The Key to Successful Living
Dr. Jim Denison
The inventor Thomas Edison was talking with two dejected assistants. They informed him, “We’ve just completed our seven hundredth experiment and we still don’t have an answer. We have failed.”
Edison replied, “No, my friends, you haven’t failed. We’re closer to finding the answer, because we now know seven hundred things not to do. Don’t call it a mistake. Call it an education.” And the light bulb was the result.
Cornell psychiatrist Ari Kiev:
In my practice as a psychiatrist, I have found that helping people to develop personal goals has proved to be the most effective way to help them cope with problems. Observing the lives of people who have mastered adversity, I have noted that they have established goals and sought with all their effort to achieve them. From the moment they decided to concentrate all their energies on a specific objective, they began to surmount the most difficult odds…The establishment of a goal is the key to successful living (emphasis mine).
Last week I told you that God has a dream for you. Today we’ll learn to seek it. In coming weeks we’ll learn how to persevere, to be ready when our chance comes, and to satisfy the one indispensable requirement for the dream God blesses.
Believe God has a dream for you
Let’s begin where we ended last week: believe that God has a dream for you. Joseph “had a dream” (Genesis 37:5): his brothers, and indeed the entire human race, would bow down to him. 20 years later, they did. Does God have a dream for you?
Some evolutionists say that life began as a chance coincidence, with no particular plan or purpose at all. Existentialists say that this life is all there is, and life is chaos. Postmodernists say that truth is relative, and there is no overriding purpose to life. So, does God have a plan for us, or is life a random coincidence? In the words of Shakespeare, are we “sound and fury, signifying nothing”?
Does God still have a dream for us?
In Jeremiah’s letter God claims, “I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). Even though they were enslaved in Babylon, with no hope and no future.
God dreamed that Noah would save the human race. He dreamed that the childless Abraham would be the father of the Messiah. He dreamed that the shepherd Moses would give his laws to the world. He dreamed that the young shepherd boy David would be king of his people.
He dreamed that the fishermen Peter, James, and John would lead his global church. He dreamed that the persecuting Saul of Tarsus would take his word across the Empire. He dreamed that the imprisoned John would write his Revelation. And so it was.
God has a dream for you. For every day there is a dream. It doesn’t matter how old or young you are, how healthy and prosperous you are or aren’t. If God had a dream of greatness for an arrogant teenage sheepherder, he has a dream for you.
And he wants you to know it. He is sovereign over history, while you are free. He knows your future, but permits you to help decide it. He created time, and transcends it now. He is not today peering into the future–there is no “future” with him. He is the Great I Am, not the I Was or the I Will Be. He observes all time as now.
So he observes all that we will choose to do. Observing is not deciding. He knows our future, while allowing us to decide it. Choose well.
Listen for his voice
So, how do we know God’s dream for us? In the same ways we know everything else in life. Sometimes God speaks to us intuitively. We have a sense of something we should do. Or his Spirit speaks to our spirit and we know what is right. We don’t need pragmatic or rational evidence–we just know it.
Such was Joseph’s experience. He “had” a dream, a vision which was given to him by God. He was not the last. Jacob had a vision of the ladder to heaven (Genesis 32:30). As he was being martyred, Stephen had a vision of Jesus standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:56). Paul “had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them” (Acts 16:9-10).
God wants to speak to our spirits more than we want to hear him. He promised, “I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions” (Joel 2:28); this promise was fulfilled at Pentecost (Acts 2:17).
How is it fulfilled today? How do we see God’s vision and hear his voice?
We make a space to listen. God spoke to the young boy Samuel in a voice so quiet it did not waken anyone else in the house (1 Samuel 3). He spoke to Elijah in a “gentle whisper” (1 Kings 19:12). He spoke to Peter in a vision only Peter saw.
But Peter first made space to see and hear the Lord: “About noon the following day…Peter went up on the roof to pray” (Acts 10:9). This was the unshaded part of the house, in the heat of the day. He knew he would be there alone. And he was, until he was joined by the God of the universe.
Make space for God. Answer his invitation: “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). When last did you give God even 15 minutes to speak to you? When you weren’t doing all the talking to him? Open his word and ask him to speak to your heart from his revelation. Consider something in his creation, a leaf or sunset or cloudy sky, and ask him to speak to you from his creation. Worship him, and ask him to speak to you from the songs or words you sing or speak.