Beyond Your Grasp
What if, five years from
now, say, you could be in the job of your dreams? A job that draws
marvelously on your gifts, gives you liberal control over what you
accomplish and ample opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to
life. Any idea what it would be?
What if, during this
same period—or sooner—you could accomplish cherished dreams in
other areas where you have potential? Is there an athletic, musical,
artistic or creative talent you’d like to develop? An achievement
you’d like to realize? A degree you’d like to earn?
What about your personal
ministry and mission? Is there a spiritual gift you’d like to
nurture? A program or project you’d like to launch? An area of
service to others where you’d like to become active and proficient?
And what about the world of
friendships, relationships and family life? Do you long for more
friendships or deeper ones? If you’re single, do you cherish the
hope for marriage? If you’re married, do you wish for children? Are
there goals for your marriage relationship or family life you’d like
Do you dream of improving
your lifestyle in certain ways? Long for a better home? Wish to live
in a different part of this country or in another one? Desire certain
benefits that would make life more comfortable or enable you to better
realize your potential? Hope for a blessed retirement?
What about the vital matter
of your spiritual life? Do you long for a deeper relationship with
Christ? Greater confidence of his guidance? A more thankful spirit?
Success in conquering a habit that’s hindering God’s best for you?
If you are able to give a
clear and passionate answer to any of these questions, then this book
is intended for you. I’ll do my best to help you determine which
dreams are truly best for you, and to encourage you to embrace them
wholeheartedly. I’ll also offer as much practical advice as I can
about how to pursue them and achieve them. This is a book about how to
dream, and how to do so successfully.
Lights My Fire
Perhaps you’re not able
to give a confident answer to any of these questions. You may identify
with a woman who confessed to me recently in sad sincerity, “I
don’t desire anything.” You might not go this far; still, you’ll
admit that no major dreams are driving your life right now, perhaps
not for a long time. If so, this book is still meant for you, and I
urge you to read it with an open heart. By becoming—may I say it?—a
more effective dreamer about your life and destiny, you can improve
the quality of your life greatly, as well as its benefit to others.
Of this much I’m certain:
you’ve had dreams, and you’ve had big ones. If you dig back
far enough, you’ll find a time when you experienced intense hope for
your future and dreams that stirred you deeply. Over time they lost
their force—through discouragement, setbacks, too much criticism,
perhaps. Yet your capacity to dream is still strong. And dreams that
have long been repressed will easily resurface, given the right
My sincerest hope is that
this book will help you to reclaim these dreams, as well as to lock in
to new ones that are right for you. May I ask you at least to lay hold
to one dream as you begin this book? Envision yourself experiencing
greater motivation, and aspirations that bring greater energy and
purpose to all you do. Focus on that image, and enjoy it. Hope for it
as fully as you can. That is a most worthy goal for investing time
with this or any book, and may it be rewarded as you read!
I’m a Christian, and . . .
Perhaps, though, your
response was more like this: As a Christian, I’m simply confused
about how to respond to my dreams. Of course I have them; in fact, I
have intense desires for my future. I’d love to know God wants me to
take them seriously. But it’s terribly hard to believe that he does.
Scripture reminds us so often that our desires are untrustworthy and
evil, and urges us to deny them.
And what about my
responsibility to lay down my life for the sake of others? As a
Christian, I’m called to sacrifice myself for others’ needs,
right? I’m to look for the most glaring needs in the world and do
what I can to help with them. Of course dreams I might have to serve
others or to deepen my relationship with Christ have value. But I
don’t see how my more personal dreams can possibly benefit
If your response was
anywhere along these lines, then this book is especially
intended for you. My primary concern is to help Christians learn what
it is to dream in a manner that’s healthy and Christ-honoring. I
assure you at the outset that this doesn’t mean putting
dreams related to your needs and personal potential on the back
burner. I understand profoundly the issues we Christians struggle with
in confronting such dreams, and the torturous guilt we can experience
even in just considering them. I’ve been there often, as have many
I’ve known and counseled.
Yet over forty-six years of
walking with Christ, I’ve only grown more convinced that having
dreams based on the gifts and interests most central to our
personality, and strong dedication to following them, not only honors
Christ, but is essential to living our life in way that most fully
Yes, we can buy in to
dreams that have nothing to do with God’s best for our life, and
that lead us down the primrose path. No approach to finding God’s
will is risk-free. But there is a radically positive side to the
equation. God also uses our dreams, and those desires that are
strongest and most consistent within us, to move us in directions that
are uniquely right for our life, and that best position us to be a
channel of his grace to the world.
Throughout this book,
I’ll look at many of the issues that are unique to us as Christians
in embracing personal dreams. I’ll draw as fully as I can on
Scripture, and show how the Bible, when clearly understood, encourages
us to dream big about our future and to pursue important dreams
passionately. I’ll look also at misleading notions and
interpretations of Scripture that discourage us from following our
Most important, I want to
encourage you as a Christian to think big about your life—to lock in
to those dreams that are most important in God’s plan for you, and
to move toward them with courageous optimism.
The good news is that you can
learn to think with grander vision about your life and to follow that
vision with greater confidence. To that end, we’ll look at four
broad areas related to realizing personal dreams.
Follow your passions. Why we should feel comfortable as Christians embracing dreams in a wide
variety of areas, and optimistic about our possibilities for success.
I’ll consider what this optimism entails, why it’s essential to
our Christian walk, and why it’s important that we “follow our
Establishing the right dreams.
Identifying, from the multitude of options, those dreams that are
most appropriate for us personally and most reflective of God’s
intentions for our life. What weight should we give to our
personal desires vs. the needs of others in determining our life’s
mission? What if a dream no longer fits our life as we now know it,
even though we were strongly inspired to follow it in the past? How do
we know if God has closed the door on a dream, or if our limitations
rule it out? These are all concerns we’ll explore.
Getting your life in motion toward a
dream. Determining a plan of
action, breaking the inertia and establishing momentum. I’ll
discuss how to set goals effectively and take the first steps toward a
dream. I’ll also give advice for seeking help when you need it, and
for praying effectively about your dreams and goals.
I’ll also offer
perspective for staying hopeful and persistent for the period required
to reach a dream. We’re usually too quick to think that setbacks
indicate God is nixing a dream. In fact, they are often surmountable.
And we often find that circumstances appearing negative do bring us
remarkable benefit in time. I’ll provide guidelines for evaluating
setbacks and for viewing them as optimistically as possible.
Reaping the harvest.
Learning to succeed joyfully, and to keep our desire for new
adventure strong once we’ve achieved a dream. We sometimes
sabotage a dream that is well within our reach. Or we may achieve it
but fail to enjoy our victory as fully as we should. At the other
extreme, success can soften us, and dampen our zeal to embrace new
dreams. I’ll consider these challenges in the final section. I’ll
offer counsel for overcoming fears of success, and for staying in a
growth mode after we’ve reached important horizons.
My concern throughout this
book is to help you as a Christian accomplish three broad objectives:
identify and embrace those dreams that are most important for your
• to find
the courage to pursue them and to persevere until you achieve them
develop healthy biblical thinking on these matters, and to work
through issues that stand in the way of taking your personal dreams
Thinking for the Thinking Christian
If I may boil it down to one
objective, it’s to help you view your life and your future with the
eyes of faith. I want to encourage faith-inspired thinking that
stimulates you to realize your potential and become all that Christ
has created you to be.
Our single greatest need as
Christians is to achieve an outlook of faith. All of the great
promises of Scripture, while assured to us as gifts of God’s grace,
are to be received on our part by faith. “For it is by grace you
have been saved, through faith
. . .” (Eph 2:8 emphasis added).
This faith, as Scripture
understands it, is an extraordinarily optimistic perception of God and
his intentions for our life. We shouldn’t underestimate what this
optimism ought to mean in terms of how we view our possibilities and,
especially, those dreams that most ignite us. Our beginning assumption
should be that God wants us to take them seriously. We should assume
that as we pursue them, he’ll open doors and make it possible for us
to accomplish them. If success isn’t possible, we’ll still be
better off for having tried, and others will benefit greatly as well.
We should assume, too, that when we experience setbacks, they have
silver linings, and in time may even prove to be open doors in
To say it as strongly as
possible, we’re called to an optimistic bias as we pursue our
dreams. When we have reason to believe a dream respects the gifts and
interests God has given us, we should move toward it with the
conviction we’ll succeed. This belief is critically important, for
it enhances our success in numerous ways.
There are many perspectives
of faith that make up this optimistic bias and contribute to keeping
it healthy and strong, and we’ll explore some of the most important
in the pages ahead. It helps us greatly in internalizing these
perspectives to identify them precisely and to express them as
succinctly as we can. To help with this process, I’ve summarized the
key point of each chapter in a sentence or two, which I call a
“Faith Expectation.” I note these Faith Expectations at the
beginning of each chapter, and express them in the first person—to
encourage you to adopt them as personal statements of faith.
I urge you to read the
Faith Expectation before beginning a chapter and to take a moment to
reflect on it. After finishing the chapter, come back and consider the
Faith Expectation again more carefully and how it applies to the
realities of your life. You may find it helpful to keep a journal of
thoughts and resolutions that occur while you’re reading.
I encourage you also to
review these Faith Expectations often, especially those that challenge
pessimistic outlooks that are typical for you.
the Field Ahead
Please note also that while
the chapters are consecutive and unfold in obvious ways, I’ve
written each one as an inspirational piece in itself. As with most
books, you’ll derive an important benefit from reading the chapters
in order. Yet if you find that certain ones relate more obviously to
your needs, there’s no harm reading them first. This book is given
to strengthen your faith, and each chapter makes its own special
contribution. Draw on this book in whatever way most helps you.
One earnest request: Read
this book itself with an optimistic bias—that God has far greater
possibilities for your life than you’ve even begun to imagine. Stay
open and expectant as you read. Expect God to clarify new directions
for you—perhaps even radical changes you should make.
Stay inquisitive as
you read. Constantly ask questions—of yourself, of life and of God.
Consider what are your deepest aspirations, where your greatest
potential lies, and how you can best invest it to meet the needs of a
desperately hurting world. Consider with brutal honesty what you would
do with your life if finances were not an issue and fear not an
obstacle. Simply asking the right questions helps beyond words.
Often one simple question
Excerpt taken from Reach Beyond Your Grasp: Embracing Dreams That Reflect God's Best for You -- And Achieving Them, by M. Blaine Smith. Copyright 2012 by M. Blaine Smith. Used on this web site with permission from SilverCrest Books, P.O. Box 448, Damascus, MD 20872.
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