"If anyone intends to come after Me, let him deny himself [forget, ignore, disown, and lose sight of himself and his own interests]..."
- Mark 8:34 AMP
A young man wrote me recently and told me how he had begun sinking into a pit of depression, because a dream that he had as a young boy seemed to be dying. For years, he had been preparing for this dream to come to pass, and there were many times when it seemed like certain doors were being opened. Lately, though, doors had been closing, and he was now feeling defeated and alone. The bright future that he had set his hopes on was becoming hopelessly dim. As I read this young man's letter, I couldn't help realizing that somewhere along the line, he had gotten off track, and he had begun desperately seeking his dream, instead of God.
Unfortunately, this problem is all too common among Christians these days. Perhaps you've met some of these folks. They talk about THEIR dreams, THEIR visions, and THEIR desires. It's all about THEM. You rarely--if ever--hear them say things like: "I want to become the person God created me to be. I want to fulfill my God-given purpose and potential. I want to make a difference for God. I want to glorify God with the gifts He's given me." What these people don't realize--or want to realize--is that God has dreams, visions, and desires for them, too. And, in fact, His should take precedence over their own, because He is the One who created them for a specific purpose. As Scripture says: "We are God's [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live]." (Ephesians 2:10 AMP) Before we ever showed up on Planet Earth, God had specific plans and purposes mapped out for us, and it's up to us to discover what they are. We do that by walking in close fellowship with Him daily, seeking Him with an open and obedient heart. As we cooperate with the Lord, we see His awesome plans for us gradually unfold like a beautiful flower.
The Bible warns us against a sin called "selfish ambition." It's when we have a strong desire for achievement and success apart from God. Scripture says that selfish ambition is a "work of the flesh" (Galatians 5:19-20 NKJV), and that those who practice it "will not inherit the kingdom of God." (v. 21) Jesus said: "If any of you wants to be My follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross, and follow Me. If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for My sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will find true life." (Mark 8:33-35 NLT) I have seen Christians wear themselves out trying to make their dreams come to pass in their own strength. Many of them have extraordinary gifts and talents, but they live frustrated lives, because they refuse to surrender themselves and their futures to the Lord. They fail to realize that because they gave their lives to Christ at one point, God is committed to transforming them into the likeness of His Son. (Romans 8:29) Therefore, the Lord often opposes their proud and selfish attempts to glorify themselves, instead of Him. As Scripture says: "God sets Himself against the proud (the insolent, the overbearing, the disdainful, the presumptuous, the boastful)--[and He opposes, frustrates, and defeats them], but gives grace (favor, blessing) to the humble." (1 Peter 5:5 AMP) If they would only surrender their dreams and desires to the One who created them, they would experience His awesome plans for them, plans that would exceed their highest expectations in every way.
It's been said that all of us will be asked to give up our dreams and visions sooner or later. This is a test of our devotion to the Lord, and it's a test that all of us must pass. If you can relate to this young man's situation today, I urge you to let your dreams go for now. Put them "on the altar," and begin focusing only upon your relationship with the Lord. As you learn to love, seek, and serve Him with all your heart, you'll find that you won't have to pursue your dreams and desires, because they'll be pursuing YOU!
Prayer: Lord, today I ask You to remove from me every dream and desire that is not from You. Plant Your plans and desires for my life firmly in my mind and heart, and bring them to pass according to Your perfect will and timing. Thank You that as I wait upon You in faith and devotion, I will experience the divine destiny You've had in store for me all along!
- J. M. Farro