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032 Six Tests for a God-Given Dream

Picture credit: Thomas Hawk, cc by-nc-2.0

We all have dreams for our lives, our families, our businesses or church ministries. For some those dreams lie dormant and quiet, but they’re there. For others, the challenge is deciding which dream to follow out of the many they have each week. For Christians, one question rises above all others on the topic: How do I know my dream is God’s dream for me? How do I discern between the dreams God places on my heart and those of my ego or my culture? In this article and podcast I offer some pointers.

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Test Your Dreams

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I was never expecting to write or speak about dreams. But over the years I’ve seen some dreams fulfilled, some left unfilled, and some needing relinquishment. Then I wrote a book about starting again after broken dreams – the topic chose me! And the question of when a dream is mine or God’s has always intrigued me. 

God’s dream for our lives is better than our own. Here are some ‘tests’ I’ve come up with so far to discern between the two. I share some personal examples in the podcast.

1. The Dream Passes the Test of Love

The dream is not about you, your significance, fame, or even your benefit alone. The dream is about God. The dream is about others. You’ll benefit from it alright, but it may also cost you significantly. God is love and his ultimate command is to love. Our dreams need to be sifted through love to ensure they’re not just the result of ego alone.

2. The Dream Passes the Test of Time

The dream lingers. It quietly pursues you. It isn’t one of many ideas, but the one idea that rises persistently above the many. Like me, you might enjoy dreaming up new ideas and ventures yet find many of those dreams evaporate over time. But if there is one dream that will not leave you, even for years, it may be God’s whisper to you.

3. The Dream Passes the Test of Peace

Yes, you may feel excited about the dream. Or overwhelmed. Even fearful. But when you pray about the dream the dominant sense you have is one of ‘weighty peace’. You feel passionate but not driven.  The dream may be vitally important but it isn’t burdensome in your spirit. Weighty prayerful peacefulness.

4. The Dream Passes the Test of Faith

The dream is bigger than you, your abilities and resources. While it should be in line with your giftings and talents (please, no more singers who feel ‘called’ but can’t sing in tune), the dream takes you beyond your level of ability. You won’t be able to achieve it without God and others. You will feel vulnerable at times at the thought of it all falling in a heap. The dream will only be possible by faith.

5. The Dream is Confirmed by Others

Some won’t support the dream, and may even oppose it. But wise, godly, prayerful people support the dream. They confirm it’s God voice and not your ego that’s speaking. There is objective confirmation, not just subjective.

6. The Decision is Truly in God’s Hands

In his Spiritual Exercises St Ignatius talks about godly decision making by describing three kinds of people. The first know they need to make a decision before God but never get around to doing it. The second bargain with God, ensuring they get at least a little of what they want while feeling they’ve ‘taken the matter’ to Him. The third group seek God’s will alone. Their first priority is not what is decided but who decides it. It’s a good image to keep in mind when pursuing our dreams.

Next: When Do You Let a Dream Die?

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  1. I will be doing a speaking tour of the US in October on Resurrection Year. If you are interested in having me speak at your church, conference or event, please get in touch soon
  2. I have a busy schedule of speaking through the UK also. The next event is a one-day retreat in Oxford called ‘From Broken Dreams to New Beginnings’ on Saturday April 5. Spaces are limited and tickets are cheap
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  • Dale

    A helpful article and good timing for me

  • Dee Sutton

    Great confirmation, thanks

  • Hayley Solich

    Simple and yet profound. Thank you for sharing.

  • K.

    Exactly what I needed to hear to help me with faith thank you!

  • elizabeth j

    Brother Sheridan, this was indeed a very helpful article. I am a born again Indian Christian settled in India since the last 25 yrs. I have regular employment in my present firm since the last 17 yrs. My job at this firm is absolutely my total comfort zone! Even so, the last couple of months, I found myself drawn towards the Immigration prospects to Canada – don’t know why i started taking an interest in that country. Being 53 years old, I am way above the age barrier for entry for prospective immigrants, but I’ve continued to read on about Canada, the place, climate what nots…. However, I was very discouraged reading what many Indian & other Asian immigrants had posted online, who found that the Canadian immigration scheme is in fact a scam of sorts, many migrants do not find jobs or at least jobs to their standard…the whole process seems corrupt though there were a few who did say they have no regrets they moved to Canada at all. I am very realistic about all this. As I said, I can’t think of leaving my job in India ever, it gives me my daily bread, its my No. 1 comfort zone area, and the thought of retirement in 4 years seems difficult…..unless God Himself allows it to be taken away before that time!! I also called a local Immigration service here, who assured me that I am ineligible to apply for a PR as the cut off age is 49 yrs and I would be wasting my precious time, money sending in my documents to them as they wouldn’t be able to take my Application forward….Meanwhile, I visited Australia from Jan. 13th – Feb. 18th this year for a short break to stay with my brother n his family. I liked Australia. All of us 3 siblings back home here in India are ineligible to apply to settle in any of these Western countries are we are all over 53+.yrs old. I’m not thinking about this night n day but find myself drawn towards Canada. I do pray & sincerely hope to visit Canada (like i did Australia) at least once before the Lord calls me home!! finally this is my only hope in prayer. I usually have very short waking dreams early morning about different things..Only a few days ago,I did see a very snowy Canadian scene with local Indians in heavy woollens walking around! Many of our countrymen are settled in that country….Maybe i have been googling too much on Canada and should stop immediately….I dont know if I should pray or just stop these distracting thoughts because its so unwise & impractical to think of such a move now even if had the finances..do you have a word of advice?