Last week I talked about the dangers of thinking that God will drop opportunities into our lap like a fairy, without any real effort on our part. I thought it was only fair to go the other way this week and write about the dangers of becoming consumed with pursuing your dreams. So here it goes.
I wake up every morning at 5am to write. I committed at the beginning of this year to do that. It’s been awesome. I’ve seen lots of fruit from blogging consistently for the past 8 months or so. I’ve been published on RELEVANT Magazine’s blog and Church.org, I’ve been asked for advice or help from several people, I’ve been on a Podcast, I’ve seen my monthly readership grow more and more each month.
And of course, that I’ve been able to provide encouragement to a lot of people is by far the most important thing.
Or is it?
That’s what I’m supposed to say, right? I write about Christianity, Jesus, the gospel, etc. So obviously I write with no ulterior motives. I mean, who could have wrong motives for talking about Jesus?
The truth is, there is a verse in the Bible that always seemed weird to me. “Some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill.” (Phil. 1:15). How can someone talk about Jesus for the wrong reasons? But that verse shouldn’t seem strange to me at all.
I do it often.
We should be hard workers. We should be serious about pursuing the things we feel called to. But it’s important to remember that chasing your dreams is a dangerous business. It can transform you into a person you never thought you could be.
Here are 3 dangers of pursuing your dreams that we must be watchful for.
1. You have to make sacrifices, but sometimes you make the wrong ones.
Sacrificing sleep to get up at 5am is more than worth the reward I feel in doing what I love.
Before I started seriously blogging, I was constantly discouraged because I felt like I should be pursuing the things that I love to do, but I either didn’t know how to go about it, or I didn’t have time, or opportunity, or know-how, or whatever. I haven’t felt that since January. This isn’t everything I want to do, but is definitely fulfilling in ways that I haven’t felt in a long time.
A little less sleep is a very small sacrifice.
But I am not just committed to wake up at 5am. I am also committed to stop by 7am because I need to take a shower before my wife wakes up so that she can also take a shower before I leave her alone with the kids. I need to get breakfast ready so that my wife doesn’t have to. I need to get get to work on time. Etc.
But that only gives me two hours to write. And that isn’t actually true because I need to spend time in prayer and Scripture reading. Otherwise I’m a hypocrite, writing about Jesus without having a relationship with him myself.
But the truth is, I have been failing miserably at all of that. I regularly find myself thinking, “I’ll just finish this paragraph,” and I’ll stay on my blog until 8am, or even 8:30am. So I have to rush and take a shower and zip off to work by 9am.
I don’t make breakfast for my family, I don’t even change my son’s diaper, and I often don’t get to work on time. I’m making sacrifices, all right. But I’m making the wrong ones.
2. You have to work hard, but sometimes you lose yourself.
I want my blog to grow, and that’s a great desire I believe. But why do I want my blog to grow?
The truth is, I always have mixed motives. There is the real desire to be helpful and encouraging to people, but I also want to be famous (did I just say that out loud?).
So I work hard at getting better, and that means a lot of things for how I write.
For example, if I write great content, but not a killer title, no one will read it. So I become tempted to write about the hot topics instead of what’s really on my heart. And I become tempted to exaggerate the title to promise more than what the article is actually about, because I know what will cause people to read it.
And obviously I have to have an email list because that’s what all the probloggers tell you. And while it’s awesome for me that I’m getting 1000 monthly reads on my blog, the fact that many bloggers are getting thousands of readers ever day is more than a little discouraging.
So I work harder. I put more thought into it. I research what kind of content goes viral. I try to guest post on huge sites like RELEVANT. I write the most provocative titles I can think of (click-bait, if you will).
And all of the sudden I realize one day that I have become a very different person with very different goals than I was when I started.
Can you relate?
3. You teach what you’re still learning, but sometimes you’re just a hypocrite.
This especially goes for any kind of creative Christian or any Christian with a message they have to share.
I think there is a real value in not writing as a professional, but as a fellow Christian brother who is still figuring it all out. And that means I’m not necessarily perfect at living the way I tell others to live, and I think most people even respect that.
But the fact remains that “Those who teach will be judged with greater strictness,” (James 3:1).
It is much easier to call others to higher standard than I live up to myself. But when it comes to my own pursuit of godliness and integrity? That’s unfortunately quite a feat some days.
So instead of being a fellow Christian who is still figuring it all out, I just become a hypocrite who sounds like a much better person than I really am because I’m not the person I write about.
This may not exactly translate if you’re not a Christian communicator. But what are the ways that, as a Christian, you should be living out a Christ-like example, but find yourself in hypocrisy?
So what do we do?
The problem with answering this question is that I might find myself a hypocrite by giving you advice but not living that way myself (see number 3). But here are things I am trying to do.
1. Have specific standards.
I have to commit to stop writing at 7am for the sake of being a good husband and dad. I have to commit to check my blog stats only once a week so that I don’t let popularity and desire for affirmation consume me. And I have to commit to spend the first 20-30 minutes in Scripture and prayer every day so that I don’t become a hypocrite.
2. Have accountability.
I’ve got to tell people what I’m doing, thinking, and feeling regularly. I need good friends to hold me accountable and ask me about my actions and motives often.
3. Pray a whole freaking lot.
Seriously. Prayer is the proof of dependency upon God, and the mark of sincerity before Him. If I can’t keep my conscience clear before the Lord through prayer, I need to give up and go home.
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