“God wouldn’t have given you a dream without giving you the ability to accomplish it. You have everything you need. … When God laid out the plan for your life, He deposited in you the skill, the wisdom, the creativity; everything you need to fulfill your destiny.”
This little quote appeared on Joel Osteen’s website on January 20. A friend noticed it and posted it to Facebook, where I finally saw it a week later. I must be part Berean, because for some reason these words bothered me and I, like the Bereans, felt compelled to “examine the Scriptures every day to see if what [Joel] said was true.” (see Acts 17:11) Can we all fulfill our dreams with abilities we already have?
First of all, Osteen says that God gave us the dream. Do all dreams come from God?
I can dream about being a famous recording artist, winning an Olympic gold medal, or winning the lottery. It all sounds wonderful, but these are not remotely possible. I have no musical talent, I’m a total klutz, and I never buy lottery tickets.
Well, how about dreaming that my photographs appear in National Geographic, that I write a best-selling book, or that someone decides to give us a million dollars. These are at least remote possibilities—I do take photos, I enjoy writing, and I know some wealthy people. Still, these are my dreams. I want these things to happen for me.
Even seemingly godly dreams can be from our own flesh and not from God. If might want to be a successful evangelist, a mega-church pastor, or a fruitful missionary. Those are all good goals, right? Well, they might be God’s dreams, or they might not. How can I tell?
One way is to ask the question, “Who gets the glory?”
Do I want to be successful because it would make me rich and/or famous? Perhaps I think that if I do these things for God, He will love me more. But when God puts His desire into my heart, my goal is that He may be glorified for his own sake, because He is worthy.
Now for the second half of Osteen’s statement—does God give us all the abilities we need to fulfill our purpose? Of course He gives us some abilities. One person might be a good speakers, another is a natural-born entrepreneur. Others have artistic talent or a head for numbers. We all have different spiritual gifts as well—intercession, mercy, evangelism, etc.
But does God give us everything we need to do His will? Not in the way Osteen says. God regularly assigns us tasks or puts us in situations that we cannot possibly handle on our own. Consider what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 (italics mine):
“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.
In fact, we don’t have the power to accomplish anything of lasting value apart from Him. Remember Jesus’ words in John 15 (italics mine)—
“I am the true vine…. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
God’s goal is that we abide in Him. That means we allow Him to take the lead, and we stick close so we can see what He’s up to. We submit to His direction. We rely on the power of the Holy Spirit in us to do what’s humanly impossible.
Did God give each of the disciples every “skill, the wisdom, the creativity; everything [they needed] to fulfill [their] destiny”? Did that ragtag group succeed at much of anything on their own?
Why did Jesus tell them to wait until they received the Holy Spirit before they started their ministries? It’s because they didn’t have everything they needed to fulfill their destinies! And neither do we.
The part of Osteen’s message that’s making the rounds on Facebook and Twitter stops after the first sentence: “God would not have put a dream in your heart if He had not already given you everything you need to fulfill it.”
There’s really only one way this can be taken as true—
- God put the dream in your heart
- The “everything you need to fulfill it” refers to the Holy Spirit.
How about rewording Osteen’s tweet: “If God gives me His dream, He will accomplish it through me.”