Are You Pursuing Your Dreams Or God’s Dreams?
Talking with my oldest two daughters recently after they invested ten minutes reading through a devotion book for pre-teens–a Bible verse/passage with some brief thoughts to pray about, reflect on, and act on.
We talked about dreams/goals–our dreams for our lives and God’s dreams for our lives. IN America, from a VERY young age we are taught to dream big and then to pursue those dreams with every ounce of strength and dedication that we have. There is almost a religious aspect to this idea–it is a sort of “holy grail” or “sacred cow” that is foundational to what it means to be an American–we are taught that if we aren’t pursuing our own dreams, then we are pursuing someone else’s dreams and that is simply not acceptable.
-“March To The Beat of Your Own Drum”
-“Blaze Your Own Trails”
-“The Pursuit of [Personal] Happiness” (in our CONSTITUTION!)
-“Reach For The Stars”
-“What Do YOU Want To Be When You Grow Up?”
-“Find Out What You Love and Do It!”
Now, there are some positives to this: many medical breakthroughs that have saved millions of lives over the last 100+ years wouldn’t have happened without some people dreaming big and dedicating themselves to achieving those dreams.
This American idea of “pursue your dreams” is not Biblical.
Jesus doesn’t say “Follow your dreams”; He says, “Follow ME!”
Jesus doesn’t say, “Follow your own path”; He says, “I am the way–follow MY path.”
And so in the Bible, we have God inviting people to pursue HIS dreams for our lives; in our world, though, (and really inside each of us) we have other voices tempting us to pursue OUR dreams for our lives. The issue, then, is that with only 168 hours in each week for everyone, we simply do not have time to dedicate ourselves to pursuing both our dreams and God’s dreams–HIS dreams for us are too big (they can’t be accomplished if they are just a hobby of ours), OUR dreams for us are often too big, and our time is simply too short, for us to pursue both.
For example, let’s say one of my dreams for my life is to be in the Guinness Book of World Records, and let’s say I want to challenge the record for longest time jumping rope without taking a break (it’s 33 hours, 20 minutes, by the way!). I would have to train ALOT to try and break that record. Seriously pursuing that dream would eat up quite a bit of the limited time that I have each week. Seriously trying to fulfill that dream would take HOURS and HOURS of training each week for many months and months–it might even take years, building up endurance, learning good technique, learning how to hold your bladder that long, etc. But since I only have 168 hours each week, after taking time each week to work to pay the bills and to sleep, seriously pursuing the jump rope dream would make it difficult for me to pursue other dreams that God has for me:
–I wouldn’t be able to invest much time truly raising my five children
-I wouldn’t be able to invest much time strengthening my marriage
-I wouldn’t be able to invest much time serving God and others
-I wouldn’t be able to invest much time in reading the Bible/growing closer to God
I would be SO BUSY with pursuing my own dream that it would prevent me from pursuing God’s dreams.
And here is where subtlety plays a huge role: by itself, there is nothing inherently wrong/sinful about pursuing the dream of breaking the jump rope record! It’s a great physical workout, it doesn’t directly hurt anyone, and it would be a pretty cool accomplishment to be in the Guinness Book of World Records! It would be celebrated by many people!
Luke 16:15: “What is highly valued among humans is detestable in God’s sight.”
If pursuing my dream indirectly causes me to not have time/energy to pursue God’s dreams for me,
then maybe it is wrong…
maybe it is detestable to God!
As a friend of mine said recently (Pastor Dave Jacobs),
“You can be drowning but think you are swimming.”
And sometimes pursuing our own dreams—seeking fulfillment/happiness in what WE desire—tricks us into thinking we are swimming as a Christian when we are really drowning as a Christian (though our arms and legs are moving in vaguely similar ways).
For example, let’s say you get a huge bonus and decide to splurge and invest $2,500 in a new laptop computer. A computer that expensive has specific reasons for being built–it has some very specific things it was created to do. How ridiculous would it be, then, to buy such a computer, bring it home, and then use it everyday as a tray to carry around your food/snacks from one room to another. With the lid closed, it can certainly FUNCTION as a tray (large/flat surface), and it certainly isn’t inherently ILLEGAL to use the computer in that way. But NONE of us would use a top of the line laptop for that purpose. Why?
-Because with the lid constantly closed to constantly carry/hold our snacks, we would not be able to open it to use the computer in other more important ways;
-Because that’s NOT what the computer was created for!!! While it is ABLE to carry around snacks, we wouldn’t use it for that because that is NOT the computer’s purpose. Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should! It is WAY too expensive to be used in such a cheap way.
As ridiculous as that example is, how much more ridiculous is it for Christians, for those of us who have said YES to Jesus by faith, who have been adopted into God’s family and forgiven of ALL our sins by receiving Jesus’ unearnable grace/love, we who were bought back by God from death at the MOST expensive price ever (the death of God’s Son!), how much more ridiculous is it when we spend all or a majority of our lives on pursuing our own dreams, on doing things that God did not create us to do?
-But will God still love us if we waste our lives pursuing our own dreams? YES!
-But does it still break God’s heart if we waste our lives pursuing our own dreams? YES AGAIN!
-But do we miss out on the full life that Jesus wants us to have (John 10:10) when we pursue our own dreams? YES AGAIN!
When I read through the Bible I see three main reasons that God created humans,
three main purposes for our existence:
- To KNOW Him Personally/Deeply (to be able to explain to others what it is like to be with God, to learn from God, to be comforted by God, to be taught by God, to be disciplined by God, etc.)
- To BE LIKE Him In Our Character (to reflect Him clearly, over time to have other people SEE HIM more and more when they look at us, to follow Jesus into situations where it is difficult to be patient instead of just staying in situations where it is easy to be patient)
- To REPRESENT Him (to pass out His invitations of love, grace, forgiveness, and truth to EVERYONE EVERYDAY)
Those are God’s main dreams for each of us as individuals and all of us as a church family.
Can any of us honestly say that we have been dedicated to pursuing those dreams over the past month, year, decade?
What if we realized and believed that NOTHING ELSE will actually truly make us happy, fulfill us, complete us, etc., that pursuing ANYTHING ELSE will only, in the long run, leave us feeling exhausted and empty?
What’s so interesting, and one of the reasons why I believe God wanted me to speak on this specific topic this week, is that God’s three main BIBLICAL reasons for creating us line up with the mission & vision of this local church!
- Elevating God = KNOWING GOD PERSONALLY! As we grow closer to God personally, we will then begin to worship Him authentically, not just singing songs and focusing on whether we LIKE the songs or not but getting swept up in praising God thru music! As we grow closer to God Personally, we will be able to endure the trials we face because God the PERSON is with us, not because God the idea is sitting on the shelf of our minds. As we grow closer to God Personally—as we taste and see that He is good!–we will learn that HE is truly everything we need!
- Elevating Community = BECOMING MORE LIKE JESUS! As our character becomes more like Jesus, we are going to grow closer to each other as friends and brothers & sisters in Christ! As we learn to be more patient with each other, humble with each other, generous with each other, compassionate toward each other, forgiving of each other, etc., we will move from simply co-existing in cliques to becoming the tight-knit family that God desires us to be!!! If you meet someone who is clearly displaying more and more the qualities of Jesus, if you meet someone in whom you actually see JESUS more clearly, aren’t you going to naturally gravitate toward that person, aren’t you going to naturally, without much effort, want to be with that person? YES! Community!
- Elevating Others = REPRESENTING JESUS! As we learn to pass out Jesus’ invitations of Free grace, love, forgiveness and truth to ALL others on a daily basis, as we learn to sacrificially meet the earthly AND eternal needs of non-Christians, we will BE elevating others!!!
But pursuing God’s dreams for us, fulfilling His mission & vision for this local church, is not primarily going to happen thru more external busyness/activities in general, but specifically focusing on doing those simple things that the early Christian church did in the book of Acts to focus on their internal growth not their external productivity.
The early church
-didn’t have anything to make church “entertaining,”
-didn’t have the latest trends and methods of what “successful” churches do,
-didn’t have money,
-didn’t even have qualified leaders among them—their leaders were unschooled and ordinary, they didn’t have eloquence or charisma, they were fearful and weak and unqualified, but they had the Holy Spirit, the Bible, prayer, and each other.
They had the same things we have, but they focused on them in ways that we don’t, and God did POWERFUL things through them. They weren’t successful because of their external activity but because of their internal character. They allowed God to transform them on the inside (knowing Him Personally, learning to truly love each other not just co-exist with each other) which eventually led to wonderful actions on the outside.
- Constantly praying with other Christians (Acts 1:14 and 2:42);
- Devoting ourselves to understanding and living out the words of the Bible (Acts 2:42)
- Examining the Bible together EVERY DAY to see if what they were learning about Jesus was true (Acts 17:11);
- Devoting ourselves to truly being together with other Christians often (e.g. eating meals together regularly; true fellowship/community for more than 60 minutes per week)(Acts 2:42 and 46);
- Praising God together with other Christians at church AND at home (not just hanging out to talk about sports but meeting together to praise God)(Acts 2:46-47);
- Sharing with other Christians the details of our lives, our victories and our trials, and praying about them together (Acts 4:23-24a);
- Confessing, repenting, and crying out to God to enable us to be truly and wholly unified with other Christians (no bitterness/animosity/unforgiveness)(Acts 4:32a);
- Consistently meeting with other Christians as one large group (not only as individual local churches)(Acts 5:12a);
They did those things—basically, they met together in small groups to pray, read & discuss the Bible, praise God and encourage each other…and God caused Acts 6:7 to happen:
7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly.
We can smile & nod at each other on Sunday morning but hate each other in our hearts, or if we don’t have hate in our hearts toward each other, even not having/not practicing compassionate & sacrificial love towards each other is harmful enough, and if we don’t work on that we will never be able to Elevate God, Community, & Others.
Christianity is not what we do for God, it’s what God has done for us on the Cross.
Christianity is not what we give to God, it’s what God has given to us—a Personal relationship with Himself!
As we slow down and focus on that—by ourselves AND together—if we quiet down and let God fill us up with that Truth, over time the external acts of true love for God & others will flow.
But most of us don’t have time to add those activities to everything we are already doing. Something has to give. What I am NOT going to do is stand up here and tell you all the activities that I think ARE a waste of time. I am NOT going to give you my own laundry list of activities that I believe keep us from pursuing God’s dreams for our lives.
- Because many of our own dreams, like the jumping rope record, aren’t inherently/clearly sinful, and if I tell you that such an activity is wrong, it will be very easy to simply disregard it as legalism.
- Because there are few things we guard more fiercely than our own dreams, and I simply am not strong enough to try and take those away from you!
- Because this is an ongoing conversation between you and God directly. You will receive the difficult news of giving up some/all of your own dreams better if it comes directly from God’s wise/loving heart rather than from my wagging finger.
But the question is, will we do it?
Will we bring this up to God on a regular basis?
Will we be willing to put even our most cherished dreams on the altar of sacrifice to God, giving Him permission and authority to sweep away those dreams if He decides to?
Will we be willing to submit to God in this way, in the focus/goal/purpose of our life? (this is WAY scarier than just coming to church for an hour per week; God’s dreams for us cannot be achieved as a hobby or part time!)
This is where the rubber meets the road for us Christians—are we willing to go deep with God, out of the boat and walking on the roaring waves, or we will play it safe by merely splashing around in the shallow end of the pool?
Will we be willing to let God decide what will make us the most happy, what will be best for us, what will truly satisfy us?
Will we let God be in charge of our life and what will be the best ways to use that life?
Will we be willing to allow God to lead us through suffering and trials in our short time on earth if it will help us more fully experience the joy of heaven forever? (not that the suffering/trials on earth GET us to heaven, but that they might help us to better appreciate the JOY of heaven once we get there)
Jeremiah 29:11-13: “I [God] know the plans I have for you..if you seek ME with all your heart, you WILL FIND ME.”
God has plans for you!!!
They are GREAT plans!!!
But they are HIS plans…
…and His plans are built upon seeking, finding, and knowing HIM!!!
Will you accept His invitation to pursue HIS dreams for you?
Please click HERE for a video of the song “Don’t Waste Your Life” by Lecrae.
Please listen to it prayerfully for what God might be saying to YOU through it…
My friends, there are MANY American Christians who are going to heaven who, when we get there, will enthusiastically say to Jesus, “Hello Savior! I’m SO THANKFUL to be here! Check it out–it was difficult, but I did it! I spent a HUGE chunk of my life–money/time/energy/focus to break the world jump rope record–AND I DID IT! Isn’t that awesome!!!!???”
Such Christians still get to go to heaven, are still loved by Jesus, but they will also face the realization that they wasted much of their earthly lives on their own dreams, that they didn’t become who Jesus died for them to be, that they didn’t do what Jesus died for them to do, that they used their expensive life in random/cheap ways, like using a $2k laptop to carry snacks around the house. Maybe those are the tears that Jesus promises to wipe away forever…
I don’t want to waste my life—and I don’t you think you do either!!!—but not because it’s MY life. It’s because it’s HIS life. Jesus DIED so that we could truly LIVE. The best way to thank Jesus for His priceless gift is to give our lives back to Him to use according to HIS dreams, not ours…
My friends, the only way this local church will be able to truly Elevate God, Elevate Community, and Elevate Others is if more and more of us start pursuing God’s dreams for us and stop pursuing our own, if we start acting more like the Biblical 1st century Church and less like the 21st century American Church.
No matter how great a pastor I become, if we all don’t become who God made us to be, this local ship won’t sail anywhere.
No matter how terrible a pastor I am, if we all become who God made us to be, this local ship will sail beautifully for God!
In those three legged races at summer picnics, both people are literally attached to each others and thus BOTH need to play their roles! If Usain Bolt were partnered up with someone who didn’t move or who ran in the opposite/different direction, he would finish in last place even though he is the fastest sprinter in the history of the world! At Elevate we are in a 300 legged race, we are attached to each other spiritually as brothers & sisters in Christ whether we like it or not, and we especially all need each other. May God help us, starting/continuing today, as individuals and as a family, to pursue HIS dreams for our lives, both inside AND outside of this building…