(Acts 13:4 NLT) So Barnabas and Saul were sent out by the Holy Spirit. They went down to the seaport of Seleucia and then sailed for the island of Cyprus.
This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing” by continuing to learn more about the amazing life of the Apostle Paul. I like to close out weeks with reflective messages that summarize the essence of what the Lord has taught us through the week. This morning, as I thought/prayed over what to write, the Lord led me to write about “God-given dreams.”
As you know by now, Paul was a prominent, educated and influential person within the Jewish community prior to being Born-Again. Once he was Born-Again he was somewhat exiled and ostracized. He was no longer welcome amongst the Jews, because he had switched sides. He was not welcome amongst the church, because he had not yet proven a true conversion experience. So while Paul was in Tarsus, away from everything and everyone church-related, I am sure he had some heart-to-heart conversations with God about his future. I am sure he poured his heart out to God about having to give up his dreams. While we don’t know what his dreams were, based on his drive and bulldog-tenacity, I am sure he dreamed of continuing to move up the ranks within the religious Jewish system. But now those dreams were dead and Paul needed to know what his future was going to hold.
As Paul sailed the Mediterranean towards Cyprus, I am sure his perspective was much better at that moment, than it was while he was waiting on his breakthrough in Tarsus. While Paul was on his first missionary journey, taking in the view, enjoying the fellowship of Barnabas, and excited about his future, I am sure he realized God had a plan for his life and God’s plan was much better than anything he could dream up. Said another way, God-given dreams are always much better than self-made dreams. God would take Paul’s tenacity, ambition, drive and motivation, and use it for His glory. Whatever Saul was going to be before his conversion experience pales in comparison to what He was going to be once God got a hold of him.
So what does this mean to you today? Two things:
1. Anything you give up for God becomes a seed. Paul gave up his former life, dreams and aspirations for God. Paul willingly and completely gave it all away. Paul said, “Every advantage that I had gained I considered lost for Christ’s sake. Yes, and I look upon everything as loss compared with the overwhelming gain of knowing Jesus Christ my Lord. For his sake I did in actual fact suffer the loss of everything, but I considered it useless rubbish compared with being able to win Christ” (Phil 3:7,8). But God is not going to let you lose by giving up something for Him. Jesus said, “Nobody leaves home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property for my sake and the Gospel’s without getting back a hundred times over, now in this present life, homes and brothers and sisters, mothers and children and land” (Mark 10:29,30). Did Paul receive a harvest on his seed (what he gave up for Christ)? You better believe it. Paul gave up much, but he also received much. Outside of Jesus, Paul is the most influential character in the first century church. Paul was used of God to write half the New Testament and his writings make up the central portion of teaching on how we are to live today as believers. Paul will forever be remembered in this life and in the life to come. The point is this: whatever you give up for Christ and the Gospel’s sake will become a seed and you will reap a divine harvest.
2. You can’t dream bigger than God. Before Paul was Born-Again he had dreams, hopes and aspirations, but he willingly gave them all up for Jesus. Since Paul gave up his dreams, God gave him divine dreams — the dreams God designed before the foundations of the world — and God’s dreams for Paul were much better than anything he could ever come up with on his own. So don’t worry if you feel like God is leading you to give up something you have dreamed about for years, because if you allow God to lead you, He will give you new dreams and His dreams will make your old dreams look like a waste of time.
Closing Confession: Father, You know who I was, where I was and where I was headed before I gave my life to You. I had my own dreams, hopes and aspirations for life before coming to You. I had a long-range plan and I thought I knew what I wanted to do with my life. However, since coming to You things have changed. In some areas You have comforted me and told me I was on track. However, in many areas You have led me a different way and told me to let go of my old plans. While part of me does not want to let my plans go, Your Spirit keeps reassuring me that Your plans for me are much better than anything I could ever plan. By faith I shall let go of everything You lead me to let go of. By faith I receive all the plans that are new to me, but I realize that You formulated those plans, by Grace, before the foundations of the world. So, by faith I access the Grace and I receive Your plans, Your hopes and Your dreams for me. I am starting to dream new dreams, Your dreams, God-given dreams, and these dreams are much bigger than anything I have ever imagined. I now see myself doing things I never thought I would do. I dream of going places I never thought I would go. I hear myself saying things I never thought I would say. You have changed me from the inside out and You are leading me to live and enjoy Your dream for my life. Father, THANK YOU! The more I think about the dreams You are giving me, the more I appreciate Your Grace, because I know I certainly do not deserve what You want to do in my life. But I do receive it! I embrace the Grace, I dream new dreams and I pursue those dreams by faith! In Jesus’ name. Amen.
This is Today’s Word! Apply it and Prosper.