By Pr Ay Nee Ng
Are We Ever the Same When We Have a Dream or a Vision?
Yesterday, Peter and I took a drive out to Dover Heights to see some of the things that were going to be auctioned off today. There was a beautiful house with breathtaking views, but sadly, all things in it were to be auctioned. The house was sold and so everything in it. There were furniture, carpets, pictures, bricks, sunglasses and even jewellery for sale. You would think the owners had their dream home and life—they were living in opulence—but something shattered their dream. They were divorcing. The dreams of the world could not contain their happiness.
Dreams and visions change our lives. But what are the dreams that build lives and cause transformation so that good attributes come alive in us and others? God’s dreams and visions are the only ones that will add value to our lives. In the case of the people living at Dover Heights, their dreams did not last; their lives were drastically changed for the worst.
Receiving God’s dreams and visions involves change and transformation in our lives. Most of the time we fight against change, but this process of learning to adapt and change is for God’s glory. In the end, it is not about “me”, “myself”, “my rights”, or “my independence”, but about God and His will for us. Thus, we need to learn to hear God’s voice and discern His voice from other voices.
Remember that we can receive from God through His Word, circumstances, His people, the power of the Holy Spirit, and dreams and visions. Dreams and visions help you make connection with God. When we are struggling with a problem, God will often send us dreams to help us solve it, too tell us things we didn’t know, to show His love and tender care to us, and to help us along the way. You may wonder from where that thought come in that time of difficulty. It came from God. We need to learn to hear what God is telling the Church. So what do we need to do to hear from God?
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:
1. The eyes of the heart that see dreams and visions.
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.
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.
Now, how do you know your dream and vision is God-given? When it is from God, you change for the better as the fruit of the Holy Spirit develops in you, you feel driven to search and dig in into the things of God; you want more to life than just the mediocre.
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 example, He spoke to Abraham, Moses, Samuel, Solomon, and Daniel. 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. He spoke to Zacharias, Mary, Elizabeth, Joseph, Ananias, Peter, Paul, and John in that way. But what happened to them after that? Did their lives stay the same? Let us see.
Abram left Ur of the Chaldeen (Babylon or modern day southern Iraq) with his father, Terah, and his extended family and settled in Haran. God’s sovereign call on Abram can be found in Genesis 12 when God asked him to leave his family and go to Canaan. Being called to leave your family is really a test of faith for anyone. In my case, when I chose to attend bible school and become a full-time pastor instead of pursuing the family’s businesses, I faced persecution from my family. Yet, along the way with the Lord’s bidding, love, and grace, I continued loving and serving my extended family even more. I was and have been changed by the dream and vision God gave me.
Abram left Haran with his wife Sarai and his nephew Lot to go to Canaan when he was 75 years old. In Canaan, there was a great famine, so he went to Egypt, where he faced another trial, a test of character that he failed. To save his skin, Sarai had to lie that she was Abram’s sister and not his wife. When Pharaoh took Sarai, God protected her by causing great plagues on Pharaoh and his household. Pharaoh realized that Sarai was Abram’s wife and asked them to leave Egypt. Abraham’s act was deceptive, unnecessary, and faithless.
Like him, sometimes we also do stupid things even as Christians, but God is merciful. The beauty is not about failing but learning from our mistakes to become humble before God. God will bless us, but there are trials we have to go through to peel off the old layers in our lives and to put the cloak of Jesus. We will still have some traits of our old self after a trial, but there will be changes in our lives. We will be more understanding and wise, and with trials, we will learn to have mercy and grace.
Later, in Genesis 15 and 17, God used a vision to restate the Abrahamic Covenant, reminding Abram that he would have a son and be the father of many nations. Abram and Sarai had to be changed and transformed to learn to wait and fully trust in God. Thus, God changed Abram’s name to Abraham and Sarai’s to Sarah. They also had to learn obedience, but it came at a high price after they tried to lend a hand to God.
In Genesis 12:2-3, God told Abraham: “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you”. Throughout the Old Testament, we can see that individuals and nations that blessed Abraham’s descendants were blessed and those who persecuted them were cursed. God’s people had His favour.
At Hillsong Conference 2015, Joseph Prince, one of the speakers, told a story. A successful salesman once asked him: “How does one know whether it is the favour of God or one’s hard work that has gotten one to where one is and given such results?” Joseph Prince said: “Look, it is simple. Why don’t I pray for you to God to draw His favour from you this whole month? Then, by the end of the month, you will know whether it is your hard work that will get you where you will be”. The salesman replied that there was no need to do that and that he had to leave. Church, we are in His favour. Do you notice jobs coming to you, avenues opening up, and relationships improving? It is God’s favour upon you.
Peter always wanted to do the right thing. In Acts 10:9-15, God gave Peter a vision of animals over something like a sheet while he was praying on the rooftop of a house in Joppa. A voice from heaven told Peter to kill and to eat some animals, some which were unclean. This vision served to show that Christians are not bound by the Kosher law and that God has pronounced Gentiles as clean, that is, heaven is open to all who follow Jesus.
Even before that, Peter had to go through many changes. He was known to be as a reed toasting to and fro, but God had called him. He was the first to be given a revelation of who Jesus is by God Himself, and yet after that, Jesus had to rebuke him because he had once been used by Satan. Peter, who would stand up for Jesus, denied knowing Jesus when Jesus was captured. Peter, who was so sure about his agape love for God, realized that he only had a friendship or philo love for Jesus. Jesus had to lovingly reinstate Peter so that he could one day be the Peter the Rock, not Simon the Reed. Whenever I heard this story, I feel uplifted because I know that Jesus is here for each and every one of us. When we have a vision or a dream, we may not know what hits us, but we can always be sure that Christ will carry us through as we stay faithful to His cause.
Paul thought he was doing right persecuting the Christians. In pursuing the truth, God revealed Himself to Paul (then called Saul). He was blinded by the radiance of God and then regained both physical sight and spiritual understanding. After that day, he was never the same again. Later on, Paul had several visions. 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). But did he face trials? Yes, but he never doubted God even when He was persecuted. He believed that the gospel of salvation was for both Jews and Gentiles.
Church, we are in a process of change and transformation for God. Nobody likes changes, but it is needed because the Word says that the old has to pass away and all things have to be made new (2 Cor. 5:17). Also, God’s dreams and visions for us will help us redirect our lives and remind us that He is with us always. Let us not lose heart!