Friday, January 8, 2016

Dreams + Why I'm Letting Mine Go

I've had this topic on my mind a lot lately, and I've wrestled with how to express it adequately. It's taken three attempts to finally come together, but I think it's been worth it.

What I want to write about and process in this space is the idea of dreams. Not the ones we have while asleep, but the ones we set up for ourselves--our hopes and goals and desires. The type of dreams people are always talking about in quippy quotes and profound statements. The ones that lead to us becoming the successful, respected, recognized person we want to be. The ones many people's worlds revolve around, even fellow Christians.

We've done a fantastic job of convincing ourselves that our dreams mean the world. And while having a dream or a desire isn't inherently bad, it can be  when we let it take the place of our true purpose and calling in life. In those times, dreams can quickly become a distraction and evolve into something worse, an idol. Dreams can lead us to a selfish place where the only thing that matters is me  and what I want.

I've felt convicted about my personal dreams and goals for years, ever since college when I felt an unmistakable call to realign my priorities. I've been feeling that nudge in little and big ways ever since. Sometimes it's a temporary situation--I need to set aside what I want in order to do something more important now. Other times it's bigger--I have to make a change that will affect the rest of my life. Always it's a wrestling, against myself and what I want. I'm good at doing what I want. Doing what I know I should do is harder.

But the truth is, our dreams should never become our ultimate goal in life. As great as we think they are, as good as they sound, as passionate as we are about them, they're not meant to be our ultimate priority. And while I do think we can honor God in our dreams and our hopes, He is the ultimate designer of our true purpose. In order to keep dreams from becoming idols, we have to fix ourselves on the long term goal of pursuing and fulfilling our ultimate purpose. Everything else will, in the end, be simply a temporary and empty pursuit.

It's hard to surrender the things we so desperately want to accomplish. It's hard to let go of a dream. But I think teaching ourselves to listen to the truth will help. This world we live in is constantly trying to tell us how to define our value and worth. But it's always about something that won't last: money or success or beauty or possessions, a dream. It's always something we have to fight for, even at the expense of relationships, community, and time. I think that this type of thinking is so ingrained in us, we can't see anything else.

I believe that if we got a one-second glimpse of what waits for us after this world, we'd never think about our dreams again. We wouldn't even care about the things we had built our lives around. Money would mean nothing, fame would seem ridiculous, success would be laughable. The temporary would dissolve into what we were truly made for, the purpose God has called us to on earth and what awaits us when this world is gone.

The awesome thing is, we do get a glimpse of what's to come in the book of Revelation. It's full of prophecy and imagery and honestly some really confusing parts. But it also gives us a picture of what it will be like when everything is made new. When we finally get to where we're headed on this journey, Revelation 21 tells us a piece of what awaits followers of Jesus: paradise with God, a place where we will worship Him and revel in His glory forever.

Glory. That word appears at least 16 times in Revelation, depending on your exact translation. The majority of these references are describing or ascribing to God. Verses like Revelation 4:9-11 which says,
Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor, and thanks to the One seated on the throne, the One who lives forever and ever, the 24 elders fall down before the One seated on the throne, worship the One who lives forever and ever, cast their crowns before the throne, and say: "Our Lord and God, You are worthy to receive glory and honor and power, because You have created all things, and because of Your will they exist and were created."
And Revelation 5:13-14,
I heard every creature in heaven, on earth, under the earth, on the sea, and everything in them say: "Blessing and honor and glory and dominion to the One seated on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!" The four living creatures said, "Amen," and the elders fell down and worshiped.
I think if we look at heaven as described in Revelation, we can get a good idea of our ultimate purpose, what is waiting for us in eternity, and what we need to be doing before we get there. Also, there are other passages in Scripture that outline a clear and definitive purpose for us while we are on earth. Some of those include,

  • Matthew 5:13-16: To be salt and light to the world around you so that people will give glory to God.
  • Matthew 22:37-40: To love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and to love others.
  • Matthew 28:19-20: To make disciples, baptize them, and teach them everything commanded by Jesus.
  • Romans 12:1-2: To worship God by presenting yourself to Him as a living sacrifice. And to be transformed, able to discern the will of God.
  • 2 Corinthians 3:18: To reflect the glory of God and be transformed into the image of Christ.
  • Ephesians 2:10: To carry out the good works that God has prepared for you.
  • 2 Timothy 3:16-17: To become complete and equipped for good work, which will bring God glory.
  • Hebrews 10:24-25: To encourage other Christians and spur them on to love and good deeds.
  • 2 Peter 2:12: To conduct yourself in a way that will cause others to glorify God.

These are the things we should be striving after, that consume our efforts, that motivate our lives. This is where real, lasting worth lies. Not in our ideas of greatness, but in God's commands. This is the gold that will withstand the fire. This is the eternal that will not fade. This is our purpose.

The point of this post isn't to discourage you from having a dream and working toward it. The point is to remind those of us who follow Jesus that our dreams should align with our God-given purpose. In all that we do, we should be continually aligning ourselves with His will and plan for our lives. It will ultimately bring the most joy, the most purpose, the most good for us and for our world.

So I want to challenge myself and all of you: in 2016, set a dream for yourself that will bring God glory and usher you toward your true purpose.

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