4 January 2015
Dream a Little Dream
NOTE: This is a written version of the message I delivered on January 4, 2015.
I used to always say with pride that I am neither an optimist nor a pessimist but a realist. Some say the glass is half full. Some say the glass is half empty. I say the liquid is at the midpoint of the glass.
I think realism can be good. Otherwise I wouldn't be a realist. However, like many things, if misused, it can be a detriment. A few years ago, I wrote an article where I wrote briefly about realism and life. In it I wrote the following:
Life is neither pain nor a rose-colored scene. Life is ... life ... with its painful, routine and rose-colored scenes. Sometimes, we ignore the negative with the optimistic approach and give pat answers to those in pain. Other times, we focus too much on the negative and look at the pain around and near us and fall into some sort of depressive stupor. May we do neither. Life has its negatives. After all, we live in a fallen post-Eden world. However, life also has its positives.
And in that, I see my realism. However, I see something else. I see that I accept that there is a place for optimism as well as pessimism. The ups and downs happen in this journey called life. How many of us have had a bad day this past month? How many of us have had a good day this past month? One can be too pessimistic just as one can be too optimistic. Yet, in my case, I have found that one can also be too realistic. I have found that in some ways, I have forgotten how to dream, how to have dreams, how to hope and have faith.
There are plenty of things I am realistic about. However, there is a place for pessimism. People in and of themselves are sinful and wretched. Romans 3:9-18, 23 (NASB) states the following:
What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written,
"There is none righteous, not even one;
There is none who understands,
There is none who seeks for God;
All have turned aside, together they have become useless;
There is none who does good,
There is not even one."
"Their throat is an open grave,
With their tongues they keep deceiving,"
"The poison of asps is under their lips";
"Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness";
"Their feet are swift to shed blood,
Destruction and misery are in their paths,
And the path of peace they have not known."
"There is no fear of God before their eyes."
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
It sounds hopeless. It sounds pessimistic. In and of ourselves, there is no hope. And this is also realistic if left to ourselves.
However, there is a place for optimism, a place for hope. I don't have to be stuck there. And you don't, either. In Christ, I can be confident that I will be with Him in the thereafter and that He will complete the good work He began in me. Do you have that hope?
There is hope in Jesus. In all of those seemingly hopeless verses I just mentioned, there is hope in Jesus Christ. Consider verse 23, the last one I mentioned in the context of Romans 3:21-24 (NASB):
But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;
Do you believe? If so, you are justified as a gift by His grace in Christ Jesus.
Another hopeful verse is in Philippians 1:6 (NASB), which says the following:
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
Are you confident?
And consider what Romans 8:1 (NASB) says,
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
What hope! And these optimistic verses of hope are also realistic for those who are in Christ Jesus.
What brought the change so that the hopeless verses didn't leave me hopeless and the hopeful verses became a reality? The what is a Who - the Lord Jesus Christ. I have changed in Him and if you know Him, He changes you, too. While I am not hopeless for myself, may the pessimistic verses motivate me to consider those for whom it is a reality that they may hear the Gospel and experience the reality of the hopeful verses.
That brings me back to realism. I have to confess that my realism has changed in Christ and as I go through the sanctifying journey this side of Heaven, I will continue to change and grow in Christ. I will change. My priorities will change. I am learning to accept that. May Jesus be my Rock and may I cling to Hebrews 13:8 (NASB) which says, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." Jesus is the constant, the unchanging. I have made the mistake of thinking my realism meant my unchanging stability. I have given in to my idol of comfort. What idols are you clinging to, which prevent His work in your life today?
It's okay to dream a little dream if God has laid it on your heart. It's okay to think big. I have to remember the times in the past where I ventured out, took a risk and arrived where I am. I took that job. I made that move. I asked for her phone number. I knelt on my knee and asked her to marry me. I decided to become a parent. I decided to sing in front of a crowd. I decided to speak in front of a crowd. For me, these were all risks, but they were all covered in prayer and God has done great things with them all.
I am not saying there is something wrong with being settled in what God has called you to do. He may want you doing what you are doing for the long haul, but it will change in some manner along the way. And He may have some small risks for you within your current context. He may want you to start that conversation or that group or that gathering of persons to study the Bible together. From the lunch room to the dorm room to the living room to the hospital to the rehabilitation center or nursing home, these can be part of your story if He is calling you to that.
I remember when I switched careers just over 10 years ago. I threw out fishing lines everywhere. I had nothing to lose. I prayed, threw out lines and trusted God. Is there something God wants you aiming for? It may be uncomfortable or something out of routine or extraordinary or even odd. Yet, if He is calling you to it, He will make a way.
Last month, my wife and I were discussing a potential purchase, a dream for my wife. We had to decide if we were going to spend a significant amount of money to replace something in our home that would have a lifetime longevity or spend less money and be safer, knowing we would have to make another replacement in a few years. We had the money for the cheaper option. For the more expensive item that would have longevity, we didn't have the money. In my mind, the number was too high and that was that. The data had spoken. The facts had spoken. I put it out of my mind and brushed it aside.
Meanwhile, my wife was left with all the heart and emotion of it and trying to figure it out on her own. I had surrendered my role in it and I was wrong. I should have entered into prayer with her about it. I had "poo-pooed" the dream. I had practiced again my religion of dreamlessness. Erma Bombeck said, "It takes a lot of courage to show your dreams to someone else." The root of the word "courage" is from the Latin word cor, meaning "heart." My wife showed me her dreams, her heart and I ran back to my idol and ignored her heart. I should have engaged in conversation with her and with God. The answer from God may very well be "No," but hearts will be better for it if approached faithfully instead of through the lens of a staunch realism closed to possibilities. As a realist, the math had spoken. However, what I needed to ask was, "Has God spoken?" I need to ask that in all things.
We need to ask that. Am I seeking Him in it? Are you seeking Him in your circumstances? Maybe the facts say something right this second is not possible, but that does not mean it is impossible. There's a funny thing about data and facts. I'll take blood sugar as an example. It is a snapshot of the glucose in the blood sugar right now. The reading is not what the blood sugar is for the rest of the day or even for the next hour. It is a picture of right now and guess what? It can change. So, in my thinking about an expense, does that mean I get a second job? No. It may simply mean I plan or budget to make it happen if that is what God wants. It certainly requires trusting. And now on this side of it, we made the more expensive purchase. We had to trust and God provided. We had to let go of the status quo. And though that was sad in a sense, it really wasn't hard and there is no sadness left now that a dream has come to fruition.
What about you? To what dream is God possibly calling you? Maybe it is about starting a group or something like that. Maybe you don't have the strength to do it alone. Maybe this means learning to be comfortable doing it over time or gathering help and others to help you do it. Jethro told Moses to delegate among the Israelites. It was wise counsel.
I used to say that my mind is my own worst enemy and there is some truth in that. My mind is being transformed by the Holy Spirit, but I still wrestle, as we all do, this side of Heaven. Am I trusting my staunch realism or being faithful to God with open hands, willing to change where He wants me to, whether it is heart or circumstances? Are you open to that? I learned that in setting goals, start small. Look to God and ask Him what He wants for you this day, this week, this month and this year. Dream a little dream and cover it in prayer. And go forth knowing the reality of Matthew 19:26 (NASB):
And looking at them Jesus said to them, "With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
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