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About this series
Good to Great in God's Eyes
Ten Practices Great Christians have in Common
Are you tired of the status quo Christian life? Do you long for a spiritual breakthrough? Are you looking to go to the next level or get a fresh infusion of faith and spiritual passion? Great Christians live out their faith with purpose. In Mark 10:43, Jesus says, whoever wants to become great among you must - what? You'll explore the idea that there are certain practices available to every believer, at every maturity level, to move us from good to great, in God's Eyes. ACSI approvedMore from this series
God delights to do impossible things through improbable people, to impart exceeding grace to undeserving recipients. I spent some time making that sentence up. And since it was so wonderful, let me give it to you again, because I want you to really think about what it means.
It’s not that God just happens to do it – God delights. There is a pleasure in the heart of God. There is something that happens in the divine Trinity. He delights to do impossible things. Not hard things, not difficult things, not what really smart people getting together with a lot of money, and a lot of resources, and a lot of effort could do – God delights to do impossible things.
But He delights to do it, not through people that everyone thinks it could happen, He delights to do it through improbable people. A lot like the person that might be sitting in your chair. The person that you would think, I mean, great? There are other people who are great, and there are other people that, I’m sure, God will use, and certain things will happen in the world. I mean, yeah, maybe I can help them out, but…no, no. God delights to do impossible things through improbable people.
Why? To impart exceeding grace. See, it’s not about us. It’s not about our ambitions, our dreams, our visibility. God wants to do something impossible through someone like you, and someone like me, so other people get what they don’t deserve, to impart exceeding, overwhelming, lavishing grace to people that don’t deserve it. Because when God does that, He gets the glory. He gets the glory.
When my seventh and eighth grade coach found out I was playing college ball, they had to pretty much figure that God must have showed up somewhere in my life, because that four foot-eleven kid did not have a career in basketball. God wants to do amazing things.
But you know something? Nothing can ever happen until it becomes even the flicker of a thought. Nothing will ever happen in the future until that flicker of a thought becomes a desire that you would even be willing to think about that desire might happen.
And I’m talking about godly, God-honoring, things that would help lots of people. And then, that little desire has to flicker, and go into a flame, to where you have a dream that is birthed in your heart, in your life. And then, that dream becomes the target. It becomes something that you think about, and you pray about. And your energy, and your resources, and your priorities, and your focus – it gets around this dream that, if God would so decide to do it, it would be so impossible that everyone would know God, and God alone, has done it. And I want to talk about: how does it happen? How does God develop, birth dreams in people like you, and people like me?
Well, He invites ordinary people to dream something so great that it would be impossible, if God did not do it. He just invites you. It’s not mysterious. It’s not for a few special people, special times, somewhere. God invites ordinary people to dream something so great that it would be impossible, if God did not do it.
Now, at this point, we’re living in a world where you can go to a seminar for several hundred dollars and learn to think positively. And you can go to another seminar, or the bookstore, and think and grow rich. There’s a lot of self-help material. It’s a multi-billion-dollar industry. We’re right on the edge of, “So, Chip are you really saying that what the mind can believe, the will can conceive, and all that jazz?”
No, I’m talking about sanctified dreaming. I’m talking about a God thing. I’m not talking about learning to think a certain way. Now, are those very helpful tools? When people begin to think positively, and organize their life, can you see, believers and unbelievers have very successful things? I’m sure. Yeah. But I’m not talking about that.
I’m talking about sanctified, biblical dreaming that God births, not so that we can become successful, visible, wealthy, affluent, famous – but so that we can be an agent of grace, where God would do something, first, in us, and then through us, that both we and all who know us would say, “This is the hand of God.” So, let me give you the biblical basis for sanctified dreaming.
First, God is able. Write that in. He’s able. He’s able to do the impossible. Jeremiah 32:17 says, “Ah, Lord God, behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm. Nothing is too difficult for You.” What if we believed that?
Nothing is too difficult for God. And just before you say, “Well that’s an Old Testament passage, and maybe that’s not really operating the same way it was,” okay, let me give you a New Testament one. Luke 1:37: “For nothing will be impossible with God.”
Do you remember where that showed up? Mary is being told, “You are going to be the mother of the Messiah.” Mary is being told, “Guess what, God is going to visit the planet. The Second Person of the Trinity is going to come.” And she says, “I think we have a problem here. I’m a virgin.” “Mary, the Holy Spirit is going to come upon you. And by the way, don’t worry about the scientific deal, for nothing is impossible with God. The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and you will be with child.” We need to first believe that God is able. But He can be able and we can say, “That’s great. He has the power to do it. I intellectually believe that.” That’s not enough.
Second, God is desirous. God is desirous. He not only has the power, and the ability, but God is desirous to not just plant a dream, but to do things in you and through you that are beyond what you could even think or conceive. You say, “Well where do you get that?” 1 Corinthians 2:9, the Apostle Paul says, “But just as it is written, ‘Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.’”
Take your pen out, and put a line under: eye hasn’t seen, ear hasn’t heard – are you ready for this? – and then, that last part: have not entered the heart of man. Now, doesn’t that sound like something a little bit bigger than you have in your mind right now? And what is it? God desires to do it. He stores up things that have never come into your mind, things that you’ve never seen, things that, in your wildest dream, you’ve never birthed. God desires to give, and has stored up, for those that are His children, to do things in you and through you for His glory.
But He’s not only able and desirous, He has made a promise. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart.” “Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Now I think this has been widely misused. This does not mean, delight yourself in the Lord, and you’ll always make the great decisions in the stock market. This does not mean, delight yourself in the Lord, and none of your family will ever get sick, you’ll never get cancer, and your life will go peachy cream, nice and smooth. This isn’t, delight yourself in the Lord, and that new Lexus you really want…
No, this is about, when you delight yourself in the Lord, then you begin to take delight in what God takes delight in. Your heart begins to beat with the things that beats with God’s heart. Your concerns begin to be God’s concerns. The things that are of God, the things that bring Him delight, His purposes for the world, and for the planet, and for people – you begin to delight yourself in your special relationship with Him, and what you get is, I want to please You, Lord. I want to love You. I want to enjoy You. I want to be Your man, I want to be Your woman. I want to find my delight, and my value, and my significance, and my security in You, not in stuff, not in people, not in success, not in fame, not in accomplishment. I thank You for those things. I want to find my delight in You.
And when God finds a man, and when God finds a woman, like that, whose ultimate delight is longing for Him, He says, “Tell Me what your desires are.” And you know the desires that’ll get birthed? The desires that’ll get birthed in your heart and life will be according to your background, and your gifts. They’ll be according to what God has planned for your life.
And you’ll birth desires inside of you, and God will delight to fulfill those desires that will bring you exceeding joy, and Him exceeding glory. God is able. God is desirous. And here, God has promised that, as we delight in Him – see, it flows out of relationship.
But finally, I love this last one: God invites us. He literally says, “Okay, I’m able. I’d like to plant a dream in your heart, and see things happen in you and through you that you could never imagine. And I’ve made some real promises to those kinds of people, who really want My glory.” And then, He says, “Here’s an invitation.” Psalm 2:8: “Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Your possession.” Is that big, or what? Is that an invitation from the Almighty God?
Have you picked up: “Lord, will You give us the nations, will You give us the nations for our inheritance? Can we be a part of what You’re doing with the body of Christ, and with churches around the world, and churches and pastors here, and with people who love You? Would You give us the people groups of the world?”
See, what we want you to know is that this isn’t something that might happen, someday, somehow, some way, with some group, somewhere else. This is what God is doing. And He is inviting you and inviting us.
How did those things happen? He spoke to individual people. He was able. He was desirous. He made promises, and He spoke to individual, improbable people. And He said, He whispered in their ear, when they couldn’t even believe it, I want to do something impossible through you.
And the response, early on, was, “I’m an improbable person. You could never do that through me.” Oh, I like to use improbable people. And I want to use an improbable person like you to do something impossible, so I could do – what? – I could provide exceeding grace to undeserving people. So that, when it happens, everyone will know, it’s not about you. It’s about Me. Would you like to be involved in that? Would you like God to use your life in that way?
In fact, if you think I’m pushing it a little, again, from the Old Testament, this is the very last night Jesus is on the earth. Let’s get there. Let’s not make this a Bible story. Let’s think about, let’s smell the smells, and the dust on the sandals, and being a little bit sweaty, and having the robes on, and being uptight this last week. And He’s cleared the Temple. And we’re having the Passover meal. And we’ve gone out, and He’s told us that this is going to be the last time together. He’s washed our feet. And then, He looks in our eyes, and He says, “Truly, truly I say to you.”
And we’ve been around Him long enough to know that, whenever He repeats that word, “truly, truly,” this is like, underline this. This is, highlight this in your mind. This is the big stuff. “Truly, truly I say to you, he who believes in me…” And we’re all sitting around that table, saying, “Lord, we believe in You. Lord, if we don’t believe in You, we’re the dumbest guys on the face of the earth. Because it looks like, the way things are going to go, You’re going to get killed, and so are we.” “Truly, truly I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also.” “The works that I do” – think of what Jesus did: raised people from the dead. Fed five thousand on a few fish, and a couple pieces of bread. “The works that I do, greater works than these he will do.” Why? “Because I go to the Father.”
And here’s the invitation: “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything, I will do it.”
Do you believe that? Or have we, over time, been so unconsciously and unwittingly dumbed down that the basic question we unconsciously ask is, How do I make it through this week? How can I get my kids through college? How can we take the business to the next level? How can my marriage be a little bit better than it was last year? Well, let’s kind of help out the church. Let’s teach a class here, and do something there.
All those things are good things, but you know what happens? We just get so close, so close, so close, we’re living in this tiny little box. And the God of heaven is shouting, Hey! Hey! Wake up! I want to put a God-sized dream in your heart. I want to do an impossible thing through an improbable person like you, to provide exceeding grace to undeserving people. Ask of Me. Greater works than I have done, you will do. Ask. Ask Me anything from the Father, and I will do it.
And, of course, the code, the condition is, you’re asking things that honor Him, you’re asking things that align with the Word of God, you’re asking things that will bring glory and praise to Jesus.
God births dreams in His people. How does it work, functionally? I don’t know about you, but when I go through this biblical basis of sanctified dreaming, I always start thinking, Man, I think so small. I just – God, I’m thinking about life in terms of – and I don’t mean to do it – about what I can accomplish in my strength, in my time, doing it my way, for Your glory. And what You want to do is say, “Chip, that’s not what I want in your life. I want you to start asking what I could do through you. Not what you can do.”
Let me give you a little stroll through a biblical lane, if you will, about how God births dreams in His people. You ever wonder how this works? So, one of the things about me – and I never opened this book until I was eighteen – but what I love about it, it’s so earthy. It’s so real. We make these people like they’re so out there. And we put them in stained glass, and, “Oh, Peter! Founder; Rock.” Loudmouth, betrayer, loser, went back to fishing. “Abraham, the great man of the faith.” Liar: “She’s my sister! Please don’t kill me.” Rahab: former prostitute.
I read this book, and I’m thinking – I don’t know about you – I qualify. This is a book about very improbable people. In fact, some of you may be too good for God to use in a very significant way. You know? You just may have too much going for you. Because the people that God uses here, man, they’ve got baggage. They’ve got struggles. They’ve got sin.
I think about the great men that God has used, the great people God has used. Do you have to commit murder to be greatly used of God? Moses. David. Paul. Moses, David, Paul. Each, for different reasons, succumbed to the flesh, and did the most hideous of things that a human being can do to another human being. And they were forgiven, and they were restored. And God planted, not just a dream, but He changed the course of history, and fulfilled His purpose, through an improbable person.
How about you? Could it be that God brought you here, on this day, to pull the veil off your eyes, and get you thinking God-sized dreams? And saying, Lord, Dawson Trotman was a guy with a high school education. Cameron Townsend was some guy who didn’t have a lot going for him. But he dreamed a dream, and, now, all of those languages are being translated from the Bible.
Well, let’s talk about how it works. I want to get down to the very nitty-gritty. And the way I’ve done this is, I just did a little survey of some Bible characters. And I think there’s a principle from each one. How God births dreams in His people – let’s take Abraham.
First, He commands us to step out of our comfort zone. By the way, most dreams are done right here. If you are not willing to step out of your comfort zone, forget the dream stuff. Just listen to the first part of this, and give it to a friend and say, “You might like this. It’s not for me.” Unless you are willing to step out of your comfort zone, unless you are willing to take a risk, unless you are willing to do something where you step out, and you’re thinking, Oh, God, if You don’t help me, forget dreams. Because, without faith, it’s impossible to please Him.
And those who come to God must always believe two things. We always emphasize one, but not the other. Those who come to God must believe that He is who He really is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Do you believe He’s a rewarder? Do you believe that, when you step out with your time, when you step out with your money, when you risk in relationship, and get out there on the edge, that God is waiting, leaning over the throne of heaven, wanting to reward you, and help you, and bless you? See, that’s a part of what faith is.
Genesis, Chapter 12: Here’s Abraham. All of his family’s right around him. He gets a word from God: Abraham, I want you to leave everything. Here’s where I want you to go. “Where do You want me to go?” I’ll let you know later. “Can we go over that again?” Yeah, I want you to leave all the security, all the people, and all this land, with all its evil. I’ve got a whole brand new plan. And what I want you to do is just follow where I say. And it’s, go out of town, that direction, on that road. “And no destination?” No. “No map?” No. You just take the first steps of where I’m showing you. And as you keep walking, My Word to you will be a light unto your path, and a lamp that will show you where, one step of the way.
The first step in the birthing process of God’s dream in your life will be the same one with Abraham. You have to be willing to step out of your comfort zone.
Second, from the life of Joseph, we learn, He puts a dream within our hearts. This isn’t something you have to go out somewhere and say, “What’s some great, wonderful thing?” What are your passions? What are the things that, every time you see it, without understanding, your emotions start to well up? What is it that, when you hear about it, or think about it – your blood pressure goes up, your heart beats a little bit faster, and you catch yourself going, Ahhh?
See, God, he just, Joseph was just dreaming. And God put a dream in his heart because He had a plan for his life. And you remember, the dream that He gave him was, Joseph, I’m going to have you in a position where, you know what? Your brothers – in fact, your folks, they’re going to bow down to you.
Now, he wasn’t very mature. We’re often not very mature with our dreams. He blabbed, and he was kind of arrogant; he had some character issues to deal with. But a few times in prison, and a little bit of neglect – that’ll get your character where it needs to be.
And you know what? That’s what God does. He puts the dream in your heart. And often, as you move toward the dream, life does not get better at all. It gets worse. It gets worse. It gets worse. Because when God entrusts a great dream to a man, or a woman, the greatest danger is, they will get swallowed by the dream, and get caught up in their role in the dream. And so, He usually has to take you through some painful, difficult times, so you always know who the dream’s about.
And, so, Joseph’s character got to the point where, when he was the ruler of all the land of Egypt, he understood who God was. And he understood he is just a steward. And he was put in this role, and in this role, it was, “How, God, do I answer to You?” And what do we know? He preserved the entire nation. He saved God’s agenda, humanly speaking. But God will give you a promise. God will birth a dream. What’s yours? What’s yours?
I was pastoring in Santa Cruz – and I’m the most ordinary guy you’re going to meet. And I didn’t grow up in a Christian home. My grandfather wasn’t a pastor. I’ve shared my story. And I’m a coach. And I still, in my mind’s eye, just think I’m a coach, just on a different team. And what coaches know is, players win games. I’ve never seen a coach get out on the floor and go, “Hey, I scored forty tonight. What do you think?” Coaches find the right players, get the right people in the right spots, and cast a vision. And then, they help those players become all that they can become. And I’ve always been a coach. But I never dreamed I’d be a pastor coach. And, so, this church began to grow. And then the thing got on the radio, and that started to happen. And then, some people wanted to take some stuff and put it in the form of a book. And this dream, I didn’t know – all I knew was, God used my life.
And if you have never done this, I did something I’d never done: I said, God, I’m hitting this window of the forties, and the pull of the church, and the growth of the radio, and people wanting me to write these books, and You know what? This is, I’m an improbable person. I don’t know how to handle this. Will You show me how it all fits together? I’ll do whatever You want me to do, but, right now, I just feel like my heart and my emotions are just getting jacked around. And I feel pulled here, and pulled here, and I can see all the temptations, and it looks like a slippery slope. I could see how You could really use my life, or I could be one of those statistics, and get caught up with myself. I need to hear from You.”
And we went on a retreat, 1996, up to a little camp called Koinonia. And we were reading another Collins book, as a staff. And each staff member came up with big, hairy, audacious, we called them “dreams,” instead of “goals,” because we figured, men can achieve goals, but only God can fulfill dreams. Every staff member would come up with: “This is the dream for my area of ministry,” and then we get to pray, and have a strategic plan to get there. And we were ready to pull all the staff together, and each person was going to share, “This is my big, hairy, audacious dream for the glory of God.”
And I thought, Well, okay, great. And a buddy I worked with – I told you about him:
Steve. I said, “Well, this’ll be good.” He said, “Yeah. Well, what’s yours?” I said, “What do you mean, what’s mine?” “Well, mine is that all these guys and gals fulfill theirs. And then that’s my dream.” And in classic, ex-football, coach-to-coach – you guys will understand this – he kind of looked at me, and went…and hit me right in the chest. Not real hard, but hard enough that it wasn’t all that fun. Boom! – like that.
And he said, “Come on, Ingram.” He said, “You don’t get away with that. Go out there. We got a half hour. Sit in the field. Ask God what your personal dream is. Everyone else has a dream. You’re the coach, but you’ve got to have one for yourself.” It was just a divine push from God. And I can still remember: I went out, sat with crossed legs, opened my Bible – and we’d have two or three days of great worship and great teaching. And we were all close to God. And I said, Lord, I’ve been asking about this. Will You just tell me what You want to do with my life? It’s all got to come together. And I sat quietly.
And I don’t come from an overly mystical background, okay? But this was one of those times. And I heard the Spirit of God prompt me and say, as clearly as an audible voice, Chip, I want you to be a catalyst to transform how America thinks about God, how pastors think about preaching, how churches think about their communities, and how everyday believers live out their faith, at home and at work. Do you want Me to go slower? Write that down. And, literally, I pulled out a pen, and said, literally, “Could You go slower?”
I want you to be a catalyst. You don’t need to be a big somebody. A catalyst is a small little something, put in a certain environment, that causes a chain reaction. Chip, I want you to be a part of lifting My name so there’s a high view of God. I want America to be transformed in how they think about Me. I want pastors to get back into preaching through the text, but in relevant, applicational ways. I want churches that dream dreams for their community, and get off building their own little kingdoms, and would team in their whole communities, and love each other, and pray and worship together, and reach their communities. And I want, the day has got to come where, at eleven o’clock, people live exactly the same way as they do eleven o’clock on Monday, and Tuesday, and Wednesday, and Thursday, and Friday. And how you drive the carpool, and how you do business deals, is exactly how you do it when you’re worshipping God.
And I wrote that down, and I went back, and I shared the dream that got birthed in my heart. And I was so embarrassed. Does that sound audacious, or not? You’re in one church, on the left coast, as some people would call it, and we’re on four radio stations, so, yeah, we ought to be able to transform how the nation thinks about God. And, you’re in the process of writing one book, but you don’t even know if it’s going to be any good, or maybe no one will ever buy it, and you hear this dream.
Here’s what you’ve got to understand: Abraham, you’re going to move out of your comfort zone. Joseph, He’ll birth a dream. And as he births it, if it is impossible, you’ll say to yourself, “How could this be? How could this be?” Eight years later, what I realized was, it wasn’t just about helping America be transformed, and teaming with other pastors and other organizations in the Church. It’s about what God wants to do in the world. But that birth of that dream, that became, I will tell you – that vision statement became the grid. Every decision that I’ve made, from 1996 until now, has been based on that vision.
See, this isn’t a pie in the sky, self-help, get-everybody-fired-up, “Hey, let’s truly dream a great dream.”
I want to tell you the process that really happens: It starts with Abraham. You get out of your comfort zone. Then, it moves to Joseph: He births a dream. And then, third, we move on to Moses: He allows us to fail in our attempts to accomplish His dreams in our own power.
Moses got a dream from God. He got the right dream, didn’t he? He wanted to deliver his people. But he was forty years old. And he sees a couple guys fighting, and he goes, “Hey, hey, you are hurting one of these Israelites.” So, he kills this man. The next day he goes out, and sees two other people fighting, but this time, instead of a harsh Egyptian hurting a Hebrew, it’s two Hebrews. He says, “Guys, stop. Stop.” And they turn to him and say, “Well, who made you ruler,” or, “deliverer over us? What, are you going to kill us like the guy you did yesterday?” And he goes, Uh-oh. I don’t think that little burial in the sand trick is going to work. And he runs for his life. Did he have the wrong dream? Or did he have the wrong method?
See, God will move you out of your comfort zone. He’ll begin to plant the dream. And did you notice how – did Joseph understand all the dream? “Hey, it’s this, and this, and it doesn’t make any sense.” But I’ll bet, in prison, and I’ll bet when he was wrongly accused by Potiphar, I bet those visions and those dreams will come back to him and he would think, It sure doesn’t look like I’m going to have this position, and my brothers and sisters are going to bow down to me. But Lord, I just trust You.
And Moses had the right dream, but had the wrong method. I want to encourage you that as God births something in your life, you will often go about doing exactly the right thing in exactly the wrong way, and He’ll let you fail. He’ll let you do it in the energy of your flesh. It’s not like you were trying to do it that way. You know, you’re just you, and I’m just me, and you’re saying, “Hey, I want to do something good.” And you do it, and He will allow you to experience tremendous pain and failure. It’s part of the dream becoming a reality.
Because, you see, God is always more interested in developing the person than He is in accomplishing the dream. See, if He does the right thing, and the person allows Him do to it, the dream will become a reality. But the dream, or the success, or the accomplishment – if the things don’t happen in the person’s heart, then God doesn’t get the credit.
Through David, we learn that He teaches us, through adversity, to love the dream giver more than the dreams. And you say, “Well, Chip, where do you get that?” Think about David: He’s young. He has made his mark. Goliath is dead. He’s gotten a little notoriety. And Saul has now turned away from the Lord, out of his own self-sufficiency and pride, and David is anointed as king.
And, so, we think, The dream is here. You are going to be the king. You’ve passed these little tests. And you would think, Good. Put the robe on. Put the crown on. God, I’m going to be Your man. Is that what happens in David’s life? David is anointed as king. And he spends about then next ten to twelve years dodging spears, and hiding in caves, and having a group of rabble-rousers, that became his little itinerant army, when he had a bad day, turn on him and try to kill him. He ended up hiding with the enemy, and feigning that he was insane, drooling over his beard. See, there was a season of time, anointed as king – there’s a dream: You’re going to lead. This is My role for your life. And now, a season of adversity and pain, where I want to wean you from the prestige, and the pride, and the issues that come with the dream, so that you learn always to love the dream giver more than you get intoxicated with the success of the dream.
And that’s why, in Psalm 73, David would write, “Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And besides thee, I desire nothing on earth. My heart and my flesh may fail, but You are the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Do you hear what he’s saying? “All I really want – You’re my portion. You’re the strength of my – what could I want in heaven, except You? What is there on earth? Is it a kingdom? Is it success? Is if fame? Is it money? Is it…? No.” And then, he would go on to say, in Verse 28 of Psalm 73, “For I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all Thy works. As for me, the nearness of God is my good.” Is that your testimony? The nearness of God is your good. And so, David teaches us that, hey, it’s falling in love with the dream giver, not just the dream.
From Paul, we learn that He clarifies our calling in times of crisis, and often uses our worst failures as the platform for His future fulfillment. He clarifies our calling in times of crisis. Paul has this incredible intellect. Paul is on this journey. And what happens? He is a murderer. He’s zealous. He’s just on the wrong team, going the wrong direction. And – bang! – he has this crisis. He comes to Christ. Three days, he’s agonizing, wondering what’s happened. The Lord has spoken to him. He gives him the vision, from day one, of conversion: “Paul, I am going to send you to the Gentiles. You will be My messenger to the Gentiles.” And for three days, no food, no water. Ananias comes, lays hands on him. Prays for him. The scales drop. He sees. He does a little bit of preaching and teaching, just there. Then he goes into Arabia, and gets a little education from the Lord for a good period of time.
And God uses our worst failures as the platform for future fulfillment. How much bigger of a failure could you be than murdering the Church? See, some of us think a great dream is impossible because of what’s in your past. Could God not have chosen anyone in Scripture? Pull this one out. Thirteen books of the New Testament were written by a – what? – murderer turned missionary.
Why do you think God chose Paul? I think He chose him for a variety of reasons, but one, for us, has got to be, if Paul qualifies, so do you. So do I. There’s nothing that is in your past that is not forgivable, that God can’t transform and actually use. Often, your ministries grow out of your failures, as you reach back and help people who are failing, and struggling, and in pain, where you have been.
From Jesus, we get the final way that God develops and births dreams. The dream will cost us our life, and appear to others as the height of folly, just before God accomplishes the impossible through us. Now, think of that. See, when we get on the front end, and I started talking about “dream a great dream,” and your heart started to beat, and, What could God impossibly do through me? And we’re all the way over here going, “Yes!”
And then, as you go from Abraham to Joseph, and to Moses, and to David, and then to Paul, have you noticed how the price is going up? But the greatest fulfillment of a dream was Jesus. And I want you to know, on the front end: The dream will cost you your life. The dream will always lead you, and lead me, to the cross. There is no smooth path. There is no easy way. There is no lack-of-suffering agenda.
We try all kinds of ways to save our life, and we end up losing it. Jesus says, on the front end, “The dream that I will birth in your heart will cost you your life, and just before I fulfill it, it often looks like the height of folly.”
Think of what was occurring, both in the invisible world, and the visible world. Jesus comes, and He talks about this dream, if you will. A Kingdom that’s coming, a God, salvation, freedom, fulfillment, Messiah, a new heaven, a new earth, what He’s called here to do. And He authenticates it by miracles, and raising people from the dead. And you became a follower.
And you believe Him, and you want to believe Him. And there’s something about His words, and there’s something about His look. And you believe He’s the Savior of the world. And you want to jump on the dream bandwagon of God visiting the planet.
And then, it’s Friday afternoon, and you’re looking up at the King. And the King has been beaten to a pulp. And it says, right above where He’s hanging, “The King of the Jews.” Except you can hardly make out His face because it's been so beaten. And there’s blood dripping. And He’s half-naked. And He’s hanging on a cross. And, let’s see, criminal number one, criminal number two – is He just criminal number three?
It looks light the height of folly. “Everything I’ve believed in, this is – what happened? I thought He was the one! I thought He was going to bring in the Kingdom. I thought that we were going to get rid of these Romans. I thought there was going to be salvation. I thought there was going to be deliverance. I believed in Him.” And nothing.
And if you’re the invisible world, what are the demons doing? “Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!” Right? We’ve won. He’s dying. Ha, ha, ha!
There is no resurrection until there’s death. There’s no resurrection life until there’s death: death of your dreams and your agenda, death of your fears and your security, death of your trying to get significance through what you have, how you look, what you do, what you own, where your houses are, what people think. Death to thinking of what you can accomplish, and who you can impress. And I don’t say this harshly. You’re human, right? Do I have all this – we’re on this big boat together. We all struggle with those things.
But there’s a process where we surrender, and die to, and say, Okay, Lord. And you know what? One of the early ones is, it is. One of the early ones is, God, this is Your money. It’s not my money. God this is Your brain and talent, not mine. God this is Your family. I would like them all to live right around the street, and right around the corner, and the grandchildren a hundred and fifty yards away. But one mile, or two, would be okay. And God, I would like no one to ever get sick, and everything to be wonderful. And every Thanksgiving, we could just sing “Kumbaya” around the table.
But that’s not how it works. You’ve got to die. And you demonstrate that you are dead by saying, Lord, here – risk. Here’s my money. Here’s my future. Lord, here’s my family. Lord, I’m spiritually, I’m naked before You. I bring nothing to the table. If You will tell me what to do, if You will show me how to do it, if You will direct me. I want You to know that my entire life is like a blank check, and I have signed the bottom of the check.
And I tell You, Almighty God, because of who You are, and how great and how powerful, and how You’ve demonstrated Your love – I want You to know that You can fill in the top of the check. You can do whatever You want with my business. You can do whatever You want with my geography. You can do whatever You want with my kids. You can do whatever You want with anything in my life. And although I’m fearful, I choose not to be, because You will not withhold any good thing from those who walk uprightly. Because You are a good God, and You love me, and I know that it’s safe to do this, even though You may take me places that make me much afraid.
That’s death. And the people God does supernatural, radical, impossible things through, are people who die. Because until you’re dead, you can’t get resurrected. And what we know is that those people standing at the foot of the cross would see Him later, in a resurrected body. “Thomas, come here. Go ahead, put your fingers, put your fingers right here. Thomas, here. Put them in My side. I’m real. It’s true.” And you will experience a resurrection.
And I think God really longs to make the stories we talked about, of the Dawson Trotmans, and Hudson Taylors – I think He just wants that to be the normal Christian life. But I think, as you go through those different people, you could almost say, “Am I at the David stage, or the Paul stage, or the Joseph stage?” I just don’t think God has a lot of people waving their hand, saying, Lord, I’d like You to do an impossible thing through an improbable person like me. There are just not a lot of hands in the air. I believe the God of the universe is just looking, on this day, for people in this room to lift their hand and say, I’d like You to birth that kind of dream in me. I trust You that much.
Well, that sounds like a very, very big thing. So, let’s talk about, very specifically, how you break that into bite-sized steps to get there. Some of you are way down the road on all of this, but what I found is, that gets so gargantuan, and it can feel so overwhelming. And for some of us, so fearful. “How do I take little steps towards this dream being birthed?”
And I’m going to suggest, the way you do it is by bite-sized dreams in specific areas, where you come up with some desires. Remember? What’s the promise? “Delight yourself in the Lord. He’ll give you the desires of your heart.” What if you came up with some desires that would begin to allow God to birth some things in your life that would prepare you to really dream a dream that would honor Him?
And I put a little list here. The list could go on, but: Desires for your life, your marriage, your children, your career, your ministry. And, so, what I did, I started this in 1986. And these cards are from 1986. And I began to say, if God will give me the desires of my heart, if I could begin to ask Him, and want the things that He desires, He’s promised He’ll give them to me. And if I could keep them in front of me, and pray about them, and pursue them – if, then, the little desires of my heart became a reality, then maybe, over time, God would do in me and through me why He put me on this planet.
So, I’ll just give you a couple of examples, and then you can make up your own. 3x5 cards will be on sale in the back. I’m teasing.
But, for me, for my life, this was a desire: “My goal is to walk with God in the integrity of my heart until the day I die.” And on the back of it, I wrote out Psalm 101, and I memorized it. And where he says, “I will walk in my house with a blameless life of integrity. I will set before my eyes no vile things. The deeds of faithless men, I’ll hate.” And he goes on just to say what it looks like.
And I just thought, God, you know me. You know how hard it is to tell the truth, how hard it is to not shade things, how hard it is not to image cast. My prayer, my desire – I want to walk in integrity before You until the day I die. In fact, I’ve prayed, Lord, if I would do something that would embarrass You, or embarrass Your work – if I die of a heart attack, don’t take this too literally – but I said, I would be honored for You to take me out before I did that. If You would see that, in some weak moment, I was going to do something really dumb, could You just – boom! – take me out? Because I’d much rather lose ten or fifteen years, and end up pure before You, and not embarrass Your Church. And so, that was a desire for my life.
Another desire I had is I just thought, I look at circumstances, I’d like to become habitually thankful, as a matter of unconscious response, to all life’s relationships and circumstances, in light of the goodness and the sovereignty of God. I just know that that relationship between being filled with the Holy Spirit, and gratitude. Lord, my desire is, some day, no matter what happens, and in what relationship, my first response would be, “Thank You.” I may not like it, but thank You. Since You are good, and You are sovereign, I choose to thank You.
With my wife, I came up with a couple desires that I think, “My goal is to love Teresa sacrificially, and in ways that make sense to her, every day.” And I’ve been reading that over for a couple, three times a week, for twenty-some years. And you know what? When you just read it over, it’s a desire. I think that’s a desire that God wants for me. I want to love her in a sacrificial way that makes sense to her.
Another one I had was, my goal was to get away alone with Teresa three times a year. Have I always done that? No. But that’s a desire. I want to make sure that relationship is special, and strong, and good. And so, it’s a goal. I’m working at it, and a lot of years, I have.
Then, I went to my kids, and I thought, Maybe I could birth some little dreams for my kids. So, one that I wrote down, in ‘86: “My goal is to help my children discover their spiritual gifts, and the will of God, specifically, and function in that capacity.” In other words, what does God want them to do? I just read that over, and I watched their lives, and I prayed, and said, “I think that’s a bite-sized dream.”
Another one I had for my kids was, “I long to see my kids discover their strengths, and talents, or interests, in their lives, and I want to help them develop their full potential.” And then, I had just a little line where I had each kid’s name there in 1986, and what area I thought they needed to develop. And that was on my radar, praying and dreaming.
I pulled this one out this morning, because it’s such an answer. In 1986, it says, “My goal” – my son, Eric, is here – “My goal is to help Eric overcome his fear of failure.” I remember, I sent him into the kitchen, in 1986, and he was a small boy, to make some popcorn. And there were a couple things you needed to do, and he was so afraid of messing up. He just kind of started crying, “I can’t do this. I can’t pour the oil, and I don’t know how.” As a little boy, he just so was afraid to fail.
And I remember writing this down, and then I wrote some, “Push with love. Encourage and build him. Help him see the positive.” And I just kept spending time trying to push him into new areas. Now he’s just one of the most confident people I’ve ever met now. And I’ve just seen how God has, what a quality, godly young man with confidence and how he’s blazed a trail.
See, I think you dream little dreams. I think, as I’ve been talking, that some of you think, Well, I don’t think I’m going to start a worldwide organization. I don’t think God wants everyone to start a worldwide organization. But dream a great dream for your marriage! Dream a great dream for your kids! Dream a great dream for your career. Dream a great dream for the ministry God’s entrusted to you. Start out with little, bite-sized dreams.
In ‘86, my goal was to: “Develop as a communicator, and develop my gift to its maximum.” Ten years later, after I got rebuked by Bill Lawrence, it was, “I’d like to preach great messages, for the glory of God, that would be used to transform multitudes of people’s lives.”
“I want to learn.” I want You to do in me and through me. “I want to preach great messages, for the glory of God, that would transform a multitude of people’s lives.” It’s audacious, but for the right reason.
I think God is looking for people, “I want to be an awesome mother, for the glory of God, that would raise kids who would love You.” “I want to be a CEO that lives out in integrity Your principles in this business, and funnels millions of dollars to the Kingdom of God.” “I want to be a worker in my company that demonstrates to people all around me what it looks like for Christ to show up in a human body, by the way I treat people and manage the people under me.” See, those are great dreams.
Dream a great dream for God. So, I have some others for ministry, and career. And one that I put that I was a little embarrassed by – 1996: “I’d like to put some truth in messages in book form, in a way that would really serve people in a powerful way.” God did that.
Here’s all I want you to hear: Unless you think it, desire it, pray it, and then dream it – and I believe, write it down – you will never unconsciously gravitate toward and allow God to take you through the Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus process of birthing the dream in your life.
As we conclude, the process, I’ve modeled for you. But I put it in written form. The process is, number one, write it down. I gave you a few – and please, those that are obsessive/compulsive, you can cheer with me, and those that aren’t. But see these cards? These are my “desire cards” over the last twenty years.
Just, when I sense God wants to birth a dream, I just write them down. And I don’t try to memorize them, and I don’t try to make them happen. I just want them to be the beat of my heart. I want to say to God, I think these are the kinds of desires that a God like You, who loves me, would like to see happen. And here they are. And I just read them over. And then, I write them down.
Second, after reading them over, I pray over your dreams. Things we’ve shared here, I would read that, and I’d say, Lord, I can’t imagine ever writing a book, but it’s a desire that if You would want – and if You don’t it’s fine. And I would pray over each of the desires, and each of the dreams.
And then, finally, look for God’s intervention.
And you know what? It upset my life. It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t easy. But it got back to:
What’s your purpose? What’s your dream? What are you going to do with your life? But you have to look for God’s intervention.
Dream great dreams. I believe He brought you here to birth, or grow, or expand what He’s been doing in your heart. Because the Scripture says, “Now to Him” – right? Jesus? – “who is able to do” – what? – “exceedingly, abundantly beyond what you could ever ask or think, to Him be the glory in the Church.”