“Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar” (Acts 27:24, ESV).
When was the last time you reflected on your life dream with God? What is your dream about? Is it aligned with the glorious and always-best will of God? What would you like to see of yourself in the future? Would you like to be a second Mother Theresa, Gandhi, Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King, Albert Schweizer, Bernie Sanders, Slavoj Zizek…? What would you like to do for Christ’s kingdom? Does the dream always involve a specific place and some noble revolutionary action? Or, would you dare to dream about “sweeping streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well’”?
Over the years, I have inched myself into a state of daydreaming of seeing our Church truly apostolic, biblical, secular (not secularized), energetic, vibrant, prophetic, present, globalized, and interconnected with all people of good will who are not “against us, but for us.” I started dreaming about the inclusive Church that wouldn’t be one-sided and narrow-minded. Spiritual fatigue and indifference, however, taught me that dreaming is a step far from fulfillment. Spiritual laziness and temptations to backsliding that I have noticed in myself taught me that to change the world/Church we need first to change ourselves. The dream about external circumstances of the Church includes the dream about inner purification and pleasing the God of dreams.
In the New Testament, we find a person who never gave up on his dreams and never really doubted that God was able to accomplish these dreams, in spite of all of his weaknesses and the obstacles on the way.
Apostle Paul, once purified by faith, had a dream to testify about the riches of God’s grace in the capital of the Roman Empire. What a dream! The seat of the most powerful kingdom in history was disturbed by the news of the crucified Messiah from an obscure village in Palestine. Christos was already well known in the palace of the Caesar. Paul wanted to go to Caesar so much that whenever he appealed to the highest court on earth, he thought: I might be closer to the sacred goal of my life. In the dungeons of Caesarea, he must have been convinced by the Spirit that this particular destiny was from God. He must have been purified and ready to testify even to the point of death.
However, for five years of setbacks and imprisonments, the chances were becoming slim, and circumstances didn’t allow him to fulfill that possibly last great dream in his life. He still dreamt big, though, and God honored this attitude with special visionary encouragement: do not be afraid, you must stand before Caesar! Whatever the circumstances and impediments to God’s project, whatever your feelings about the dream, God says: I will demonstrate the sovereignty and power of the sufficient Grace in fulfilling my servant’s destiny.
Do not be afraid; whatever is the content of your heart’s desire, if it is aligned with the honorable goals of Christ, it must happen! God is able and willing to fulfill His dream for your life! Only if you could purify yourself and make yourself ready!
Christ in not limited even by our failures and spiritual fiascos, not speaking about conditions of life that are entirely in His hands. Whatever He projected for your life must happen. It is just a matter of time. As limited human beings, we are not able to project ourselves and stretch by faith, and this is our major weakness. If we had faith like a mustard seed, we would be able to see a glimpse of His powerful promises and wait, just wait…. Between past fulfillment of God’s gracious interventions and the future possibilities of His never-failing promises stands the presence of the opportunity for renewal of our faith.
The journey to Rome, even when it started, led through shipwreck and Malta as the unexpected parts of this unique voyage. The fulfillment of the dream, namely God’s dream, is almost always ambiguously intertwined with new disappointments and setbacks. Rejection of an application for your dream university, bombing of your house when fighting for social justice, family issues in the midst of serving the poor in Africa, unexpected cancer when you just wanted to settle, etc. Paradoxically, the dream is fulfilled through all possible trials that propel you to the next level of being ready for the fulfillment. Remember Joseph!
What we see in Paul is an addiction to the purpose driven life! No discouragement in spite of the unbelievable opposition from all sides.
God’s promise: “Don’t be afraid, Paul, you must stand before Caesar!” came at one of the darkest moments of the apostle’s life. Light cracked a hole in the darkness of doubts, and the apostle was encouraged like never before. On one side, he looked at the circumstances and difficulties and saw the impossible, on the other side, he had a clear vision of God and His will and believed the impossible. Thus, God’s dream internalized by Paul was fulfilled. He did testify in Rome and became a martyr for Christ, eternally valued and embraced by the God of the resurrection.
The Church of Christ will overcome! Despite the dark moments of extreme forms of the institutional controlling spirit and abusive forms of leadership, compromises with the political worldly agendas, hidden and open discriminations due to lack of basic forms of respect and love, misunderstandings and abuses of the essence of the Gospel, disappointments of the young people who just want to be visible and exercise their unique gifts, and all other possible setbacks, those who truly believe in God’s dream, His true Body, overwhelmed by His Grace and His mighty Presence, will be the witness of the fulfillment of His dream for His church. “Do not be afraid, you must testify.” It will become a reality though it is hard to see how it can be accomplished. Our dreams with specific goals, places, actions have to be aligned with God’s dream for His Church. This alignment and fulfillment are in His mighty hands, and for this reason, we praise Him now and forever.
Alex S. Santrac, DPhil, PhD, is a Professor of Ethics, Philosophy, and Religion and the Chair of Religion and Philosophy Department at Washington Adventist University, Takoma Park, MD. Alex is also an extraordinary [research] professor of dogmatics and dogma and Church history at North-West University, South Africa and Tutor for Graduate Studies at Greenwich School of Theology, UK.
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