Reviews - What do customers think about Holding On To Your Dream When You're Living A Nightmare?
Joseph Teaches Us How to Hold On Aug 2, 2005
This is an excellent book by Pastor Paul Sheppard, senior pastor of Abundant Life Christian Fellowship in Mountain View, CA. In 5 very short but powerful chapters, he encourages Christians to learn important lessons from the life of Joseph.
To give the potential buyer a general overview of the pearls of wisdom to be gleaned from the book, I will list each chapter and give a synopsis with selected quotes from the book.
Chapter 1: You have A Date With Destiny
Pastor Sheppard starts this wonderful little book by introducing Joseph, the favorite son of Isaac and Rachel. Joseph is introduced in Egypt, where his brothers are bowing down to him seeking grain because of a severe famine that came to the land. But why was there grain in Egypt while famine was all around?
God had granted young Joseph a dream in which it was interpreted to mean one day his mother, father, and brothers would "bow down" before him. Joseph was even rebuked for his dream by his father (Genesis 37:10), but God had a plan. Yet God didn't bring this dream to pass quickly. It took many years. But nothing would stop the sovereign God from bringing His plans for Joseph and his family to pass.
Pastor Sheppard makes some good points in this introduction. He keeps us grounded in the Biblical truth that all things are not caused by God, but God does allow evil to happen. Pastor Sheppard says, "Thus, the popular notion that everything happens for a divinely orchestrated reason is simply untrue. However, God's people can rejoice in the knowledge that He is indeed at work in us `to will and to act according to His good purpose' (Phil. 2:13)." (p. 12).
I found no serious theological problems in this book. However, I would like to mention that I feel pastor Sheppard was perhaps mistaken to argue that Joseph was "bratty" and "full of pride" as he does on page 13. Just because he reported back to his father, this does not prove he was "bratty" or a "tattletale," which is what the good pastor seems to assume. For example, in Genesis 37:14 it appears that Joseph's father was the one who appointed him a "watchman" over what his brothers did.
As someone who can relate almost exactly to the story of Joseph because of my own "Joseph experiences" in life, I find it hard to believe he was "full of pride" in any way. Nothing in the whole of Scripture gives us this indication. And I have learned that trials like those Joseph went through do tend to keep one humble.
Sure, he "seems" to have worn his special robe that his dad made for him constantly, but this does not mean it was a source of harmful pride for him. He could have also worn it out of appreciation and love for what his father did. So I think the good pastor may have stepped too far into speculation on these issues.
Next pastor Sheppard gives us what he calls the "ABC's of Discovering God's Will." They are listed as Ask, Burden, Conferral, Dreams, Exposure, Faith, and Gifts. I encourage readers of this review to investigate these points themselves by buying the book.
Chapter 2: Dealing With Detractors
Here pastor Sheppard shows us how Joseph's brothers, who hated him unjustly, became his "detractors." They plotted to kill Joseph and his dream. They threw him in a pit, sold him into slavery, and he ended up in Egypt a slave. Some would ask, "Where was God?" The answer the good pastor gives is simple: "God sometimes permits our detractors to make choices that seem to do us harm. But ultimately He is in control of what happens in the lives of His children, so He takes what the enemy means for harm and makes it work for our good and His glory!" (pp. 29,30). The message from this is clear. Don't worry about detractors because they are being used to send you to your divine destiny.
Chapter 3:Dealing with Difficult Realities
In the chapter on dealing with difficult realities, pastor Sheppard helps us understand that we must have the proper attitude about trying times. He reminds us that, "Many people think that the only way God can bless us when we're in a difficult situation is to deliver us FROM it...But Joseph's story demonstrates that sometimes God blesses us THROUGH our difficulties." (p. 32, capitalized emphasis mine, italics was in the original). Pastor Sheppard later reveals one of the main keys to dealing with difficult realities; and that is to have a relationship with the God who manifests His presence to those who know and love Him by "...actively comforting, teaching, and guiding" us through "painful seasons" as He did with Joseph (p. 35).
One of the most important points pastor Sheppard made that many people destined or called to leadership in the Church need to hear is this: "But just as Joseph was groomed for greatness by becoming an excellent slave, so God prepares us for our future in obscure circumstances...God makes his best leaders out of those who were once the best followers." (p. 39, I noticed a typo because "his" should be "His").
The only thing that could have been improved in this chapter is when he mentioned "recent statistics" showing that when the income level of many people rises, their percentage of giving to churches and ministries actually decreases (p. 39). It would have been nice for him to have given us the source for these statistics.
Chapter 4: Dealing With Disillusionment
Here pastor Sheppard reveals Joseph's experience of being falsely accused of raping his master's wife and is sent to prison for it. It appears that Joseph was in prison for a long time behind a false accusation. Many people can relate to this on a personal level. But God was still with Joseph, and he apparently was still with God. They didn't give up on each other, so to speak.
Pastor Sheppard relates the lesson to be learned from this: "Some Christians find it very difficult to accept that God would permit His obedient, disciplined children to experience significant delays in seeing their God-given dreams come to pass" (p. 46). How should you deal with these times of disillusionment? Maintain a prayerful and loving divine companionship with God no matter what (p. 49).
Chapter 5: It's A Setup
We enter the final chapter. Pastor Sheppard reminds us to be careful not to falsely judge if someone is in God's will or not by looking at his or her circumstances. Those going through the most trials perhaps are very pleasing to God and are on their way to the most blessings, and those who seem to have the most blessings in this life may be living lives of sin and being very displeasing to God (p. 51).
Moreover, he warns us that on the way to divine destiny we will encounter disappointers, those who may mean well but will let us down. He says, "As people of destiny, we must be careful not to become bitter towards those who disappoint us" (p. 56). We must learn to forgive, even as God forgives us.
On the way to his destiny, and while in jail for a crime he didn't commit, Joseph was being prepared for God's providential hand. God gave king Pharaoh a dream that, conveniently enough, only Joseph could interpret. After interpreting the dream, it is revealed that God was warning of a coming 7 year time of plenty, followed by another 7 years of famine. When Joseph suggests that Pharaoh hires a wise person to handle the storing of grain during the time of plenty, guess who the Pharaoh appoints for the job? I'll give you three guesses, and the first 2.5 don't count. :-)
The moral of the story? Hold on to your dreams, even when you're living a nightmare, for God will wake you up from that nightmare and bring His will to pass in your life.
I highly recommend this book for every Christian who is going through trials and hard times. I've been there myself. I've been homeless, suffered abandonment from family and friends, and been falsely accused and paid a price for something I didn't do. I can relate to brother Joseph. I thank God for speaking across time and cultures by using stories like this to encourage and strengthen us.
My only problem with this book is that it was definitely too short because it's so good you yearn for more. Otherwise, pastor Sheppard has done us a great service by writing it.