The Francis Asbury Society

Tell Me Your Dreams and I’ll Tell You Your Future

By Stan Key

The day of Pentecost came with signs and wonders: a rushing mighty wind, tongues of fire on the disciples’ heads, and speaking in unknown languages. Such manifestations provoked the citizens of Jerusalem to ask, “What does this mean?” (Acts 2:1-4, 12). In answer to their question, Peter explained that this is what the prophet Joel had prophesied long ago:

And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
That I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
And your young men shall see visions,
And your old men shall dream dreams… (Acts 2:17; see Joel 2:28-29).

How interesting that the first thing Peter talks about when explaining the significance of Pentecost is vision. For men and women, for young and old, and for slaves and freed men, the Holy Spirit is given so that all God’s children can dream dreams and see visions. There are no distinctions based on gender, age, or social standing. This is for everyone! Peter is saying that what happens tomorrow is determined by what we see today. The remainder of the book of Acts describes what a Pentecostal vision looks like. While many leaders and pastors today talk about the importance of vision, you can recognize if a dream has been inspired by the Holy Spirit if the following characteristics are present:


It works like this: If you serve a little god you will dream little dreams, but if you serve a God as big as the One described in the Gospel, then you can’t help but begin to see visions of things beyond your wildest imagination (Eph. 3:20). On the day of Pentecost, 3,000 people were converted. Big God! From one chapter to the next, the book of Acts illustrates the expanding growth and deepening influence of the Gospel until by the close of the New Testament we read of believers in “Caesar’s household” (Phil. 4:21). We begin to understand why William Carey (1761-1834) is considered the father of modern missions when we remember his motto: “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.”


The book of Acts is an unfolding adventure as the disciples keep moving from one new experience to another: mass evangelism, persecution, cross-cultural ministries, martyrdom, famine relief, raising the dead, conflict resolution, etc. Like the passengers on the starship Enterprise, the disciples keep boldly going where no man has gone before. Following a dream inspired by the Holy Spirit will always prove to be a spine-tingling, heart-pounding, breath-taking, white-knuckle adventure. You can be sure that a church needs a baptism of the Spirit when its primary goal is to preserve the status quo and committee meetings are punctuated by what some have called the seven last words of the church: “We’ve never done it this way before.”


The Holy Spirit can only inspire a holy vision. If your dreams are ego-centric and full of selfish ambition then you can be certain that those dreams did not come from the sanctifying Spirit of God! A big dream in a carnal heart is a very dangerous combination. When James and John expressed a desire to sit at the right and left hand of Jesus when he comes in his glory, Jesus did not rebuke their request but told them they did not know what they were asking (Mark 10:35-45). The problem was not their ambition but their carnal ambition! Jesus wants us to desire greatness in his kingdom. But until our ambitions are purified by the sanctifying Spirit, we tend to confuse building our kingdom with building his!


Many contemporary books on leadership portray visioning as something that will enable you to achieve your goals and live your best life now. Follow your dream and you can be healthy, wealthy, and happy. The book of Acts gives us another picture. “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses (Greek: martyrs)…” (Acts 1:8). To follow a dream that is birthed by the Spirit is to follow a path that leads to a cross. When Paul explained to King Agrippa that he had not been “disobedient to the heavenly vision,” he was in a courtroom wearing chains and facing charges that would likely lead to his execution (Acts 26:19). Dietrich Bonhoeffer understood this principle well when he wrote, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”


Yet another way to verify if a vision is from God is to ask whether or not it leads to the conversion of souls. On that first Pentecost, Peter underscored this aspect of vision when he said, “And everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21). Even when dreams involve commendable social ministries such as providing medical care for the sick or educating the poor and underprivileged, if the vision is a Pentecostal vision, you can be sure that its ultimate goal will always be that men and women come to a saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.


Peter may have been the spokesman on the day of Pentecost but there were 120 other believers around him, helping to clarify and implement the vision. When a vision is from God it always involves a community of believers, not just an individual. One night Paul received a vision calling him to Macedonia. The next day he shared that vision with his traveling partners. Speaking for the entire team, Luke wrote that “we” concluded that “God had called us” to go over to Macedonia and preach the Gospel (Acts 16:9-10). Paul got the vision, but all of them got the call!


Psychologists often tell us that our past determines who we are and what we do. The Gospel tells us another story. It’s not our past but our future that determines our true identity and purpose in life! The infilling of the Holy Spirit makes it possible for us to be finally healed from the wounds of our past and set free from the bondage of our present so that we can dream dreams and see visions of the future God has prepared for us! It is not where you’ve been that determines your destiny but where you are going! Stop being crippled by your past and begin now to be empowered by God’s future! That is what Pentecost is all about.

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