· The cartoon character “Cathy” celebrated Valentines Day with a large box of chocolate candies she bought for herself.
[Cathy begins eating her candy.] “I eat this canty to get back at Richard, who didn’t give me a valentine in the second grade. . .which began a 25 year unraveling of the self-confidence my mother had so lovingly built.”
[She eats another piece.] “I eat his candy for Bob, who refused to dance with me on ‘Girl’s Choice’, and ruined the rest of Junior High.”
[Another piece.] “I eat this candy for Joe, who snubbed me all through high school and then, at our ten-year reunion, told me he’d always had a crush on me.”
[Cathy continues eating chocolate.] “I eat this candy for Frank, Roger and Jim, who ‘needed time,’ ‘needed space,’ and/or ‘felt I deserved so much more than he had to give.’”
[Yes, still more candy.] “I eat this candy in defiance of all men who are too cowardly to open their hearts and take the simplest steps to further a real relationship.”
[The phone rings; its Cathy’s boyfriend Irving.] “Hi Cathy, it’s Irving. I want to take you out for the most romantic valentine’s night of your life. Wear your best dress.”
[Cathy looks at the last remaining piece of candy and then pops it in her mouth.] “I eat this candy because it’s there.”
Cathy was not just suffering from a broken hear, like so many of us, she was lamenting her broken dreams. How many of us have ever found ourselves throwing a well deserved pity party? How often have your thoughts turned to “If only. . .”
▸ If only I had finished college.
▸ If only you had a better job, or hadn’t been unfairly fired.
▸ If only you hadn’t been cheated by a friend.
▸ If only your husband or wife had not had that affair, or perhaps you lament that you were the one who broke faith with your spouse.
▸ If only my parents had not divorced.
▸ If only your husband, your wife, or your parents didn’t have a drinking problem.
▸ If only your father, your brother, or who ever it was had not stolen away your innocence through an abusive relationship or rape.
“If only. . . if only. . .” Our pain, regret and sorrow over past failure, unfulfilled expectations, or tragedy can paralyze or destroy our ability to dream. We find ourselves locked in a prison of grief and regret without any hope for tomorrow.
God wants you to be set free to dream again, not only to dream your dream but to dream a God-sized and God-inspired dream–a divine daring dream. God wants to release you from the prison of doubt, grief, and shame to be free to dream again.
When you are able to dream again–to dream the divine daring dream–God will empower you to overcome barriers that hold you back. God doesn’t just want you to be a dreamer; God wants to see your dreams come true.
Beginning on March 2nd we will begin a 50 Day Spiritual Adventure called, “Daring to Dream Again.” My prayer is that lives will be transformed through this series. That isn’t just a generic statement; I’m believing specifically for each of you to be changed by the power of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. Some of you will have hope renewed in your life for the first time in years!
As we prepare for this adventure, I need to share a warning with you: THINGS MAY GET WORSE BEFORE THEY GET BETTER. Don’t expect overnight success.
Experts in behavioral change tell us that it is unrealistic to believe that growth is going to be automatic. We are unlikely to move from cruising along enjoying the status quo and suddenly move in an upward direction.
More often when we desire to make a change in our lives there will be a dip in the road. Before the upswing, we experience a pot hole and the bottom falls out.
All too often people quit when the unexpected dip in the road comes. Therefore, they never see the growth and improvement that they were hoping for. Once again their dreams are broken.
Expect the dip in the road. Instead of quitting on the downturn, work harder to minimize its depth and width. If you keep at it when things get tough you will soon find the upswing and growth you are looking for.
Don’t let the warning, “things may get worse before they get better” intimidate you. Don’t be satisfied with the status quo in your life; dare to dream again! Let God empower you to overcome the obstacles in your life that are holding you back.
I am confident that this will be a time of accelerated, measurable and lasting spiritual growth. Accelerated because you will grow faster than normal; measurable because you will see the change written in your own handwriting; lasting because 50 days is long enough to develop good habits that can last you a lifetime.
It is my prayer that through the 50 days that lead up to Easter, many of you will experience healing. In the months and years to come I believe that many of you will look back at this as the time when you began to move toward seeing your dreams become a reality.
In this eight Sunday series we’re going to take a look at some biblical characters, six men and two women, that I’m sure most of you already know–Gideon, David, Judas, Hanna, Peter, Jonah, Mary and Jesus. Each of these are individuals who could have said, “Dare to dream again? No thank you! It hurts too much when my dreams don’t come true.” In the lives of these biblical characters we will discover some key lessons for our own lives.
Well, I don’t want this morning to just be a commercial about what’s coming in the weeks to follow. I feel a little bit like the boy who watched the circus parade and just can’t wait for the big top to be set up and the circus begins! You see I have already started the 50 day adventure and know what’s coming for you; you’ll want to be a part of it.
I want you to leave today with a commitment to letting God help you to dream again. Individually and collectively as a church we need God-inspired dreams.
HOW CAN WE DREAM AGAIN? How can we be free to again dream our dreams, to discover God’s divine daring dream for our lives? How can we pursue our dreams again after we have seen them crushed? Or putting that question another way, HOW CAN WE REALLY LIVE AGAIN?
+ Isaiah 40:27-31 27Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel, "My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God"? 28Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. 29He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 30Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (NIV)
1. WELCOME TO THE HUMAN RACE; WE’RE TIRED.
Have you ever felt like those folks Isaiah was writing to? All of us have had times when have felt that our “way is hidden from the Lord.” It seems that God isn’t aware of what was happening in our lives; the Lord has bigger problems to deal with and is too busy taking care of the universe to notice little old me.
Perhaps you have even felt that God has “disregarded” your cause. Your prayers get no further than the ceiling; God isn’t listening to you. Life has hit you hard and now it just got harder because you feel like you are all alone; no one cares, not even God.
Isaiah describes folks like this as “tired” and “weary”; these are individuals whom Isaiah says “stumble” and “fall”. Have you ever felt like that? Let me help you picture what that feels like.
· The Iditarod trail sled dog race runs over 1,100 miles from Anchorage in south central Alaska to Nome along the Bearing Sea. It takes from 10 to 15 days to complete what has been called the “last great race on earth.” The Iditarod is not an easy race; it is run in sub-zero temperatures with blizzard winds that can make it impossible to see.
Imagine the excitement for those who are competing in the race. The musher with 12 to 16 dogs preparing to make the long run can picture crossing the finish line in Nome as champions, but after 7 or 8 days of hard work and battling the weather the musher and his dogs just hoping to survive the race. They are worn out and exhausted perhaps the musher even has thoughts of just giving up; it’s time to quit.
Alone on the frozen Alaskan tundra these Iditarod racers grow “tired” and “weary”; they “stumble” and “fall”. How often do we find ourselves feeling like that? Life has not treated us fairly and our dreams come crashing down. We just want to throw in the towel and give up.
2. GOD PROVIDES STRENGTH FOR THE WEARY!
Isaiah says that God will provide help for individuals who find themselves feeling like that. When you feel like wanting to quit, when your dreams have turned into a nightmare, I’ve got good news for you! God will not leave you alone in the cold; He will provide you with the strength you need.
+ Isaiah 40:27-31 29He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 30Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (NIV)
God is there to give you strength. What a contrast to those who find themselves tired and weary as they run the human race. God will lift you up on the wings of eagles. With God’s help you can run without growing tired; you can walk and not faint. It’s like the musher with his team of sled dogs suddenly being lifted off the frozen tundra and soaring through the air on a magic carpet ride to the finish line.
Instead of wanting to quit God enables you to see yourself finishing the race; you can reach your goal with God’s help. Suddenly you can dream again; God has brought you back to life again.
3. PUT YOUR HOPE IN THE LORD!
The transformation we’re talking about isn’t automatic. If you are going to soar on the wings of eagles God requires something of you. Did you notice what it is?
Isaiah said this promise of God’s strength and help is available to those who put their hope in the Lord. The KJV says God’s provision is for those who wait upon the Lord.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO "HOPE" OR "WAIT" UPON THE LORD?
Those who wait upon the Lord, do not attempt to do anything in their own strength. Instead they place their hope in God patiently waiting for His grace to provide the strength and help they need.
>> The Hebrew word translated “hope” or “wait” comes from a word that means “collect”, “gathering together”, or “to bind together”. That means when you put your hope in the Lord, you are joined together with the Lord. Therefore, your confidence is not in yourself, but in God.
Because we are connected to the Lord, we move when He moves. When we move, it is not in our strength, but in the strength of the Lord.
When you place your full confidence in the Lord, hoping fully in Him or waiting on the Lord, then WHAT YOU HAVE REALLY DONE IS TO EXCHANGE YOUR WEAKNESS FOR HIS INFINETE STRENGTH.
That’s the lesson that Paul learned when He asked God to remove the thorn in his flesh.
+ 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 8Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (NIV)
When you are connected to Christ, as you confidently hope in the Lord, CHRIST’S STRENGTH IS PERFECTED IN YOU; YOU ARE INVINCIBLE!
In the race we run, it is one thing to say that you have put your hope in the Lord; its another to actually do it. How often do we find ourselves waiting on the Lord only to get up and run the race in our own strength growing tired, weary and wanting to throw in the towel?
4. HOW CAN WE PUT OUR HOPE IN THE LORD TO RUN THE RACE?
I want to share some practical things that you can begin to do in order to put your hope in the Lord. You see putting your hope in God, or waiting upon the Lord is not an idle activity; you can’t just sit around doing nothing and hope that God will somehow magically show up.
Waiting upon the Lord requires active participation on our part. I’ve said many times that every miracle requires a human agent–God uses someone who is willing to co-operate with Him in bringing about the miracle. When you exchange your weakness for God’s infinite strength, that’s a miracle. In order for that miracle to happen, you must participate with God.
STEP #1: SET A TIME TO MEET WITH GOD.
We need to make an appointment with heaven; for starters, make yours from 10 to 30 minutes long. What will be a good time for you, first thing in the morning? If so plan to start your day a half hour sooner (that may require going to bed earlier too). Perhaps evening will be a better time for you; take time after dinner (and before you turn on the TV), or perhaps after you have all the kids in bed. Whatever you do set your appointment with God.
STEP #2: KEEP YOUR APPOINTMENT WITH GOD.
Don’t let anything distract you from your time with God. Let the answering machine get the phone; if you think of something that you need to do, just write it down so you can remember to do it later. Let the human race run without you for a little while. Life will try to suck you back into the race, but you’ve taken an important pit stop to be energized by the Lord; remember you need His strength to run the race. Don’t reenter the race until you have kept your appointment with God.
STEP #3: BY FAITH ACKNOWLEDGE GOD’S PRESENCE WITH YOU.
Take a moment and thank God verbally that He is with you for this appointment (yes, that’s called prayer). After you have thanked Him for being with you, then let God know you have come to him for help; ask God to enable you to understand His Word and to give you the strength that you need.
STEP #4: READ A SHORT PASSAGE OF SCRIPTURE.
Let me suggest that you begin with the passage we have used today from Isaiah 41. You may want to use a devotional book or read from the New Testament. Read the scripture slowly; this isn’t the newspaper or your favorite magazine. You’re reading God’s Word, a love letter to you.
STEP #5: READ THE PASSAGE AGAIN INSERTING YOUR NAME WHERE APPROPRIATE.
God’s word is for you, so take the time to make it personal. You are the one who needs the strength to run the human race; let God speak personally to you through His Word. For instance read Isaiah 41 like this:
Why does Greg complain,"Greg’s way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God"? Doesn’t Greg know? Has Greg not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Greg will grow tired and weary; he will stumble and fall; but if Greg will hope in the LORD, then God will renew his strength. Greg will soar on wings like eagles; Greg will run and not grow weary, Greg will walk and not be faint.
I’m feeling better already!
STEP #6: SPEND A FEW MOMENTS IN PERSONAL PRAYER.
Begin by praying back to God what you have just read in scripture. By faith verbalize what God has said in His word to you. Believe that God will do what He has said in your life today. If you became aware of sin as you have met with God then ask God to forgive you. Ask the Lord to give you the strength you need (that’s the reason you made this appointment with God to begin with). Pray like this:
“Lord, I can’t really say that You don’t see what is happening in my life; I know that’s not true. Thank you for listening to me even now. You are an amazing God without the limitations that I have. Thank you Lord that You are willing to give Your awesome strength to the weary and weak; people just like me. Lift me up today in Your arms; carry me on eagles wings. Fill me with your strength to run the race before me. Keep me Lord from sin; thank you that I can know You will be with me in all I do.”
STEP #7: SCHEDULE YOUR NEXT APPOINTMENT WITH GOD.
At the minimum you should plan to meet again with the Lord in a day or two. Meeting with God is not a one time cure all; we need regular times of being with Him. Remember, to hope in the Lord is to be connected or joined together with Him. You can’t do that unless you meet with God regularly.
Let me ask you a question: ARE YOU SATISFIED WITH HOW YOUR LIFE IS GOING OR DO YOU WANT MORE? God wants to set you free to dream again.
Finally one more practical thing you can do if you want to receive God’s strength to help you run the race, if you want to be free to dream again and overcome those barriers that are holding you back. Participate in the 50 spiritual adventure that begins March 2nd. You will experience a time of accelerated, measurable and lasting growth; in the days leading up to Easter you will know the presence and power of the risen Christ working daily in your life.