RE YOU HOLDING ONTO a dream—some long-cherished desire and longing?
Perhaps your dream is to get married, have a baby, land a certain career, or achieve a particular accomplishment.
God sometimes places dreams in our hearts. My life verse is Psalm 37:4: “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart” (NKJV). As we walk in intimate relationship with God and are surrendered to Him, He becomes both the giver and granter of our deepest hopes and dreams.
This journey can be painful at times. There are setbacks, disappointments, and long delays. Some of us may have even given up certain dreams a long time ago.
Joseph was the consummate dreamer. The Bible says, “Joseph had a dream” (Gen. 37:5 NKJV). The Hebrew translation means “to bind firmly.” In other words, his life became bound up with God’s dream for him.
Joseph’s life illustrates the risks that come to a dreamer—betrayal, disappointment, disillusionment, frustration, despair, and more. As one who has long held onto the power of dreams, I can relate. Yet, I have found that God has used dreams to do the greatest work of my life.
A dream is simply the desire for more of everything God has for me. Along the way, I have learned some lessons that have changed me.
LESSON 1: Beyond all the dreams, there is God.
It is easy for our dreams—even those God has given us—to become an idol. The gift can never take the place of the Giver.
One of the primary purposes of this journey is that I might get to know God intimately along the way. Nothing will ever take His place. He is my dream come true. Even if I see all my desires come true beyond my wildest expectations, there will still be a longing for something more that only He can satisfy. Nothing I accomplish or that comes to me will ever compare to Him.
I love to preach, but I can honestly say He has brought me to the place that I would rather pray than preach. Prayer has gone beyond communication to communion. He is the intense longing that cannot be put into words.
LESSON 2: Though my dream is to do something great, God’s dream is for me to be something great.
We can have a dream to change the world, and that’s not bad. God wants us to dream big. However, while I am concerned with what I do, God’s concern is who I am.
God views success differently than we do. Jesus gives us a definition for success in the parable of the talents: “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord” (Matt. 25:21 NKJV).
“Good” is who you are, and “faithful” is what you do. He holds us responsible on both matters. Then He says, “Come and share your master’s happiness!” (NIV). We tend to view that as heaven. However, if I read this passage correctly, He is calling us to join Him in something He is already experiencing. He is already rejoicing over us because we are good and faithful; so, we are already a success. We can celebrate now!
As Christ’s “good and faithful servant,” I am already seeing my dreams come true. I am not who I used to be. Along the way, He has transformed me. I believe He will fulfill the other outward things He has put in my heart. But His goal all along was to change me. That’s the real dream.
LESSON 3: Most of us will see our dreams die at some point.
We envision great things ahead. We don’t usually picture the cross and dying to ourselves. But the dream isn’t about us anyway. It is about God’s purposes coming to pass. The good news is Jesus Christ is “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25).
I heard about a woman who confessed to being a plant killer. She did not have a green thumb. She tried it one more time with a tomato plant. She said it looked like “crispy French fries.” However, the day came when she saw two bright, little tomatoes shining up at her.
It’s a fitting picture of our dreams, isn’t it? Just when we think it’s all over, God makes things grow in spite of our efforts. I preached a message once, “You Can’t Never Always Sometimes Tell.” While lacking in grammar, it is true. You can never be sure what God may do.
Paul described his ministry in these terms: “Neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow” (1 Cor. 3:7 NIV). If things grow, particularly in ministry, it won’t be because we learned how to do it. It will be because of God.
LESSON 4: My dreams do not make me who I am.
We tend to think, When I get there, I’ll be happy. Or, When this happens, I will be worth something.
Achieving my dreams will not resolve my self-esteem issues. I am worth something because I am a child of God. “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1 NIV).
God does things on His timetable according to His agenda. If my hopes and dreams are realized somewhat differently than I anticipated, I still have value. Or, if my dreams are fulfilled apart from intimacy with God, it would be empty. If my value is predicated on performance and I don’t do well, I am in trouble. However, if my worth is based on who I am in Christ, that will never change.
LESSON 5: God is leading me somewhere.
Like Joseph, there may be some painful moments in the process of personal transformation. However, the pain does have a purpose, and it is not permanent.
Israel spent long years journeying to the Promised Land. Afterward, Moses explained to them, “He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you” (Deut. 8:16 NIV).
The Living Bible paraphrases Proverbs 13:12, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick; but when dreams come true at last, there is life and joy.” Other versions call a realized dream “a tree of life.” That is a reference to the Garden of Eden. Finally seeing dreams come true can be like paradise.
God “satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Ps. 103:5 NIV). The fulfillment of dreams becomes a platform to build what God always intended. The work is not over. And there will be new dreams.
LESSON 6: God is true to His word.
God keeps His word, no matter how long it takes. After Elizabeth, who was “well along in years,” became pregnant, she declared, “The Lord has done this for me . . . . He has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people” (Luke 1:7, 25 NIV).
There are seasons when that for which we have labored so hard grows easier. Seed planted without seeing results finally comes to harvest.
When God acts, He exceeds our expectations. God does what our minds have not conceived. He is “able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20 NKJV).
Even if it takes years to learn these lessons, there is a time—God’s perfect time—to see dreams come true.
Mark Hisle is lead pastor of Parkway Ministries Church of God in Corbin, Kentucky.