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Can Your Personal Dreams Honor God?

In this series, we are advancing the notion of “Bucket List Living”: that is, how do we experience a more meaningful life through goal setting?

I want to deal briefly with the potential pushback to the series: Is it selfish to dream big and set goals for self-fulfillment? At first blush, I would say, “It absolutely CAN be!” Anything we do—even the most “spiritual” things—may be driven by hidden motives that are self-driven rather than God-inspired. So a better question might be, “When does a bucket list aspiration become an act of pure indulgence rather than an expression of glorifying God?”

I recommend running your goals or bucket list items through a four-question filter. I think of these as ways to redeem your dreams. Quite frankly, these questions have exposed my own selfishness and helped me to redefine or redirect my aspirations.

Consider these questions:

Filter #1: How is the goal facilitating deeper intimacy or special bonding with people?

Relationships matter in God’s world. The simplest way to see building a bucket list for God’s purposes is to see each list item as a unique opportunity to build the most important of life’s relationships. How might this work with your spouse or children? How about stressed or estranged relationships? With whom is God leading you to be closer?

Filter #2: How is the goal enabling personal recreation or particular inspiration?

God’s designed humans with rechargeable batteries. He commands special seasons and rhythms of sabbath. How can a life goal renew your mind, heart, body, or emotions? Maybe in the course of your calling or awesome God-project, you need some special inspiration. How can your everyday work be forever enriched? How might an extended and even extravagant period of rest bring new vitality to your current life stage?

Filter #3: How is the goal providing a general blessing or unique investment?

God always blesses us to be a blessing. How can the opportunity to fulfill a goal or life dream significantly help another? What kind of unique investment into someone else does your goal make possible? How can your giving be multiplied by your gaining? How can generosity be expressed through your experiences?

Filter #4: How is the goal promoting increased faith or gospel advancement?

It’s amazing how achieving a goal can expand your capability and enlarge your perspective. Maybe your bucket list item represents a faith step or moment of risk that will change how you live the rest of your days. Or how about the reality that most pursuits will bring you into proximity to people far from God? Many goals may easily become conduits for gospel witness.

As I pen these filters, dozens of stories from my own journey come to mind. Many times, a big bucket list item accomplishes multiple God factors from these filters. Rather than share my own journey, I’ll just encourage you to adjust, expand, or redirect some of your own goals.

One verse that I keep before me is instructive for this post: …and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves, but for him who for their sake died and was raised.2 Corinthians 5:15