The Dream Giver
by Paul Anderson
God loves to give us dreams, and I don’t mean the kind we get when sleeping. They are like prophetic words tucked away in our souls, clues about our destiny, hints about where God plans to take us. Sometimes they are so quiet that we couldn’t imagine they are from God. Here are some…
Wrong ideas about dreams:
- Most dreams don’t come true. They arise from within us like a wish list. Their fulfillment depends upon our ability to pull them off, and maybe we can-maybe we can’t.
- Dreams are only given to special people. Joseph was a special son; that’s why he had a dream. God gave Abraham a dream because he was an important man of influence.
- If you have a dream, it’s probably your own thoughts and not God’s.
- You shouldn’t believe in your dreams. It is not the real world.
Truths about dreams
You can have a dream. If you don’t have one, ask God for one. I’m not talking about a dream while sleeping. I’m talking about a vision of your future. David was a young shepherd before he was a king, and he was the youngest and least important in his family. Dreams come to common ordinary people. It is often the fulfillment of the dream that makes them great, as in the case of Joseph and David.
If God gives you a dream, expect it to come true. Why does God give dreams? To implant in us a sense of tomorrow and to give us hope in the midst of suffering. We need to keep on keeping on. Think of David running from Saul. He knew that one day things would be different. We’re not told if Joseph thought of his dream while sitting in the dungeon when it looked like he’d be anything but a ruler. He was being ruled, and injustice was a part of his life. What gave him the confidence to keep a good attitude? Did God remind him of his dream?
It could be easy to miss a God-given dream. It seems to come in such a pedestrian manner, not in a spectacular one, like oil being poured on you. God simply spoke to Abraham. A nudge from the Spirit, or a word from a friend, or an inspiring message, or an inner conviction. God seems to speak in such down-to-earth ways. We might expect the lofty, but we get the lowly. But that is just the way God likes to come to us.
Dreams usually go through a death before they come true. Sometimes our dreams become nightmares. Suffering doesn’t eliminate a dream, but cynicism can. Suffering purifies a dream; it extracts the ego. We must continue to believe in the fulfillment of dreams through the fire. What are we to do in the meantime? Be faithful in little things. God is testing and refining us. He wants to give us His character so that we can shoulder the impact of a fulfilled dream. The psalmist, speaking of Joseph, writes: “Until what he foretold came to pass, the word of the Lord tested him” (Psalm 105:19). God’s promise to Abraham was hard to live with when he looked at his over-the-hill wife. And I wonder if Matthew the tax collector had a dream of writing when he was young. If so, it got sidetracked while he pursued the tax- collecting profession. Then Jesus called him back to his purpose in God, and he fulfilled his destiny by writing one of the most beautiful stories ever written, the Gospel according to Matthew. Time does not destroy a true dream. If God is in it, He can bring a dream to fulfillment regardless of the time issue. David and Joseph waited for thirteen years; Abraham waited for twenty-five years. A dream is a promise, not a possibility. Time might make it an impossibility, but God majors in impossibilities. In fact, the more difficult it is, the more glory He receives in the fulfillment. Many older people are carrying dreams they were given years ago, and they need encouragement to lay hold of their dream.
Dreams are usually beyond our ability to fulfill. Abraham’s name, “exalted father,” suggested his destiny. He was sure that God had spoken to him, but he and his wife were beyond childbearing age. And Joseph certainly didn’t have the ability to become a ruler in Egypt. How could he rise to power from a prison? And David wasn’t about to attempt a coup on King Saul. God would have to overthrow Saul-and He did. God gave David the experience with Samuel to give him hope in the midst of his traumatic fugitive years. During this time, he learned to depend upon God. He was refined by fire, and it made him a more understanding leader. Israel didn’t have many of that kind of ruler.
God is the fulfiller of dreams. Don’t try to fulfill your own dream or even to understand it. Let the God who gives it fulfill it. You can mess it up if you try. Ask Abraham who decided that God needed help.
Some folks are dream-busters. People often laugh at the dreams of others. You can understand; some are ridiculous, like an old man having a big family or a young boy becoming a king. The Pharisees were the dream-busters of their day. They didn’t believe that the average person could or should have a dream. They controlled the leadership. They had the authority, and they didn’t plan to share it. Satan hates dreams because they give people hope. He likes to control people with discouragement and despair, and control serves his sinister purpose.
Dreams are often related to gifting and desire. Joseph had an administrative gift, and he became an administrator-over all of Egypt. David was a brave fighter, even as a youth, killing a lion and a bear. Not bad for a teenager. And God made him a warrior king.
Dreams come because God loves us and has an exciting future planned for us. He is like a Father who wants his children to have the most fulfilling and happy future possible. And that is why He makes plans for us, then puts the dream in our hearts.
Some questions about dreams
- How do you know for sure that a dream comes from God and is not just wishful thinking? Joseph had his dream two times. Abraham heard God speak to him many times about his future. And David heard his dream from the most respected man in Israel. If you are not sure, ask yourself these questions: Has God confirmed this dream by repeating it? Has it been confirmed by mature counselors, by people who know me well? Some dreams do come from our thoughts rather than from God’s. Many boys and girls dream of being a star athletes, but life doesn’t usually work out that way. People who know us well can help us sort out our dreams and discern the presence of God.
Has it remained in my heart despite situations to the contrary? Has time not removed its reality? My son Andrew wanted to be a pilot from early childhood-and the dream never left him. Now he teaches others how to fly. Am I convinced in my spirit, and not just in my flesh, that my dream is from God?
- Do my mistakes cancel out the dream? It didn’t for Abraham. I suppose it could theoretically, but dreams are not delicate like we might think. They are as strong as the Word of God. God doesn’t expect infallibility, but He calls us to integrity. Our failures are often back doors to success. They can be the stuff God uses to humble us before He fulfills the dream.
- What about children in war-torn countries? This does not seem to be a universally applicable truth. Can they have dreams? This is a tough question. It appears that they cannot. But I wonder, even in their case, if they were bold enough to let God give them dreams, God would make a way to bring them to fulfillment. The harsh realities of life do not dim the eternal goodness of God.
- What if I dream for a lifetime and my dream never comes true, like a dream of being healed or being married or having children or living in peace? The ultimate dream fulfillment is heaven, and this cannot be exaggerated. It will be far beyond our wildest dreams. It is true that some dreams are not fulfilled on this side of heaven. And that may be one reason why God gives us the supreme hope-a pain-free eternity of bliss. And by contrast, hell is the ultimate nightmare and as true as heaven. So we want to make sure that instead of hitching our wagon to the stars, we have grounded our hope in the unchanging message of the cross of Christ.
- Can the decision of others keep us from the fulfillment of a dream? Saul tried to keep David from the throne, and it appeared as if Joseph’s dream would not come true. The sovereignty of God is our best advocate.
Application for Dreams
Parents should help their children with their dreams. If your child dreams of being a great singer, and that dream doesn’t go away, pay for voice lessons. Many dreams are a simple part of childhood, like being an NFL football player or an astronaut. But God also plants outrageous dreams, and they are meant to give us hope and direction. Joseph had a dream at the age of seventeen. The chances of the dream being fulfilled were miniscule, and the longer he waited, the more remote the possibility grew. Parents should help their children step into their destiny. The sad reality is that most people never fulfill their destinies. We need to learn how to cooperate with God to fulfill His plan for us. God’s plans are always good, and He writes His plans on our hearts, but we can’t always read the message. Or we might read it accurately but not believe that it could be for us or that it could be fulfilled. God, in fact, is much better than we ever thought He was.
Pastors should help their people with their dreams. Visions don’t come just to leaders like a Moses on the mountain. Dreams are for the people of God. Pastors who are too insecure to let people have dreams are not worthy of leadership. The presence of the Holy Spirit means that “young men will see visions and old men will dream dreams.” Pastors should also be ready to say “yes” to the dreams of people. They must believe in them, not just expect the people to believe in their leaders.
It is often in relationship that dreams are retrieved. It often takes other people to see into our future, as Jesus did with Matthew and the woman of Samaria, as a caring friend or alert pastor can do. One of the main jobs of leaders is to call forth the dream and to facilitate its fulfillment. We are not created simply to support the dreams of someone else. Each child of God is unique and has a handcrafted destiny.
Strength for Tough Times
by Kevin McClure
God’s words to Joshua have been echoing in my ears: “Be strong and courageous…” (Joshua 1:9). I always thought being strong meant to hold yourself together when you really feel like falling apart.
Those words from the first chapter of Joshua are often in my thoughts-because it seems I need strength so often. Only recently have I gained a new understanding of what it means to be truly strong.
Now when I read, “Be strong,” I see that I need to avail myself of the Lord’s strength, as in, “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might” (Ephesians 6: 10). Experiencing the strength of His might, I’ve come to realize, is more likely if I’m not trying so hard to keep from falling apart.
Chances are, if I come to God in my weakness, admitting to my fear and whatever else burdens me, I will avail myself of His strength. It means exposing my weakness to other Christians so they will help me to cast my care upon the Lord who cares for me.
Life is tough, isn’t it? There are lots of pressures and lots of challenges. Does it seem that you are one of the only ones who finds life difficult? I think most people, who have a reasonable amount of self-awareness, will admit that life is tougher than they thought it would be when they were younger.
Many people intoxicate themselves with busyness as a way of avoiding the gnawing awareness that, in spite of how “under control” their life looks, they know deep down they are like the circus performer frantically trying to keep all of the plates spinning. Do you feel your life is like that, things spinning out of control? Do you wonder if it will ever change-if only you had the strength? Real peace and real strength come when you begin to realize that some of life’s plates need to fall and break.
When you finally realize you want the strength that God promises, that the way you’re going to get it is by getting off of the merry-go-round and crying out to your fellow believers for help, then link up with them and appropriate the blessing of His strength. Need strength? Then admit that you are weak.
Yes, of course, tell the Father, but be sure to tell a few of His kids-your brothers and sisters in Christ. Fess up! Say what’s bothering you. Link together with someone who cares and pour out your heart to the Lord. Go ahead and fall apart…in the arms of Jesus… and with your family in Christ. That’s your part. Do that and watch God do His.
Kevin McClure is senior pastor of New Beginnings Church in Eagan, MN.