It’s everywhere: the notion that you can and should pursue your dreams. In fact, you likely feel like a failure if you aren’t pursuing your dream, or you battle discouragement if you’ve pursued a dream that hasn’t been fulfilled. Maybe you find yourself on the other end of the spectrum: feeling like a loser because you don’t have a dream.
But should we be pursuing our dreams? Always?
Interestingly, God’s Word doesn’t tell us to pursue our dreams. Not even once. Does that surprise you? It did me.
The Bible does tell us, however, to “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness” (1 Timothy 2:22). Jesus taught us to “seek (or pursue) first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things (the other stuff people pursue) will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)
Let me be clear. God is not anti-dream. God wants us to use our gifts and talents. God wants you to step into all the good works He’s prepared in advance for you to do. In fact, Jesus tells us we are to express our gifts to their fullest capacity.
God’s Word teaches us to pursue God and use our gifts. But in today’s narcissistic culture, could it be that many of us pursue our gifts and use God?
It’s a question I’ve had to ask myself. And the answer isn’t always pretty.
So, how do I know if I’m pursuing a dream God doesn’t necessarily want me to pursue? I must be honest enough to ask myself these questions:
1. Am I pursuing my dream more than I am pursuing God?
This is a gut-honest question that must be addressed by every believer. Above all else, a Christian is a Christ follower. Or put another way, a Christ-pursuer.
If the pursuit of my dream has replaced my pursuit of Jesus, my dream has become my god. God isn’t big on his children having idols. In fact, “you shall have no other gods before Me” isn’t simply one of the Ten Commandments—it’s number one.
Above everything, we are to pursue God. The dream is not the goal; knowing Jesus, loving Jesus, and becoming like Jesus is.
If we make our deepest desire knowing God, we’ll find our greatest dreams realized doing God’s will, God’s way, in God’s time.
2. Are my motives for pursuing my dream pure?
Many years ago, a pastor friend recounted a true story: One cold Chicago morning, an enthusiastic young man entered his office clearly excited to talk about his commitment to the Lord.
“Pastor, I’ve decided I want to serve God with my life.”
“That’s great news! In fact, I’d love for you to get started right now.”
The young man beamed. This was the confirmation he’d hoped for.
My pastor-friend continued, “A few minutes ago I got a phone call from an elderly woman who’s snowed in and needs her driveway shoveled.”
“Oh, maybe you didn’t understand me”, the young man responded. “I want to pursue my dream of going into ministry. I want to serve the Lord.”
“Yes, I know. I’m giving you an opportunity right now.”
“Well, I meant I want to preach and teach the Word of God. I want to serve the Lord like that. I want to really serve the Lord.”
My pastor-friend paused to consider the underlying motive behind the enthusiastic young man’s desire. Finally, he responded, his words carefully measured.
“No, young man. You do not want to serve the Lord. You want to be famous for Jesus.”
None of us can claim to have completely pure motives for anything we do. But in our increasingly self-focused culture, we must be brutally honest about whose dream we’re pursuing and why.
It’s easy to mask our own self-centered desires with spiritual language.
After more than two decades in ministry and four decades walking with God, may I share how I discern motives in the hope it may help you, too?
I ask this question: When God denies my dream, delays my dream or redirects my dream, how do I respond?
If my motives are pure I might be disappointed, confused or even sad, but I’ll eventually get on board and make God’s way, my way.
In the end, our reactions reveal the state of our heart.
3. Is pursuing my dream in line with God’s will?
This is the million-dollar question. Sometimes it’s easier to know if a dream is not in line with God’s will.
A dream is not worth pursuing if it:
- Draws me further away from God rather than closer to Him.
- Is in direct opposition to God’s Word.
- Requires me to abandon clear responsibilities God has already given me (for example, to my spouse, children, etc.)
- Negatively affects my emotional, spiritual or physical health.
A dream is (or might be) worth pursuing if it:
- Expresses my love for God and for others.
- Utilizes my God-given gifts and passions.
- Helps my neighbor, my community, or world.
- Requires me to live in dependence on God rather than independent from God.
Don’t make the mistake of pursuing a dream God doesn’t approve.
4. Does pursuing a dream keep me stuck rather than moving forward?
Frankly, many of us don’t have a dream. We’re told we should have one, but figuring out what God wants for our lives feels overwhelming, and if we’re honest, confusing. Or maybe we have a dream but we don’t quite know how to go about fulfilling it.
Tragically, because we don’t know exactly how God wants to use us, we don’t allow God to use us at all.
But what if we’re asking the wrong question?
Perhaps asking, “what’s my dream?” should be replaced with “what’s my unique contribution?”
A God-given dream is never about position; a God-given dream is always about contribution.
God is for us. God is for you. His plans for you are good because He is good. He created you with a set of unique gifts, talents and passions which, when expressed from a pure heart, will bless others and bring you joy. So whether your dream is in reach, or your dream seems like it may never be fulfilled or your dream remains a mystery, pursue God more than you pursue the dream.
Because pursuing Him is the dream.
Donna Jones is a national and international speaker who travels the country helping people of all ages find God and follow God in real, everyday life. Donna is the author of three books including Seek: A Woman’s Guide to Meeting God and Taming Your Family Zoo. Donna makes her home in sunny southern California where she’s a pastor’s wife and mom to three young adult kids who frequently sit on her kitchen counter just to chat.