We tend to think our dreams were too big when we were young, say when we were six, and too small as we get older. But maybe our dreams never reach high enough.
When you were six years old, what did you want to be when you grew up? Give yourself a little time to remember.
When I was six, I wanted to play basketball for Miami University (Ohio). My dad and I went to all their home games. I could say I wanted to play in the NBA, but the NBA didn’t seem all that great when I was six. I would play games of five-on-five by myself in our driveway, and keep stats. Miami (I called it “Your-ami” back then) always won.
Why did I dream about playing for Miami? Because it was basketball plus glory — what I already loved to do, except with the added glory of the arena — uniforms, a finished court, a massive scoreboard, thousands of fans, newspaper articles, and television coverage. That was the best I could imagine for myself at six.
The reality, though, is that Miami University basketball, or the NBA — or whatever your over-sized dreams have been — are like playing five-on-five alone in the backyard compared to what God has planned for us.
What is God’s dream for our lives? What are the highest peaks he’s put out in front of each of us? “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). In absolutely everything we do — even down to how we drink that Gatorade after we work out or sip our favorite Starbucks — we do it for the glory of God. In front of the mountain of purpose and happiness hidden for us in his glory, every other dream and ambition begins to look pale and stale.
What does it mean to live for glory like that? Paul goes on to say that he seeks “to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved” (1 Corinthians 10:33). We drink and eat, work and play, love and serve in ways that strive to win the world for Jesus. Whatever we do, we do it to say something about what God has done for us and about how much he and his love mean to us. We do it for his glory, and not our own.
A Real, But Fatal Glory
Satan will do everything he can to confuse us — to suggest smaller dreams, lesser glories, and other gods to our hearts. And the glory he offers is real glory — real pleasure and real purpose. But all the glory he offers is small and short compared with the glory for which we were made (Isaiah 43:7). And to the degree that it distracts us from God and his glory, any earthly dream or pleasure can be suicidal. It’s not going anywhere good. It’s not safe, or full, or lasting. It expires, and it kills us in the process.
The world has an awe-inspiring glory of its own. “The devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory” (Matthew 4:8). If Satan wasn’t afraid to try and tempt Jesus with the glory of the world, why would he and his demons hold back with you and me?
We really can live for the glory of the world. That temptation is strong enough to lure countless millions, perhaps especially in America, away from God and his glory. But the glory the world gives, in money and fame and sex, all fades away and eventually leaves us alone. We spend so much of ourselves to have it, compromising all along the way, and once we have it, it immediately begins to break down, and it fails to ever satisfy us like we hoped it would.
Lay Up Glory in Heaven
Psalm 49 says, “Be not afraid when a man becomes rich, when the glory of his house increases. For when he dies he will carry nothing away; his glory will not go down after him” (Psalm 49:16–17). You see the wealthy person’s glory on television and in social media — larger houses, more cars, nicer clothes. But all of it dies with him at death. He has more, and more, and more, and then suddenly absolutely nothing.
God’s glory will not abandon and betray you like that. Jesus says,
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19–21)
Some wealth never wanes. The riches God supplies satisfy the heart today and endure forever, proving their worth and reliability in this life, at death, and for eternity in glory.
The Glory That Comes from Man
Don’t make the mistake of thinking only the mega-rich are in danger. Most of us will not have an opportunity to make lots of money, win a major championship, appear on the cover of a magazine, or own mansions in multiple countries. We won’t enjoy the glory in being rich and famous, but we’ll still look for it among our friends. We want approval. We want to be popular. We want to be cool, whatever “cool” means in our crowd.
Jesus warned us all when he asked, “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” (John 5:44). He said that the men who would eventually kill him hated him, “for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God” (John 12:43).
Those who live for the glory that comes from other people cannot also love the glory that comes from God. Those of us who fear men should be terrified of God. For those who eat and drink to get attention, the Bible says they have their reward (Matthew 6:1) — the temporary enjoyment of what they craved and lived for — but in the end, they lose everything.
Why would we want to exchange the glory of God for a few more likes on Facebook, followers on Instagram, or comments about that outfit — the glory of God for a pat on the back?
The Happiest People in the World
One of my favorite promises in the Bible is Psalm 16:11: “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” No greater joy. No expiration date. We cannot out-dream God’s good plans for us. “No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). To receive it, we simply have to daily come as open-handed seekers, looking to Jesus and not the world to meet our deepest longings.
Happiness like this is free — “by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:5,8) — but it is not cheap. It takes patience, hard work, and perseverance — day after day, pouring ourselves into his words, sacrificing in his name for the sake of others, and surrendering ourselves to his will. The Christian life is a race and a fight (2 Timothy 4:7). It hurts along the way, but you’ll never regret it. Jesus may ask a lot of you between here and heaven, but he promises to supply the strength for every step, and to give it all back a hundredfold and more (Matthew 19:29).