When Dreams Die…

This past Monday at Wheaton College our chapel speaker was Phil Vischer, co-creator of VeggieTales. He had an awe-inspiring testimony of how a dream of his died through financial bankruptcy and how he saw God replace that dream with Himself. You may also know Phil as the founder of Big Idea Productions and the voice of Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber, and a host of other veggie characters. For some reason his presentation made me hungry for more.

He shared that during the time of his greatest disappointment, his mom gave him a cassette tape (do you remember those?) of a sermon titled “When a Dream Dies.” The pastor was preaching on Elisha and the Shunammite woman in 2 Kings 4; how God gave her a son and then how the boy died when he was older. In her grief, she sent for Elisha who came and miraculously brought the boy back to life. The speaker’s application was that God wants us to let go of our dreams so that we will find that He is all that we need. Vischer found this lesson transformational.

The Shunammite’s story is very similar to the story of Abraham and Isaac, when God wanted Abraham to lay his dream-son on the altar. Was it really to test Abraham to see if he loved the Giver more than the gift? I have heard that taught. However, don’t you think that God already knew Abraham’s heart like he knows ours? I think the issue was that Abraham didn’t know his own heart. Thus I believe that God may allow our dreams to die in order to reveal to us what is in our hearts, something we would never know apart from our dreams being dashed. CS Lewis said that “he who has everything has nothing more than he who has God alone.” We must not pant after our dreams, but we must learn to pant after God. The most important thing is to hold God as the most important thing.

Phil Vischer has now started a company called Jellyfish Labs, which produces new faith-based projects for kids and families. He chose the jellyfish as his business moniker because the creature has no means of locomotion and must be carried along by the current. It is not that Vischer has given up taking initiative for the future, but he is more intentional about being obedient to what God wants him to be doing today. And for that he has learned to wait on his knees. He used to believe the mantra that God can’t steer a parked car. Now he believes that he must “be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him” (Ps. 37:7).

So if your dream has died, do not think that it is the end. It may be the beginning of an entirely new understanding of yourself and a deeper sense of the sufficiency of God.  It could also lead to a new dream.

Disappointment with God…

imagesThen Moses turned to the Lord and said, “O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he (Pharaoh) has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all” (Ex. 5:22, 23).

Can’t you feel Moses’ disappointment and frustration? Do you remember a time when you felt like this—maybe even now? Perhaps it was a situation about which you earnestly prayed and things got worse and not better. I think that Christian leaders often fall prey to this disappointment when all our best-intentioned efforts and ministry to our people end up being misunderstood and creating more problems than they solve. We make the mistake, like Moses, of judging God at the beginning of the process and not by the big-picture vision of what he ultimately wants to accomplish in our people. We have so little information as to ways of an eternal, omniscient God. Perhaps that is why Moses later prayed “show me now your ways.” (Ex. 33:13)

Another principle that we need to learn is that the way to liberation is often through deeper bondage. That sounds strange, doesn’t it? However, how many times have we heard (or experienced) that a person needs to hit bottom before they start looking for help? Israel had not yet hit rock-bottom in their slavery. They thought they had options and had to learn to entrust themselves completely to the covenant-keeping God that Moses represented. Moses also needed to learn to trust in the Lord with all his heart if he was going to lead Israel out of oppression. “God is to be trusted when his providences seem to run contrary to his promises.” (Thomas Watson)

We cannot manage God; we must learn to trust him. He is our Father, who loves us and yet is also the sovereign God of the universe who is working out his redemptive process for us and the world. It is only by faith born of experience that we will learn to glory in the process and not judge God by a certain circumstance.

You fearful saints, fresh courage take; the clouds you so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break in blessings on your head.
Blind unbelief is sure to err and scan his work in vain:
God is his own interpreter, and he will make it plain.
(William Cowper, 1774)