During a particularly difficult times for my business a few years ago, I found myself thinking about Hannah and Eli in 1 Samuel 1. You’ll recall that Hannah, who became the mother of Samuel, was barren and found herself at the end of ridicule and debasement from her rival wife, Peninnah, in a polygamous marriage over an extended number of years. She experienced ongoing, deep pain as well, given that in her culture, her inability to bear a child impacted the quality of her personhood and what other’s thought of her.
The Scriptures record that Hannah reached a point of being so distraught that when she had the opportunity, she poured out her grief to the Lord at the temple. Eli saw her praying, saw that her lips were moving without much sound and subsequently concluded she was drunk. Imagine his surprise when he learned she was pouring out her heavy heart to the Lord. We learn from the text that in the process of pouring out her heart, she fully surrendered to the Lord and let go of her dream to be a traditional mother – to be who she thought she was supposed to be. It took her years to get to the point of full surrender. Her surrender was visceral and went to the core of her identity. Her dream of being a traditional mother – as visceral and central to her identity as it was – needed to be let go and subsequently re-formed by God Himself.
In time, the Lord granted her wish to be a mother, but her “motherhood” would be different than any other: it would be filled with greater joys and greater sorrows than most mothers would face and her dream would be worked out in the context of a unique plan. And her obedience would benefit the entire nation of Israel.
Most of us have dreams about our futures. Dreams often motivate us, can cause us to take risks, define meaning and purpose for our lives, provide personal identities and propel us forward into the future when nothing else is able to do this. Left to our own devices, most of our dreams will spring from our selfishness, or our perceived need for power, security or acceptance. Christians often confuse their dreams with a call of God on their lives. It is a fine line, to be sure. But if one’s dream is first surrendered and then aligned with God’s call on one’s life, the combination of the dream and the call are very powerful.
Our culture has a vacuous idea about dreams. Consider these Aerosmith lyrics:
Yeah, sing with me, sing for the year sing for the laughter, sing for the tear sing with me, just for today Maybe tomorrow, the good Lord will take you away
Dream On Dream On Dream On Dream until your dream comes true Dream On Dream On Dream On Dream until your dream comes through Dream On Dream On Dream On Dream On Dream On Dream On Dream On………
I would suggest to our Aerosmith friends that the Good Lord will do what is necessary to ensure our dreams are surrendered to Him and align with His call on our lives. That merely dreaming until it becomes reality is not virtue – it’s chasing after the wind. Dreaming for the sake of dreaming is wasted time and cycles. But as I said above, aligning our dreams with God’s call on our lives produces a powerful mixture of motivate and direction that is difficult to stop.
Every business owner I’ve ever met also have dreams. Innovators are those who are able to see a different future than most – a future that has their products and services baked into the community, helping it to flourish and grow. Innovators have well crafted, well defined dreams and often, they pursue turning their dreams into realities through business. As business owners, we may have dreams about success and wealth, culture and employees, awards and achievements and seeing our products and services enable others to do more and be more than they could without us. I would suspect that many of us business owners also have dreams around success and financial security. And perhaps that is one of the strongest dreams that need to die if we are going to run our businesses to God’s glory.
God is looking for a group of business owners who want to first live out all that it means to be a Christian business owner in the marketplace. Succeeding in this requires first that our personal and business dreams are submitted to God. While we are called to lead a business in the marketplace and provide products and services that enable the community to flourish, our call is often defined pragmatically through the dreams that God has placed within us.
When we hold onto our dreams to the point where we’re asking God to follow us, then we can be assured that God will kill that dream for us. This is what He had to do with Hannah. We’ll resist. And He will allow us to go through the painful process over whatever length of time it takes to kill those dreams. God loves us too much to allow our dreams – our hopes – to be placed in anything or anyone other than Him. And He certainly isn’t going to follow us.
I think that those who have their business dreams re-defined by God will look back and say it was of the best things to ever happen to their person and business. But that can only happen if you persistently go before God, humble yourself, pray, seek His face and turn from your sin. Give your dreams to God. Let Him define your dreams for you and you’ll have a brighter future than ever. So, dream! But ensure your dreams are aligned with God’s call on your life and let Him define and shape them.
The Bible and Business