By Pr Ay Nee Ng
When we have a dream or a vision, normally, we find that we are being shaped and fashioned in every way—inside out—and sometimes dramatic things happen in our life. But let us stay on course!
How do we see things in life? Do we see them with expectation, trepidation, or disappointment? Do we focus on the negative or the positive? Because of the way we have been brought up or taught, we all see life differently, so when God speaks, some handle it well, some don’t know what to do, and the rest run away because they can’t handle it. It may be out of fear or uncertainty of whether it is from God.
Jesus’ vision was to follow His Father’s dream. His Father’s dream was to manifest His great love for humanity by saving them from sin, condemnation, and hell through the great sacrifice of His only begotten Son, Jesus. Jesus had to die on the cross for the penalty of our sins. As big as the sacrifice was, Jesus said that whatever the Father do, Jesus would do. “‘My food’, said Jesus, ‘is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work’ Do you not say, “There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest?” Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.…’” (John 4:34-35).
Let us read John 5:18-24.
18 For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.
19-23 Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.” For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and the Father will show Him greater works than these, so that you will marvel. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.
24 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.
God used to communicate with people consistently through dreams and occasionally through visions (“waking dreams”, see Num. 24:4) in the Bible. The absence of visions in Israel was due to the death of the prophets (1 Sam. 3:1) and the disobedience of God’s people (1 Sam. 28:6).
Dreams and Visions in the Old Testament
God used visions to reveal His plan through the prophets to His people and to put His people in places of influence. “For the Lord God does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7, ESV).
- Abraham (Gen. 15:1): God used a vision to restate the Abrahamic Covenant, reminding Abram that he would have a son and be the father of many nations
- Samuel (1 Sam. 3): Samuel had his first vision as a young boy when God told him that judgment was coming upon the sons of his mentor, Eli. Samuel was faithful to relay the information, and God continued to speak to him through the rest of his life.
Dreams and Visions in the New Testament
In the New Testament, visions and dreams served to provide information that was unavailable elsewhere. Specifically, God used visions and dreams to identify Jesus and to establish His church.
- Zacharias (Luke 1:5-23): God used a vision to tell Zacharias, an old priest, that he would soon have a son. Not long after, Zacharias and his wife, Elizabeth, had John the Baptist.
- Joseph (Matt. 1:20; 2:13): Joseph would have divorced Mary when he found out she was pregnant, but God sent an angel to him in a dream, convincing him that the pregnancy was of God. Joseph went ahead with the marriage. After Jesus was born, God sent two more dreams: one to tell Joseph to take his family to Egypt, so Herod could not kill Jesus; another to tell him Herod was dead and that he could return home.
- Peter (Acts 10:9-15): While Peter was praying on the rooftop of a house in Joppa, God gave him a vision of animals lowered in something like a sheet. A voice from heaven told Peter to kill the animals (some of which were unclean) and eat them. The vision served to show that Christians are not bound by kosher law and that God has pronounced the Gentiles “clean”, that is, heaven is open to all who follow Jesus.
- Paul: Paul had several visions in his missionary career. One sent him to preach in Macedonia (Acts 16:9-10). Another encouraged him to keep preaching in Corinth (Acts 18:9-11). God also gave him a vision of heaven (2 Cor. 12:1-6).
- John: Nearly the entire book of Revelation is a vision John had while exiled on the island of Patmos. John’s vision explains in more detail some of the events that God had shown Daniel.
God continues to speak to His people to this day not only through dreams and visions but also through the Bible. Thus, He does not use dreams and visions as much as He did before. Nevertheless, God can communicate with us in any way He chooses. Thus, when we have to make a decision, we should first go to the Bible, the Word of God. God may then give us a vision or dream to affirm us along the way. Therefore, let us expect to hear from God for He does speak.
“He said, ‘Listen to my words: When there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, reveal myself to them in visions, I speak to them in dreams. But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the LORD’” (Num. 12:6-8).
In Joel 2:28 and Acts 2:17, God also says, “I will pour out my rains again, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams. Your young men will see visions. In those days, I will pour out my Spirit on servants, men and women alike”.
To build to last, there must be something life-changing that grips us to the very core of our heart. We need to know for what and why are we are called. But how can we know? God can reveal us our calling through His Word, circumstances, His people, the Holy Spirit, or dreams and visions.
When we are struggling with a problem, God often sends us dreams to help us solve our problems, to tell us things we did not know, to warn us about something, to show His love and tender care to us, and to help us along our way. The best of all this is that it is available to all of us! I mean, literally hearing from God and remembering the dreams and visions, not having a bad dream after eating too much. So what do we need to hear from God?
Preparing our Hearts and Our Senses
Our thoughts, prayers, and dreams are tightly interwoven. When moving into the spiritual realm, we recognize that, as conscious individuals with five senses (touch, taste, sight, hearing, and smell) that interact with the outer world, our heart and spirit are interwoven. Proverbs 20:27 says: “The human spirit is the lamp of the LORD that sheds light on one’s inmost being” (NIV); “The spirit of a man is the lamp of the Lord, searching all the inner depths of his heart [literally means rooms of the belly]” (NKJV).
We need to develop our spiritual man/woman; this part is what Paul calls the “inner man” in Romans 7:22. Our inner man/woman has five senses, which are faculties of our heart used in biblical mediation (Mark & Patti Virkler, “How to Hear God’s Voice”, p. 29 and 67) and are designed to interact with the spiritual world. These five senses are:
1. The eyes of the heart that see dreams and visions. We need to first sanctify our heart so God can fill it with His dreams and visions. As we read the Bible and ask the Holy Spirit to minister us and reveal to us what He has for us, we can picture the biblical scenes and see them come to life as they become divine visions for us.
2. The ears of the heart that hear God’s spoken words (plus words of angels, Satan, and demons).
3. The inner mind that is able to ponder and to meditate deep within about the words, visions, and dreams we have received, seeking further revelation to integrate it in our lives (Luke 2:19).
4. The inner will where we make commitments (Acts 19:21).
5. The emotions of the heart where we can sense and experience the emotions of our Almighty God.
Caution: There are no lone rangers in the spiritual realm. Please establish spiritual mentors or advisors. Obedience is the attitude of our heart that says, “I am open and listening to what God is saying to me”. Therefore, it is absolutely imperative that we all recognize the people God has placed as spiritual mentors or advisors in our lives. Even the Bible says: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph. 5:21). “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you” (Heb. 13:17).
Church, we want to be able to tap into to God but to shut the spiritual doors that are not from God. If the source of your spiritual power is not from God, whose spiritual power is it? If it is not from God, beware for the devil only comes to deceive, to steal, to kill, and to destroy (John 10:10). That is why the Bible says: “Submit to, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (Jas. 4:7).
Let us ask God to open up to us a whole new area of the spiritual realm, to remove all fear from our hearts and minds, and to fill us with His love, peace, and joy so we can accomplish all of what God wants. God-given dreams and God-given visions come to give you a hope and a future; they are ways God uses to show us the direction we should take or to reaffirm His direction.
Remember: God has good plans for each and every one of us.