May 5, 2015

The Life of Faith

I once spoke to a group of high school seniors and gave them some advice they probably didn’t expect. I told them that they, at age 18, were at a time of life when they were probably getting a lot of advice that went something like this:

Follow your heart.

Sacrifice everything for your dreams.

Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever give up.

I told them that since they were already getting the advice for age 18, I was going to skip that step and tell them what advice I’d give them for ages 28 and 38.

The advice would be this: Give up your dreams.

Yes, I acknowledged that my counsel was a little unusual for high school graduates—perhaps a little uninspiring. How often do you see “Give up your dreams” as a senior class vision statement? How often do you find it on a greeting card? “Dear Graduate: Give up your dreams. Love, Grandma.”

But I absolutely believe that giving up our dreams is one of the most important things we can ever do.

When I say to give up your dreams, I told the students, I don’t mean that you shouldn’t still have dreams and desires in your heart. You should. And as you move into college and career, you should work hard at whatever you do.

But we also have to be careful not to clutch too tightly to our own plans and dreams, because they can become too important to us. They can become a god.

I invited the students to go back to their rooms that night and read Malachi 1, which is all about giving up what you most want to hold on to. In this case, God’s people were supposed to bring their best animals for sacrifice; instead, they were bringing their worst.

God responded, “When you bring injured, crippled or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?” (see Mal. 1:8, 9).

Why did it matter to God what kind of animals were brought for sacrifice? Because by giving Him our best, we’re putting the most faith in Him. A sacrifice, by definition, is supposed to feel painful to us. It means we’re releasing what we most want to clutch—entrusting it to God.

Here’s the interesting part: Sometimes a portion of a sacrifice went back to the priest or offerer to eat. So what the worshipper offered, the worshipper also ate. If you offered what was pure, you ate what was pure. If you offered what was tainted, you ate what was tainted. It’s no different with us.

It isn’t just the bad things that keep our relationship with God from soaring. It can also be the good things—the things that become too important, the things we wake up and go to bed thinking about.

Stepping out in faith isn’t supposed to feel risky and exciting; it’s supposed to feel painful. It means letting go of what matters most to us, leaving it on the altar to be refined by the fire of God. He’ll give it back to us if He wants to.

Give up your dreams. Entrust to God what you most want to clutch on to. Then watch what happens.