“But the LORD said to my father David, ‘Whereas it was in your heart to build a temple for My name, you did well that it was in your heart. Nevertheless you shall not build the temple, but your son who will come from your body, he shall build the temple for My name.’” (1 Kings 8:18-19)
David had a dream. It was a good dream. It was a God dream. It was a dream that he was convinced would bring honor and glory to God. However, God said “no.” Can you imagine how David felt? You had a dream. A dream that you were sure would honor and bless the name of God. But like David, God said “no.”
The ability to dream seems to begin early in life. Didn’t you dream as a child? I sure did. Sometimes those dreams were characterized by the word “day” and daydreaming was something my fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Lybrand, frowned upon. Nevertheless, dreaming would continue to be a happy hobby throughout my childhood.
There’s one dream that is quite clear in my memory from my teenage years. My best friend, Jeff and I both had a dream that would keep us connected. I would be the first round draft of the Cincinnati Reds and Jeff would go to medical school and become the Reds’ team physician. It all sounded so good to two fifteen-year-olds. However, it was not to be. Following graduation, Jeff went to college and ended up working for a company in Green Bay. He never went to medical school and didn’t become a doctor. My dream of sports fame wilted on the not-enough-talent vine. But all was not lost. My athletic dream would give way to a dream that I was sure would honor God.
As a ministerial student in college, I suppose I wasn’t the only one who dreamed that he would one day be the next Billy Sunday, Billy Graham, or Charles Stanley. Like my friends, I dreamed that one day I would preach to thousands. I would become a sought -after conference speaker and would pastor a megachurch. Unfortunately, I discovered that while there were several great preachers – I was not among their number. In fact, I recollect a Sunday when I felt I had delivered an unusually effective sermon. On the drive home, I casually asked my wife how many truly great preachers she thought there were in the world. Her response was to the point: “Probably one less than you do.”
My dream of pastoral greatness has given way to, well, to life. I’ve never spoken to thousands. I’ve never been a sought-after conference speaker, and I’ve never pastored a megachurch. But with age has come a healthy perspective. I’ve served small churches for most of my thirty-plus years as a pastor. That doesn’t make me less of a pastor that those with larger congregations – just different. The fact that I’ll never be a Billy Graham, a Charles Stanley, or a Don Chandler (hi Don!) no longer bothers me. Even if it’s only by default, I’ve concluded that I am the best John Burleson this world will ever see. Of this I am certain because I am the only John Burleson there’ll ever be. In each of the churches I’ve pastored, I’ve come to love the people I served, and I dearly love the wonderful people I am privileged to serve at Calvary Church of Conway.
There’s one more dream I’ve had to bid farewell. The death of this dream was the genesis of this article. Since I was around fourteen years old, I’ve wanted to own a convertible. But with student loans, marriage, and raising two children, that dream kept getting pushed aside. Unexpectedly, that dream was finally realized in early 2017. With our boys raised and married, my seventeen-year-old truck’s blown head gasket, and my wife’s car paid for, I finally realized my dream. I found a 2008 Volvo C70 T5 hardtop convertible with less than 28,000 miles on it. It was a small slice of heaven on earth for me! I loved riding in that car, right up to the moment I had a wreck and totaled it. Since the wreck was two weeks ago, I’m still in mourning.
You’d think that with so much practice, I’ve learned how to handle the loss of dreams. And you’d be wrong. My dreams of making a generational impact on the Kingdom of God was (and still is) the most honorable dream I’ve ever had. That dream hasn’t been realized, but I’m discovering that even if such God-honoring dreams do not come to fruition, God still honors the heart that gives birth to such dreams.
As the passage in 1 Kings 8 shows, David was a man who dreamed of honoring God. At a particularly good time in David’s life, this King of Israel had a dream to bless God. “Now it came to pass when the king was dwelling in his house, and the LORD had given him rest from all his enemies all around, that the king said to Nathan the prophet, ‘See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells inside tent curtains’” (2 Samuel 7:1-2). The prophet Nathan told David to follow his dream. But God had other plans. In fact, here’s what God told David: “You shall not build a house for My name, because you have been a man of war and have shed blood” (1 Chronicles 28:3). But all was not lost. David’s dream would be realized by his son, Solomon. At the dedication service for the newly constructed Temple, here’s what Solomon said: “Now it was in the heart of my father David to build a temple for the name of the LORD God of Israel. But the LORD said to my father David, 'Whereas it was in your heart to build a temple for My name, you did well that it was in your heart. Nevertheless you shall not build the temple, but your son who will come from your body, he shall build the temple for My name’” (1 Kings 8:17-19).
How did David respond to the death of his dream? With dignity and devotion to God. In 1 Chronicles 29, we discover David collecting men and materials for his son, Solomon to use in the construction of the Temple. Do you think God was pleased with David’s response? Listen to God’s eulogy for David: “For when David had served God's purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers” (Acts 13:36).
While I have not realized my dream of significant impact for the Kingdom of God, I believe that dream is being fulfilled through my children. The ways they are serving God are the stuff of which my dreams are made. I didn’t get to realize my dream. You may not either. But do that’s ok: “you did well that it was in your heart.”
John Burleson is the Pastor of Calvary Church of Conway. Email him with questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.