Good is the archenemy of great.
This is no new revelation. But when a word begins to take root in your soul—being written into your DNA and tempered into your nature—there is ground ready for transformation to break out.
Recently, I have been relentlessly confronted by my tendency to settle. For as long as I can remember I have had areas of my life where I’d default to accept something short of my dreams as good enough. Of course, it’s easier to master pointing this out in others’ lives. Lately however, the Lord has been letting me see how many of my internal settings need to be calibrated to God’s idea of great.
I can hear a previous version of me trying to convince you that a certain measure of pessimism is a survival skill—a good defense mechanism that protects us from being hurt or offended. Of course, if you don’t like to be disappointed, the easiest defense is to resign yourself to compromising in order to manage. After all, if you’re constantly aiming too high, you’re bound to sip from failure’s bitter cup more often.
This is not God’s design for us.
I say this with the utmost reverence and compassion for those believers who walk with Christ through a suffering I have not known. In fact, my book, One Bloody Road is all about walking through the crucible of suffering in order to fully realize the glory of God expressed in our lives. But we have to understand that your dreams and my dreams are not the same while they both bring God’s target into focus. What is God’s target? The Kingdom of God—Heaven itself—manifest in the earth through each of his children. This reality was once and for all released to humanity through Christ, continues to spring up in glimpses through us, and will crescendo till that day when Jesus returns a second time to eternally establish Heaven’s government on earth.
So how can a prisoner in a torture cell reach beyond good enough and release God’s Kingdom on earth? Much in the same way as a Fortune 500 CEO can, by simply looking up to Christ and going higher than the circumstances around him. In the Book of Acts, Paul and Silas were attacked and dragged by a crowd to be put on public display for preaching and casting a demon out of a fortune-telling slave girl (which apparently made her owner very upset). They were then beaten with rods by authorities and jailed.
Certainly their circumstances were not in any way worthy of a celebration. But Paul and Silas tapped into something which displays who we can be in the face of terrible adversity. The two beaten and bound men worshiped God. They went higher. If you know the scripture you know the jail miraculously opened up and the jailers became believers. But this result was not the intent of their worship. In their brokenness they simply looked up and went to the One who is always worthy of our praise. And then Heaven happened.
But here’s the catch: going higher requires us to disregard everything—even the reward we seek—simply because Christ is worthy to be loved and we need His love. Being with Him, touching Heaven, regardless of change or what we perceive as the lack of change we desire, is the reward. Just ask the apostle Stephen. Remember, Stephen did the same thing while he was being stoned to death earlier in Acts. For him, the assault didn’t end. Stephen died in the midst of his worship. Because his heart was crucified, he was able to see God while his body was being maimed. Stephen went higher while being brutally put to death. Even for those who are oppressed under the worst this life has to offer, there is still always a way to turn our hearts to the Lord and look up at the risen Christ. When you fix your eyes on Jesus, when your heart is turned to him, then you have the chance to walk on water. In Matthew’s Gospel we read that when Peter saw the wind and the waves, he became afraid and began to sink. It is always fixing our eyes on Jesus, the embodiment of what is possible when we connect to God, that leads us from being influenced by the storms of life, to becoming lighthouses within them.
Look, I know that life is full of disappointments. I am not telling you that I don’t hurt, doubt, complain, or even fumble my way through things (more than I’d like to admit, for sure). What I am saying is that I believe one of the greatest challenges to the believer isn’t actually the battles we face, or the enemies lined up against us. Our biggest fight is looking above what the world demands and locking into what Heaven declares, as a natural posture of our hearts. God is desiring a people that will always be able to see Heaven above the dust cloud of this earth. When egos parade themselves through our institutions, can we carry humility and trust God to speak for us? When the voices in our life shout and demand to be heard, can we put on meekness and serve those who don’t deserve it? When accusations fly are we able to turn another cheek and love and pray for our enemies? Even lay ourselves down to glorify God so others can experience the Kingdom of God through you? Maybe it’s your kindness, gentleness, or self-control that will open the door to another’s heart and allow them to experience the beautiful gospel like never before. Certainly I have never argued one person into loving me, or Jesus for that matter.
And here I return to the original point. Are we settling for a life below God’s intent? Do we live in a series of compromises of our dreams, and compromises of His Word, which undoubtedly compromise our daily life and destiny? I believe God is awakening his people to dream again. I hear him calling me to dare to go places I’ve never been before. To give recklessly and freely, and to receive just the same. He is asking his people to laugh and cry more openly than ever, and to do so at our own expense so that others’ guard will come down and Heaven will shine on them. The days of churching people into submission are over, it is time that we would be a people of joy and life, and that we would salt and light the earth just as Jesus called for in his opening Sermon on the Mount.
Being able to see Him in the jail cell, or being able to be Him to a group of relentlessly mocking co-workers doesn’t come from nowhere. We have to be a people who know something they don’t know—a people who know the end of the story is that we win and that every death we die leads to life forever more. It is that kind of people, those who are so convinced in the eternal goodness of God and his grace, that are able to never accept the compromises of this world for the riches of Heaven. And it is that kind of people, the ones who have tasted something so amazing that they’ll never settle for a secondary prize, who will be a part of the chorus that calls our beautiful Jesus back for his bride.
If we cannot dream with God, if we have our defenses up toward Him and can’t even freely allow Him to show us things that are great (and even seem unattainable) without being hurt, disappointed, or offended, how can we possibly live freely before others and circumstances that are positioned against us? If we cannot live innocently in hope and joy with the Lord, then how can we possibly live that out in adversity?
Dream. It is time for God’s people to be a people of faith who “believe that God is and that He is a rewarder of those who come after Him.”
It is time we walked the earth knowing nothing is impossible.
It is time that God’s children not be afraid to carry His favor and unashamedly released it on a world starving on disappointment.
Workers will earn their labor’s reward. Stewards will manage little into more. But only dreamers can parlay the disciplines of life into true greatness. Because only dreamers can stare at Heaven while their feet are stuck to this earth.
Heaven is always calling.
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