As he slept, he dreamed of a stairway that reached from earth to heaven. And he saw the angels of God going up and down on it.
At the top of the stairway stood the Lord, and he said, "I am the Lord, the God of your grandfather Abraham and the God of your father, Isaac. The ground you are lying on belongs to you. I will give it to you and your descendants. Genesis 28:12-13
The high school commencement speaker was giving a rather conventional address. "It is important for you, as you go forth," he said, "to have a great dream. Dream big things, great things."
The speaker didn't quote any Scripture, but I immediately thought of Jacob's dream the night he was on the run from his angry brother. A great ladder was let down from heaven, with angels ascending and descending on it. In that dream Jacob got a new vision for his life. He saw that his life was meant to count for something, that he ought to go back, make peace with his brother, and live a better life.
Then I caught myself and realized that this was not exactly what the story implied. There were angels ascending, taking messages from earth up to the throne of God, but there were also angels descending. Angels were busy bringing messages down from heaven to earth.
Christians are those who believe in large, ambitious dreams. But our dreams are not exclusively self-derived. It is important for us to have a dream, some vision for what our lives ought to be. But we ought not to forget that in our dreaming, God is also dreaming. The story of Jacob's ladder implies not only that we have dreams of God but that God has dreams for us.
One of the great joys of Christian leadership is to be part of something larger than one's self. We are busy living out a career, but the word career doesn't do justice to the demands or the benefits of Christian service. One of the things that makes Christian leadership a great way to spend our lives is that we are busy living out the dreams of God. You are God's ambassador, God's instrument. You are an aspect of God's dream for the future. There is business, conversation, communication between heaven and earth, and your life is part of it.
A man in my church who was in construction was commissioned to build a massive bridge over the Mississippi River. This required him to be away from his family and friends. He also had to work long hours six days a week.
But when he returned, he told me what a great joy his six months working on that bridge had been.
"A joy?" I asked.
"Yes, a joy," he said. "Pastor, it is a rare and great thing to have your life used for something bigger than you.
We leaders ought to be reminded frequently of what a joy it is to have our little lives caught up in something bigger than ourselves.
Am I often tempted to lose sight of the larger picture God creates and keep narrowly focused on the daily nuts and bolts?
God, help me to remember that life isn't just about projects and meetings and cranky computers, but that in you I'm part of a much greater purpose.
"It is a fundamental principle in the life and walk of faith that we must always be prepared for the unexpected when we are dealing with God."
—D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, twentieth-century pastor and author
Copyright Tyndale House Publishers. Used by permission.
A strong vision is essential to any successful ministry: this is not news to anyone who has ever tried to accomplish anything without a clear purpose or goal with concrete plans for reaching it. But how do you begin the process of developing and refining a vision that will set you up for success?