Every dream is accompanied by obstacles, things that stand in the way, things that discourage you. Keeping ourselves encouraged while pursing a dream that is bigger than we are is a challenge, but applying these five principles to our thinking will give us lift in going after the fulfillment of our heart passions.
(Clicking the embedded timestamps will allow you to listen to the podcast commentary at that point.)
Staying Encouraged While Pursuing A Dream
I woke up this morning feeling my dream was stupid and unobtainable, by me at least. This is a regular occurrence in my life, and I believe it is a regular occurrence in most of us who are trying to accomplish things slightly or greatly bigger than ourselves.
We are told to dream a big dream, have a big vision, that our vision is not big enough unless it requires God’s involvement for success or fulfillment. We face an ongoing challenge when we dream something beyond our ability, it is the vacillation between reliance upon our self and reliance upon God’s Spirit within us. In one moment I feel empowered to bridge the spiritual with the physical and just go for it with great gusto, at other times I see my flaws, weaknesses, and inability as barriers. This is but one reason why we wake up one morning ready to take on the world, and on another morning we feel we should crawl in a hole and pull the top in over our heads.
This is every leader’s battle.
The Apostle Paul planned to return to Corinth for a second visit, but he had to change his plans (2 Corinthians 1). He made it clear to the Corinthians that he did not haphazardly make those plans according to his own whims, but he had sincerely made those plans. Sometimes circumstances change, and the changing circumstance comes against our good intentions and something has to change. Paul describes to the Corinthians that when we make plans according to the flesh (that is, our human reasoning and intellect) we have a tendency to vacillate. Even when we make plans according to the revelation of the Spirit, our human tendency is vacillation and instability of thought. But when we make plans according to God’s wisdom, it may not always appear as we think it should, but our path is consistent and we continue to press on toward the accomplishment of the ends (the “why).
“For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” 2 Corinthians 1.20-22 ESV
The promises of God find their “yes” in Christ. We have a surety of direction in the dream God has established within us, if indeed that dream is given by the Spirit of Christ working within us.
Paul said, “That is why it is through him (Christ) that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.” “Amen” means “so be it.” The surety of what God has established in us prompts us to the “so be it” certainty of its completion. There is a seal and a guarantee through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.
What does all of this mean?
Our greatest challenge is one of determining if a dream came from us or did it come from God. Our soul will cause us to vacillate on that point. We must find an anchor to stabilize us in the pursuit of a dream, or we will vacillate and be so inconsistent that the dream will never come to pass.
If the dream is the fulfillment of Christ’s passionate purpose placed in us, the answer will be “yes”, and “so be it” is our response.
So then, what are some of the common obstacles that knock us off our track in passionately pursing our dream, and how do we over come those obstacles?
1 – Listen to the Right Script [4:44]
The obstacle: Listening to the wrong script.
We have a variety of scripts that play in our heads. “You are worthless.” “Okay, this proves you can’t do anything right.” “Because you’ve done something wrong (though you don’t know what it is) now this is happening to you.” “You are still the same little kid that was always the goat in every game.”
I heard that script in December 1986 when three weeks into my first lead pastorate, I stood in a sanctuary with 17 people on a Sunday morning not knowing what to do and being quite certain I had come to the end of my road. “It’s because I have been unfaithful, God has brought me here to fail.” I had done nothing wrong and God did NOT bring us there to fail. In fact, we ultimately succeeded and saw exactly what was to happen.
I heard that script in 2013 when I suspected my “dark night of the soul” was my own fault. God reminded me that his Son once played a similar script in his head when he asked, “My God, why have you forsaken me.”
I still hear that script often. It comes from a feeling of being unworthy or undeserving.
We overcome the negative script with a positive script. This episode is not for the spiritually immature who do not know the difference, but for those who have forged forward in the certainty of a God given dream. When we live in the certainty of God’s general direction for our lives we anchor in the “yes.”
We establish the right script in our heads by writing down the promises we know to be true.
- Write down your values.
- Write your mission.
- Write your vision/dream and include why you are so certain about it.
When you face the vacillation caused by the various scripts in your head, you’ve got to go back to your anchor. You’ve got to go back to the place (Bethel) where you became sure, where you received the revelation, where you anchored in your path.
Rehearse the goodness and the promises of God and rehearse the reality script, not the discouragement script.
2 – Listen to the Right People [12:06]
The obstacle: Listening to the wrong people.
A simple and brief interaction with the wrong person can throw us off track. I’ve been in seasons where I was moving forward with a great stride, only to have someone criticize me or question my motives. Such interactions cause me to momentarily vacillate and doubt.
Some people say things innocently while others feel an unhealthy need to tear down our dream because they failed to realize theirs. Either way, I think we should always listen to what people have to say because a grain of truth usually resides within their statements, but we need to be careful what we take to heart.
When people who genuinely care about us say things to derail our dream, we need to listen and consider what they are saying, because sometimes they are right and they are bringing us godly insight. At other times, even trusted advisers and knowledgable people try to redirect our steps because they do not understand the things in our hearts, nor do they understand the fullness of the revelation we’ve received.
This is a slippery slope. Discernment of the Spirit is necessary. It’s not good to only seek out and listen to people who agree with us, neither is it good or healthy to have a steady diet of the words from naysayers and discouragers.
We must take caution when our beloved friends are questioning us, but I’ve found that often the wise people speaking into our lives are telling us to go for it and the detractors are questioning our motivation. Don’t let a small-minded and frustrated person so easily strip you of your dream.
3 – Keep the Right Perspective [15:44]
The obstacle: One minor and temporary set back can throw us off track.
In listening to other people, we have to take what they are saying in context and maintain a stance of listening from the right perspective. In the same way, we have to keep temporary setbacks in perspective.
I’m going to attempt a lot of great things. Not everything is going to work the way I hope. Even Apostle Paul planned to visit the Corinthians and it did not work out, but he still found a way to fulfill the “why” of instructing and encouraging them. You are going to have set backs. You are going to be disappointed. You are going to want to quit and give up the dream more than once.
When we have setbacks we must maintain the perspective of the failure in the succession of the victories. The perception may be that everything is falling apart and we need to jump ship, but the reality is, we just hit a wave, a disruption, and we are still on a steady path.
Expect the set backs and encourage yourself often with the truth that everything great and worthwhile is going to meet many obstacles and the prize goes to those who persevere.
4 – Follow the Right Examples [16:50]
The obstacle: Comparing ourselves with the wrong examples will throw us off track.
We are encouraged by the stories of others. We need to hear the victory stories of those who’ve walked the same path we are walking. I think it important to study the stories of others and see the hardships and the victories to hold my own in perspective.
When we compare ourselves to people with completely different sets of circumstances it can discourage us more than encourage us. We live in a time that is completely unique from any other time in history. When we compare ourselves to others as to where we should be on our journey, we set ourselves up for disappointment.
When we embrace our own journey as unique and uniquely crafted by a revelation from God, we can overcome the obstacle of comparison.
5 – Follow the Right Plan [20:10]
The obstacle: Following someone else’s plan for your life.
When I feel discouraged and I find myself falling into someone else’s plan for my life I quote this Jim Rohn quote to myself: “When you don’t have a plan for your life you fall into someone else’s plan, and guess what they have planned for you… not much!”
I have had godly individuals advise me according to what was best for them, or what they cared about. A lot of people have had a plan for my life. God has given you gifts, awesome gifts, he has empowered you to live the life he’s given you. A lot of well meaning people will want to pay for or use those gifts to advance their own agenda. The plan I am constrained to follow is God’s plan.
God has given you gifts, empowerment, and wisdom for the fulfilling of your dream. A lot of other people will benefit. Your dream may be helping someone else fulfill their dream, that’s okay. But what’s not okay is letting other people determine God’s plan for your life.
Again, this episode is not directed toward the immature who do not yet know the difference, this episode is directed toward those who have identified their dream, they are pressing toward it, but they (like me) often find themselves vacillating and wanting to pull back.
Calibration Points… Calibrating Our Lives and Lifting Those We Love and Lead [25:55]
- What is (or are) the dream(s) that has remained for at least 5 years? That dream has staying power.
- What are the scripts that run through your head when you face an obstacle? (because you are going to face obstacles)
- Journal and chronicle your journey. You need something written down you can reference in the future. Write down the dream, write down the vision, give the context and why you were so sure.
I’ve been in the district office for 23 years. I had a definite calling to the Indiana Assemblies of God. I knew that I knew that I knew. I’ve always felt that the direction of God to leave needed to be equal to the force and impact of my calling to come.
I think that sometimes the hardest things we face have the surest call. God knows we will be tested and that we will need much perseverance to make it and stay consistent, so he gives us the gift of a very sure calling.
We have to rehearse the story of our calling.
We have to rehearse the story of our journey, how it began, and WHY we started the journey in the first place.
When we are discouraged, we need to ask ourselves what changed. We need to ask ourselves what are the catalysts of the discouragement. Then we need to ask ourselves if that discouraging catalyst is sufficient to change our direction.
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