If you've ever watched American Idol, you have probably laughed and cringed along with the rest of the country at the auditions of Idol hopefuls, who believe they have the gift of singing, only to make the judges cringe and say "You have no future in music with that voice."
While these auditions are entertaining, they are also sad. Here are these young people, some of whom have spent their entire lives focusing on singing, some of whom gave up their jobs to pursue this one opportunity, only to leave empty-handed with their hopes dashed.
It reminds me of myself when I was younger; I desperately wanted to be a singer and spent 4-6 hours a day practicing. In high school I sang solos almost weekly, in school and church, setting my hopes on performing full-time when I became an adult. I truly believed in my heart that is what God's calling on my life was. In college, however, I realized that my vocal talent was extremely small compared to everyone else, and my music major quickly became a sociology major. I remember crying, realizing that my dream would never happen, and I'd need to find a new dream.
While it sounds sad, there are some dreams that I think we need to give up, in order to experience the reality, the better dream, that God has for us. The problem is that we don't usually believe that God's dream is better for us. We end up holding tightly to the dream we had for our life, unwilling to let it go and trust in God's plan for us. This can even happen with ministry dreams. It is hard to give those dreams up, because we believe that since they are for God, of course He would want them to happen. When they don't, we get mad at Him, not at ourselves, because we don't believe we could have been wrong.
So how do we know if a dream we have is a God-dream, or just our own dream? Here are a few clues:
-Is all about reaching others for Him, not self-glorification
-Lines up with Scripture. (You feel He is calling you to marry multiple wives? Um, no.)
-Is confirmed by other people who love and serve God.
-Is confirmed by open doors, moving you forward in your calling, even if it is a slow process.
-Does not die out over time, or even through discouragement.
-Is often accompanied by an inner need to be recognized.
-May not line up with Scripture.
-Can lead to feelings of anger, as nobody else seems to recognize your calling except yourself.
-Can be fleeting; one moment you have a huge passion for your calling, but when you hear of something more exciting, you want to do that instead.
-Rarely finds opportunities, and those close to you encourage you to look into other "outlets" instead.
While this is a limited list, it can be the beginning of determining whether your dream is really from God, or if it is a "You-Dream."
One of the ways we can discover what God has called us to do, and whether our dream is from Him, is by starting with a Spiritual Gifts test. If the area you want to serve in lines up with your spiritual gifts, then you are likely serving in the right area. However, sometimes we work in a particular area, continually find ourselves frustrated, and then find that our spiritual gifts are actually not a good fit for the area we're serving in.
Next week I'll be co-teaching a class at my church for 10 weeks called "Finding Your S.H.A.P.E.". We are using the book "S.H.A.P.E.: Finding and Fulfilling Your Unique Purpose for Life" by Eric Rees. It is a great starting point for those wanting to find out what they are gifted at and called to do. He has called you to do something for Him, based on how He created you. It doesn't mean it will be easy, but He will move you forward in that dream, in His own way and time.
Next week we'll take a look at what to do when God gives you a dream, but asks you to wait for the fulfillment of it.
Have you ever had a dream that you thought was from God, only to find out He had something different planned for you instead?