Do Dreams Matter?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Saturday, February 3, 2018 0 comments

by Nathan Buck

Do dreams matter? Are dreams and visions just random stories of associated details created by our minds to entertain us while we sleep and get us through boring moments while we are awake? We all have those random dreams that when we wake up we know were silly, meaningless, or just weird. Some of us even have daydreams like that.

But what about those dreams that feel real? The ones that linger after we wake up and draw our attention to things we hadn't considered before? What about visions we have when we are awake, flashes of imagery that break into our awareness, and we know didn't come from our thoughts or our imagination?

If we look in the Bible, we find that dreams and visions are a tool God uses sometimes to get our attention. If we look at Genesis 37, 40, and 41, we see Joseph not only having dreams about his future but also interpreting the dreams of others in regard to their future. Joseph's dream comes true, and his interpretations of dreams come true. When Pharaoh asks for his dream to be interpreted, Joseph is very deliberate about letting Pharaoh know that it is God who provides the dreams and the answers.

In Daniel 2-4, Daniel is given the dreams of Nebuchadnezzar and interprets them. The first is about the progression of the nation/kings of Babylon and the rise of God's Kingdom (the rock that would crush and replace the human kingdoms). The second is about Nebuchadnezzar specifically and how God would humble him when he took pride in His accomplishments.

Joseph and Mary have visions and dreams around the promise of Jesus being born. In Acts, Paul encounters Jesus on the road to Damascus in bright light, and Peter has a vision that corrects his attitude about sharing the good news of Jesus with the Gentiles. John has a series of visions on the Isle of Patmos from which he writes the book of Revelation. And there are more. The point I am making is very simply that God uses dreams and visions to get our attention, correct our perspective, or prepare us for something ahead.

I have experienced both dreams and visions that did just that. A dream I had about being wounded prepared me for dealing with the temptation of pornography. As a teen, a vision I had of my car in an accident caused me to stay home, and right after I chose to stay home, a family member came in my room and asked me if I was going somewhere; when I asked why, they said they just had a vision of me being hurt that night. There have been some that have me in a place I have never been, but some obscure detail stands out about it and years later I find myself standing in that exact place. I have also had dreams I thought I should act on, and they lead to massive blunders/failures.

The challenge is, what do we do with dreams and visions, and how do we know it was God who gave them? If the devil can counterfeit these things, how do we know when it is God? To be clear, I am far from an expert on this. There are psychological aspects of dreams that I will let my friends who are psychologists handle. Here are some simple basics to help us get our bearings after a dream or a vision, to discern if it was imagination, God, temptation, or crossed-wires:

1. How does it line up with God's Word? If the events, message, tone, or push we get from a dream or vision do not line up with the character and nature of God and His Word, we should take caution. 2 Corinthians 10:5 says we should make every thought captive to Christ. That means if the dream or vision isn’t in line with His character, drawing us into deeper relationship with Him, or empowering us for His mission to rescue and redeem humanity, we should "quarantine" that thought and in prayer ask Jesus to clarify it or take it from us. If it is not from Him and for Him, we don't want to let it roll around in our thoughts to see what it might create. We may even need to renounce spiritual activities or affiliations with spiritual groups that are gateways to demonic influence. Tread carefully here, and seek out a pastor or mature follower of Christ who can guide you in how to face this. Never be embarrassed to talk about this with a mature believer, because we are spiritual beings and need spiritual guidance. Fear and shame are traps to keep us from growing.

2. It checks out with God's Word, or is consistent with His character and purposes, so, now what? Not every dream God gives us is for right now. Especially in western society, we have a “microwave” mentality about everything. If it is for NOW, God will give us what we need to know to apply it or go through it, and we should trust Him as we do so. More often, I have found that God uses a dream or vision to prepare me ahead of time. We need some preparation for some things we encounter in life, and some preparation starts deep in our soul. God may bring us an idea or an experience in a dream or vision that adjusts our perspective, and as we mature in that perspective we actually are prepared for what happens later. Sometimes that is a dramatic something, like a birth, death, sickness, healing, leading someone to Jesus, etc. Sometimes, it is just a "next step" in the journey that seems natural by the time we get there - but looking back we know we would not have been anywhere close to this step, if our course had not been adjusted.

3. What if it's for someone or about someone else? We should always remember that even if we are the focus of the dream/vision, they are not always about us. We need to seek God for His clarity on why we are involved. We are far too willing to tell others what we think they should do, and a dream or vision from God may not be given to us to "tell" someone else something. We may be being invited by God to help confirm something they will realize later. We may just be shown His plans, so we can clear the path in prayer and/or practical support. We may be challenged by God about our example to and for them. The last thing we should do is assume that we need to speak it, unless God specifically shows us we should or has them specifically ask us about the very vision He gave us for them. Again, this is not easy to discern, but we must always consider that our action apart from God's direction can derail or delay someone else's journey and growth. Approach these with caution. (John 16:13; Matthew 7:6; Daniel 8:16; Isaiah 30)

4. Consult a perceptive friend who is trustworthy and walks humbly with God. Wise counsel is valuable, and a perceptive friend can help you discern things about yourself or how the dream/vision relates to you in ways that may be hard for you to see (Proverbs 13:10; 14:1211:14).

5. Journal the dream/vision. Write it down as clearly as you can, remembering every detail, and as close to when it happens as possible. This can help you get perspective on the dream, as well as document it for yourself or others. Sometimes just having a written time stamp on something that later comes true for you or someone else is encouraging to our awareness that God had a plan and made it happen. Sometimes, it may be for future generations - influencing the faith of those who read it later. (Habakkuk 2:2-3)

Those are just a few things to consider. Dreams and visions are important. God promises that He will give them to us by His Spirit (Acts 2:17; Joel 2:28). We should appreciate dreams and visions as a gift and consider how we can best apply them to serve others for God's purposes.

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