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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 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.”