Many years ago, long before I became a follower of Christ, I would often get into conversations with my friends about the purpose of life. I remember hanging out them as we would imbibe until the wee hours of the morning (usually until dawn) and talk. We would sit under the star lit sky and have some deep conversations. One night someone asked, “Do you guys ever wonder since we live in such a big universe what our reason for our existence is? We are so small and insignificant, why do you think we are here? What’s our purpose?” I think back and remember none of us would have considered ourselves “religious” but we certainly had the curiosity to the wonders of life… even when I did not have a relationship with God I still felt like I had a purpose.
“Why are we here?” “What is our purpose?” These are pretty common questions asked by millions of people day after day. I am sure you have asked this question. You may have even struggled with what your purpose in life really is. Maybe some of you are wrestling with these questions today. They are good questions to ask. Rick Warren tackles this question head on in his book THE PURPOSE DRIVEN LIFE. I believe Warren does a fairly good job helping in pointing people in the right direction to find their purpose in life.
Discovering your purpose is always joyous, freeing and frustrating. I believe we all have at least one common purpose and I also believe we each have a more specific or unique purpose individually which is directly tied in to our common purpose. I would define this specific purpose as “The thing God created you to do or be.”
The Westminster Confession does a great job in answering the general purpose question. The Confession asks, “What is man’s (humanities) chief end?” The answer: “To glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” Generally speaking we are all created for the glory of God and to glorify Him. Our specific purpose may be unique to you and it is certainly engrafted in glorifying God.
We see this in the life of Joseph. God had created him to bring glory to his name but he also created him for a specific purpose and we will see this today in Genesis 41. What is wonderful to know is that we all have a purpose in life and God does use each of us in a unique way (like Joseph) to fulfill our purpose. The joy (and sometimes frustration) comes in discovering our unique purpose.
Genesis 41 is a long chapter. I have chosen once again to give a brief overview of what is happening and I will highlight the parts I feel are relevant to us today. One of your challenges this week is to spend some time reading this chapter on your own to see what God may be showing you personally.
Joseph has been in prison for 2 years prior to his encounter with the King’s (Pharoah) cupbearer and baker. We do not know what was going on in Joseph’s life at this time. We are not sure how he is dealing with everything. Was he depressed, discouraged, or frustrated with his current situation? Or was he patiently waiting for God to intervene and continue the work He has begun in Joseph’s life. One can only imagine.
So here we are 2 years later the chapter begins with Pharaoh having two dreams and his spirit is greatly troubled. Much like the baker and the cupbearer the dream was vivid enough to cause him great distress. He knew the dreams had significance to them (because in ancient Egypt dreams were usually tied in with a deity revealing something to the dreamer). He wanted to know what they meant. He inquires all the magicians and wise men (dream specialists) of Egypt but none of them can accurately interpret his dreams. It is at this moment the cupbearer remembers Joseph. I can picture him planting palm to forehead and saying… “Aw man! I forgot I was supposed to tell you about this Hebrew guy named Joseph two years ago and…”
Pharaoh calls for Joseph. He is cleaned up so he may be properly presented to Pharaoh. He is brought before Pharaoh and told of his concerns and he would like Joseph to interpret his dreams. Joseph once again gives all credit to God. He knows his purpose in life is to bring glory to God in all situations yet he also know God uses him to interpret dreams. He humbly acknowledges that it is not in his power to interpret the dream but it is through God, who will reveal the interpretation. God will give a favorable answer. I think it is important for us to note that this is not the same arrogant Joseph who was living under the roof of his father. It is now 14 years later and God has been fashioning and preparing Joseph for this specific time and purpose. He has emerged a wise and humble man who is completely dependent on God to work through him for His glory. God is now using Pharaoh as a means for accomplishing His purposes through Joseph. It is in this understanding that God does whatever He needs to accomplish his will. God had made a promise to Joseph, his father, his grand father and his great grand father and it is here we begin to see God’s perfect plan for Joseph and the Hebrew people start to come into shape.
Joseph tells Pharaoh the interpretation that God revealed to him. The bad news is there is a famine coming. The good news is God will make sure you will be well stocked to get through the famine. You need to be prepared. He informs Pharaoh that seven years there will be an abundance of crops in the land. He needs to be mindful that for seven years after there will also be a famine. God is revealing this so the Egyptian nation can be wise and store up enough over the plenteous years so that when it does come there will be enough to get them through the famine. Joseph, in his godly wisdom tells Pharaoh to appoint overseers over this project so they can collect the fruit and grain during the good years and store it up for the seven famine years. He also informs Pharaoh that since he had the dream twice that God has already determine this will happen and it is set.
Pharaoh is pleased with Joseph’s interpretation and asked his servants “Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?” I believe this is a rhetorical question because he immediately appoints Joseph to the task of overseer. Joseph is promoted to second in command over all of Egypt. He has received the promotion of a lifetime. Pharaoh gives him his signet ring which gives him absolute authority and clothes him in many fine clothes, garments and a necklace and provides his with the classiest wheels of his time, a brand new chariot. He is to answer to no one but Pharaoh himself.
Pharaoh changes his name and gives him in marriage to a prominent woman… The daughter of Potiphera the priest of On. This was a sign that he is now a man of great influence in Egypt. Once appointed Joseph does all God has revealed to him in making preparations for the nation. For seven years Joseph stores up grain and fruit in preparation for the coming seven year famine.
Once the famine has begun to spread over all the nations Joseph opens up the storehouses and begins selling to the Egyptians and all the surrounding land. People knew that there was grain in Egypt so people came from all over to buy their grain. We are told this to set the stage for what comes next.
In many commentaries Joseph is often portrayed as a type of Jesus Christ. He is a man who is loved by the father, betrayed by his own people, unjustly convicted of something he never did, punished and imprisoned but eventually emerges as one who brings salvation to all nations. Certainly Joseph is NOT Jesus he was a precursor to Christ; a picture of Jesus. Nearly two thousands years before Jesus comes to the earth God gives a glimpse of his perfect plan of redemption to humanity. God had a perfect plan of redemption since the beginning of time. We also see in his perfect and specific plan he uses Joseph to accomplish His will.
I believe whole-heartedly that God’s perfect plan is still in motion. I also believe the Bible tells us that God has a purpose and plan for each one of us. When the question, “Is there a purpose to my life” is asked the answer is yes. We are created to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. This is our common purpose. Yet God has a specific purpose for each one of us as well. Granted it may not be as grandiose as saving a whole nation from famine or dying to save humanity. More than likely it will not be something on a grand level humanly speaking but your specific purpose is important to God’s plan and unique to you. God has designed each and every one of us in a unique way. Not a single one of us is the same. (Read Psalm 139:13 – 16) We are wonderfully made. We are crafted in his image and yet we are all unique in so specific way. God has gifted and given all of us various gifts, strengths and talents that we can use for his glory. I believe when we are serving in the area where God has gifted us is when we are fulfilling our unique purpose. We are told that God has given his people gifts. In the New Testament there are at least 24 Spiritual Gifts listed. Most of them can be found in I Corinthians 12, Romans 12, I Peter 4 and Ephesians 4. I would encourage you to read through these passages and make a list of gifts and discover the gift(s) God has given you. If you already know your gift then hold tight I’ll get to you in a moment. Part of the joy and frustration is in discovering how you are wired? What God-given talents or strengths God has given you? How can/do you use them for his glory?
- God can and will use you wherever you are. Obviously Joseph was not in the greatest of positions. However God was preparing him and shaping him to become the man He created him to be. It was during the hard times God was at work in his life the most. Remember to not be discouraged and frustrated with your current situation, know that God will use you where you are.
- You have a at least one God given gift, strength and talent. Joseph had the gift of interpretation and he had the gift of wisdom. Sometimes these gifts got him in trouble and sometimes they were his saving grace. Regardless he knew God had gifted him. Joseph knew God had a plan for him and I am sure the life he lived was not the one he had imagined but he was faithful to God and knew that it was not his wisdom, interpretation or intellect that enabled him to be promoted in the court of the King but it was God.
- Find out your gift, strength or talent. There are online Spiritual gift tests, or I have tests on the back table (this is not the end all be all). These tests or assessments can help you in your discovery journey. On another level there is a book and online assessment I have been using called STRENGTHS FINDERS 2.0. The purpose of this book and assessment is to help individuals uncover their God given strengths or talents and how to use them in life. I have found it helpful in determining and understanding my DNA as an individual so I know how I best function as a person, how I can best serve my family and this church. This is not a Christian book per se but it was developed by Christians. I would be happy to talk about this assessment with anyone at anytime if it interests you. The point is; find out how God created you. Pray about it. Take an assessment. Ask others you trust and know well about your strengths, gifts and talents. Often other people can see our strengths, gifts and talents more clearly than we can.