This week I am preaching on 2 Samuel 7, where David wants to build a temple and God says, “No.” My outline comes from an unpublished article I wrote a couple of years ago, using the parallel passage in 1 Chronicles 17. I hope it is an encouragement to those whose life has not turned out as you hoped.
When your dream dies
A young couple spent 10 years planning, preparing, and praying to become missionaries. After a year of sharing their vision with people and churches, only 5% of their needed financial support came in.
A young man longed for the companionship of a wife. As he exits his 40’s, “Mrs. Right” is not even on the distant horizon.
A woman dreamt of being called, “Mommy,” even as she listened to her biological clock ticking away. Now, her doctor informs her that she needs to go under the knife for a complete hysterectomy.
A young man dreamed that he would be the pastor of a 1,000 member church, write best-selling books, and be invited to teach at a prestigious Christian college or seminary. As he edges closer to 60, the attendance in his small church is declining, the publishers send, “Thanks, but no thanks” letters, and he has never been asked to speak in chapel at a college or seminary, let alone join the faculty.
What do you do when your dream dies?
Some people mourn the dream. They sink into the depths of depression and remain stuck. Their lives are divided into B.C. (Before Crisis) and A.C. (After Crisis). The death of the dream becomes the defining moment of their lives. Every conversation revolves around the day that . . .
Some try to force the dream. Numbers 13-14 tell the story of Israel’s rebellion following the account of the 12 spies. Because of the people’s lack of faith, God sentenced them to wander in the desert for 40 years (14:43). Greatly disappointed, some people tried to force their way into the Promised Land, only to be defeated by the enemy (14:39-45).
In 1 Chronicles 17-22, King David provides us with a healthier example of how to respond to the death of a dream.
David’s dream was to build a temple where people could worship God (1 Chronicles 17:1-2). David, the man who knew more about worship than anyone outside of the priesthood, wanted to honor God and tell others about him by building a magnificent worship center. How could you go wrong with a God-honoring goal like that?
God said, “NO!” to David’s dream (1 Chronicles 17:3-6). Even though David’s dream was a lofty one which would benefit others, it was not part of God’s plan for David’s life.
God said, “Someone else will fulfill the dream” (1 Chronicles 17:10b-14). God’s answer was not rejection, but rather redirection. His plan for David was to be the King, not architect, city planner, or construction foreman. Instead, God chose David’s son, Solomon, to build the temple.
God spoke and did not stutter. As good, lofty, honorable, and God-glorifying as it was, David’s dream is dead. The story now hinges on how David will respond. Will he whine and complain? Will he sit in a corner and pout? Will he grudgingly give in? Will he close himself off from God?
David worshipped God and accepted his answer (1 Chronicles 17:16-27). He thanks God for his blessings in the past (17:16) and for the promises that await him in the future (17:17). He worships God for his character (17:20), and for what he has done in choosing Israel (17:21-22). Because he recognizes who God is, he can then accept God’s answer (17:23-27).
I have to admit, David is a better man than me. Rather than thanking God for his answer, far too often my first reaction is frustration, anger, and selfishness. My focus is on me and my wants and desires rather than on God’s plan and purpose.
Keeping our eyes focused on God and his character allows us to mourn appropriately and then move forward with acceptance and renewal. This becomes the key to surviving the death of a dream.
David submits to God’s plan and finds other ways to serve (1 Chronicles 22). Rather than be selfish and possessive (“It’s MY dream”), David passed the dream on to his son, Solomon (22:6-13), and provided for him to carry out the dream (22:1-5, 14-19). Though he would never live to see the dream fulfilled, David still set aside the resources (22:14) and the skilled personnel (22:15-16) to make the dream a reality. He also challenged Solomon and the leaders of Israel to keep the big picture in mind (22:19). The project was not about a building; it was about seeking God and honoring his name.
What do you do when your dream dies? Do you give up and quit? Do you try to force your will on God? Do you turn inward? Do you remind yourself that God knows what he is doing? Do you trust that he has both your best interests and his plan in mind?
The couple who could not raise enough support to become missionaries became actively involved in the outreach ministry of their local church. They found fulfillment by helping further the dreams of others.
The young man who longed for a wife met a woman through the internet and rushed into marriage. He and his wife have struggled since the wedding.
The couple who wrestled with infertility adopted three children. Their parenting dreams were fulfilled, though not in the way they expected.
The pastor who wanted to make a name for himself is me. Rather than focus on building a growing ministry, God taught me the lesson of building deeply into the lives of people and letting him determine the breadth of my ministry. He also allowed me to train pastors in Russia.
What do you do when your dream dies?