“Good News of Great Joy,” Day 17: God Has Bigger Dreams for Us

booklet_coverI recently created a 26-day Advent devotional booklet for my church called “Good News of Great Joy.” I will be posting a devotional from it each day between now and Christmas day. Enjoy!

Scripture: Matthew 2:13-23

If you’ve seen the holiday classic It’s a Wonderful Life, you know that George Bailey, the film’s hero, never made his dream trip to Europe. He was on his way out of town when his father, the owner of the Building and Loan, had a stroke and died. So George decides to stay behind and tie up loose ends at his father’s business. As he’s about to leave town again, this time to pursue his dream of college, his father’s business rival, Mr. Potter, tries to persuade the board of directors to shut down the Building and Loan.

Potter, you may recall, owns the only bank in town, and he’s a slumlord: Unlike George, he has an interest in keeping townspeople poor and dependent on him. He doesn’t like the Building and Loan giving his tenants opportunities to own their own homes.

So once again, George gives up on a dream and stays in town to run his late father’s business. Can you imagine his disappointment?

I’ll bet Joseph, the adoptive father of Jesus, could imagine the disappointment. Think about it: Joseph’s fiancée, Mary, tells Joseph that she’s pregnant—and Joseph knows that he’s not the father. Joseph knows the facts of life; he knows that women don’t get pregnant without a human father. Never mind what Mary told him about the Holy Spirit. Joseph thinks that Mary cheated on him. Can you imagine his disappointment?

Joseph soon learns the truth, and he learns that God has a new and different plan for his life—to be the adoptive father to the Son of God. Like George Bailey, God’s new plan for Joseph would require suffering and sacrifice. Not long after Jesus was born, for example, an angel warns Joseph in a dream that Herod is out to kill his son, and he needs to escape to Egypt. So, in the middle of the night, in fear for his son’s safety, he uproots his family in Bethlehem and moves to a place that is not his home. Can you imagine his disappointment?

Some time later, when Herod dies, the angel tells him to return to the land of Israel. Even then, however, because another dangerous Herod was on the throne, he can’t return to his hometown in the south; he has to settle in the north, in Nazareth. Can you imagine his disappointment?

The truth is that like Joseph and like George Bailey, taking up our cross and following Jesus often means changing our own plans and giving up on our own dreams. And it might be something we don’t want to do, at least at first. Can we trust that the Lord knows what’s best for us?

In the Old Testament, God tells Jeremiah the prophet, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” This kind of foreknowledge doesn’t just apply to people who are called to be prophets, but to you and me.

The psalmist declares that when he was in the womb “all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” God has a plan for each one of us. And it’s good, if only we’ll trust him.

When have you experienced disappointment because your dreams didn’t come true? Can you trust that God has a better dream for your life? 

📲 Watch a clip of George Bailey giving up on his dreams.

3 thoughts on ““Good News of Great Joy,” Day 17: God Has Bigger Dreams for Us”

  1. Dreams. I don’t know if we will get more than our “dreams,” as dreams can be very fanciful and unrealistic. I had a dream of becoming a widely read Christian author, but nothing came of that. I believe I would have liked that far better than my present legal job. But God declined that option. What we really must trust God with, I think, is that God thinks some things are more important than our dreams, such as our character. I think we can trust God with putting us in situations which test our character, and, hopefully, we can pass those tests (or, if not, still our character is being made manifest). This is the reason for the “fiery trials” that we come up against, as I read the scriptures. I guess I would say that it is greater for God to focus our attention on the truly important than any “earthly goals” we might have.

    As a very minor illustration, when I played basketball in high school, I had a “dream” of scoring 20 points. Finally in one game I had 18. But the coach called us over and told us that we were ahead by 10 points, and he wanted us to maintain that lead, so with just a minute left in the game, we should just pass the ball around. When the ball got to me, what did I do? I shot the ball because I wanted my 20 more than winning by 10. Of course, I missed the shot, and the other team got the rebound, ran down the court, and scored on a layup, so I got neither my goal nor the coach’s. Point being, God had something more important at play than my “dream.” He wanted me to be willing to set aside that dream to obey the coach. So he gave me that “test,” which I failed. The “good that came out of that” likely was the twinge of conscience and resolution not to do that again. But as to the “dream,” that never got fulfilled.

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