By Dr. Hal Brady
In a certain classroom in New Hampshire, a youth was asked to give an oral report to his classmates. Each attempt ended in embarrassing failure. Recalling his experience, he confessed: “I could not speak before the school. Many a piece did I commit to memory, and recite and rehearse in my own room, over and over again, and yet, when the day came, when my name was called, and all eyes turned to my seat, I could not raise myself from it. When the occasion was over, I went home and wept bitter tears of mortification.”
But note that youth had a dream of being a notable speaker. He decided that he would conquer his timidity if it killed him. Did he succeed? To know his name is to have the answer – Daniel Wester. And to this day, he is still acclaimed by many as the greatest orator in American history. In this illustration, Louise O. Caldwell points out that such is the power of a noble dream.
As he served in captivity, the Old Testament character Nehemiah dreamed of rebuilding the broken walls of Jerusalem. However, it seemed such a hopeless task. The walls were in ruins, the people were scattered, and everyone was discouraged and despondent. And all around were Arab enemies who wanted no strong Jerusalem, doing everything in their power to prevent it. They tried both ridicule and persuasion. They put their heads together and plotted, while Nehemiah went right on with his efforts. Four times the demand went up, and four times the answer came back: “I am doing a great work, and I cannot come down” (Nehemiah 6:3).
It’s the only thing that keeps anybody up or moving – a dream, a vision, a purpose – that’s worth giving your life to. How inspiring it is to see a man or woman so caught up in a noble dream that nothing can deter him or her. Such was and is the power of Nehemiah’s noble dream.
Dr. Walt Kallestad, innovative minister and author, expressed it this way, “Dreams can help us see the invisible, believe the incredible, and achieve the impossible.”
Initially, a noble dream gives direction! “Save yourselves,” said Peter, “from this untoward generation” (Acts 2:40). That’s an unusual word, “untoward.” We don’t use it in our modern vocabulary. It means “not going toward anything,” going this way and that without direction or motivation, running around in circles.
Now, the New Testament tells us that part of the salvations process is to be saved from aimlessness, to get ourselves organized around some noble dream, or purpose or vision. Aimlessness means to be scattered. Salvation means to be made whole. So what we need in our lives is some master passion to hold our scattered lives together.
In the play “Amadeus,” Salieri, the court composer, realizes young Mozart’s genius when he hears his music for the first time. He then contemplates his own mediocre gifts by comparison and says to the audience, “Is it enough just to have passion?”
If somebody were to ask me that question, “Is it enough just to have passion?” My answer would be, “It is not only enough. It is everything.”
We all need to be passionate about something. A noble dream provides us with that.
Next, a noble dream helps us handle criticism! There seems to be an unwritten commandment in every area of life which says, “Thou shalt not be different.” The moment anyone begins to be different – “moves beyond the beaten path” – look out! He or she will become the target of the envious, the suspicious, and sometimes even the malicious.
The late President Roosevelt, speaking of the smear tactic, which is one of the great sins in America today, said, “The worst thing about being a president is that you have to be a candidate.”
I wonder how many folks who have recently run for public office feel like the late President Roosevelt. Isn’t it amazing that in most every election some of the candidates would rather criticize their opponents than state what they are for and how their election would be beneficial for a better society?
The point is that mediocrity resents excellence. But don’t imagine that you can stand taller or cleaner than the rest without being ridiculed or criticized.
Nehemiah had the answer to this dilemma. He said, “I’m doing a great work...”
And then, a noble purpose will empower us to withstand discouragement! Even a casual glance at our modern culture will enable us see much pessimism and discouragement all around. So how does a person keep hope alive in these discouraging times?
Again, we take our cue from Nehemiah and other biblical giants like him. Remember, “they did not come down.” They were held up by a noble dream, a dream that consisted of God’s eternal power. And they kept their hands to the task of making that dream or purpose come true.
On one of the “60 Minutes” segments a few years ago, the late Mike Wallace was interviewing one of the Sherpa guides from Nepal who help climbers reach the top of Mount Everest.
“Why do you do it?” Wallace asked. “To help others do something they cannot do on their own,” answered the guide. “But there are so many risks, so many dangers,” said Wallace. “Why do you insist on taking people to the top of that mountain?”
The guide smiled and said, “It’s obvious that you have never been to the top.”
Nehemiah stated, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down.” A noble dream will keep us going.
Dr. Hal Brady is a retired pastor who continues to present the Good News of Jesus Christ and offer encouragement in a fresh and vital way though Hal Brady Ministries (halbradyministries.com).