Human aspiration to greatness and glory is one evidence of the image of God imprinted on our hearts. History tells the story of this universal pursuit of glory. When the gospel informs and directs this pursuit, it generally results in human flourishing. However, a secular, self-absorbed society can seduce us with its own kind of great commission: “Follow your dreams.” The problem with dreams is they can loosen our grip on kingdom reality.
Over the Rainbow
The entertainment industry bombards kids with the message that they must follow their dreams in order to be happy. They hear, “Don’t let anything stand in your way of achieving your dreams.” Sometimes their dreams match up with their God-given abilities and strengths, but often they do not. How many kids dream of becoming a professional athlete only to discover on the other side of puberty they were not built for their dreams? You will not be a great quarterback, no matter how much your heart is in it, if you have the body of a jockey.
John Calvin on the Christian Life
I highly recommend the book by John Calvin, A Little Book on the Christian Life. I make it a point to read this book every year. This translation is fairly recent and is very readable. However, I would recommend skipping the Preface and starting with chapter one, unless you are interested in the history of the translation.
How many times do we hear, “You can do anything you set your mind to?” After sixty-five years, I have a pretty good idea of the limitations of my mind and body. I face problems that can only be solved if someone else sets their mind to it.
One inherent problem with dreams is the source. Even the best dreams originate in the mind of a broken, sinful, and fallible human being. Our lusts will tempt us, like Esau, to sell our birthright for a bowl of stew (Gen. 25:30-33; Heb. 12:16). People use dreams to justify divorce, abortion, spousal and parental neglect, fraud, gambling, and host of other evils. Inevitably, dreams face obstacles. Often those obstacles are people with their own dreams. When dreams are supreme, relational casualties are the unavoidable collateral damage.
A dream, even for believers, can become an obsession – an idol. Often we are least aware of this when it has happened to us. We must examine our hearts. The heart follows its treasure (Matt. 6:21). Where do our thoughts and our speech go? What excites us? What are we clinging to now? Is it still that priceless Pearl we gladly sold everything we had to buy (Matt. 13:45-46), or is it a handful of magic beans?
Even the most sanctified and selfless dreams must bow to the wise and good providence of our heavenly Father. We have no higher ambition than to see his kingdom come and his will be done (Matt 6:10). As we serve the interests of Christ, we should frequently pray John the Baptist’s words, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
Living the Dream
Although we diminish the predominance of our dreams, the Christian is still motivated by dreams; however, they are someone else’s dreams. Our heavenly Father has aspirations to bring us to greatness and glory (Eph. 1:3-10). No one can ‘outdream’ our God. “But, as it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him’ – these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit.” (1 Cor. 2:9-10).
The great difference between God’s dreams and our dreams is in the certainty of fulfillment. God’s purposes will never fail (Isa. 46:8-11). God reveals his plans for us in his promises. It is the certainty of God’s promises that give us a sure hope (Col. 1:27; 1 Pet. 1:3-5). The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the first fruits of the glory that awaits us (1 Cor. 15:20-23). God has given us his Spirit as a personal guarantee (Rom. 8:11; Eph. 1:14). We have every reason to expect God to work only for our good. “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32). Christ’s second coming is as certain as his first and so is our future glory (1 Jn. 3:2). That hope is like the brilliance of the sun dispelling the mist of our lesser ambitions.
These are the truths that transform the disappointments of life into forces that galvanize our faith. Only faith in the gospel of sure and complete redemption can convert the trials and hardships of life into reasons to rejoice (2 Cor. 4:16-18; Jas. 1:2-4; 1 Pet. 4:13-14). When a wave of God’s providence washes away our sand castles, we fix our focus on the unmovable rock of God’s purpose for us in Christ. We are living the dream. It is God’s dream to conform us to the image of his Son (Rom. 8:28- 29). As the world pursues inferior goals with no assurance of success, we rely confidently on our heavenly Father to fulfill his unimaginably good and gracious promises.
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