A new term, a new sermon series. On Sundays from September to December, we’re going to be preaching on the story of Joseph.
Yes, that Joseph. The one who got a musical written about him. But in this sermon series, there will be no technicolour dreamcoat, no 80s-style Jason Donovan haircuts, and no impassioned rendition of Lloyd-Webber songs. (Well, not from me at least… I can’t speak for the other preachers!) What we will lack in musical theatre, I hope we will make up for in other ways.
Because the story of Joseph is a powerful one. It’s a robes-to-rags-to-riches tale about a young man who starts out with great aspirations, gets betrayed by pretty much everyone he meets, is thrown in a pit and a prison cell and yet somehow manages to cling onto the dreams of his youth. As a result, he ends up in a position of enormous influence, leading the nation of Egypt through severe famine and changing the course of Ancient Near Eastern history.
But the story of Joseph is not just an ancient tale, no longer relevant in the modern world. It raises a whole host of questions that are pertinent today. Because many of us live with dreams about things we’d like to achieve, the kind of people we’d like to become and the contribution we’d like to make in the world. But sometimes life takes unexpected turns, and those dreams can feel fragile, distant, or unreachable. The story of Joseph has a lot of teach us when this happens.
- How can we cling onto the dreams that God puts on our hearts?
- How can we maintain faith in God during difficult times?
- How can we resist the temptation to compromise that often accompanies power and influence?
- How can we use our skills and passions for the benefit of others?
- How can we ensure that we grow into the kind of people who will be able to be used by God?
Whether you feel like you are currently pursuing the dreams God has put on your heart; living with unanswered questions, hopes and dreams; or facing circumstances that make it difficult to trust God’s plan for your life, I trust this series will encourage and help you.
You can find out what we’ll be covering each week by visiting the preaching calendar, and you may find it helpful to familiarise yourself with the story in advance. You can read it in Genesis chapters 37-50. And if you fancy some extra reading to accompany the series, here are a few books we would recommend on the story of Joseph and related themes.
R.T. Kendall’s God Meant it for Good is a brilliant book that looks at the story of Joseph and considers how God prepared and matured him through all the circumstances of life, equipping him to restore broken relationships and rescue a nation. If you like this, another of Kendall’s books is also well worth checking out: Total Forgiveness is a powerful book on the importance of forgiving others – highly recommended.
Another good book that unpacks the story of Joseph is You’ll Get Through This by Max Lucado. Full of helpful and encouraging examples, this book summarises the message of Joseph thus; “You will get through this. it won’t be painless. It won’t be quick. But God will use this mess for good. In the meantime don’t be foolish or naïve. But don’t despair either. With God’s help you will get through this.”
One of the key lessons Joseph had to learn was how to handle power and use his influence for the good of others. Andy Crouch has written on the theme of power in his excellent new book Playing God, and his previous book Culture Making is also well worth reading. Other books that also pick up on the theme of influence and leadership for the common good include How Now Shall we Live? by Chuck Colson and The Next Christians by Gabe Lyons.
Bill Hybels’ Courageous Leadership is also an excellent book on leadership, and another of his books – The Power of a Whisper – is also well worth reading. Joseph experienced guidance from God in a number of ways – through dreams, impressions and supernatural insights; sometimes he dealt with it well, and at other times less well! Hybels’ book talks about how we can identify when God might be leading us; and how we can respond to His guidance.
One of the major themes that comes through the story of Joseph is how we understand the purpose of God when facing pain and suffering. Whilst there are no easy answers, the Bible does have plenty to say on this subject, and Tim Keller’s Walking with God through Pain and Suffering may well be the best book around at unpacking what the Bible has to say about suffering and the Christian life. If you’d like more to read on this subject, D.A. Carson’s How Long, O Lord? also has some helpful insights, and Pete Greig’s God on Mute is an excellent book on how we can come to God in prayer when it seems like He’s being silent.
I’m sure we’ll recommend loads of other books as we go through the series, but hopefully that will help you for starters!