the shape of leadership

Serving and Flourishing Where You Are

Navigating detours to your dream, Part 2

The fulfillment of a dream never happens in a short, straight line. Instead, the journey tends to look more like a map of craziness, full of detours, stop signs and exit ramps.

Joseph, whose story we read in Genesis 37–50, experienced his share of detours as he moved slowly toward his dream. “Toward” might even be an overstatement. His path to the dream often looked more like a reversal — moving sideways, or even backward.

One of the detours Joseph encountered was the detour of serving. This may not sound like a detour. But Joseph wasn’t serving for the sake of his own dream. He was serving Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard. In other words, Joseph found himself serving the dream of a man who had the power to execute him.

Sometimes when God gives us a dream, we think we should get started immediately. We think we should quit our job today, take the leap or step into the unknown immediately. And sometimes we should. There are times when God calls us to take a bold step of faith, especially when we’ve been playing it safe for far too long.

But other times, God wants to take us through the detour of serving — where we have to serve not our dream, but somebody else’s dream. In fact, you may discover the lessons you need to learn to fulfill your dream while serving another leader’s dream.

Unfortunately, when God calls us to this place, we often serve with a minimalist mindset. We give little effort, energy or passion. We do just enough to collect a paycheck, and then complain about what we have to do, or whom we have to serve. But that wasn’t Joseph’s approach. From his life, we discover three ways to navigate the detour of serving.

Practice Faithfulness

Joseph wasn’t a lazy servant. In fact, his diligent service was so impressive that Potiphar put him in charge of his entire household. Yes, God’s favor was on Joseph, but Potiphar recognized Joseph’s ability to carry out his responsibilities faithfully. Remember, Potiphar wasn’t the kind of captain who would tolerate a slothful slave. He was used to excellence.

If you can’t serve somebody else’s dream with excellence, you’re giving God a preview of how you’ll steward your own dream. Your ability to steward someone else’s dream with faithfulness reveals to God your readiness to pursue your own dream.

Your ability to steward someone else’s dream with faithfulness reveals to God your readiness to pursue your own dream.

Produce Flourishing

Under Joseph’s management, Potiphar’s house, possessions and field flourished. Genesis 39:5-6 says, “From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field. So Potiphar left everything he had in Joseph’s care; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate.”

Notice two things in this passage. First, God blessed Potiphar because of Joseph. Second, that blessing began when Joseph entered his house. Did Joseph cause the flourishing? No! The Lord did. But Potiphar recognized that the blessing didn’t start until Joseph came into service. Joseph brought faithful service to the table, and God’s blessing followed.

Let me ask you some “flourishing” questions: Does your home flourish because you live there? Does your church flourish when you are present? Does your company flourish because you are employed there? Let me ask it another way: If you left your job tomorrow, would it be better off without you?

As followers of Jesus, we have a calling to make our world flourish. With God’s presence in our lives, there is no limit to what that flourishing can look like.

Pray for Favor

The common theme in Joseph’s story is God’s favor. The Lord was with Joseph, and the Lord made all that he did flourish and succeed. In other words, our gifts, abilities and influence are simply not enough to succeed. You and I need God’s favor. Here’s the thing about God’s favor: You can’t demand it, and you don’t deserve it.

Author Steve Moore says, “When we need favor the most, there is nothing we can do in the moment to get it.” So, that raises an obvious question: how do you receive God’s favor? Moore points out that there really are only two ways to attract the favor of God.

First, pray for it. This is one of the best things you can do. Author and pastor Mark Batterson says, “The favor of God is the difference between the best you can do and the best God can do.” You need the best God can do in the places He has called you to serve.

Second, position yourself to receive God’s favor. Moore observes that when you look at the entirety of Joseph’s life, you can see how he positioned himself for God’s favor in three ways: Joseph lived with purity, grew his capacity and walked with humility. Joseph didn’t earn God’s favor, but God obviously found delight in giving it to him.

If you’re experiencing what feels like the detour of serving — where God would have you serve somebody else’s dream — try not to look at it as a detour. Instead, see it as an opportunity to learn what you need to know to fulfill your God-given dream.

More importantly, be faithful where God has planted you, flourish in that place, and pray and position yourself for the Lord’s favor.

See also: Part 1 in this series.


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