December 10, 2017
Jim Nabors, aka. Gomer Pyle, died two weeks ago in Hawaii. As Gomer Pyle, Nabors seemed so homely. And yet his singing voice was anything but homely. The video clip that I’ve seen going around shows Jim Nabors singing, The Impossible Dream. In the lyrics of The Impossible Dream we hear the words, “This is my quest, To follow that star, No matter how hopeless, No matter how far, To fight for the right, Without question or pause, To be willing to march into Hell, For a heavenly cause.”
Wow! Talk about an impossible dream! What dreams do you have for your life? And what does Jesus Christ have to do with your dreams? That’s what we want to talk about this morning as we consider the story of Joseph. The call of Jesus Christ must shape your deepest dreams in life.
I. ARE YOU WILLING TO DIE TO YOUR DREAMS? Mt.1:18-19
Joseph was engaged to Mary. In those days marriages were arranged by the father of the groom and bride. Mary would have been in her early teens, while Joseph would have been 10 or more years older. Unlike engagements today, Mary would have already been considered to be Joseph’s wife. If she was unfaithful the only recourse was divorce. Like today, engagement brought the promise of a marriage. Weddings were happy occasions with festivities often lasting for a week or more. Being engaged has always been a meaningful step in life.
So I imagine that Joseph was looking forward to being married to Mary. His wedding would have been the fulfillment of a dream for his life. Marriage was the next step in a life well-lived. In all that we read concerning Joseph in the book of Matthew, one gets the idea that he was a solid guy. He was responsible and showed a very caring spirit. He was a just or righteous man.
But then he heard some disheartening news. Mary was discovered to be pregnant. You might remember that for about the first 3 months of her pregnancy, Mary had been staying with her cousin Elizabeth. By her 4th month it became obvious that she was pregnant and now Joseph had some decisions to make.
Put yourself in Joseph’s place. Here you are trying to prepare for your wedding and marriage. You are working and doing what you can to provide the best situation for your new wife. You are looking forward to marriage and having children. You are trying to do everything right. And now your wife-to-be has done something immoral. Your dreams are dying. Every indication is that Joseph cared about Mary. We know this because he had no desire to put Mary to public shame. So why didn’t he just go ahead and marry Mary? Well, had Joseph married Mary he would be admitting that he also had been involved in sexual immorality. But Joseph had done nothing worthy of shame. He was innocent. He loved Mary, but he valued his reputation in the community and so he had to die to this dream for his life.
These kinds of situations happen all the time. All of us have had dreams for our lives that we have had to let die for any number of reasons. When we are children we have many dreams. I used to dream of being a professional football player. That was a pipe dream because there was never a chance that I would be a pro football player. But as I grew older I did have a dream of being a professional musician. That dream was grounded in some reality. That was a possibility. But I also had to die to that dream and I will tell you why in a moment.
All of us have dreams for our lives. We have career dreams, dreams for achievement and recognition, dreams for marriage and family. Parents have dreams for their children. Employers have dreams for their business. We all have dreams.
From these verses, I want to suggest that Joseph’s experience in having to die to his dream, is a picture of what must happen to followers of Christ regarding all of our dreams. We must die to our dreams for life. There is nothing wrong with having dreams. God created us to aspire to wonderful things. The problem is that our dreams are often Godless. I don’t mean they are morally wrong. I just mean they often don’t include God.
Let me give you an example. I’ve got some natural ability in music. Becoming a professional musician made a lot of sense to me. I gravitate to music. I love music. “I think I should a musician.” There is nothing wrong with being a musician. But as a follower of Christ should I not submit that dream to the Lord Jesus? If Jesus is my King, if my allegiance for all of life is to Jesus, if my life belongs to Jesus, is it for me to just up and decide to pursue a dream without consulting him, without surrendering that dream to him no matter how much sense it makes to me?
In his teachings, Jesus spoke about the importance of counting the cost before signing on to be his disciple. In Lk.14:26-27, Jesus says, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” This is pretty serious stuff? So what I am suggesting is that what happened to Joseph must actually be an intentional attitude on our part. We have our dreams, but we hold them loosely before the Lord. We don’t belong to ourselves. We are not our own. What are your current dreams for your life? Are you willing to die to those dreams in light of Jesus Christ?
II. ARE YOU READY TO DISCERN GOD’S DREAM FOR YOUR LIFE? Mt.1:20-23
Joseph was getting ready to divorce Mary quietly. I imagine these considerations consumed his mind. He just couldn’t believe what had happened. But then he had a dream. It’s not uncommon to dream about the things that consume our minds. Perhaps it was the only opportunity when Joseph’s anxious mind was accessible to God. Clearly this dream was a little different.
An angel of the Lord appeared in the dream. The angel told him to not be afraid to take Mary as his wife. Surely Mary must have explained all that happened to her, but here was confirmation for Joseph. The angel confirmed that this pregnancy was the Lord’s doing. Not only that, the angel instructed Joseph to name the baby, “Jesus.” He told him that Jesus would save his people, Israel from their sins.” That is pretty specific information.
Joseph had a good dream for his life. But when Mary turned up pregnant his dream died and he decided to end the relationship. But then God comes to Joseph through a dream and says, “No, don’t end that relationship. You’ve got a good dream but your dream is being adjusted to accomplish my purposes.” When we die to our dreams and surrender them to the Lord, the Lord has the opportunity to direct our lives into his purposes.
It is important to see that God’s purposes for us will always involve Jesus Christ our King. In other words whatever we do in life we do it with Jesus at the center of our lives. God was not negating Joseph’s dream. He was adjusting it. Joseph was surrendered to God and so he was willing and ready to listen.
As believers, we want to do what God wants us to do. Could I have become a professional musician? Well, I think so. Would my becoming a professional musician have been okay with God? I don’t see why not, except for one thing. God made it clear to me that being a professional musician was not in keeping with his purposes for me. As we seek God he may not change our dream, but he will always desire that the way we go about fulfilling our dream and the way we carry out our dream be shaped by Jesus. If pursuing your dream involves compromising your allegiance to the Lord, you will be pursuing your dream apart from the Lord. If Joseph had divorced Mary, I think he would have been pursuing his dream apart from the Lord. The Lord gave him clear direction to marry Mary.
So what am I saying? I am saying that when it comes to pursuing our dreams, we need to take time to be quiet and seek the Lord regarding our dreams. It is appropriate for believers to say, “Lord, my dream is such and such. How do you feel about that? Is there something else you would have me do? I want to honor you with my life and my dreams. Would you direct me into your dreams for my life?” In other words we are giving God the space to speak into our lives. We are putting ourselves at God’s disposal. If God does not clearly indicate that he intends something else for your life, then you should feel free to pursue the dream that is in your heart. Just don’t pursue it apart from Him.
Something else, you notice that God’s dream for Joseph came in the midst of turmoil. That is not uncommon. Sometimes it is only in the midst of difficulty and turmoil that our ears are open and our heart ready to hear what God has to say. Sometimes it is only in the seeming death of our dream that God’s dream can be made clear to us. Are you ready to discern God’s dream for your life?
If you don’t know Jesus Christ in a personal way, you will not be able to discern God’s dream because you are not in a relationship with God. You have not received God’s transforming life through faith in Jesus. But if you do know Christ, then my hope is that it is your desire to honor him by following his dreams for your life.
III. ARE YOU LIVING GOD’S DREAM FOR YOUR LIFE? Mt.1:24-25
As Christians we would say that God’s dream for our lives is always better than our dream for our lives. God’s dream for our lives will surely promote our well-being and flourishing in life. But when we consider Joseph, we might think twice. Joseph immediately began living the dream, God’s dream, but clearly there was a cost.
The very thing that he was trying to avoid he now had to embrace. His righteous reputation would be called into question by just about everyone who knew him. They would not understand or approve of his decision to marry Mary. They certainly would not have done it themselves. I guess what I’m trying say is that living God’s dream for our lives in this world is bound to attract the disapproval of the world sooner or later. Why? Because Jesus Christ does not have a high approval rating in this world.
Along with this, notice that in living the dream, Joseph did it quietly. We don’t read about any wedding celebration. It just says that “when he woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him. He took his wife.” In fact, living the dream that God has for our lives, centered around Jesus, will not involve fanfare. Rather, living God’s dream will always involve humble, selfless obedience. That is the way of Jesus in this world.
There is something else. Do you see in v.25 that while Joseph took Mary as his wife, it says that he “knew her not until she had given birth to a son.” I am reading a book by Todd Wilson, called, “Mere Sexuality.” It is not a long book, but a good book. The 2nd chapter is called, “The Sexuality of Jesus.” Todd writes, “No one was more fully human or sexually contented than Jesus, yet Jesus never engaged in a single sexual act…And he never indulged a sexual fantasy or lust of the kind he roundly condemns, even though Scripture says that Jesus is ‘one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are.’ And yet, as one biblical scholar has pointed out, ‘The Gospels portray a compelling and attractive person, who engages seriously with people and is good company at a party. Yet all the evidence is that he lived as a sexual celibate.’” Todd goes on to say that in our culture sexual activity is viewed as the most direct path to personal fulfillment and self-realization, but, “from the story of [Jesus’] life we learn that sexual activity is not essential to human flourishing or personal fulfillment.” Todd writes that Jesus didn’t need sex because sex is not essential to being human.”
Clearly Joseph understood that even though sexual intimacy is essential for a healthy marriage, sexual intimacy is not essential for human flourishing. This is a profound truth to be considered by every believer today. Joseph was living God’s dream for his life and he had the maturity to wait patiently for the appropriate time to consummate his marriage with Mary. He was not driven by his desires.
God’s dream for our lives, is indeed the way to human flourishing. Jesus Christ is our example and it is our life in Christ that leads to human flourishing. But if we look to this world we will fall short of the fullness of life that only Jesus can give. So if we choose to live the dream, God’s dream for our lives we will face trouble in this world. But in the midst of trouble we will have life in Christ.
I have a friend who has a business. He had a dream for how he would grow and develop his business. His wife was deeply involved in running the business. He was the dreamer. She was the realist. When his wife would speak to him of how things were really going, he would say to her, “Don’t destroy my dreams.” His wife recently died. His dream has been altered forever. This is the way of life in this world. Reality has a way of significantly altering and maybe even destroying our dreams.
God is the only one wise enough, powerful enough, kind enough, to enable our deepest dreams to come to fulfillment. Apart from God the realization of our dreams will not fully satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts. God sent his Son, Jesus Christ into the world, to do all that is necessary for us to find the fulfillment of our deepest dreams. For our deepest dreams can only find fulfillment in Jesus through the forgiveness of our sins, and the receiving of his life. Are you willing to die to your dreams? Are you ready to discern God’s dream for your life in Christ? Are you living God’s dream for your life? Amen.