Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Idol Dreams

Have you ever had an idol dream? And no, I do not mean the idle wanderings of a subconscious mind, but an idol dream—a desire that burns its way into your thoughts till it consumes your energies and passions. No mountain is too high to scale to attain your dream, and soon your every decision in life is affected by it. Our culture glorifies your pursuit. Disney tells you to believe in yourself and make it happen. No dream is impossible, if you just believe! (Especially if you are willing to sacrifice just about everything else in your life to have it.)

As a Christian, you are sure that God has given you this dream, and that it must be His perfect will for your life. He wouldn’t give you this burning desire if He didn’t want you to fulfill it. You find yourself having a hard time praying “if it be your will” or “your will be done” when talking to God about your dream, because there are no “ifs” about it! It is His will, and all you need prayer for is on how to wisely attain it.

But then God takes it from you.

It hurts. Really, really badly. Broken dreams can be devastating, stealing away the joy you thought you had and leaving a hollow, empty spot inside you. Life loses a sense of purpose, and you find yourself barely going through the motions. Your mood swings dangerously all over the place, from apathy to anger to regret. You find ways to medicate the pain, and rarely are any of them good. In the middle of another sleepless night, you ask God why over and over again.

But then, searching through the rubble of your broken dream, you make a discovery. It wasn’t the breaking of the dream that left you feeling so empty, but the dream itself! You realize the hideous idol you have fashioned. No wonder your life feels so empty now, because you have ripped things like joy, contentment, and purpose from the place in your heart where they belong and made them the very cornerstones you built your dream upon!

We are without excuse for the idol dreams we fashion. In fact, we are in some ways worse than the pagans of old (and present!). Whereas they fashioned idols out of wood and stone, we go beyond the material and make idols out of a piece of our soul. Isaiah 44:9-20 is a candid, revealing look at the foolishness of idolatry. Idolaters toil so long at their work making a god that is both pleasing and fulfilling to them, a god they believe will deliver them! And yet “no one recalls, nor is there knowledge or understanding to say, ‘I have burned half of it in the fire and also have baked bread over its coals. I roast meat and eat it. Then I make the rest of it into an abomination, I fall down before a block of wood!’” (Isaiah 44:19)

How silly! But how much worse are we for the idols we make of our dreams? I confess that I am guilty of such foolishness. The last season of my life I spent chasing my own dream rather than seeking first God’s kingdom. I didn’t even notice the idol my dream had become, until God took it from me. And for a while, believe me, I asked Him why over and over again! But now I am so thankful for my broken dream. My great God, the Lord of Lords and the only one to be praised, loved me too much to let me run after my own will away from His. Gently, He broke me from my idolatry and turned me back to Him.

Thank you, Lord!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

You see, Moses’s calling to God’s chosen people in the Old Testament is the same to us chosen, redeemed Christians of this day. Listen to these words, as the Jews would in the Old Testament! “Hear oh Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)

God wants all of us. He deserves all of us, if we really do believe His Word. He has created us. He has called us. He has sent His only Son to die for us. He shed His own blood for us. He is risen and is preparing an eternal home for us. What more could we possibly do but live only and always for Him?! How could we not give Him all the hopes of our hearts, the desires of our souls, and all the energies of our might in light of what He has done for us?

I am not saying that we should turn from every desire we have ever had. That is both impossible and would leave us with literally nothing to do but sit around like a vegetable and wait to spoil. I do believe God has given us certain desires in accordance with His will. Nate Saint had a desire to become a pilot, and God used him mightily because of it. C.S. Lewis had a desire to be a writer, and God used Him mightily as a writer. Must all of us single folk have a desire to be married, and God uses that desire to bring about righteous families that will live out their days for Him. Don’t think that I believe dreams are wrong. What is more, if we would but commit all our works to the Lord, our plans would be established (Proverbs 16:3), because they would look like what our Lord wants for us! If we delight ourselves in Him and Him alone, He will give us the desires of our hearts (Psalm 37:4), because they too will be His! We only get ourselves in trouble when we cannot submit our dreams to God and let Him use it or take it from us however He wills.

So, when you look at your life, at your priorities and the attention of your heart, soul, and strength, can you say with utter assurance that the Lord has all of you? Have you surrendered every dream and desire you have to His will? Or, like me recently, have you let a dream claim too much of your attention and priorities than it should? Does a desire of yours have any piece of your heart, soul, or might that should belong only to God?

God, the jealous guardian of your heart, wants all of you. Will you come? Will you let go of the why, and instead choose to trust? Will you live your life to glorify God and further His kingdom, even if that means letting go of a dream you really wanted to pursue? God would say the same to you as He did the nation of Israel after that passage on the folly of idol worship. You can read these verses in Isaiah as if God was speaking directly to you!

“Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are My servant; I have formed you, you are My servant, O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me. I have wiped out your transgressions like a thick cloud and your sins like a heavy mist. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.”

Isaiah 44:21-22

I am so content to be God’s servant. It is so much more than anything I could hope for or imagine on my own. Break me of any idols in my life, Lord, that I may live completely and wholly for you, all the days of my life! I don’t care if it hurts, I’d rather have you! Thank you for wiping away my sins and letting me live for you! I can shout joyfully with all the Earth for what you have done! Show forth your glory in me!

And I pray the same for you, friends, each and every one of you who will read this! May you live wholly for Christ and be a living testament to all creation of God’s redeeming love. May the same be said of you as of Israel:

Shout for joy, oh heavens, for the Lord has done it! Shout joyfully, you lower parts of the earth; break forth into a shout of joy, you mountains, o forest, and every tree in it; for the Lord has redeemed Jacob and in Israel he shows forth His glory!

Isaiah 44:23