Living the Dream

Your heavenly father is a dreamer and he has a whole bunch of dreams for your life. What good dad wouldn’t?

The danger is we limit God by limiting our thinking about him and we never find the adventure he was dreaming for us.

Another danger, of course, is that we let our minds run wild and pursue some crazy dream that was never God-approved. Here I will uncover some timeless guidelines for running with God in the amazing dreams he has for your life.

The Parent Trap

As a teacher I have sat with dozens of students whose parents had a dream for them. But the student did not share that dream. They might nominally adopt it for a while; they might even spend thousands of pounds on a university course to become a doctor, dentist, veterinarian or nurse. But if they don’t have dreams that match those of their parents, eventually someone is going to end up unhappy.

The difference with God is that his dreams for us are the best. He knows us intimately and did so even before we were born. Have a look at this:

Psalm 139

13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. 17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! 18 Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand― when I awake, I am still with you.

There’s an intimacy about these verses. God the Father created your inmost being. He knit you together in your mother’s womb. You were not hidden from him when you were there in that secret place. Think about the seeming contradiction that he saw your unformed body. He’s a dreamer! He sees things before they exist. And he saw you.

So there is a link between dreaming and creating. I have heard it said that everything is created twice, whether it’s a building, car or piece of furniture. It is created first in the mind of the creator and second in reality. In the same way, God had a dream and you were it. What’s more, all those dreams were written in his book. God keeps a dream journal and your name’s in it!

God is a dreamer. He dreamed of creating sons and daughters to share life with. He already had angels but he dreamt of more. He dreamed of interaction with free beings made in his image. And he dreamed a dream for each individual life.

Let’s explore the dreams God might have for us and consider whether we are dreaming dreams that are worthy of an invincible incredible Father God.

Proverbs 16:1-9 – A dreamer’s handbook

Often when we read the Proverbs there seems to be no connection from one verse to the next. However, when I was reading these 9 verses together, I began to see a thread running through in my mind, a thread relating to dreams, plans and goals. Let’s look at it verse by verse…

1 To humans belong the plans of the heart, but from the Lord comes the proper answer of the tongue.

You have the idea, but God has the last say. There are three lessons here.

First, it is in your capacity to dream. God made you in his image and he expects you to dream and create like he did. It’s part of your territory – you’re allowed to make plans, in fact you are required to have dreams and plans: “To humans belong  the plans of the heart”. God’s job is to guide you, but it’s your job to make plans in your heart.

Second, we are talking here about plans of the heart. You can come up with a lot of plans in your head, especially if you’re naturally an ideas person. But I think here we’re talking about plans that go a bit deeper. The things that just don’t go away. The ideas that keep you awake at night or that you have a real passion for. It’s your job to ignite those plans and not shy away from them.

The third lesson is that once you have made your plans, you might as well run them past God. How? We get a bit of guidance on this further into the text…

2 All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord.

Here we move from plans to ways. This is where motives start to come to the surface. In your dreaming your motives can be buried, but in your doing, they will emerge from the way you deal with opposition and the way you carry yourself. Then the Lord has an action to weigh on his motives scale and point you to the needle.

We’ve already seen that God has the last say, but what he says is based on your motives, many of which even you don’t see. Two people could have the same plan but God only weighs one person as fit to fulfil that plan. They might both even be called to fulfil that plan, but God is weighing their motives. It’s worth asking God to reveal our motives to us because sometimes we don’t see what’s buried under the surface. Sometimes we just don’t want to. Sometimes every fibre of our being resists hearing the truth behind our motives. But the heart of surrender always allows God to speak.

3 Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.

So you have the idea, but God has the last say, which is influenced by your motives. One way to keep your motives in the right place is to commit to the Lord whatever you do. Let’s say you set out to build a church building. First God checks your motives. Then along the way, he wants to know that you are continually committing everything to him. Sometimes there will be a test to see if you are completely reliant on him to see the plan fulfilled. Maybe something will go wrong. It happens! At that point your response will reveal how committed to God your plans really are. If you run off in a blind panic to fix the problem, you are probably hanging on to the project more than God would like. A correct response would be to say, “Well God, I committed this project to you. This is your project now. So this is your problem. I can’t wait to see how you’re going to fix it.”

4 The Lord works out everything to its proper end – even the wicked for a day of disaster.

It’s worth remembering at this point that none of this is about you: God blesses plans that meet his goals. He will work things out to his own ends. Yes God does make all things work together for the good of those who love him, but it’s those who are called according to his purposes, those who are living in line with his dreams. If you want to live the blessed life, ask God what he’s doing and join in!

Even people you think are your enemies may be part of God’s plan. Your dreams should excite you and motivate you and be special to you as an individual. But ultimately for the Christian, the most exciting dreams are the ones that are focused on God and his kingdom. They’re the plans that God will work out.

5 The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: they will not go unpunished.

Did I mention it’s not about you? As Christians we live for something far bigger than ourselves. God will not tolerate self-centred prideful plans. The broken and soft hearted are the ones who will find and enjoy his will. It’s sometimes hard to think of God as punishing. But a good father disciplines those he loves. And our dream-loving purposeful Father God uses consequences to steer us back on track.

Interestingly this particular verse does not say that God does the punishing (although other verses do). God’s plans are good and the happiest place to be is in the centre of his will. Not necessarily the safest place, but the happiest place. You are actually punishing yourself if you do not surrender completely to him. Imagine driving a car without a seatbelt because you are so proud of your driving that you do not need to follow the instructions of the law. Imagine then having an accident where you would have had far fewer injuries if you had simply followed the instructions. You just punished yourself. Pride leads to punishment in and of itself.

In your dreams and in your plans, do not become prideful. The Lord opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

6 Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for; through the fear of the Lord evil is avoided.

There are a lot of people who do not believe that God would ever want them to dream big dreams. If you talk to someone like that long enough you will often find that underneath the surface are feelings of unworthiness. “I don’t deserve it. I don’t deserve to live an abundant life.”

This is a lie. Do not look at your own track record, your weaknesses and failings. These are not a barrier to the Christian. Christ’s love and faithfulness has dealt with any sin that might be blocking the path to your dreams. Just honour God in all you do. Fear the Lord, i.e. trust him more than yourself, and certainly more than you trust other people’s opinions. God’s grace is sufficient for you.

7 When the Lord takes pleasure in anyone’s way, he causes their enemies to make peace with them.

You know God’s pleased when even your enemies are wanting to make peace. There may be enemies to your dreams. They may come from the most unexpected places. Even family members or friends may question you. But if you follow the advices in the above six verses, the Lord will surely take pleasure in you way. Then even your opponents will come on side. There will be people who just don’t believe in you, until you’re successful.

8 Better a little with righteousness than much gain with injustice.

But just a word of caution before you dream that crazy big dream. It’s fine to dream to be rich. We all want more money (Be honest! Or is it just me?!). But what are your motives for wanting that money? Are they God-honouring, kingdom-building motives?

Your dreams must be bigger than the material realm. This verse implies that it is quite possible to gain a lot of things without following the steps we are looking at today. But we’re looking for a higher level of living. We want to please God. And he says it’s better to have less but live in line with the dreams he had in his book from before you were born, than to gain great wealth outside of his plans. Imagine sitting with God at the end of your life and reminiscing about the things you did together. “I love the way we worked together to bring so-and-so into church… Do you remember when I prompted you that time to pray for that person’s healing… God I would never have built my business the way I did without you…” So much less awkward than hearing him say, “Hey you know I love you, but I didn’t really want you to do that thing when… Do you realise that when you refused to listen to my voice that time a whole bunch of people you didn’t even know about missed out? I had plans to connect you to other people through that thing and it would have taken your life and others in a totally different direction…”

9 In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.

This verse ties the whole message together for me. It refers us back to the start of our journey. God wants you to dream. There’s even an element of autonomy here. You do the planning but make sure you let God direct your steps.

God probably has bigger dreams for you than you have for yourself. Stop thinking small is big! He’s an infinitely big God. He’s bound to be able to out-dream you!

Plan your course, but please, for your own sake, let the Lord establish your steps.

Living the Dream

Recently a dentist was found dead in her home. She had committed suicide. A post-mortem examination revealed that Dr Helen Nicoll, 53, died from asphyxiation at her £1.5million Cambridgeshire home. Her husband was also a dentist. This made the national press.

A pastor I know locally used to live in Cambridgeshire and mentioned this to me on Tuesday as this used to be her dentist. She commented that the dentist and her husband had everything: multiple holidays abroad, house, cars, all you could dream of. This couple had dreams. And to the onlooker they were living the dream. But clearly something was missing.

Let’s not get sidelined by dreams that in the light of eternity are meaningless. Let’s start to ask God what kinds of dreams he has for us. He is able to do immeasurably more than we could ask or think. What did he see when he looked at you before you were born? He’s your Father – what does he long to see fulfilled in your life?

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