Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
-Ephesians 3:20, 21
The first thing to get straight in our theology is that God’s grace is the foundation of our actions, not vice-versa. In other words, it’s not what we do and how well we do it that creates God’s favor toward us, but rather his favor toward us that enables us to live successfully.
Of course, this is the exact opposite of what the world’s religions teach us. But that’s what makes biblical faith different from all the others, and what makes Christian life the unique thing that it is. By sheer grace and mercy God transforms our lives, including our personal ambitions, hopes, and dreams, and turns them toward his will.
First he baptizes our life ambitions. This doesn’t mean he simply washes them up or scrubs them a bit and then leaves them basically the way he found them, but he baptizes them. Baptism means death. He allows them to die as they are (full of self-exaltation and self-pleasing), and then brings them back to life in a resurrected form in line with his perfect will. Finally, he fulfills them (and us) according to his purpose and timing.
This is the way it’s been for thousands of years and millions of people who came before us. It was as true for Moses as for Paul. It was true for St. Augustine, for Martin Luther, C.S. Lewis, Mr. Rogers, Charles Colson, Mother Theresa, and many others we could name. We start out in life thinking that our plans and dreams are perfectly good and right for us. Later, we find that even our best intentions can lead us astray, even to something wrong and degraded.
History is littered with good intentions and sincere ideas that turned out to be bad ideas that harmed both the dreamers and others as well. Unless our aspirations undergo a divinely guided death and resurrection, they will inevitably lead us in the wrong direction.
Since God wants to be actively involved with our dreams and ambitions in life, we need to bring them to him first, asking him to transform them and fulfill them within his eternal purpose. He wants from us no cheesy, paltry little dreams that barely extend our borders, but big, wide, and far-reaching ambitions that match his.
He wants these great dreams from both the young and the old. No one ever really retires from God’s work. God expects us to start dreaming as early as we’re able to, and to keep on dreaming and keep on imagining what he could do through us up to the very day we depart this world.
So dream recklessly. Then turn it all over to God so that he may inspect it, transform it, and magnify it to match the size of his imagination. And let’s not forget, it’s not totally up to us. What God intends to fulfill in our lives he brings to pass in his own time and way. And what he commands he gives.
Talk It Out
1) Do you think that God takes our personal hopes and dreams seriously?
2) Can you name some believer in Jesus who has had his or her personal life dream fulfilled?
3) Have you ever been told by some religious person that personal dreams and desires are of little interest to God?
Give what you command, and command what you will.
-Augustine of Hippo