Are You a Dreamer?

Message given at East Pennine Primetimers meeting in June 2007 by Alan Hocking


Are you a dreamer?

 Acts 2;17  “Your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams.”


Someone said that getting old is a state of mind over matter;  If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.   Someone else said “To keep young, stay around young people.  To get old, try and keep up with them.”  Now that is very true!  I love to be with my grandchildren and enjoy their company, but when my grandson asks me to go and play football with him in the garden, I soon realise that I am no longer able to keep up with a lively 11 year old!


Of course a lot of old people complain that things aren’t what they used to be.  – But they always forget to include themselves!  Of course we aren’t what we used to be.  Hopefully in many ways we are better!


But what’s this about Old men dreaming dreams? Normally it is the young who dream – of things to come. Of their future.   I suppose you could say that old men dream of the past because they haven’t got a future?   But who says?


Someone said, “A man is not old as long as he is seeking something worthwhile.”  Emma Goldman said, “When we can’t dream any longer we die.”   Of course we may not die physically, but in every other way, if you don’t have a dream or two to aim for, you might as well die.


George Bernard Shaw in his plays titled “Back to Methuselah” said, “You see things; and you say, “Why?” But I dream things that never were; and I say, “Why not?”
You can either live in the past or the future.  Dreaming of how things were and wishing they were like that now, or looking to the future and getting excited about what is yet to be.


Through the prophet Joel, God promised to pour out His Spirit.  Part of that outpouring would be that ‘Your old men shall dream dreams.’ Here is even a greater work of the Spirit perhaps than speaking in tongues! For how easy it is, as men grow older, to let their old beliefs and enthusiasms die away – and even maybe to look back at them with a sort of cynical contempt!   My daughter and her husband have their own business.  I look at them working often 14 or 15 hours a day, 7 days a week, and I think “I couldn’t do that”, yet 20 or 30 years ago I would have tackled it with eagerness. I had my own business years ago and sometimes worked through the night to get an order filled.  Only a few years ago I ran a TV studio and on occasion we filmed through the night. But as you get older the enthusiasm leaks away and it is easy to see life full of disappointments and disillusionments. If you are not careful, you can end up like Jacob;


And Jacob said to Pharaoh, “The years of my pilgrimage are a hundred and thirty. My years have been few and difficult, and they do not equal the years of the pilgrimage of my fathers” (!) (Genesis 47:9)  Oh dear.  He doesn’t sound too happy does he?  Have you ever met a Jacob?  They look back over their lives and tell you all their problems.  All the difficulties they have encountered, everything that went wrong.  How much better to look back and remember the blessings!  I have started writing my autobiography for my children.  As I have, it has been good to remember what God has done in our lives.   How often God has stepped in and answered prayer.   We can surely say with Samuel “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.” (1 Samuel 7:12)  And we look forward to seeing God moving more and more in our lives.
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Of course besides the ‘Jacobs’, there are those who complain as they get older that almost everything hurts and if it doesn’t hurt, it doesn’t work!  We’ve all met them.  You daren’t ask “How are you today”, because you know for the next half hour or so you will get a catalogue of all their aches and pains, visits to the doctor, how many pills they take and so on and so on.   They have what you might call a Barzillai mentality.  You probably don’t remember him!


You can read about him in 2 Samuel 19:34-37.  I won’t bore you with the story, but having been invited to go and live with the king in Jerusalem, he “answered the king, “How many more years will I live, that I should go up to Jerusalem with the king?  I am now eighty years old. Can I tell the difference between what is good and what is not? Can your servant taste what he eats and drinks? Can I still hear the voices of men and women singers? Why should your servant be an added burden to my lord the king?”


He doesn’t sound very happy does he?  “Nothings gone right for me! I can’t enjoy life any more.  I’m going deaf.  I can’t taste anything proper, can’t see clearly.  But you know, this attitude is so easy to have!  If you stop dreaming, you start dwelling on everything around you and all your problems.   Rather like Shakespeare’s Jaques’ famous ‘all the world’s a stage’ speech in Shakespeare’s As You Like It.   Written over 400 years ago, it is still as relevant today as it was then!

“All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages. At first the infant, Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms. And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel And shining morning face, creeping like snail Unwillingly to school. And then the lover, Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier, Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard, Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel, Seeking the bubble reputation Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice, In fair round belly with good capon lined, With eyes severe and beard of formal cut, Full of wise saws and modern instances; And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon, With spectacles on nose and pouch on side, His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice, Turning again toward childish treble, pipes And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all, That ends this strange eventful history, Is second childishness and mere oblivion, Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.”


Poor old Jacob and Barzillai!    But what a different description when we look at King David;   (David) died at a good old age, having enjoyed long life, wealth and honour.” (1 Chronicles 29:28)


What was the difference?    David had put God first in his life.  His whole trust was in God.  Lets look at a few of his words:

“But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.” (Psalm 13:5)

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” (Psalm 20:7)
“For the king trusts in the LORD; through the unfailing love of the Most High he will not be shaken.” (Psalm 21:7)

“I hate those who cling to worthless idols; I trust in the LORD.” (Psalm 31:6)

Then he goes on (v9)  “Have mercy upon me, O Lord for I am in trouble. Mine eye is consumed with grief, yea my soul and my belly. For my life is spent with grief, and my years with sighing; my strength faileth because of mine iniquity and my bones are consumed…..I am forgotten as a dead man, out of mind; I am like a broken vessel….But I trusted in thee O Lord, I said, Thou art my God.”


David had experienced problems just like Jacob and Barzillai, but he rises above them by trusting in God.  And God never failed him, just as He will never fail us.


Your old men will dream dreams:

When we see old men who have not lost any of the old enthusiasms, who are still full of hope for and interest in the world which is receding from them – this is the work of the Spirit of God.  Frank Houston pastor of that great church in Sydney, Australia, in his 70s never talked about the good old days; he believed the best was yet to be.

If life is to be of any value, then we must all dream dreams.   As Jesse Jackson said, “You must never stop dreaming. Face reality, yes. But don’t stop with the way things are; dream of things as they ought to be.”

Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States once said, “I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past”.  The past has its share of successes, mixed with failures, problems.  The future is bright with possibilities.  As the hymn writer of old put it, “I know not what the future holds, but I know who holds the future”.  And if our lives are in His hands, and we are seeking his will in our lives, then we can dream great dreams of the future.

Sadly, the world today is full of selfishness;  “Whats in it for me!” As Paul wrote to Timothy in that prophetic passage in 2 Timothy 3:2 “For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,…”  For years this passage has been more and more fulfilled, telling us that we are in the last days. But the man and woman of God is not like this.

“Your old men will dream dreams..” The dreamers dream of love – that unselfishness that gives, not counting the cost. The love that is exemplified in 1 Cor. 13  Love suffers long, and is kind; love envies not; love vaunts not itself, is not puffed up,

Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeks not her own, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil; Rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails:”  The dreamer dreams of the day when “the world will be filled with the Glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea”  (Hab 2;14)



Dreamer – dream on! There are dreams which forbid us to be contented with ourselves, which reveal possibilities that we must strive for, among all our failures – some ‘measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.’

There are dreams of God, of His Perfect Love, and Goodness and Beauty, of which we can only catch dim glimpses now. “But dreams pass,” men tell us, “one day we shall wake up!”   Wake! – yes  – but what if it be as David hoped… “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness”. (Psalm 17:15)

As Robert Browning said, “Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be.
The last of life, for which the first was made.”

To dream you need to believe God.  God never gives us dreams of failure or mediocrity.  We may well feel discouraged from time to time. Perhaps we feel we can do no more.  Our age is against us. Our failing strength and health prevent us from doing what we would like to do.  Elijah sat under a Juniper tree and asked to die.  God came and asked Him “What are you doing here Elijah?”  God still had a plan and purpose for his life.  He couldn’t see it from where he was.  Failure was not in God’s plans for Elijah.   Nor is it in His plans for us. We need to realise that God wants us to succeed.   We are called for the purposes of His Kingdom.

In the book of Esther Mordecai tells her: “Who knows but you came to the kingdom for such a time as this?”  (Est 4;14) We need to know that each of us in our own way has a definite purpose and that God has something for us individually that only we as Christians can fulfil.  He is not only to be the initiator of all that we do, but he also prepares and equips us.  He has called us to more than fulfilling needs in the Body; He wants us to find our place in Him out of which He can call us to serve Him.

If we fail to know Him and His Word, we will lose our dream. If we think we can fulfil our dream in our own strength we will fail.  .  “To be carnally minded is death but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” (Rom 8;6) Carnality is limiting our thoughts to human ways of doing things. Being Spiritually minded is being committed to seeing things the way God sees them. His thoughts are higher than ours, his ways also.  His dreams are usually more than we can handle.

As a young pastor God gave me a dream of having my own radio programme on the BBC.   How ridiculous!  Everyone knew that you couldn’t get on to the BBC.  It was impossible. But impossible is a word that is not in God’s dictionary.     I don’t have time or space to tell the story here, but within 18 months I had my own hour long programme on BBC Radio Leeds and went on to become Religious Programmes Producer for BBC Radio Lancashire. Our Sunday morning programme became the most popular on the station!  Yes, God given dreams are usually more than we can handle!

If we try and reason it out ourselves, we will fail. Reason will kill your dream!  It was impossible for me to have a programme on BBC. Yet God had an even bigger plan – that I would become religious programmess producer! George Bernard Shaw said,The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”  God’s dreamers will be unreasonable because they dream of impossibilities.

We need to speak out our dreams. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue”.   (Proverbs 18;2) But at the same time, we will never realise our dreams by simply talking about them.    We have to aim for them and keep on aiming.  To be a dreamer you need to live a long time!  Many people peak and then gradually fade away.  We need to keep on track – even at our age!  What were you dreaming of a year ago, ten years ago?   Have you decided that there is no point in dreaming? You’re too old?

Old men; Dream on!   Our dream is to be like Him.  To influence this world for Him – like Ernest Anderson’s article (qv) – to be a citizen of Heaven. As Paul said; “for me to live is Christ.”

We have a future!  God wants more for us than just knowing about Him.  He wants us to know Him.  He wants us to have an intimate relationship with Him.  We were created to live in fellowship with Him.  He is just waiting to lavish His love and affection upon us.  We may find it difficult to realise just how much God loves us.  How he wants to bless us.  What He has prepared for those that love Him.

Old men – dream!   Of God’s plans and purposes for us. “You see things; and you say, “Why?” But I dream things that never were; and I say, “Why not?”
George Bernard Shaw “Back to Methuselah”   “To dream the impossible dream, to reach the unreachable star! (Joe Darion)

So we think of Paul’s words in Phil 3;13 “Forgetting the things that are past…”  This is the danger of old age; always looking back “Things were better then” – were they?  We may think of churches, conventions, conferences past. Preachers of old – Carter, Parr, Gee, Newsholme, Crew, Dando, Missen, Linford, Woodford.    “Ah, there’s no one like them now!”    Maybe, but we perhaps look back with biased eyes!  Much better to look to the future.  When Jesus went to the wedding in Cana the toast master remarked that they had kept the best wine till last.   I for one believe that what God has for us in the future is far superior to what we have known in the past!

Paul travelled the then known world, taking weeks to go from one place to another. We can traverse the same distance in hours.  In the past 50 years, think of the developments in the world of transport – from cars to jet planes.  In the world of space – landing on the moon, sending space ships to far off planets. In the world of communications, printing, radio, telephone, the web.


The globe has become small.  50 years ago it took months to travel around the world by sea.  It now takes hours in a 747.  The struggle between the nations now is not just for predominance in individual lands or continents, but for the actual dominion of the whole earth.   We see this in the EU.  ‘They’ want to control everything, everyone.  We are seeing the run up to Antichrist taking over the earth.  The signs are all around us. 


But the man of God dreams dreams! – Dreams of the day when the King of Kings shall appear and all the earth fall at His feet and worship.   When every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.


What we dream – our thoughts, are the decisive factor in our personality.   Paul tells us in the well known verse in Rom 12;2  “Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind”.  Let our dreams be of the coming King. Of how we can prepare for His coming.


“Let patience have its perfect work that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. The patience of a dreamer is not passive or weak or idle.  It is tenacious.  It is courageous.  It is focused.   It doesn’t let go!


Remember that a dream is only a starting point.  It involves the future.  There has to be a fulfilment.    Eccl. 7;8  “Better is the end of a thing than its beginning”.


So with that, I’ll end!


One Comment on “Are You a Dreamer?”

  1. Elaine Craig Says:

    Thank you! This message is absolutely wonderful! Thank you for posting it!

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