“I have a dream!” Who made that speech? Martin Luther King, Jr. One of the greatest speeches in American history! King had a dream for our nation, a dream of freedom and equality for every American, regardless of race.
God has a dream too. “I have a dream,” God says. God’s dream is for you. He made you for a purpose. He has a plan for you, a dream for you. And when you discover the dream that God has wired into the way He made you, and then begin to live God’s dream for you—look out! You will be what you were made to be. You will do what you were made to do. You will be happier than you’ve ever been. And you will change the world.
Today, I want to talk about God’s dream for you. I want to fire you up with confidence that God has a plan and a purpose…a dream for you. And then we’re going to take the next four weekends to talk about how to identify and live God’s dream for you.
Every person is a dream of God. He created you for a purpose.
That sketch is a light-hearted look at a very real dilemma: there is a volunteer shortage! Most volunteer-driven organizations, including churches, are desperate for more volunteers. There’s more work than there are workers.
ILL: Someone said that a football game consists of 22 athletes on the field in need of rest being watched by 50,000 fans in the stands in need of exercise! What’s wrong with this picture?
Churches are often like football games. There’s a team on the field in need of rest, and lots of fans in the stands badly in need of exercise. Churches need more volunteers.
But when we approach the problem from that angle, this is what you end up with—churches who use people to get jobs done, when we ought to be using jobs to get people done. In God’s work, getting tasks done is not the ultimate goal. Instead, God’s work is about getting people done, helping people grow and become all God wants them to be. Our goal isn’t to use people to get ministry done, but to use ministry to get people done! God is in the people-building business!
ILL: A number of years ago, the Lord confronted me about this as I prayed. I had just read the story in Luke 14 of Jesus healing a man on the Sabbath, and the religious leaders were so angry that they began to plot his death. In my journal I wrote, “The difference between Jesus and the Pharisees is that Jesus really cared about this man, but the Pharisees only cared about their institutions: the Law, the Sabbath, the synagogue. Jesus had a personal agenda; the Pharisees had an institutional agenda.” I put my pen down and the Lord said to me, “You’re more like the Pharisees than Jesus.” That got my attention. I spent the next two hours praying and repenting as God showed me how I had become a Pharisee that was more interested in building the church than building people.
The Lord told me, “I don’t have a vision for your church, but I do have one for every person who goes there, and for every person who doesn’t.” God has a vision for you…a dream for you…each one of you. My job is to help you find it and live.
The Lord told me, “There won’t be a Life Center in heaven; but lots of people who come to Life Center will be there.” Our church isn’t eternal—churches come and go, but people last forever.
The Lord told me, “I’m not asking you to build a big church, but to build big people!”
God is in the people-building business, and He uses ministry to do it. That’s why I’m not ashamed to ask you to help out with kids, or anything else. If I’m just asking you to help me out, then I’d be apologetic. But I’m asking you to help to help you! When you help out, you will discover and live God’s dream for you—in two ways.
First, when you help out, you may discover God’s unique dream for you. You may discover that you really love what you’re doing, that you’re good at it, gifted…that God has wired you for this particular thing. That’s how lots of us have discovered God’s dream for us—by trying something. Give it a try! You may discover the unique dream that God has for you. Or you may really dislike what you’re doing or be really bad at it—but that’s not a failure! You’ve just eliminated one option and gotten a little closer to discovering what God’s dream is!
Second, when you help out, you are already living one part of God’s dream for all of us: God dreams that we’ll be servants. There are jobs that have to be done but may not be your dream. In our sketch, Joe the janitor pointed out that no one enjoys cleaning toilets, but they still have to be cleaned. I’ll bet at your house there are some jobs that no one dreams of doing.
Who has a gift for doing dishes?
Who feels called to vacuum?
Who has a passion for mowing the lawn? Or cleaning the toilet?
But those things have to be done, and in doing them, we do begin to live one of God’s dreams for us: that we become servants.
For the next few weeks, I want to help you think about God’s dream for you. What did He make you to be and do? What is His purpose and plan for you? I want to help you identify how God wired you: what spiritual gifts, natural abilities and talents He’s given you, what experience has shaped you, what passions make your heart beat faster, and what personality traits make you who you are.
My prayer is that each of you will discover God’s dream for you, and that we could help you start living the dream!
1. God has a dream for you.
Does God really have a dream for you? Could He have plans and purposes for you that match exactly how He made you?
Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
God told Jeremiah that He knew him before Jeremiah was even conceived, and that before Jeremiah was born, God had already set him apart for a special purpose or assignment: he was to be a prophet to the nations. Is it possible that God knew you before you were conceived? That God had an assignment planned for you even before you were born?
ILL: When I was six years old, I sat on my Grandmother’s lap and she told me that I was her favorite grandson. I reminded her that I was her only grandson! And then she told me that God had a plan for my life, and that one day I would be a pastor. I was six. I wasn’t even a Christian yet, and wouldn’t become one for another 7 years. But when I did, on the night that I said yes to God, I knew that I would be a pastor. I can’t tell you how, but I just knew in my knower.
You might be thinking, “Ah, the power of suggestion.” Maybe. Or maybe the power of God, who made me for this and directed my steps through my grandma.
Maybe God knew before I was born what I was made to do…and used my grandma to plant the seed when I was six. Could God do that? Of course…if He has a dream for you.
I believe that every person is a dream of God. God dreamed you up…for a reason. God has a plan and purpose for you, and you will be the happiest and most effective when you are living God’s dream for you. Let’s look at just a few verses from the Bible.
Psalm 139:13-18 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15My 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, 16your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. 17How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! 18Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you.
I call Psalm 139 the “search me psalm” because it begins “Oh Lord you have searched me and you know me.” And it ends, “Search me, O God, and know my heart.” In between, the psalmist writes of God’s intimate knowledge of him going clear back to creation. God designed and created you. Before you existed in the womb of your mother, you existed in the mind of God.
ILL: Walt Disney died before Disney World in Florida was completed. At the dedication, someone commented to a Disney executive, “It’s too bad that Walt Disney didn’t live to see this.” And the executive said, “Oh he did see it, and that’s why it’s here!”
He saw it in his mind, in his imagination. Walt Disney dreamed Disneyland long before it came to be. And God saw you in His mind; He dreamed you long before you were born. And Disney’s dream had a purpose: his purpose was to create a place where people could have a wonderful time together—the happiest place on earth. And God, who dreamed you up, has a purpose for you.
Notice too that God ordained your days, and thinks vast thoughts about you. God has plans for you!e
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
God has plans for you, and they are good plans! God said this to the Israelites who were in captivity in Babylon. Imagine being invaded by a foreign army, taken prisoner and hauled off to live in your captor’s country—strange language, strange customs—being forced to start over in a new place. The future would look pretty bleak. But God says, “I have plans for you—good plans.”
If God had plans for these Jewish exiles in Babylon, could He have plans for you? Yes!
Acts 13:36 “For when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers and his body decayed.
David served God’s purpose in his own generation. God had a purpose for David and His timing was perfect. God had David right where He wanted him—in that generation, at that time in history. If God created David for His purposes in that generation, do you think He might have created you for this time and place? Maybe God has you right where He wants you! Or maybe you’ve run from God and you need to get where God wants you. Let me show you what I mean.
Luke 7:30 But the Pharisees and experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.
The Pharisees rejected God’s purpose for themselves. Isn’t that an interesting statement? It is possible to reject God’s purpose for you. Remember the story of Jonah? God told Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach. But Jonah ran away from God and set sail the other direction. He rejected God’s purpose for himself and ran away. Fortunately, God ran after him, and God was the faster runner! He caught Jonah and turned him around.
Does everyone discover and live God’s dream for them? No. Some Jonah’s sail away and never come back. Some people reject God’s purposes and never repent. And what do you think that does to God? It must break His heart! Please, don’t be one of those people.
God’s dreams for you take two forms. God has specific dreams for you alone—unique dreams just for you. And God has general dreams for all of His children.
Romans 8:28-29 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
God called you “according to His purpose”. What is that purpose? To make you like Jesus. He predestined you to be conformed to the likeness of His Son. Don’t be put off by “predestined”—the word means to pick a destination ahead of time. You do it every time you get in your car. When you leave here, where will you go? Home, work, out to eat, to a movie. You have a destination in mind, already picked—predestined. What is God’s destination for you and me? That we become like Jesus. This is His dream for all of us—to make us more like Christ—a general dream for all of us.
Ephesians 1:11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.
Look at the words in that one verse: chosen, predestined, plan, purpose and will. Those describe God’s actions toward you: He has chosen you, He has a destiny for you, He has a plan for you, a purpose for you, a will for you. God has a dream for all of us: to make us more like Jesus. And God has a unique dream for you.
“But what could God dream for me? I’m so ordinary?”
2. God sees not just what you are, but what you can be!
ILL: Imagine a potter throwing a pot. He begins with a dream, an idea; the pot exists in his mind first. Then he starts to spin the wheel and shape the pot. But then he runs into a problem: there are imperfections in the clay, small pebbles. Sometimes he has to stop the wheel and dig out a pebble. He may be able to keep going, but sometimes the gouge is deep, and he has to smash the clay and start over. A friend might walk into his shop in the middle of this process and say, “Man, that’s an ugly pot.” But the potter just smiles and says, “I’m not done yet.” The friend sees what is right now, but the potter sees what it will be, what he dreamed.
God is the potter, and you are the clay. He sees not just what you are right now, but what you can be.
Jeremiah 18:1-6 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2“Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” 3So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. 4But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.
5Then the word of the Lord came to me: 6“O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.
God is shaping you into what He wants you to be; and God sees not just what you are, but what you can be. Look at these examples from the Bible.
Joseph: God saw a man he could trust. Genesis 37-50
Joseph was a dreamer. He had dreams of his brothers bowing down to him. His brothers hated him because he was already their father’s favorite; he wore a special multi-colored robe that was a daily reminder of their father’s favoritism. Now these dreams just made them hate him even more. They wanted to kill him, but one of the brothers talked the others into selling him into slavery instead. Talk about a dysfunctional family! They looked at Joseph and saw a pampered and spoiled pet, and an egotistical dreamer.
But God looked at Joseph and saw a man he could trust. God knew that tough times were coming, and if the family was going to survive, God needed a man he could trust in a position of authority. God gave Joseph those dreams, and other dreams, because God had a dream for Joseph. God didn’t see a spoiled boy; God saw the next administrator of Egypt, and the savior of Jacob’s family.
Moses: God saw a leader. Exodus 1-4
Moses was raised in privilege, in Pharaoh’s court, but he always cared about his people, the Israelites, who were enslaved by Pharaoh. One day he decided to take matters into his own hands, and he killed an Egyptian slave driver, thinking the Israelites would follow his lead and free themselves. They didn’t, and Moses ran for his life to the desert of Midian where he because a shepherd. From the prince of Egypt to a desert shepherd: this makes Mike Price’s fall look small!
If you were a head-hunter for God, looking for a world-class leader to free your people, I doubt that you’d be in the backside of the desert kicking Moses’ tires! The guy was a first-class screw-up; and besides, he couldn’t talk. He stuttered. Definitely not CEO material.
But God saw a leader hiding inside the shepherd—a great leader—and He called Moses to go back to Egypt and set the people free. God gave Moses that dream of freeing Israel, and even though he had failed miserably on his first try, God saw a leader…and that’s what Moses became.
Rahab: God saw a woman of vision. Joshua 2
Who was Rahab? She was a Canaanite prostitute living in the walled city of Jericho when the Israelites came up out of Egypt. When two Israelite spies came to Jericho, they went to Rahab’s house. I think God directed them to Rahab. When the police came looking for them, she hid them and later helped them escape, making them promise to save her and her family when the Israelites attacked. She explained that she knew the Lord had given them the land.
God needed someone to help His people. He chose Rahab. To everyone else, she was just a woman of ill-repute; but God saw a woman of vision. Rahab was spared in the battle of Jericho. Later she married and became the great-great-grandmother of King David, and is listed as one of the ancestors of Jesus.
God put a dream in Rahab’s heart. She saw what was coming and chose to follow the Lord when everyone around her fought the Lord. Others saw a prostitute; God saw a woman of vision.
Gideon: God saw a mighty warrior. Judges 6-7
When the Midianites invaded Israel, God needed to find a champion to rally the Israelites and drive out the invaders. Who did he find? Gideon was the youngest boy in the weakest clan of the smallest tribe. In other words: bottom of the totem pole! When God’s messenger found him, Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress so the Midianites wouldn’t see him. Imagine this frightened young man hiding in a wine press, and the angel says, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” Who, me?
We usually don’t look for mighty warriors hiding in winepresses. Others saw a young coward, but God saw a mighty warrior, a champion, and that’s what Gideon became.
David: God saw a king. 1 Samuel 16
When it was time to choose the next king of Israel, God sent Samuel to Jesse’s house, who had 7 sons. Samuel saw the oldest, Eliab, who was tall and good looking, and Samuel thought, “Here’s the next king.” But God said, “No. You’re looking at the outward appearance. I look at the heart.” David was the youngest of the seven boys, and wasn’t even shaving yet, but when Samuel saw him, God said, “That’s the one—he’s a man after my own heart.”
Others saw a boy; God saw a king! Because God sees not just what we are, but what we can become.
Jeremiah: God saw a prophet. Jeremiah 1
When God called Jeremiah to be a prophet to the nations, he was very young, and he couldn’t speak. So Jeremiah protested. “I’m too young, and I don’t know how to speak. You want someone else.” Jeremiah saw himself one way—as unqualified to do God’s work. But God saw him as a prophet—not just as he was, but as he could be. Some of you think you are too young, or not trained enough, so God couldn’t use you. But God calls you now because He sees what you’ll become!
Mary: God saw an extraordinary woman. Luke 1
Mary was just an ordinary young woman living in a small backwater Galilean village. Nothing special. But when an angel showed up and asked if she would be willing to sacrifice everything to do God’s work, she said yes. She willingly put her marriage, her reputation, her future—everything—on the line to say yes to God. Others would have looked, and never looked again—nothing special about Mary. But God saw a woman who became extraordinary because she said yes to God’s plan. God saw what she could become.
You might feel very ordinary. “What could God do with me?” But God sees beyond the ordinary to inside you, and if you’re willing to say yes, God can do extraordinary things with ordinary people. God has dream for you.
Peter: God saw a rock. John 1
Peter was a flake! One minute he was saying something fabulous and Jesus would praise him, and the next minute he was saying something stupid and Jesus would rebuke him. Peter was ambidextrous; he could put either foot in his mouth! One minute he was swearing that he defend Jesus to the death, and the next he was swearing that he didn’t even know Jesus. Most people would look at Peter and think he was unstable. Jesus looked at him and said, “I’m giving you a new name: Peter. The rock!” Why did Jesus say that? Because He didn’t just see what Peter was, but what he could become!
And God’s dream came true. Peter became a rock, one of the foundation stones the church was built on.
Paul: God saw a world-changer. Acts 9
Saul persecuted the church. As far as the church was concerned, he was enemy #1, the biggest trouble-maker they knew. When God told Ananias to pray for Saul, he said, “Lord, do you have the right guy? Do you know who this is?” God assured him that He did, and told Ananias, “He is my chosen instrument to take my message to the rest of the world.” The church looked at Saul and saw a trouble-maker. God saw a world-changer. Hiding inside the skin of Saul the persecutor was Paul the apostle, author of 2/3 of the New Testament, and the greatest evangelist and church planter of his century.
God didn’t just see what he was, but what He could become. Then there is…
You: God sees a .
Can you fill in the blank? What does God see in you? What dream does God have for you? You are probably looking at what you are right now, and thinking, “I’m too young. I’m too old. I’m not trained or prepared or gifted. I’m not a leader or a visionary or a warrior or a world-changer or (you fill in the blank).” Yes, but you’re looking at what you are, a half-finished pot on the wheel; and God sees what you will be—the dream in His heart—the finished pot. God sees what you can be.
That’s what I want to talk about with you for the next four weeks. I hope by the time we’re done, you’ll be able to fill in that blank, or at least be on your way to discovering and living God’s dream for you.
3. Live the dream and die empty!
My friend Wayne Cordeiro says that he wants to die empty! He says that God has placed enormous potential in each of us, but millions of people never use that potential. Graveyards are full of unsung melodies, unwritten poems—unrealized dreams. We live empty and die full, when we ought to live full and die empty, our potential reached, our resources spent, our dreams achieved. So Wayne says, “My motto in life is ‘Die empty!’ I aim to give the graveyard nothing but a vacant carcass of a used-up life. I want the words on my tombstone to read ‘Empty!’ Nothing left. No more gas.”
Paul the apostle died empty. He wrote, “I am already being poured out as a drink offering and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:6-7 He lived the dream, and died empty. Poured out! Good to the last drop!
Live the dream and die empty! Jesus said that God has entrusted each of us with a dream and the resources to realize it, and someday we’ll stand before Him and answer for what we’ve done. What we want to hear Him say is, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Good job! You lived the dream and you died empty! You gave it your all—good to the last drop.”
ILL: Wayne Cordeiro was a first day student at Eugene Bible College, and only a 3-month old Christian. At his first class, the teacher told them to turn to Jeremiah–he turned around looking for a guy. “It’s in the Bible, stupid,” a student whispered. All Wayne had was a NT; he couldn’t find Jeremiah anywhere.
He went to his second class deflated and discouraged. His teacher, Dr. Grace Flint, asked each of them to write a paper, and the next day she gave Wayne’s back with a note that said: “Thank you for being in my class, Wayne. Your insight and contribution was so refreshing during our discussion times. Your obvious zeal for Christ inspires us all. I look with great anticipation for how God will use you for His purposes.” Dr. Flint signed it, “The Kingdom of God awaits you.”
Wayne said he must have read that last line a dozen times that night. “The kingdom of God awaits you.” Dr. Flint set Wayne dreaming of what God might want to do with life. Today, Wayne pastors a church in Honolulu that 9000 people attend each weekend, and that has planted almost 50 other churches.
God has a dream for you, and I’d like to help you discover it, live it, and die empty. The Kingdom of God awaits you.