When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. -Nehemiah 1: 4
All throughout the Bible, we see God giving His people dreams, and at the appointed time, He expounds on those dreams with vision. There are also times when He simply gives us a vision that isn’t accompanied by a dream first—Joseph versus Noah, for example. Joseph was given a dream of how he would rule and lead (see Gen. 37:1–11), and Noah was given a detailed vision of how exactly to build the ark (see Gen. 6:9–8:22). These men were given two distinct communications from God on how He wanted His heavenly agenda to be fulfilled among the earth—one through a dream and the other through a vision. Both were transformational.
God knows how to impart His plans into each of us. He knows exactly how to share His agenda with His children. He gives us insight into His heavenly agenda in a way that we will respond, based on how He created us to hear and heed His voice. Sometimes it’s through a dream and other times it’s through vision.
When I was a young girl, around 8 or 9 years old, I read a fiction book about a girl who becomes a boxer while still a kid. I don’t recall the title, but something in that book sparked such an interest in boxing for me that I decided I wanted to become a boxer too. I became extremely motivated to be one of the first (and in my young mind, the only) female boxer.
My dream of becoming a boxer was shattered when I realized that the life of a swollen face from choosing to be hit for a win just wasn’t for me.
Dreams are powerful! They are our mind’s way of going beyond what we typically have the capacity to see. They are limitless expressions of a future. It is in and through dreaming that we can live beyond the limits of our current circumstances and situations to encounter the greater possibilities within our reach. Yet, many of us don’t steward dreams well—not because we can’t, but usually because we simply don’t know how. One of the first steps in stewarding a dream is identifying what is influencing the dream. If we skip this critical step, we can easily be led down the wrong path.
If what is motivating our dreams isn’t inspired by the heavenly purpose or assignment that God has called us to, then we can dream ourselves right into a nightmare. A dream can lead us down a counterfeit path of success and accomplishment if it is not influenced by God. That is why it is so important to combine dreaming with seeking strategy from God. He must be what inspires and influences our dreams.
So what about a vision? My friend asked me one day, “Well, what if I don’t have a vision?” I then had to remind her by saying, “Just the other day you told me about something you saw yourself doing but you weren’t doing yet. That’s a vision.” We both laughed at how obvious it was to identify the vision. It’s that simple. We just have to pay attention to where the vision is coming from and make sure it is aligning with God’s plans for our lives.
When Nehemiah was presented with a great vision in Nehemiah 1, he immediately took inventory of the weight of it. Since vision is seeing into something greater, God’s vision is seeing even deeper into whatever the vision may be. Because of Nehemiah’s relationship with God, he was given God’s vision, which downloaded strategy from God. And Nehemiah was able to consider the who, what, when, where, why, and how of everything that was being placed in his hand. This awareness is what led him to cry out to God, because he had some inkling of what would be required of him if he took on this task.
What dreams and visions are you carrying today?