Last week I told you the story of my young son playing with his imaginary best friend in the backyard. This week I want to tell you the story of another dreamer with the last name Tripp.
Back when I pastored in Scranton, one thing our families desperately needed was a better education system. Scranton had such poor schools, and I became convinced that a Christian institution would be a blessing for the community. I began to imagine in detail the layout of the classrooms and the progression of the curriculum. This Christian school was going to be a beacon of hope for Scranton, a light in a dark place.
My dream started out as a selfless, God-oriented dream. It was going to take an incredible amount of effort to launch this school, and I was doing it for the good of those around me. Let’s be honest – you don’t become a millionaire by founding a Christian school! But something happened along the way.
You see, my dream for this Christian school quickly took my heart hostage. It became my vision, my project, my good deed for Scranton. I loved when people praised me for my vision. I loved when people thanked me for what I was doing. My dream was no longer vertical; it was all about me.
After the school was founded, something shocking happened. Other leadership came into power and they replaced me; it was a bit of a coup. No longer did Paul Tripp run the school. My dream was stolen from me. All that I worked so hard for was gone.
Needless to say, I was devastated. But here’s why it hurt so much – my dream had become my identity. My vision was no longer about the glory of God and about my love for Scranton. No, this Christian school had become about the glory of Paul Tripp! And the scary thing was, I didn’t even know it was happening.
Dreams Have Direction
There are a few things I learned from this experience:
1. Dreams Have Direction
Your dreams will either be vertical or horizontal in natural. It’s impossible for your dreams to live in some type of “dream neutrality” – someone, or something, will always receive glory and praise from your dream. Dreams that glorify God and benefit others are vertical dreams; dreams that glorify your name and benefit your lifestyle are horizontal dreams.
2. Dreams Can Change Direction
I already explained this principle with my story: my dream for a Christian school, which started out as a vertical dream, quickly changed directions on me. The danger of having a sinful heart is that you’re always tempted by horizontal pleasures. It’s so hard to keep vertical dreams pure.
3. Dreams Will Experience Loss
If your dream changes direction, it’s going to experience loss at some level. Why? Because God loves you too much to allow you to pursue a horizontal dream over himself. He will, in love, either end your dream or change the direction of your dream.
It’s rare that a directional change in your dream will come smoothly and peacefully. You and I hold onto our horizontal dreams so tightly that God has to pry open our hands to help us let go. The pain and struggle we experience are not signs of God’s cruelty; in fact, they’re sure signs of his love!
3 Things To Pray For
I want to give you three concrete things to pray for as you evaluate your dreams:
- Pray for vertical dreams. Don’t be afraid to dream; God designed you to be a visionary in your family, in your community, and in your world. Pray that God will show you areas where you can dream vertically for his glory and for the good of those around you.
- Pray for dream awareness. It happened so easily to me, and I didn’t even see it happen – my dream changed direction. Ask the Lord to give you awareness so you can sense when your dream is changing direction, and find fellow believers who will ask you those tough questions about the condition of your heart and direction of your dreams.
- Pray for redeemed dreams. 2 Corinthians 5:15 says, "And he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised." Even as saved believers, you and I still live for ourselves on a daily basis. Christ died once for eternal redemption, but he also died so that you and I could have redeemed lives each day. Pray that God would redeem your dreams each morning for his glory and your good.
God never wants you to stop dreaming. You should always have a vision, you should always have a plan, and you should always be making some type of investment into a future goal. But remember, guard your heart, because like me, your dream can quickly take you hostage.
When you fail to guard your heart, which you will, Christ will be there to forgive you and give you grace for a new and better dream.