I've been reading in Genesis the last several days in preparation for a series of Sunday School lessons I'll be teaching on the life of Joseph. His life intrigues me. Each time I read his story I am amazed at his wisdom, self control and self discipline, his faith, and his forgiveness. He stands as a shining example to every little boy and every little girl of what God will do with a life of integrity, character, and submission to His divine will. I have read his story many times, taught many Sunday School lessons, and heard many sermons based on his life, but didn't react to this one particular verse until the other day: Genesis 37:11;
"And his brothers envied him, but his father kept the matter in mind."
If you aren't familiar with his story, Joseph was son number 11 of Jacob and his beloved wife Rachael. Jacob had run away from his angry brother Esau, traveled to the land of his mother's people, met beautiful Rachael at a well, agreed with her father Laban to work for her hand in marriage for 7 years, was tricked on his wedding night and found out the next morning that he had actually married her older sister Leah. His love for Rachael was so great that he agreed to work for another 7 years for her and he and Rachael were married the next week. Over the course of the next several years, Leah and his 2 concubines gave Jacob 10 sons, but the Bible says that Rachael could not have children.
In Genesis 30:22, "Then God remembered Rachael, and God listened to her and opened her womb."
Verse 24; "She called his name Joseph." Rachael and Jacob later had another son, Benjamin, but in giving birth to Jacob's 12th son, Rachael died. From chapter 30, on through the rest of the book of Genesis, we see Jacob's favoritism toward Joseph and the envy that it created among his other sons almost destroyed his family.
The Bible tells us that Joseph was a very handsome man. The Bible also tells us that Rachael was a beautiful, stunning woman. I believe Joseph looked exactly like his mother and each time Jacob looked at that face he saw the face of his beloved.....and the 10 older sons could not help but see the look of love on Jacob's face each time he looked at Joseph or spoke of him. (Please read the rest of the book of Genesis to see how things turned out. It's a good lesson for every parent on what not to do! Don't play favorites with your kids.)
In chapter 37, we're told that Joseph dreamed dreams of greatness. And he didn't keep those dreams to himself, but he shared them with his father and 10 older brothers. And in v11, when Jacob heard Joseph tell of his dreams, "he kept the matter in mind." I believe at that moment Jacob knew that God had placed His calling on his son's life. Of course he didn't know all the details, nor did he know the hurt and anguish they both would endure for the next several years, but....he knew.
Mom, I believe God has placed within your heart the ability to discern His voice in your child's life. I have many examples with all 3 of our sons when I knew that God had spoken to them, but I'd like to share one in particular.
When Jeff was a junior in high school, he came to me one day with a piece of paper in his hand and said, "I wrote a sermon." For a few moments I didn't know quite how to respond, then I said, "Well what are you going to do about it?" And at that moment I had a sense, deep within me, that God was going to use him in ministry in some way. I had no idea how, but I knew.
We did not talk it about anymore for years, and he became involved with teaching at our church and working with the youth and I thought maybe God would use him in some way in youth ministry. But when he shared with his Dad and me that he knew God was calling him to preach the Word, I wasn't surprised because I just knew....it had always been there because "I had kept the matter in mind."
So how can we help our children and grandchildren discern God's voice in their lives?
1. Love the Word, be a student of the Word and teach them from an early age to be lovers of the Word.
This is where they will first hear God's calling on their life and where He will establish His Word in their heart. A student of the Word is someone who is preparing to hear from God, and this above everything else will develop a sensitivity to all things holy and spiritual in your child's heart.
2. Make sure they hear good, solid, conservative gospel preaching that speaks truth into their young lives.
Have them attending a good Sunday School class with a teacher who has been called by God to teach children. And ladies there is a difference in a teacher and a God-called teacher. God calls teachers just as He calls preachers. (1 Corinth.12:28) Could God be calling you to be teacher? ASK HIM!
3. And this is so important; begin early in your child's life developing the kind of relationship with your children that they feel comfortable coming to you with "their dreams."
Jacob and Joseph lived in a time when children were considered property. Most sons didn't have an open, loving relationship with their father and Jacob certainly didn't have that kind of relationship with his other sons. But in chapter 37, Joseph eagerly shared "his dreams" with his father. Joseph saw Jacob as "approachable". Do kids not share their dreams with us because they are afraid we will not take them seriously or dismiss their intimate thoughts? I love to hear my sons share their hopes and dreams with me. Whether it is Kyle sharing with me his dreams for Africa, Bryan sharing his dreams for his family and his personal life, or Jeff sharing a dream he has for his church, I want to be approachable to my sons and interested in their dreams. And the really neat thing is, now my grandchildren are sharing their dreams; maybe not on as great a scale, but I believe little dreams turn into big dreams and I want to be a part of it all!!
So...as you tuck in those little ones tonight, or sit around the table with your teen or pre-teen, create an atmosphere in your home that invites "dream sharing." What a privilege to be a part of their lives and dreams. And when they do open their heart, (maybe just and inch or so) and share their most intimate hopes and dreams, "keep the matter in your mind" and watch over the next few years how God turns that dream into a calling on their lives. And because you have been approachable and inviting, you get to influence the dream and become a part of it.