when they get to the church, they'll start trying to tell us how we need to make it like the church that they left to come to the church that was different. I don't wanna say amen to the preacher today. It's the truest thing like you're attracted to something because it's different. And they even said in some marriage that before marriage, opposites attract and then opposites attack because you're attracted to what's different, you're drawn to what's different. Not at first. At first, you fear it.
That's why they had to take the "Old Town Road" off of the billboard charts on country music because it was too different. They couldn't find a category for it and they said it's not country enough, but it's not rap enough and we don't know what it is, it's different. That's why they crucified Jesus. You know, you don't have many preachers that can put Lil Nas X and Jesus in the same paragraph. But He was so different. We don't know what to do with Him. He's grace and truth. He's different.
Somebody shout, "I'm different". And I don't mean different in style, I mean different in substance. I don't mean different just for the sake of difference because that's frankly kind of annoying and there's always a temptation, you know. I noticed that some people just wanna be different just to be different. But there's nothing different about being different to be different. There's something about being different because you have a different set of values and a different dream.
See, I don't just dream of making it through the day. I don't just dream of surviving my life. I don't just dream, when you get a dream, it'll make you different. You'll start sacrificing and people will think you're crazy because of what you sacrificed. Even if you go on a diet because you have a dream to lose 20 pounds, the first thing that everybody around you is gonna say is you're no fun anymore. You used to be so much fun. You used to just eats all the time... Now, don't let the fact that they don't have the discipline to eat something different cause you to give up on a goal that you set that's real for your life. And if it's true with a diet, it's much more true with destiny. I wonder, have you been dumbing down yourself because to be different is too painful. And if you're not careful, you will be conformed to the patterns of this world rather than being transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Christians are supposed to see different, think different, understand different. It's a different perspective. I always thought that Joseph's life was a story about perseverance, you know. Joseph had a dream when he was young and then he had to go through a lot of things, but, you know, don't give up because eventually you will achieve your dream. Yet that is a cultural understanding of dreams, not a Christian understanding of dreams, not a scriptural understanding of dreams. And we have a really bad habit of taking a concept like a dream and then overlaying our own preferences and our own prejudices on that concept and so we make it what it's not and we miss what it is, 'cause it's really common for people to say follow your dreams.
Yet if you study the life of Joseph and I mean really read every single word, jot and tittle, every single indention, every single period and comma like I did preparing to preach this, you will see a phrase iterated over and over again no matter what he went through that says, "The Lord was with Joseph". That's a statement about God's presence. You will see that wherever he was, God promoted him, and that's a statement about purpose. But the story of Joseph is not about getting a dream and holding on tight to the dream and persevering. 'Cause I used to think this was the story of Joseph, like don't let anybody talk you out of your dream.
If your mom told you that you're gonna be the next, you know, the next whatever, just hold onto your dream. And then anybody who doesn't agree with your dream is a hater. Maybe not. Maybe your mom just loved you too much to hear the bad notes you were hitting and you're not supposed to be a professional singer. Just a thought. No, I'm sick of it. I'm really sick of it. 'Cause we take Joseph, it's not fair to Joseph. Joseph went through this whole life, he was called and chosen, and there was all kind of conflict that came along and were like Joseph had a dream. Do you have a dream? Would you like to open your own company? Be like Joseph, have a dream, and then you can make it from the pit to the palace. Hold on in the pit because there's a palace on the other side.
Let me go into it for a moment. That is not the story of Joseph's life. The story of Joseph's life has nothing to do with if you have a dream that you can think of that's big enough, God is obligated to bless it. Watch this. Joseph didn't ask God for a dream. Joseph did not make a vision board. That doesn't mean you can't make one. I've made a few myself. Let's just be clear that we mean the same thing when we say a dream. And then it becomes very devastating because your dream can be a distraction. Joseph's dream was very specific and epic and it had broad implications, you know. And he tells his brothers his dreams. He comes out in his coat one day and they're like, "Oh, God, this guy". And so he comes over and they're like, "You talk to him this time. I'm sick of talking to him". He's like, "Hey, guys, guess what? I had a dream. You wanna hear my dream"? They're like, "No, we hate your dream. We hate your coat. We hate your voice. We hate you. You're different". But he didn't really care if they wanted to hear it, he was gonna tell 'em anyway.
Joseph needed a journal by the way so he could write some of this down and not tell other people. He needed somewhere he could just process his dreams where he didn't let other people get involved too soon. Nevertheless, even Joseph's inability to discern the nature of the dream and who was capable of handing it played a part in leading him to the place where he could do the dream that God put in his heart. Did you feel God on that what I just said? Because God's dream for my life will involve my decisions even if my decisions are immature. God will use some of the desires in your heart that aren't good desires at first.
Let Psalm 37:4 says, "If you delight yourself in the Lord, He will give you the desires of your heart". And He will take the desires that you had and purify them and He will rinse them and He will separate the wheat from the chaff to bring you to an ultimate place of purpose. But when Joseph started sharing his dream with his brothers, it was all about him. "Hey, hey, I had a dream and it was awesome. We were binding our sheaves of grain and like your sheaves started bowing down to my sheaves and isn't that awesome"? They're like, "No, it's not awesome. We hate your dream. We hate your coat. We hate your". And he's like, "But then I had another dream. And in this dream, there were 11 stars".
I don't know why Joseph sounds Keanu Reeves. "There were 11 stars and a sun and a moon, and they were all bowing down to me. Isn't my dream awesome"? And they're like, "No, we don't like your dream. In fact, we hate your dream so much that we are about to push you in a pit and leave you for dead". And if it hadn't of been for Reuben, who decided we should at least get 20 shekels of silver out of this boy, there's no need to kill him when we can profit off of him, they wouldn't have sold him to the Ishmaelite caravan, they would've left him for dead. But understand that even Joseph's decision to speak about his dream prematurely was part of what God used to motivate his brothers to push him in the pit. At the same time they did that, an Ishmaelite caravan was setting out to bring whoever they would pick up along the way back to the place of slavery.
Now, it was a place of slavery at that point, but it would ultimately become a place of deliverance. I'm gonna teach the Bible today. Because when Joseph was picked up and put in Potiphar's house, he served so well in Potiphar's house that everything Potiphar put under him prospered. And so when Potiphar saw how Joseph served, he promoted him to position of influence. But he wouldn't have been in Potiphar's house to begin with if he hadn't been pushed in a pit. And he wouldn't have been pushed in a pit if he didn't wear a coat. And so when you leave your coat in the closet and downplay your dream to fit in with people who don't like you because you're different, you can't end up in the position you need to be in.
I'm preaching to somebody who's different. The more like Christ you become, the more different from culture you will be. And it's all right to be weird. And it's all right to have hope. And it's all right to have vision. And it's all right to know who you are. And all of this happened because Joseph had a dream. And yet, Joseph's dream looked nothing when it finally happened like it looked in the distance when he first saw it. Can you relate to this how sometimes marriage looks different in the distance than it does after 20 years? I need all my people who have been married over 20 years to just wave at me real quick and let me know that it's so much different. So much different. So much better. So much harder. So much different. Not like the movies that I saw. Not like the songs that I heard. Different.
It's just different cause when Joseph is young, he sees shiny stars, but sometimes when it comes up closer, it's not so shiny anymore. Having kids is different. This is where me and Holly are different. She always dreamed of being a parent. I didn't dream of being a parent. I dreamed of being a punk rocker and then a preacher, but one of our staff members was having a baby the other day, and he was telling me how happy he was, and he was like, I always dreamed of being a dad, and that made me feel sorry for my kids cause I'm like, I didn't even like kick in as a dad until they were five. You know? I was so worthless. In fact, if we can really be honest and not put this one online, I dreaded being a dad because all I ever saw kids do was make people have to leave restaurants before they finish their meal.
So, you know, like now, there is not greater delight in my life than my kids 30% of the time. There's no greater investment. There's nothing I'm more passionate about. There's nothing that can just wake me up more and make me realize what matters more, but it wasn't the thing I dream about. It was thing that I did and when I did it, God gave me the desire for it, but it didn't start as a dream. It started as a duty. This is so critical for a world and a time where all we're ever told is follow your dreams. There is no record in Genesis 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45 where the Bible says and Joseph remembered his dream and pushed on through because when life gets hard, you've got to have a dream, and sometimes life will give you hurdles, but you know, this is just really awkward this little motif I've got myself into right here in this little, in this little spastic motivational speaker thing that I've set up here. But just follow your dreams.
You know what? I can't find in Genesis where Joseph followed his dream. What I saw in Genesis was Joseph's dream followed him. So, watch this. I don't follow dreams. I follow Jesus and when I do, dreams follow me. Joseph's dream followed Joseph. It followed him to Potiphar's house. It followed him to prison. It followed him into Pharaoh's court because dreams follow me when I follow Jesus. If you look behind your life, you will see very clearly that some of the things that God did for you and some of the doors He opened for you and some of the ways He made for you and some of the opportunities that He granted for you were accidental from your perspective, but I've got good news for you. God's dream for you is bigger than your dream for you. Just because it doesn't look shiny when you see it doesn't mean it isn't real.
God said you've got the right dream. You just need to see it differently. The fact of the matter is that some of use are standing in the middle of our dream, but we can't see it because it feels different than we thought it would when we first saw it. And I believe in dreams. I had a dream about you. I dreamed that you would be here in this church and God did that, but it's a lot different than I thought it would be cause y'all are different, and it's different. Y'all are different. You're different than the person three seats down from you, and you grew up in vacation Bible school, and they're thinking, like, Joseph? Wasn't that Jesus's dad? And they're like, and I'm trying to preach to all these different people. It's just different. It's different cause you picture, like, if Joseph a dream.
Have you got a dream? Everybody had a dream. You have a dream? Dr. King had a dream. You have a dream. It's not the same kind of dream. You know? This was a dream that Joseph didn't decide for himself. Don't follow your dreams cause what if your dream was just the first draft? Are you open to a revision? I wanted to be a punk rocker. I wanted to sing songs, but I didn't know God was going to let me write songs and pastor a church that churches around the world would sing as an expression or as an anthem of faith. It wasn't my dream, but God took that desire, and He gave me the dream, and I don't have to be the one singing the song. I just want to be a part of it.
It's the value of a bigger picture, but your dream can be a distraction cause now you're not following Jesus. You're following your dream and when your dream takes you down an unexpected path, you start to complain and freak out and get frustrated, and you are missing the dream because you will not wake up to the reality. Sometimes we don't know the difference between a dream and a fantasy. I told our staff recently this is the dream. When you're frustrated in ministry remember that some of you were watching Elevation Church online before you came to work here, and you thought, if I could ever get there one day, but you didn't know that the baptism tank was going to be half full when you got here, and you'd have to fill it up right before, and next time you have to get here and the volunteers don't show up and next time you have to just say to yourself this is the dream. Huh?
Waking up in the middle of the night as a new mom: this is the dream. Even if you have to fake a smile, the devil won't know the difference. All he'll see is that you're smiling. This is the dream. And yet, it won't feel like American Idol, and yet it won't feel like an Olympic Gold Medal ceremony cause it's not that kind of dream. By the time Joseph's dream finally came true because dreams to come true, it was two decades later. Not only had he been falsely imprisoned, not only had he been forgotten about, not only had he been misunderstood, not only was he incarcerated for a crime he didn't commit, but in the process of it, he was unappreciated for his part in someone else's freedom.
Yet, when he finally got to his dream, he realized something that is very hard for us to comprehend in an Instagram world that god develops dreams in the dark room, and the issue is that we have an Instagram expectation, but we serve a dark room God. For the four of y'all who are clapping, I'm gonna keep preaching. When you get your picture really developed by a professional, they don't post it ten seconds after they took it with a prefabricated filter by Instagram Incorporated. They take it into a special room, and they do special things in a special room.
If any of y'all ever had to drop some film off at CVS, if any of you ever had to go through a season of your life where you had to trust a professional where you had to put something in the hands of God, where you had to hand him the negatives and trust Him to take the negatives and take them into the secret place of the Most High and take them into the place of His purpose and take them into the place of His wisdom and take them into the mystery and trust Him that if I put it in His hands and if I have the patience to let it develop, if I have the patience to know that every scene of my life is playing a part in the bigger picture not of the dream that I had but of the desire that was in God's heart, and I might be standing in the middle of a dream that I don't have the clarity to see right now because the picture does not match my preference.
But watch this: I'm willing and ready and able to trust God even in the dark places of my disappointment because I understand that some of God's greatest work happens in the dark where I don't understand and I'm feeling around, and I thought I was going to be done with this by now, and I thought I'd be different by now, and this is not how they put it on the box and this is not how the hamburger looked on the commercial, but here I am, God, and I trust you and not my dream. I trust you, not my idea. I will not make my ideas my idol. I'm worshiping you. I'm serving you. It's not about position. It's about purpose.
So, when he finally had his dream come true, it was not in the form of shiny stars. It was in the form of his 11 brothers who betrayed him coming to him and asking for food, and Joseph is in Pharaoh's court distributing the grain for not only that nation but for all the surrounding nations, and he looks up at his brothers who hurt him who are standing with their hands out and realizes this is the dream. I'm at the center, but it's not for status. It's for service. Has God been trying to get you to see that in your own life lately? We attach ourselves to a version of a dream that may not have even come from God to begin with. And what if the greatest thing God is going to do through your life is what He is going to allow you to contribute to somebody else's? Are you open to that dream?
When the angel came to Mary, he said you're going to have a baby. When the angel came to Joseph in a dream, he said you're going to help her. What if the dream God has for me isn't even about me? It's the danger of the dream to start thinking like this is what my kids are going to grow up and do. Okay? Like, get your Harvard mug out of your coffee mug cabinet and what if your kid doesn't turn out to do what you wanted him to do? What if God has a different dream for them? What if it's better? What if it's deeper? What if the reason God let your dream die is because it wasn't big enough?
When we put too much pressure on a dream to come true, we allow our dream to become a distraction from the season that we're in, and I preach this way because if Joseph had gone around looking for stars for his dream, you know, reach for the stars, but it wasn't in the form of a star that the dream came. It was in the form of his brothers. It was in the form of his responsibility. It was in the form of a duty. You don't have to have some grand dynamic dream to serve God. Stop feeling guilty because you don't have some huge dream to end cancer or to start a new, to start a new ministry or to maybe like be the next Bill Gates or Elan Musk or go to space.
Maybe you don't have the talent for that. You don't have to have a huge dream, but you do need to serve a purpose in this season, and I wonder is there somebody here watching online who is standing right in the middle of the dream, but it looks different than it did in the distance. This is the dream: to know Him, to serve Him, to love Him, and there's two types of people in the room. Some of you are discouraged because you had a dream and it didn't happen. It hasn't happened yet. Don't know if it will. And others are disillusioned because you're in your dream, but it's different than you thought it was going to be. You're standing at the middle, but it's your brothers around you.
God said that today was going to be a day for you for you to see the dream for what it really is and let go of the illusion of what you thought it would be. If you stand right now, I'll pray for you. You could put your notebook down. I'm done teaching. It's one of those things that we all have to deal with at different points in our life to realize that this is what I saw, but it just doesn't feel the same. Are you open to a different dream? Maybe it's not even a different dream. Maybe it's just a more mature version of it. The disciples had a dream for Jesus. You know, He's going to restore the kingdom of Israel. When they saw Him hanging on the cross, they didn't know what to do with that. That wasn't the way they saw liberation, but that's the way He did it, and it is in the process of doing it and it is in the process of accepting it that greater faith is born.
Father, today I thank you for the illumination that you've given us through your word and by your Spirit. I felt like you were using me while I was preaching to speak to somebody on a personal level, and I want to thank you for that because I want to be used by you, but now, God, I want to step out of the way, and I want them to hear what they need to hear from you because it didn't turn out the way they dreamed. It's different. It doesn't look so shiny anymore. It doesn't look so sexy anymore. Now, it's time for them to embrace the purpose for the season that you've placed them in and let go of the one that may never come or let go of the one that was.
This is the dream. Somebody make that confession this is the dream.
And so God, give them the perspective to go back into their lives, go back into their homes, go back into their jobs and see it how you see it in a world that's obsessed with status and position make us servants of purpose to serve your purpose in every season that we're in and to find our satisfaction in that.