Pastor Craig Carter
We are currently in a sermon series on becoming great in God’s eyes. We are examining some activities that enable us as believers to bring glory to God and accomplish the work He has given us to do.
Last week we discovered that great Christians think great thoughts. Today we’ll begin to explore how to turn those great thoughts into action. The next step in the process is to dream great dreams.
Some of us have crazy dreams involving prehistoric animals and purple skies, especially after we’ve eaten pizza! Those aren’t the kind of dreams I’m talking about. I’m referring to hopes and aspirations that we imagine coming to fruition.
Great Christians dream great dreams and have high ambitions.
On the surface, this practice may not seem to make much sense. In our practical-minded world that emphasizes doing we tend to scoff at dreamers. We prefer “down to earth” action over “pie in the sky” thinking.
Yet, historically, it has been persons armed with great dreams that have exerted the greatest influence in our world. Four centuries ago, some European malcontents dreamed of a land free from political tyranny and their colonial territories in America became the greatest country in the world. Martin Luther King’s dream that one day children would be judged by the content of their character rather than by the color of their skin fueled the civil rights movement that transformed our society for the better.
The business world has likewise been shaped by dreamers. Ray Kroc had a dream that people would flock to a restaurant that served food fast and cheap and McDonald’s was born. Bill Gates dreamed of a day when there would be a small computer sitting on every desktop that would need software to run it and so he launched Microsoft, which now controls about 80% market share.
Dreams are a powerful force in every realm, including the area of religion. Think for a moment about the giants of the Christian faith. Noah had a dream of building an ark. Moses dreamed about rescuing his people from slavery. Abraham had an actual dream about giving birth to a great nation.
Even that great man of action, the Apostle Paul, was a dreamer at heart. For one, he dreamed of reaching the world for Christ. Paul lived out his mission in direct response to a dream or heavenly vision he once had:
Paul and his companions went to Phrygia, and then on through the region of Galatia. Their plan was to turn west into Asia province, but the Holy Spirit blocked that route. So they went to Mysia and tried to go north to Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus wouldn’t let them go there either. Proceeding on through Mysia, they went down to the seaport Troas. That night Paul had a dream: A Macedonian stood on the far shore and called across the sea, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” The dream gave Paul his map. We went to work at once getting things ready to cross over to Macedonia. All the pieces had come together. We knew now for sure that God had called us to preach the good news to the Europeans. (Acts 16:6-10 MSG)
I love the language used in that modern paraphrase of the Bible, The Message. “The dream gave Paul his map” (v. 10a). That’s exactly what dreams do, isn’t it? They help us chart a course for the future.
So what if our intended destination is greatness? Then the journey almost always requires a great dream.
Since God has given Christians such a great task to carry out, namely the redemption of the world, we must be great dreamers. As a matter of fact, that’s precisely who we are if we are living in step with God.
On the Day of Pentecost, when the Church was birthed, Peter explained what was happening by quoting from the prophet, Joel:
God says, “I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams.” (Acts 2:17 NLT)
The terms “vision” and “dream” can be thought of as synonymous. They both involve a picture that is formed in the mind that shows the possibilities of how things can be. For believers, this image is God-given and serves as a map to the future.
And it doesn’t matter whether we’re seven or seventy, we all need to be captivated by a vision of how we can serve God’s purposes.
When we say, “Great Christians dream great dreams,” we’re not talking about our own personal ambitions, we’re referring to a vision that arises from the intimate communion Jesus shares with His people.
Let’s explore the value of great dreams by using Paul’s experience as a guide.
1) Connect where we are going with where we are now.
The reason God could call Paul to preach to the Europeans was because he was situated on the shore of the Aegean Sea (just east of Macedonia). So this dream took Paul from his present position and propelled him into the future. Also, his previous ministry experiences prepared him for what was to come next. This is an important truth to keep in mind as we seek to dream great dreams.
In all probability, God is not going to direct us to do something that is totally unrelated to our previous experience. If you dream of becoming a professional surfer but you’ve never been in the ocean and are afraid of water, that dream probably isn’t coming from God.
What God calls us to do next will almost always build on what we have done well in the past and undoubtedly will be an extension of where we are now.
Given your current location, where might God be leading you next? Consider your personal spiritual journey, in your family, for our church.
2) Take us places we would never dare go otherwise.
Paul was very familiar with Asia Minor so that was where he chose to minister. But now God’s Spirit was forbidding from continuing there and leading him into the unfamiliar territory of the European continent.
In other words, God was pushing the great apostle outside of his “comfort zone.”
That’s what every great dream does. It moves us into uncharted waters that oftentimes make us feel uncomfortable.
And since we don’t like to feel uncomfortable, we are required to take risks to follow our dreams. As I once saw on a poster portraying a turtle crossing a busy highway: “He only moves ahead when he sticks his neck out.”
Great dreams cause us to stick our necks out and take us places we’d never dare go otherwise.
In order for that to happen, some of us need to let go of the notions that limit our thinking. Remember that with God, all things are possible. So the size of our dreams is only limited by the size of our God.
The question is not, “What can I do?” Instead, we need to ask, “What can God do – with me and through me?”
When you ask that question, you’re in for a great adventure.
3) Provide us a destination to pursue and a way to get there.
Once Paul had this vision, he knew where he was headed and how to get there because it “gave [him] his map” and “all the pieces had come together” (v. 10). That’s what every great dream does for its recipients – provides a goal and a path.
In contrast, many persons wander aimlessly through life – not sure where they’re going. As is oftentimes said, “If you aim at nothing, you’re sure to hit it!”
But world-changing, great Christians are aiming at something and they hit the mark because they are driven by a dream.
Notice that God didn’t tell Paul his final destination, just the next place he was going.
No dream is too big for God, but many of them are too huge for us. So God gives them to us in bite-size pieces in specific areas of our lives.
If you’re ready to begin dreaming great dreams, here are some areas in which you may want to start:
- Personal Growth
- Family or Marriage
- Career or Education
- Ministry or Church
Imagine an alternative future that God has prepared for you in each area. For example, a personal growth dream might sound like, “I desire to become more like Christ each day.” A dream for your family might be, “I want to help my kids discover God’s will for their lives.”
I encourage you to spend time doing some dreaming. Those hopes/dreams will be your map into the future.
4) Help us face and overcome adversity.
Oftentimes life doesn’t turn out exactly like we envision it. Those of us who live in the Panhandle post-Hurricane Michael can simply look around for evidence of that fact.
Likewise, we can be assured that the more ambitious our dreams, the greater resistance and difficulties we’ll encounter.
Paul certainly found that to be true, didn’t he? Throughout his ministry, he faced all sorts of adversity – arrests, beatings, imprisonment, persecution. But did these obstacles stop him?
Absolutely not, because his vision was bigger than his circumstances. Our dreams can become a lifeline in the midst of turbulent waters.
Without our dreams, when trouble comes, we flounder, give up hope, and then sink.
With a sense of vision, we’re linked to the future and have something to pull us through.
Consider: If you dream of raising godly children, it’s not too likely that you’ll give up on that dream after you learn that one of them is in jail on a drug possession charge. Likewise, if you dream of a tutoring ministry for underprivileged students, you’ll keep at it even if no one shows up at the first session.
Your dreams will sustain you in times of trouble.
5) Keep us focused on our goal.
Because Paul was captivated by a dream, notice how he responded to God’s call to preach in Macedonia. Acts 16:11 states that Paul and his companions immediately “put out to sea” and “ran a straight course.” Nothing else mattered to Paul because he was focused on the goal of fulfilling God’s call to preach the gospel in Europe.
That dream kept him from “chasing rabbits” and getting sidetracked.
Throughout church history, great Christians who have really made a difference for the sake of Christ have stayed on track by having a God-given vision for ministry.
John Wesley dreamed of reforming a nation.
William Carey dreamed of taking the gospel to India.
Hudson Taylor dreamed of reaching China for Christ.
Billy Graham dreamed of evangelizing the masses.
In contrast, a person without a dream is like an octopus on roller skates – it goes everywhere and nowhere at the same time! That describes a lot of folks in our world today, doesn’t it? Their lives are filled with all kinds of activity but nothing is of eternal significance is ever accomplished.
That brings us to a final consideration: What is God’s dream for us? What will keep us focused and on the right path?
While it may be different for different persons in different circumstances, there is one common objective that has fueled God’s people through the ages.
Jesus stated it this way for his own life: “[I] came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10 NLT)
Then He told His disciples to go and do likewise by following His example. As Paul stated, “The most important thing is…to tell people the Good News about God’s grace.” (Acts 20:24 NCV)
So God’s dream for every one of His children is the same: He wants us to be found in Him and then to go and find others.
In other words, we are to make a difference with our lives for His kingdom’s sake.
That is our objective whether we’re young men and women seeing visions or old men and women dreaming dreams. As long as we have breath, we are to make our lives count for Christ.
Let me close with a story that you’ve all probably heard before in some form or fashion. It comes from the pen of 20th century scientist and poet Loren Eiseley and is about a wise man who went to the seashore to do his writing.
It goes like this:
One day as he walked on the beach before he began his day’s work, a wise man saw a distant figure moving like a dancer in the early morning light. He drew closer and saw a young man reach down, pick up something, and then gently throw it in the ocean.
The wise man said, “Good morning, what are you doing?”
The young man replied, “I’m throwing starfish in the ocean”
“The high tide brought in these starfish and stranded them on the beach. Now that the tide is out, the sun will scorch them and they’ll die, so I’m rescuing them and throwing them back in the ocean.”
“But there are miles and miles of beach and thousands and thousands of starfish. You can’t possibly make a difference,” contended the onlooker.
The young man didn’t argue. Instead he simple reached down, picked another one up, threw it in ocean and said, “I made a difference to that one!” And with that, he continued his labor of love.
The wise man returned to his beach cottage and tried to write, but he was troubled by the vision of the young man throwing starfish into the ocean.
So the next day, at first light, he went to the beach and spent the morning helping the young man rescue starfish.
That, my friends, is what great Christians do. And it’s all because they are driven by great dreams to make a difference for Christ – one life at a time.
Someone who understood this well was Martin Luther King, Jr. On August 28, 1963 he stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC and gave one of the most famous discourses in American history. It became known as his “I Have a Dream” speech.
If you were to stand and share your vision, what dream(s) for your life, career, family, ministry, and church would you communicate?
As we dream great dreams, let’s keep this truth in mind: Now glory be to God, who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of — infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes. (Ephesians 3:20 TLB)