Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Kenny Luck's new book, Dream, (WaterBrook Press, 2007).
It’s natural to want to be and do something great, since God has wired you to pursue a significant life. Those dreams stirring in your soul can come true if you embrace God’s plans with passion.
Here’s how you can make God’s dreams for your life come true:
Ask God to help you see clearly. Don’t let your own agenda or other people’s expectations cloud your vision of what God wants your life to be like. Instead, choose to let God decide what’s best for you, since He – your Creator – knows you better than you know yourself. Realize that God’s ultimate dream for you is to become more like Jesus. Understand that God wants to use your current reality (not the fantasy of how you wish your life would be) to move you toward His dreams for you. Expect Him to use your struggles to accomplish good purposes. Rather than running from reality, let God bring glory through it. Exchange your own limited vision for God’s unlimited, much more powerful vision. Instead of fighting God’s process of making His ultimate dream for you come true – transforming you more into Jesus’ image – accept the discomfort, conflict, loss, and pain involved. Trust that going through anything God deems necessary is worth it, because He is accomplishing good purposes in your life that can’t be accomplished any other way. Constantly stretch the borders of your growth by praying regularly for God to continue changing you. Surrender every area of your life to God and eagerly anticipate how He will help you grow as a result.
Pay attention to what you’re leaking. Realize that your character qualities leak out into the lives of the people around you – for better or for worse. Strive to leak less sin and selfishness that stinks and leak more holiness instead. Know that God wants you to be visibly identified with Jesus in a way that brings Him glory, pouring out hope into the lives of people with whom you interact. Be faithful to God’s call to represent Jesus, even when others reject the Gospel. Be available for God to use you in any situation, and depend on the Holy Spirit to help you live out your faith with integrity. Study Jesus’ life to imitate how He interacts with people. Invite God to refine every part of your character, holding nothing back from His work in your life.
Be humble. Know that God has declared that you are important to Him, and He has approved your mission, so you’re free to be humble. Understand that you have nothing to prove. Ask God to help you be content with yourself, to desire recognition only from Him, to trust Him with your station in life, to refrain from threatening others, to be at ease with the weak, to be easy for people to embrace, to not feel any need to get credit from others, and to refrain from competition with others. Strive for influence without ego. In conflict, choose reconciliation instead of retaliation. Pass up power for yourself in order to increase God’s influence. Submit to God’s plans versus presuming them. Freely notice others. Empty yourself instead of holding onto a sense of self-entitlement. Be willing to humbly obey God’s purposes. Wait for God to honor your efforts in His time rather than trying to force results yourself. Be willing to exchange: comfort for discomfort, flattery for faithfulness, status for service, harshness for graciousness, titles for treasures in heaven, and safety for suffering. Don’t forget how important God and other people are, and keep your sense of your own importance in perspective. Learn all you can from Jesus. Focus on Him more than on yourself. Reach out to others in service as God leads you, humbly sharing God’s love.
Serve others. Instead of seeking to have others serve you, seek to serve them. Realize that power and prestige aren’t what make you a truly great man; what distinguishes you is your willingness to serve. Remember that when Jesus came to Earth, he didn’t choose to be served, but to serve. Ask God to help you reach out beyond your family and friends to strangers who are different from you and even make you uncomfortable. Don’t place any borders around the scope of your service; be open to following God’s leading anywhere. Every day, try to make decisions that help you serve others rather than just yourself.
Make sacrifices. Be willing to give up whatever you need to in order to become more like Jesus. Understand that if you’re willing to sacrifice now for God, you’ll experience the joy of your reward later. Expect that God will honor your faithfulness in His time and in His way. Know that every one of these sacrifices you make for God is an opportunity to bring Him glory: an attitude, a behavior, a response, a comfort, a right to strike back, a feeling, an impulse, a chance to control, a grab for power, a portion of your time, a pattern of your old life, a financial bonus, a freedom, a way of doing something, or a golden opportunity. Trust that God’s glory is more important than anything you give up for Him.
Don’t run from suffering. Recognize that suffering can build your character in powerful ways, and that God often uses the suffering you go through to accomplish good purposes in your life. When suffering comes your way, accept it and ask God to help you endure it for the cause of something greater than yourself. Pursue Christlikeness over comfort. Ask yourself honestly how much you’re willing to endure for Jesus in your times of pain, or whether you tend to seek your own safety. Trust in God’s ultimate control of all that He allows to happen to you, and know that through your suffering, you will grow as a person and become united to Jesus.
Discover and do God’s will. Know that it’s crucial to find out God’s will and commit to following it when making decisions. Let God’s unconditional love for you give you the confidence you need to be free of worrying about other people’s acceptance or approval. Ask God to give you the courage you need to pursue God’s priorities for your life with great focus. Cooperate with God to fulfill His purposes in your life. Pray each day for the ability to do less of your own will and more of God’s will for you.
Experience the joy of being God’s child. Embrace the special connection you have to your heavenly Father as His beloved child. Be assured that, through Jesus, God has adopted you into His family and anointed your special relationship with Him. Regularly seek a special revelation from God concerning your life. Be authentic with Him, knowing that you can’t hide anything from Him, and that He loves you completely, scabs and all. Share private conversations with God through prayer every day. Rather than seeking validation from other people, live to please God alone and don’t worry about other people’s opinions. Learn to trust your heavenly Father intuitively and implicitly.
Be compassionate. Understand that God wants you to be strong and secure in Him so the compassion of Jesus could flow freely through your life to those who need your touch. Acknowledge the reality of the situations around you and work with it instead of running away from it. Be willing to be undignified in order to meet the needs of others. Don’t give into apathy when you encounter other people’s pain. Instead, respond right away to urgent situations. Allow yourself to see, feel, and act like Jesus in the face of pain instead of dismissing needs. Ask God to help you become tender and fearless when confronted with pain.
Dig down deep. Don’t settle for superficial relationships. Instead, learn how to discern people’s deepest emotions and concerns, and respond to them. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you know what lies inside the heart of each person with whom you’re relating – hurts, fears, insecurities, sin, mixed motives, lust, wounds, abandonment, shame, pride, loss, anger, etc. Ask people thoughtful, caring questions to help reveal the issues behind their thoughts, words, and behaviors. Learn how to recognize the differences between appearances and reality, public images and private struggles, anger and hurt, pride and fear, good and bad intentions, right and wrong agendas, and healthy and unhealthy spiritual patterns. Pray regularly for the ability to see yourself and other people more clearly.
Express God’s grace. Know that while you may hate sin, Jesus calls you to love sinners – just as He does. Pray for the courage you need to affirm people apart from their sin. Remember that Jesus died for every person; ask Him to help you see each person you encounter as someone He loves and wants to help. Let your gratitude for how much grace God has given you motivate you to express grace to others, even when you disagree with their attitudes or behaviors. Ask God to help you overcome pride and engage other people without walls, giving grace to them as freely as you have received it yourself.
Embrace reality. Avoid fantasies that deceive you and accept reality as it is – not as you would like it to be. Be committed to the truth, even when it hurts. Invite Jesus to shine His light over the dark places in your life – morally, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually – and expose what you need to deal with so you can grow into the person He wants you to become. Let truth guide your actions. Speak the truth. Encourage others to face the truth. Accept responsibility and evaluate your own shortcomings. Seek constructive feedback from others and embrace consequences. Acknowledge and deal with negative emotions instead of swallowing them. Make the hard and better call in situations early. Grieve losses and hurts rather than hiding from them. Don’t blame others to cover for your mistakes. Don’t seek affirmation to compensate for insecurity. Speak up with others, to them, and for them when the Holy Spirit leads you to do so. Pray for the ability to seek life as it really is and to trust God for how it will be.
Fight evil. Pray for the courage and strength you need to fight spiritual battles. Remember that you can count on the Holy Spirit to help you overcome evil with good. Be filled with the Holy Spirit and memorize the truths of Scripture so you’ll be prepared to quickly and effectively resist Satan’s attempts to tempt, distract, or destroy you. Have the confidence that God will help you win every time to engage in battle. Realize your place as God’s beloved child. Respect Satan’s tactics and power to influence lives. Revere truth so you can spot twisted manipulations of it. Respond decisively when you encounter evil. Rely on the Holy Spirit for spiritual insight. Rest in grace. Make choices for good over evil every day, such as by forgiving someone who has hurt you instead of attacking him or her, saying no to unhealthy appetites rather than feeding them, and encouraging people instead of criticizing them.
Say “no” to temptation in order to say “yes” to God. Realize that your time here on Earth is just a temporary layover on your way to your final destination – heaven. Keep heaven in mind when you make decisions every day, doing your best to live in a way that pleases God and will give you no regrets when you meet Him face to face one day. Rely on the Holy Spirit’s help to flee whatever temptation you encounter.
Finish well. Let your exceptional destiny drive you to continue to live faithfully until the end. Ask God to help you stay committed to serving Him in all aspects of your life. Know that discipline in your commitment to living out God’s dream of Christlikeness will far outweigh the regret of getting to the end of your life and wishing you had. Ask God to remind you of your personal mission, help you be consistent with your spiritual disciplines, keep learning, manage your time well, and live to please God instead of other people.
Adapted from Dream: How to Act on Your Passion, Discover Your Plan & Achieve God's Purpose, copyright 2007 by Kenny Luck. Published by WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc., Colorado Springs, Co., www.waterbrookpress.com.
Kenny Luck is the Men’s Pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. He is also the founder and president of Every Man Ministries, which helps churches worldwide develop and grow healthy men’s communities. Kenny is an ECPA Platinum Award-winning author, who has written or coauthored 17 books. He is a graduate of UCLA, where he met his wife Chrissy. They have three children – Cara, Ryan and Jenna – and live in Trabuco Canyon, California. He plays in a men’s soccer league, mountain bikes and loves flag football on Thanksgiving mornings.