Finding and Fulfilling God's Purpose for Our Lives
A Study of Psalm 126
[A Song of degrees] When the LORD turned again the captivity of Zion, we
were like them that dream.
Dreams are a powerful force in people's lives. The word "dream" brings many pictures to mind. There are daydreams which are idle wishes and desires that have no chance of ever coming to pass. There are the dreams of sleep whereby the sub-conscious mind speaks, sometimes in riddles, other times in wild and incomprehensible pictures.
But there is another kind of dream. This "other kind" of dream is the focus of this message. It can be defined as a "desire and longing for a state of being and quality of life that one does not yet enjoy." This type of dream is the fuel for great accomplishments. Our culture takes great pleasure in telling and hearing of the ones who "make their dreams come true." We are all encouraged by these success stories. This element of reaching for greater things in life is a universal longing, and Christians are included as potential dreamers.
What does the Bible say about ones who dream? Perhaps the greatest dreamer in scripture was Joseph, who informed his brothers that he would someday be a great leader and rule over even his family. His brothers set out to wreck his dream, but God still accomplished His purpose in Joseph's life. He would indeed rule over his brothers and all his kindred.
The secret to the Christian's dreams can be found in this story. If the Christian hopes to see his "dreams come true," he must stay in the perfect will of God for his life. Only then can he be sure of a partnership with God in accomplishing his dreams. I believe that every Christian has within him the dream of full and complete service to God. For the Christian, fulfilled dreams means to fulfill God's glorious purpose for his life. The will of God is personal and individual, not public and collective.
In Psalm 126, we have a commentary on how we can achieve our dreams. The biblical word "dream" can mean an ordinary dream or a prophetic dream. It does not pertain to this great longing of which we speak. But the entire psalm, taken in its context, does deal with Christian longings and desires. This passage is familiar to us as a proof text for soul winning. Verses 5-6 are oft quoted, and this application is not out of order. But there is much more truth in this passage.
This psalm was most likely penned by a herdsman living on the plains outside Jerusalem. The time was probably during the reign of Hezekiah. We read in 2 Kings 18 and 19 of how Sennacherib's army was destroyed by God in a miracle and the city of Jerusalem was saved from destruction. While Jerusalem was a walled city and was safe, those outside the walls of the city, the herdsmen, farmers, and shepherds, still faced constant danger and harass- ment by many adversaries.
This is the scenario for many of God's people today. We have seen God do great things for others, but, we long for His presence and power in our lives. Thus we have the background for our study. Let us now learn how the herdsmen psalmist saw his godly dreams come true.
I. The Determining of the Dream v. 1
All dreams must have a starting place. There must be a time in the Christian's life when he purposes in his heart to pursue specific desires and goals. How does this happen? How can we know God's will in these matters? There are three ways to assure the blessings of God and they can be found in verse one.
1. The Problems of Life Notice the word "captivity." Some commentators believe this to be the Babylonian captivity, but many others point out that the word itself refers to all manner of misfortune and trouble. The captivity referred to here could just as easily refer to the Assyrian siege of Sennacherib. The Jews were in their predicament because of their sin. The first criteria for deter- mining the dream is "need." Do you see a need? Needs are everywhere, but your dream is determined by which weighs heavily on the heart.
2. The Preciousness of Faith We can see this ingredient in the phrase "when the Lord..." If you see a need that troubles you, ask God for wisdom. What would God have you to do? Study scripture, pray, and seek the face of God. You must know that God is leading you. It must be the Lord that does the work, not our own efforts. God has a work for each of us to do. He wants us to know His will. He is not playing hide-and-seek with His will.
3. The Precepts of ScriptureThe third ingredient of determining your dream is the scripture. Never trust your own intellect or your feelings. God's will is found in scripture and solidified in scripture. Many Christians get caught up in a "project" or a cause, only to fail when the emotions of the moment fade away. We find our proof for this point in the phrase, "turned again." God promised Israel that He would punish their sin and reward their repentance. In the supplication to come, the psalmist is on solid scriptural ground. He knows from Moses' writings that God will honor His repentance.
II. The Display of the Dream v. 2
The Lord "turned again the captivity of Zion." Jerusalem was saved. God had destroyed the Assyrian army overnight by slaying them in their sleep. The psalmist takes heart in this great victory. He remembers and retraces in his heart how God came to the rescue of His people. Notice how he draws strength from his memory of this past blessing.
1. A Shining GloryGod displayed His great power in delivering Jerusalem and the psalmist says, "Then was our mouth filled with laughter..." The family of God has the unique opportunity to encourage and assist each other in the fulfilling of God's purpose for our lives. Victories in your life will give help and aid to your brother who needs lifting up. The delivery of Jerusalem did not necessarily help the herdsmen's condition, but it did encourage them to trust God in their own lives. Put your dreams on display so that others can be blessed.
2. A Singing Gladness "...and our tongue with singing..." The concept of singing originated as a method of praising God. Man has devolved this concept into a blasphemous practice in our post-modern world. Songs today praise and uplift the basest of human emotions and deeds. But when a godly dream is fulfilled and displayed for all to see, a natural spirit induced outflowing of singing and gladness comes forth.
3. A Seeming Greatness God and man see greatness in differing ways. Man only sees it after the fact; God sees the inner greatness that was present all the time, though not apparent until the victory. "...then said they among the heathen, The LORD hath done great things for them..." The fulfillment and display of godly dreams is a testimony of God's great love and compassion to His people. The heathen could not gainsay it; they could not deny that God had delivered His people. God's people are great only because of their relationship with Him. After the wonderful victory, the heathen all around Judah could see God's great care of His people.
I once had a Christian supervisor who wanted to be a chiropractor. He was well into his 30's and had a wife and children and good paying job. But he believed that God wanted him to be a chiropractor. With his dream firmly in focus, he set out to fulfill it. There was much hardship and discipline involved in balancing family, school, and work, but he succeeded. I now pass his office almost every day. God puts dreams and goals in His people's hearts, and gives us the ability and opportunity to fulfill them. When God puts them on display, His people are encouraged and even the heathen must acknowledge His greatness.
III. The Difficulties of the Dream v. 3-5
I know many people who have started on the path to fulfilling God's purpose for their lives. I have seen some succeed and many others get sidetracked and fail. We have examined in the first point how God will direct us and show us His will. Secondly, we have seen how the successful dreams of others can encourage and enlighten us to go on with God. Now, in verses 3-5, we come to the difficulties of the dream.
I have been amazed throughout my adult life how some people tenaciously attack life and never allow the discouragements affect them. Others allow themselves to be knocked out without much resistance. What is the difference between the two types? In these verses, God shows us how to achieve our dreams in spite of the difficulties we are sure to face.
1. We Must Acknowledge God's Past Blessings. Verse three tells us, "The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad." In the preceding verse, the heathen said it. Now the writer says it for himself. As he remembers the great victory, he agrees that God is a great God. Many times we forget that we are God's beloved children and He is walking with us and helping us every minute. In times of difficulty, we become ignorant of His presence and His blessings. God's past blessings are solid evidence for future ones!
Must Ask for God's Prospective Blessings.
Verse four says, "Turn again our captivity, O LORD, as the streams in
the south." We have not because we ask not.
We seem to have the idea that "God already knows, so why bother asking?"
God wants us to bring our hopes and desires to him in prayer. Jabez
did this in 1 Chronicles 4:10. He prayed for success in both his
life and career.
3. We Must Affirm God's Promised Blessings. Verse five contains a wonderful truth. "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy." Sowing seed is an act of faith. For those in the deepest poverty, it is a supreme act of faith. Many times the seed was a large portion of their food supply. To plant that seed instead of consuming it took great faith. To gain future blessings, we must be willing to give up present benefits. To the farmers and herdsmen of the plain, there was no guarantee that their crops would ever come to fruition. They were exposed to robbers, invading armies, and all manner of evil men every day. They had no walls or means of defense. All they had was the promise of God. What great faith it took to plant the seed in the face of such adversity!
IV. The Demands of the Dream v. 6a
"God helps those who helps themselves", the man-made proverb states. No farmer ever grew a crop from prayer alone or desire alone. He must go to the field! For any achiever, there are demands. Our society is a place of "instant" things: potatoes, pudding and fast food. We want everything now! The truth is that there is no "instant" success with God. Success in the things of God is earned by honoring His precepts and promises. It is an ongoing process. We can learn three things about God's demands from the first part of verse six.
1. A Pursuit He that goeth forth...The phrase carries with it a moving away from something and a moving toward something else. We must be "at work" for God. We must put ourselves on the firing line for Him and allow ourselves to be commanded by Him. Many Christians have wonderful dreams, but they will not "go forth" and present themselves for God's service. A dream will stay a dream until the dreamer awakens. At some point, we, like the sower, must go forth.
2. A Pain...and weepeth... "Now wait a minute," some may say. "This is too much! God never meant for it to get this bad!" The word means to lament, to bewail, to shed tears of grief or humiliation. Many of God's people will quit when things get difficult. That is not the way to accomplish your godly dreams! This life is a proving ground for us. We are not being tested for God to see how we will do, but for us to learn more about ourselves, and for us to learn more about the God who enables us. There will be difficulty and pain. It is part of the process.
3. A Purpose...bearing precious seed... In every Christian's dream, the goal is to accomplish God's purpose. God has given us special abilities and expects us to use them for His glory. This phrase literally means, to leave a trail to follow. The planting of the valuable seed was to set in motion events that would lead to a harvest. Our purpose must be to do the same in our lives. We are leaving a life trail by our actions and decisions. Can others follow?
V. The Delights of the Dream v. 6b
We now reach the payoff. Those who find God's purpose for their lives and seek to fulfill that purpose have blessings that the world cannot know. There are four great delights for the godly dreamer in the second part of verse six.
1. The Surety...shall doubtless... Success is guaranteed in the service of God. We do not mean success as the world defines it, but as God defines it. God's kind of success does not necessarily mean money, power, prestige, or honor. But it does mean a full reward and confidence when we one day stand in His presence.
2. The Strength...come again... The farmer sows the seed, and returns periodically to cultivate his crop. This is maintenance. He comes again in the harvest. These verses promise us strength for the harvest. Faithful is he that calls us who also will do it! Failure is not an option or even a possibility for the sold-out Christian worker. We are His servant, acting on His orders. Victory and harvest are assured.
3. The Song...with rejoicing... There is a special heart-song for the successful Christian worker. The word means to proclaim with a ringing cry. It is a rejoicing that the world cannot understand.
4. The Sheaves...bringing his sheaves with him... It is amazing to discover that the only other place in scripture in which the Hebrew word used here (alummah) is mentioned is in Genesis 37:7. That passage is where Joseph explains his dream of the sheaves to his brothers. The sheaves represent the harvest. In the work of God, there is a harvest. Just as the farmer is dependent on the elements, the Christian laborer is dependent on God.
Conclusion: George Mueller saw homeless children on the streets and had a dream of building orphanages. He had no backing from either the secular world or the religious world, but he had the help of God. What he accomplished in his lifetime for the glory of God still stands as a great testimony to God's power.
A different sort of dreamer was John Bunyon. He was constantly persecuted and spent long periods of his life in prison. But his enemies could not keep him from fulfilling his dreams of service to God. He wrote and preached from his prison cell and his life counted greatly for God.
God desires that we add our names to His great list of dreamers. He has a plan for our lives; he wants to use us. As the herdsmen/farmers on the plains outside of Jerusalem, may we seek the face of God and begin sowing the seeds of service and devotion to the cause of Christ.
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