“So I’ve been wrestling with this for a while but where do our dreams fit in? I tend to hear sermons about how it’s all about Jesus and feel shame for having dreams and trying to figure out my dreams, but where do they fit in? Is God with our dreams?” –From an Ecclesian
Thanks for the follow up email, it sounds like part of the question revolves around how legitimate it is to have professional goals vs. ministry goals and whether it is even appropriate to desire success, notoriety, or accolades in our professional lives. Now that I know what you are really asking, let me see if I can try this again!
First off, God created us to work and part of that work is to tend to His creation and to participate in creative acts ourselves. Genesis 2:15 says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” As my fellow Hollywood pastor, Erwin McManus, likes to say, “We are all works of art and artists at work.” So the call to work in a profession, whether through manual labor, management labor, or creative labor, honors God and is part of our created purpose on Earth. Work did not become a burden until after the Fall, when the act of creative work, including childbearing, became painful and frustrating.
Secondly, we have each been created with distinct gifts and talents that God has entrusted to us. I love the acronym SHAPE, made popular by Saddleback Church, which refers to the fact that we each have unique Spiritual Gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality, and Experiences. God wants us to steward those things in a way that honors Him and brings Him glory. Like in the Parable of the Talents, to ignore them or simply bury them would not please God.
Therefore, I believe that God gives us the choice to honor Him in a professional calling that fits who He has made us to be. Whether you are a butcher, a baker, or a candlestick maker, you are called to do it unto God (Of course, good luck getting a job as a candlestick maker these days!) 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” In fact in Colossians 3, a passage that we will soon be looking at on Sunday at Ecclesia, Paul says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” This is a great reminder to homemakers and stay at home parents who don’t seem to have a boss whom they serve when they engage in the valuable work that they do each day.
In whatever profession we pursue, I believe God also calls us to the work of making disciples and representing His gospel of grace in words and actions. Nobody gets paid for this work in dollars and cents, but God promises to reward us in Heaven for our decisions to stand for him while on Earth. I believe part of our unique SHAPE is that it allows God’s people to embed in all different professional contexts. In those jobs, we are called to represent Christ and see our workplace as a context in which we can incarnate Jesus and live out the values of Kingdom of God.
I believe God calls each of us to be a part of the ministry of building up the church as well. This is what Paul is referring to in Ephesians 4:11-13, “And He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” For some that ministry will take the form of becoming a pastor, an overseas missionary, or local ministry leader for which they are supported by the gifts of others. But this is in NO WAY the pinnacle of ministry work. It is simply a different, but equal, calling on a person’s life regarding how to help build up Jesus’ church. In fact, the church would be much more effective if every member considered himself or herself a missionary sent to their workplace and their neighborhood.
When it comes to the dreams we have for our own professional lives, I think we submit them to the same standard we submit all of our other future plans. We bring them prayerfully before God in accordance with passages like Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” and Proverbs 16:3, “Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” But we also pray as Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane in Luke 22:42, “Father, but not my will but yours be done.” If our desires are going to cause damage to the purposes of God in us or around us, then we ask God to make that clear. We pray, read the Scriptures, and engage Christian community so we can check our motives to be sure that we are not merely seeking worldly treasure or the fading glory of human recognition, and then we honor God by doing our best. “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might” says Ecclesiastes 9:10.
One of the things that drew me to Ecclesia was the incredible community of creative people. Our church is filled with storytellers and artists who are using every medium imaginable; lighting and sound technicians, movie set makers, video editors, puppet makers, stand up comedians, filmmakers, scriptwriters…the diverse list grows everyday I am here at Ecclesia. I love that the first person in the Old Testament that was filled with God’s spirit was an artist; a craftsman named Bezalel who was worked with wood, stone and metal. (Exodus 31:2)
As a pastor friend in Burbank says, “We have the chance to tell the story of Jesus to the city that tells stories to the world!” We seek to be faithful and obedient in what God has given us to do today, and we entrust Him with the outcomes of our obedience. For some it might be notoriety and recognition; success and a larger stage from which to honor Christ. For others it will be a chance to speak hope and perspective in an authentic way into the lives of Hollywood people for whom the dream has died. Wherever we find ourselves on that spectrum, we must fight the temptation of Peter who, in John 21:21, when He was told that he would suffer for Jesus, turned and pointed to John and said, “What about him?” Jesus response still applies us today who wonder why some get to live their dreams while others never see them fulfilled…That’s my business, your job is just to follow me!
If you would like to submit a question for Jon to answer related to his messages or any other part of your spiritual life, please feel free to email Jon@www.ecclesia.la. Q&A will never be posted on a blog without your express permission.