I love inspirational books as much as the next guy. I enjoy reading books or hearing inspirational talks that motivate me to dream big dreams and attempt great things. Who isn’t inspired to read of people like Walt Disney who envisioned Disneyland or a movie about Mary Poppins who ultimately saw those dreams come true?
Don’t misunderstand me. There is nothing wrong with dreaming (unless you are supposed to be working!). Seeing your dream come true is a popular subject, as evidenced by the numerous motivational speakers and self-help books that abound today.
But this is the question: Is our life’s purpose to fulfill our dreams? Is our problem that we don’t dream enough or we don’t persist long enough until our dreams come true? Is the supreme human malady that we let other people crush our dreams or that we spend our lives toiling to make other people’s dreams come true, instead of our own? Is the answer to this dilemma that we dare to dream greater dreams about our life and future?
I would quickly concur that it is a sad life that has no dreams. It may well be the case that when you stop dreaming, you start dying. Without a dream, your life has no direction or purpose.
I suppose few people would argue that having a dream is a bad thing. The key, however, may be where that dream comes from. Did your dream to become a doctor, or major league baseball player, or a partner in the family business come from you, or from someone else? Did you merely inherit your dream or did it originate with you?
History is filled with examples of people who were driven by their dreams. Alexander the Great, Napoleon, and Hitler all had a vision of conquering the world. Walt Disney dreamed of a place where dreams came true. Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, and Bill Gates all followed their dreams into business. Numerous religious leaders have pursued their dreams to found a church or start a movement or plant a unique type of church. There are countless examples of people achieving their dream of becoming a doctor or a parent or of cutting an album or writing a book. What would the world be like if people had not dared to pursue their dream?
God created people with the ability to dream. One doubts that a horse or dog or bird has dreams. It’s unlikely that a pet dreams about much more than its next meal. When God created people in His image, He designed them with the ability to imagine what did not yet exist. Every cathedral, masterpiece, and symphony began as someone’s dream. God wired people to dream.
Of course, there is a wide spectrum of dreams. Many of them are quite selfish. Others are noble and altruistic. They include everything from dreaming that the star quarterback asks you out on a date to discovering a cure for cancer. If the size of your dream reflects the quality of your character and the robustness of your faith, then small dreams result in a small life while grandiose dreams lead to grand adventures.
This leads to a compelling question: What types of dreams are worthy of your life? How big or grand should your dream be before it becomes the North Star of the only life you will ever have?
Here is the problem. We tend to dream selfish dreams. We have a propensity for settling for dreams that are too small for a life that is so precious. And this is our dilemma. Can we possibly dream a dream that is worth the investment of our one and only life? Can we dream a dream that is not in some way tarnished by selfishness, spite, and greed?
The Twelve Disciples were typical people. They dreamed of successful careers such as fishermen, tax collectors and other endeavors. Then they met Jesus. He quickly upgraded their dreams from living comfortable, predictable lives, to changing the world. These men then began to dream of achieving the top vice presidencies in the Kingdom of God (Luke 9:46), of building conference centers (Luke 9:33), of defeating their rivals (Luke 9:49), and destroying their enemies (Luke 9:54). In each case, Jesus did not commend them for pursuing their dreams. He did not exclaim, “Well done, good and faithful disciples! You are dreaming great dreams and you have the courage to pursue them!”
No, Jesus rebuked His disciples for dreaming about things that were selfish, petty, divisive, dishonoring to God, and contrary to the Kingdom of God. The key was not to pursue a dream. The important thing was to pursue God’s dream. Read the following verses carefully:
“’For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.’” Isaiah 55:8-89
“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” Ephesians 3:20
It is clear that our dreams do not begin to compare with God’s. Even when we are dreaming our most noble and selfless thoughts, we are still thinking at a level far beneath what God thinks. In fact, it is perfectly possible for us to fulfill our dreams and yet to miss God’s dream for us.
I believe that when God created people in His image, He was not merely granting us the ability to dream; He was enabling us to share His thoughts. Can there be any greater experience than for the Creator to share His thoughts with His creatures? It is one thing for us to imagine wonderful possibilities for our life. It is quite another to learn what God has thought about us since before we were born. To accomplish our goals for our lives is exhilarating. To experience God’s dreams for us is sublime.
Perhaps that is why God told His people, “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3). God wants us to know His thoughts toward us! When we learn them, our own thoughts appear puny!
Simply having Christians achieve their dreams is inadequate. The world is in utter disarray. Millions of people suffer and die daily. Billions have never heard the Gospel. What people need is not for us to achieve our dreams, but for us to be swept up into God’s activity as He accomplishes His divine purposes through us. Our church or community or nation is not desperate to receive what we can dream up. It needs God’s purposes fulfilled.
Our problem is that we can spend so much time and effort chasing our dreams that we fail to learn what God’s thoughts are. The key is for us to spend enough time with God so He lays His heart over our heart, and His dreams become our dreams.
It is great that you are “living the dream” and “pursuing your dreams.” But the question is: where did your dreams come from? Are they truly the greatest dreams you could possibly invest your life in? Dreams are a good thing. God’s dreams are a breathtaking thing.
Written by Dr. Richard Blackaby