Oswald Chambers explores the fine line between taking the time to discover God’s will and using this pursuit as an excuse for procrastination due to a lack of faith, courage, or desire. How often do I think of a good idea but then balk at working to bring about its actual fulfillment? It’s not that I stumble as I begin to move in response to God’s prompting. That wouldn’t be too bad . . . forward progress at least. It’s that I don’t move at all . . . like I am nurturing a secret hope that mere imaginings at the threshold of faith would be sufficient. But God says, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” He bids us to love not “with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” (John 14:15; 1 John 3:18)
Despite the noble goals to which it aspires, simple dreaming is thin soup compared to the sweet spiritual food that nourishes the followers of Christ—those who walk in His steps. “Dreaming after God has spoken is an indication that we do not trust Him,” writes Chambers. To truly follow, we must wake and rise.
We might look to the example of Joseph for inspiration here. In the first two chapters of Matthew’s gospel, Joseph encounters God through the medium of dreams no less than four times. The passage describing the birth of Jesus in this account is basically a story of Joseph’s faith and obedience. The man makes what he feels is a good decision to divorce his betrothed quietly. It’s a decision reflecting a balance of justice and kindness. Yet after hearing the angel of the Lord in a dream, he doesn’t just listen . . . he changes his mind in faith and embraces the shame along with the hope that Mary’s child is indeed the promised Savior.
Joseph continues to hear from God in dreams, and his responses take his family from Bethlehem to Egypt . . . then back toward Judea and on to Galilee. We can safely assume, I think, that Joseph wrestled a bit with these decisions. They involved, after all, matters of life and death. But we can also assume that he spent little time looking to the Scriptures for an explanation once he received his instructions. Joseph, no doubt, acted without the benefit of God connecting the dots between prophecy and fulfillment as He did for us through Matthew. In Joseph’s case, God spoke in dreams, and, each time, the dreamer woke to follow in faith.