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Reach Beyond Your Grasp
Embracing Dreams That Reflect God's Best for You --
And Achieving Them


M. Blaine Smith ~ SilverCrest Books ~ 2012


Chapter One
Dare to Dream

WHAT IF???

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 to achieve?

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.

Nothing 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 encouragement.

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!

But, 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 Christ’s mission.

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 benefits others.

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 aspirations.

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.

When We’re Heading

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 bliss.”

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:

to identify and embrace those dreams that are most important for your life personally

to find the courage to pursue them and to persevere until you achieve them

to develop healthy biblical thinking on these matters, and to work through issues that stand in the way of taking your personal dreams seriously.

Positive 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 disguise.

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.

Mining 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 will suffice.

What if?

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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