Two of Westminster’s rising seniors preached on Youth Sunday.
In two weeks I will begin my senior year of high school, the year I have to make some of the most important decisions in my life. Where will I go to college, what do I want to study, and what does my future hold for me? In our Scripture reading for today, we learn that Joseph has a dream, a prophecy, that people will one day bow down to him. I have been asking myself, how does Joseph’s story relate to my life? Will God help guide me and help me find my calling? Will I allow my vision for the future to be woven with what God has planned for me? Sometimes, I wish that a prophesy would come to me in a dream, so that way I would know what God has planned for me, and I wouldn’t have to do the planning part myself.
In our Scripture reading, Joseph, like me, is seventeen years of age at the time. Joseph’s dream is a seed that God plants in his mind, and his dream eventually becomes his future. If Joseph could allow the presence of God into his life, then how could other people, such as myself, do the same?
A few weeks ago, I was with the youth group at the Montreat Youth Conference. One of the topics for our worship service was the notion of disruption in life and how can we turn to God for answers. I understood what he meant, but it wasn’t something I had ever experienced. Then, at the end of the week at Montreat, I came face to face with disruption. It started with mild chest pains and shortness of breath, which progressively got worse as the hours went by. It eventually got to the point of excruciating pain that made it impossible for me to sit or lay down. An ambulance was called and I ended up at Mission hospital in Asheville, and was diagnosed with pericarditis, which is inflammation of tissue that surrounds the heart. (Note: If you are worried, don’t be, I’m fine. I took some drugs and it went away. Here I would like to give a special thanks to Taylor, Geoff Vaughn, Fritz Simonson, Ms. Feiler, Don, Helen, and all of the other youth advisors for making sure I was ok during that frightening experience). However, during that disruption, I remember that I wasn’t worried, I felt nothing but comfort. When I think back about what happened, I wonder why I wasn’t as anxious, worried, or upset as I would’ve expected. I can only attribute what I felt to the fact that God was there comforting me. It seemed ironic that this would happen the day after the worship service about disruption, especially such a rare and unexpected medical condition. It seems more than a coincidence that the theme for the week at Montreat was A Missing Peace; because through my medical crisis I learned that I can turn to God when peace is missing.
I know that God will also guide me through my future. Deciding where I will go to college, what I will study, and what my job will be. For years now, I always thought I wanted my future career to be related to math and science. I wanted to become a software engineer. However, I feel that my passion has been changing over the past couple of weeks. I have become more and more interested in economics. Whether my interests completely change, remain the same, or if I can somehow blend them together, I know that God has a plan for me. A prophecy that maybe I’ll one day see in a dream, just as Joseph did.
From the time I was very young here at Westminster, being cared for in the nursery, attending sunday school, taking naps during worship service, and even now, planning to serve as co-moderator for youth group, my journey of faith has been expanding. I remember sunday school, learning bible stories, songs with the guitar man, the christmas pageant, and serving in the love feast. During confirmation I developed a deeper and more personal relationship with God. I am very grateful to be a part of this church family, which has equipped me to deal with the life challenges that lay ahead.
It’s still hard to believe that I only have one more year left with my time here at youth group. All of the various sunday afternoons, mission trips, and retreats have gone by all too quickly. As I look forward to my future I will keep many past youth group memories in mind. For now though, I will embrace, and hopefully enjoy being a co moderator for youth group this year. I cannot wait to finish my final year of high school strong, and look forward to my college experience.
Let’s talk about Joseph a bit. Joseph has 11 brothers. He isn’t the oldest, isn’t the roughest, isn’t the toughest, but he is his father’s favorite son. Joseph’s father, Jacob, isn’t exactly discreet about his favoritism either. Jacob quite obviously loves Joseph more. Jacob even goes so far as to put Joseph against his other brothers, using him as a tattle tale against them. Jacob’s highest display of favoritism, though, is a coat of many colors that he gives Joseph. This coat is a visual representation of the fact that Joseph is better than his brothers, and they are not happy about it.
After Joseph received the coat from his father, he receives two prophetic dreams from God. In one, he dreams that he is out in the field with his brothers, binding sheaves of wheat. The brothers’ sheaves come over to Joseph’s and bow down to his. In the other dream, his mother, father, and brothers are all represented by the sun, moon, and stars. Once again, his brothers’ stars bow down to Joseph’s star. The important thing about these dreams is that Joseph is given their interpretation by God. Joseph isn’t making these things up- he’s not trying to scheme here.
Fast forward and here we are: Genesis 37, verse 12 when Jacob sends Joseph to check on his brothers while they’re pasturing the sheep. His father sends Joseph to Shechem, but when he gets there, he doesn’t find his brothers. A man sees Joseph searching for his brothers and tells him that they are in Dothan, a completely different city. (12-18)
Now some random guy, just “happens” to see Joseph, “happens to” ask what he’s looking for, and just “happens to” overhear the brothers saying they’re at Dothan. This is important. Remember this.
Another important thing to point out is that while Joseph’s brothers hate him, Joseph doesn’t hate his brothers. In fact, he’s willing to travel 20 more miles just to check on them in Dothan. Joseph’s diligent search for his brothers acts almost as a foil to the harsh crime that the brothers will eventually commit against Joseph.
We pick up in verse 18 with Joseph finding his brothers, who are all lovingly planning how they will kill him. They make plans to kill him, throw him in a pit, and tell everyone else that he was eaten by a wild animal. But then his brother Reuben, the oldest of the bunch, convinces the other brothers that killing Joseph may be a bit much. Simply ripping Joseph’s robe off, and throwing him into the pit alive would be a much more rational way to seek revenge. (18-24)
For those of you that may not be as familiar with this story: Joseph is eventually sold into slavery by his brothers, and he ends up in Egypt. God then elevates Joseph to a place where he is able to interpret a dream for the Pharaoh and saves the entire world from famine. THE ENTIRE WORLD.
So much in this story seems to be coincidental and meaningless.
- Joseph is sent to Shechem by Jacob to check on his brothers.
- The brothers change their mind and decide to go to Dothan.
- A random stranger hears brothers say they’re going to Dothan.
- That same stranger sees Joseph wandering down the road and asks what he’s looking for.
- Ruben happens to be there when the other brothers want to kill Joseph to make sure he doesn’t die.
- Ruben happens to not be there when the brothers decide to sell him into slavery instead, unable to stop them from doing this.
- The slave traders happen to be on their way to Egypt.
Friends, if even one of these seemingly random things didn’t line up, the entire world would have died. Stories like this in the Bible are meant to show us that there are no coincidences with our God. Nothing happens by chance. Nothing is random. God is intentionally weaving the details of Joseph’s life together. God’s dream for us is involved in every single one of these details.
Now this is something that’s pretty easy to understand when we can see the glory of God’s dream at the end. We can see God’s glory in the end result of Joseph’s situation – he’s able to interpret the dream for the Pharaoh. But what about Joseph in the moment? He’s having a pretty awful time. He had his new fancy favoritism robe ripped off of him. He was thrown into a dark pit. His brothers wanted to kill him, but instead, they decided to be kind and only sell him into slavery. His life stinks.
I have absolutely no way of knowing what baggage you came into this room with this morning. But what I do know is that God has not abandoned our struggles in life. The tough things happened in Joseph’s life, just like they happen in ours. Ultimately, had Joseph not dealt with these though things, the entire world would have died. God has a mission – a dream – through these things. He’s saving an entire people. God uses Joseph’s situation to point towards His glory.
I am 100% sure, though, that as Joseph is sitting in the pit, he doesn’t see that yet. I don’t know where you are, but like Joseph, you may not be able to see God’s dream from your pit.
But friends remember this: God’s dream is woven into every detail of our lives- even the hard parts. He has not abandoned you right now. He is doing something in this world. He is moving us as a people. God has dreams for us and nothing will stop that.