. . . for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
— Genesis 3:19

One of the problems I have with all the “chase your dreams!” cheerleading from Christian leaders is not because I begrudge anyone wanting to achieve their dreams, but because I don’t think we readily see how easy it is to conflate our dream-chasing with God’s will in Christ.

You know, it’s possible that God’s plan for us is littleness. His plan for us may be personal failure. It’s possible that when another door closes, it’s not because he plans to open a window but because he plans to have the building fall down on you. The question we must ask ourselves is this: Will Christ be enough?

Are we pursuing our own greatness or the expansion of worship of Jesus Christ? They aren’t necessarily incompatible, but God is more interested in the latter than the former. And ultimately, if we prioritize Christ’s glory, we won’t really care in the long run how noticed, renowned, recognized, or “successful” we are personally. We’ll realize that our lives aren’t really about us anyway.

Sometimes we have to let our dreams die.
And that’s okay. We will be okay.

Look, “for those who love God, all things work together for the good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). So God’s plan might be for your littleness, and that’s okay, because his plan is not for his own littleness! His plan for your efforts, big and small, is that they will maximize the glory due his Son. That he might draw all men to himself. That he might fill the earth with the knowledge of his glory – as Habakkuk 2:14 says – as much as the waters cover the seas.

One day, you are going to die. Perhaps today. What will they say about you? What legacy are you truly leaving? When the funeral is over and all the accolades about you are used up, your body will become dust.

In Al Mohler’s book The Conviction to Lead he writes of

. . . an old preacher [who] told a group of younger preachers to remember that they would die. “They are going to put you in a box,” he said, “and put the box in the ground, and throw dirt on your face, and then go back to the church and eat potato salad.”

Here’s the point: As great as you can make yourself, as many wonderful things as you can accomplish in your lifetime — even religious things — it will all be a blip on the radar of eternity. You will become dust. The worms will eat you. Statistically speaking, since most of us will never accomplish such great things that history will laud throughout the ages, memory of us will start fading with our grandchildren. Our great grandchildren will (likely) not have any clue who we are.

If you are bringing glory to Christ, not a thing about you is wasted, because the mission of the Spirit of God is to maximize the glory of Christ over all the universe. So that even at the end of days, as Revelation shows us, all the glorious kings of the nations in all their renown and splendor, file in one by one into the holy city to throw their crowns at the feet of Jesus. Revelation 21 reveals that the light of the new heavens and new earth comes not from the “sun” but from the “Son,” and the kings of the nations will bring their glory into it.

There is the vision of greatness the redeemed of the Lord ought to aspire to. That he would increase and we would decrease. That our decrease would serve his increase!

And those who are willing to lose their lives — whatever that might mean — for Christ’s sake, will find them.

And from dust you will return.

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63 thoughts on “You’re Going to Die (and So Might Your Dreams)”

  1. A great and necessary reminder. I have felt of late that public (i.e., well known)Christian personalities are trying to help people “realize” their dreams. It seems those dreams are often to be known, regardless of the language it’s couched in. It’s a struggle I have as well. Dust to dust.

  2. Sara says:

    It seems to me that every time my husband and I have a great conversation about God – where he thinks about preaching it, or I think about blogging it, that someone like you comes along and says everything we were just saying! LOL! It’s a curse we bear.

    I think this generation especially needs to hear more about how a life of obscurity can, somehow, bring glory to God. We mistakenly see Twitter followers and Facebook friends as influence and influence as significance – never mind that the Creator of the world loved us enough to die for us.

  3. Thank you. I needed to hear this today.

  4. We have songs and preachers who talk about leaving a legacy…in and of itself that is not bad, if by that we mean leaving the deposit of ‘the faith once for all delivered to the saints’ to the next generation…this is the only legacy worth remembering and the only hand me down that has lasting value. We see movies like 300 (just recently) that espouse a view that we chase ‘glory’ for glory sake so that we are remembered in the annals of history. This is what ‘the city of man’ runs too…they want to leave an indelible mark on this planet, etch their name in the bedrock of this earth so that they find some satisfaction in knowing they left something behind that was worthwhile. Without God this makes no sense because when the lights go out you cannot see the fruit of your own labors or the results of the legacy you left. The marks that are worthwhile, in my opinion, are the ones we point to…the ones that have already been left behind, and we reiterate, and emphasize, and teach, and preach…reason: unless the soul of man is transferred out of the kingdom of darkness and into the Kingdom of Light their is no lasting legacy, and even the one you think you leave behind is in vain. Man was not designed to point to himself, but to His God. Man gets in trouble when he tries to carve out a legacy apart from His Creator. Adam thought he could do this, and failed. The Christian finds his legacy wrapped up in Christ alone. It is He would has left the ultimate mark, the chief legacy. As we come to Him we find that His legacy becomes ours as He shares all that He has with His people. We are made New for His glory so that we can herald His lasting and eternal legacy. In pursuing this we find that all our hopes and dreams come to fruition and find their climax in His accomplishments, His achievements, His works.

    1. Charlotte Schmitt says:

      Wow, you are a great writer–and you didn’t even write the blog! Impressive response. My husband and I invented the term accu-speak when discussing points of Theology and all I can say is you nailed it! Applause.

  5. claire says:

    Excellent post. Bet commenters will be few, though…your timely caution is an unpopular view in our Americanized version of Christianity. Thanks for the balanced perspective.

  6. “The question we must ask ourselves is this: Will Christ be enough?” I needed to read this. Thank you.

  7. Curt Day says:

    This is a good post. And perhaps the best things we do are the smallest of things that, without our knowledge, change people’s lives. Time will tell.

  8. a. says:

    each man’s work will become evident for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. 1 Cor 3:13-15

  9. Pete says:

    I’m completely here…in my head. But, I’m so far off in my doing. Thank you so much for this exhortation. I needed to hear it. I need to hear it. I will continue to need to hear it. Blessings

  10. Sherry says:

    It is the theme of my life that everything I read or hear makes me think of a book, but anyway, I thought of a book when I read your very true post: Me, Myself and Bob by Phil VIscher. I wrote about the book here: http://www.semicolonblog.com/?p=18936

    The Veggie Tales guy had his dream die a spectacular death, and he was incredulous that God would allow such a thing to happen to such a good enterprise. But God isn’t alway interested in perpetuating our dreams; He’s much bigger and has a much bigger plan than we can imagine.

  11. Tracy says:

    This was basically the theme of the sermon our pastor preached on the Sunday after we buried our 18 year old son. Will Jesus be enough?

  12. Robert says:

    Thanks! Jared. A very necessary corrective that probably won’t become the majority opinion anytime soon IN or OUTSIDE of the church!

  13. jilanbil says:

    I needed to read this today.

    I’ve got my own problems, but I, as some of the other commenters said, think that Christians in North America are really going off the deep-end in this area. Whole conferences in place for people who want to write a better story for their lives, books written about making dreams become reality…I get sucked in sometimes, but I need posts like this to remind me that God is asking for us to make His hame great and for us to be faithful. Not for us to leave a better legacy or to write a better story or to accomplish OUR dreams. Saying all that stuff and putting God`s name behind it is scary business.

  14. Linda says:

    The problem I have with preachers who really are more Christian motivational speakers than preachers is that when they tell us to follow our dreams, the emphasis is on OUR dreams. The implication is that we can do what we want and God will bless it…instead of submitting, obeying, and trusting God and following where He leads. For a long time I bought into this, trying to mold myself into who I wanted to be, who I thought I should be, and/or who I thought others wanted me to be. Throughout all this do-it-yourself self-improvement effort, I went to church, participated in prayer groups, bible studies, and other fellowship opportunities with believers. But I was at the center of my universe. God recently showed me the error of this thinking, the Holy Spirit convicted me of the sinfulness of self-centeredness, and I have repented and now seek His direction in all I do.

  15. Jacquelyn Hartland says:

    You don’t know God very well. He does NOT want failure or hurt or anything but happiness for His own children. Anything bad comes from Satan. This is elemental. God will allow this but only when His will is that it happens for our good; but you have painted a picture of possible doom that God may drop on us any time and for no plausible reason. You should retract this as Christians are hanging on the goodness of God.

    1. amy says:

      Dear sister Jacquelyn…God IS good no matter what happens. But you are mistaken to say that God doesn’t want anything but happiness for His children. He desires us to be HOLY above all else, to be made like Jesus, to reflect His image, to sanctify us and in doing that there is great JOY but it does not come without fire, without trials, without great pain at times. Scripture is FULL of stories like this. There is no gold without fire, there is no purification without trials. James talks about this, Peter talks about this. Jesus Himself said we will have trouble in this world, that there will be persecutions and difficulty. He bids us come and die Jacquelyn, He bids us to share in His sufferings! These are GOOD things dear sister. Easy? No. Painful? Yes! But what we may look at as failure or hurt are the very things that will enable HIS DREAMS for us to be accomplished! I pray with all my heart for you to have revelation of this. It’s not a comfortable truth, but it is the truth. God bless you!

    2. Laura says:

      Dear sister, is God no longer good when tragedy strikes? Our brothers and sisters in Syria face doom every day. Does this negate God’s goodness in their lives? Or are they, in fact, hanging on God’s goodness as their only anchor in the midst of a terrible storm?

      God allows all sorts of evil and suffering into the lives of his people for his own mysterious purposes — and he owes us no explanation, and no immediate restoration. Yes, suffering and hurt and failure will be for our ultimate good, and even for our joy, but we are never guaranteed that that good or that joy will come in this life. Our hope is not in earthly happiness but in eternal joy, which is so much more glorious.

  16. Effie Clark says:

    This is exactly what the priest’s homily was about during yesterday’s ashes Mass. Not quite as blunt but the same message. One that really needs to be heard by all. Thank you.

  17. Rebecca says:

    Amen… Our bodies are so Fragile but our faith in Christ makes the body strong in Christ ..we are nothing, our lives that live for Christ …can change a world… You are one… Ask God to show you what one can do to bring honor and glory to Jesus …

  18. Tim Snider says:

    …but…but…but…prayer of Jabez!! Prayer of Jabez!!
    (I jest.)
    But, realistically, I saw this post as a much-needed, much shorter (and free) antidote to ‘prayer of Jabez’ theology.
    This post is spot-on.

    1. a. says:

      Tim , “ antidote to ‘prayer of Jabez’ theology” ? not clear what you are saying about God’s word

      1 Chron 4 :9 Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother named him Jabez saying, “Because I bore him with pain.” 10 Now Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that You would bless me indeed and enlarge my border, and that Your hand might be with me, and that You would keep me from harm that it may not pain me!” And God granted him what he requested.

      1. Mark says:

        Tim is simply comparing this to that prayer because it has become a talisman among the weakest in the church — a formula for health, wealth and happiness.

  19. amy says:

    Dietrich Bonhoeffer talks about this very thing in “Life Together.” He mentions “wish dreams” and how the sooner disillusionment of those dreams comes, the better off we are because so often our dreams have little to do with what Christ actually wants to accomplish in and through us and more to do with our “idea” of what God wants.

    Great article!!!

  20. Betty Mast says:

    Thanks for this post. I needed this today. In our ‘ littleness’ we still can glorify the Lord. In our every day living and tasks we can glorify Him. Also how we think and in our hearts. Christ is definitly enough. Lets not be concerned about a legacy and indeed dreams do die.But He lives !

  21. Emily says:

    I have been considering and writing a post about pretty much this very thing for a couple of weeks now and just finished/posted it this morning. Post is here: http://theinnerharborblog.com/2014/03/06/why-chasing-your-dreams-isnt-enough/

    Thank you for speaking truth into this! I love how you refer to our “littleness”. I couldn’t agree with you more.

  22. joann says:

    I do agree but wondering thoughts on….can we tell if we are prioritizing Christ’s glory. Or can we know our littleness is expanding the worship of Christ…

  23. Patrick says:

    Good article. But do our dreams die? Or do they go on with the believer into eternity? Just because you don’t accomplish them before you die doesn’t mean you won’t…

  24. Malcolm says:

    I am currently writing Bible Class studies on Ecclesiastes. The reality is that life ‘under the sun’ will always be a disappointment in ultimate terms. Our ocus needs to rise above our dreams for this life!

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  26. Only what you do for Christ will last. He who loves his/her life will lose it….

    I had given up at one time on what I knew that Lord had placed within me to do, because of fear, low-self esteem, and critizism of others. I was given something that was different from what I had experienced as a young child to growing up in church. But one day someone approached me, they were sent from God to re-ignite the fire of the things within me and I re-started my journey of my destiny for the Kingdom. What I desire is to please God in all my ways. I acknowledge that my ways and thoughts are not like his, so he is my guide and council in all that I do.
    I don’t want to do anything with his seal of approval on it. So I believe if you constantly stay in his face, and listen his dream for you becomes your dream. You will never miss out on leaving a legacy that glorifies God if he is your major source. So I live, share, and sing the gospel of the good news as God leads.

  27. Bill Trip says:

    When someone ask the question, “Is Jesus enough?”, what does that really mean? I need food to live, water to live, shelter from the elements, a job which allows me to obtain the above, I have emotional needs, relationship needs, family and job obligations which all require the above in order to survive. I will die physically if I do not have the above. I will die emotionally and mentally if I do not have the above. I think the question is loaded and typical Christian jingoism. I have needs in multiple areas and God designed it to be this way. If I am hungry, I need food or I will die. Try telling a homeless person under the bridge who has eaten in 5 days that Jesus is enough. Again what does this jingoistic phrase actually mean? Don’t eat today because Jesus is enough? Don’t go to college because Jesus is enough? Life is too short so quit your job and Jesus will take care of you because Jesus is enough? Help me out here. Honestly, educate me.

    1. Jared C. Wilson says:

      Bill, thanks for the question(s). I’m not sure what you mean by “jingoistic,” since my undestanding of that word isn’t jibing with what I think you’re asking. Perhaps you are saying “Jesus is enough” is shallow? Sloganeering? “Christianese?” Nonsensical?

      In any event, I am not saying that you don’t need food or water or shelter to live. I’m saying that if we don’t get all the things we need or want — including food or water — do we trust Jesus? I am not advocating extreme lifestyles like the kind you mention — quitting jobs, not going to school, etc. Only advocating finding our ultimate satisfaction in Christ. My thinking is drawing from Paul’s letter to the Philippians, for instance, or Job’s declaration, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust him.”

      Hope this helps.

  28. George says:

    Thank you for the humbling reminder that we are not the end of our dreams, His Glory is.

    And though this punched my pride in the gutt, it’s beautiful that our seeing our insignificance in ourselves apart from Christ is enabled by grace, and allows us to find significance and have faith in Christ as our significance. Our Union with Christ and His works prepared specifically for and out-flowing from us to do what He’s purposed to do grounds our significance in the grace bought for the children of God at Calvary (Ephesians 2:8-10). So whether we do small things, or big, we can do them to the Glory of God, knowing that these works are our works prepared by the Lord Himself for us to walk in with Him.

  29. Jared C. Wilson says:

    Folks, I’m gonna be out of pocket for a bit while traveling, so if your comments don’t get approved quickly, don’t get too antsy, please. I’m not deleting them (probably); I’m just not available to moderate as vigilantly.

  30. Carol Graham says:

    Funny …. just recently I shared almost the same message. Thank you

  31. Emily Estes says:

    Very enlighting

  32. Becky Green says:

    Well, you caught my attention in your first few paragraphs! That is what a good teacher does! I think that our “DREAMS” should conform to God’s Will! Then, our dreams WILL GIVE GOD GLORY!!!! My “problem” has been ACCEPTING MY DREAM as TRUELY an avenue of “Ministry;” that my dream ISN’T SELFISH! Because I enjoy it so much! GOD can use ANYTHING to bring Himself Glory! I also believe that we are to USE OUR TALENTS for God’s Glory–whether it be singing, art, whatever! TOO BAD, others don’t see that! They think you have to have a DEGREE/CERTIFICATION in your “talent!” SOMETIMES, in GOD’S EYES, you don’t need a piece of paper—just a willing heart & God enabling you, HE gets MORE GLORY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Seriously, churches have moved away from this! Putting too much glory in one’s education!(Ex: A person who sings by ear, CAN’T be on the Music Team.)I read something the other day, it said, Are you willing to DIE for what you are called to do? If you are, then you have FOUND YOUR MINISTRY! (Not quite stated that way, but…)BUT, I don’t think ANYTHING God has called you to do, makes you “little!” GOD DETERMINES how “big” you will be!!!!!Since it is HIS WILL you are after!!!I don’t think, HIS WILL is “little!” BUT, I DO understand what you’re trying to say!!!:)

  33. nancy says:

    I really appreciate this article speaking to the truth and reality of daily living. I think many people look up to those that seem to be movers and shakers of waves of people, while suffering in being a “little mover and shaker” themselves or suffer more realizing they are not moving nor shaking anyone and therefore feeling worthless. It’s a huge job to be alone and to glorify God. It’s a hard way to think no one sees and no one cares and still not grumble or fall into self centered ways. It’s a wonderful reminder that for what God has given us in this life we have a choice to bury it or to glorify Him with it so He might use it in a bigger way. Mat 25:23
    His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

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Jared C. Wilson

Jared C. Wilson is the pastor of Middletown Springs Community Church in Middletown Springs, Vermont. You can follow him on Twitter.

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