Sixteen was a year of big decisions for me. I was a starry-eyed senior who would have to choose between two top universities and had full scholarships to both. My whole life was laid out before me, full of possibilities, but I dreamed for three big things: (1) to be the first summa cum laude graduate of my course, (2) to work abroad, and (3) to marry a handsome foreigner, have three kids, and live in a two-storey house with a white picket fence.

Looking back, I realize that this was how I defined dreaming big—wanting a life like those in the movies, a life better than that of others, or a life better than the one I’m currently living.

There’s nothing wrong with having these kinds of dreams, and if you have your heart set on one like this, that’s fine. But when I became a follower of Jesus, I had to face the fact that my “big dreams” were a product of selfish ambition. They were all for my benefit—for my recognition and comfort. God showed me how small that kind of thinking is.

People who have found themselves at the pinnacle of fame and wealth realize this.

Brad Pitt, at the peak of his career in 1999, said this in a Rolling Stones magazine interview:

“The emphasis now is on success and personal gain. I’m sitting in it, and I’m telling you, that’s not it. . . . I’m the guy who’s got everything. I know. But I’m telling you, once you’ve got everything, then you’re just left with yourself. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it doesn’t help you sleep any better, and you don’t wake up any better because of it.”

Kyrzayda Rodriguez, a famous fashion blogger, said before she died of cancer in 2018,

“I have a brand new car parked outside that can’t do anything for me, I have all kinds of designers clothes, shoes and bags that can’t do anything for me, I have money in my account that can’t do anything for me, I have a big well-furnished house that can’t do anything for me. Look, I’m lying here in a twin size hospital bed; I can take a plane any day of the week if I like but that can’t do anything for me.”

I realized we are called to dream bigger. We are called to dream for others who can’t. We are called to dream for those trapped in hopelessness, despair, purposelessness, apathy, and sin. We are called to take a step further, leave our comfort zones, and help and serve them.

In Philippians 2:3–8, we see how Jesus modeled this kind of ambition:
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Jesus’ big dream was to die, so we can live.

When I followed Him, I found myself living a life far from my old ambitions, but this is the only life that can truly fulfill me—the only life that I know can make an impact to the nations and next generation, even if my contribution seems so small.

Our old leadership group in UP Los Baños hung out over the holidays. When we were in college, others would tease us as the “geek group,” the ones likely to take further studies and “conquer the world.” True enough, majority of us went to graduate school, but here are some interesting stories:

  • One of us earned a doctorate degree from the National University of Singapore, but she has set aside her career to become a full-time wife to a godly man and to be a mother to two beautiful daughters.
  • Another just recently earned her master’s degree from the University of Auckland, since she postponed this dream to serve as a campus missionary and a full-time church staff for a season.
  • Yet another finished a degree in medicine and chose to be part of the Doctors to the Barrio program. When she finished her stint, she stayed to be a municipal health officer in one of the most remote towns in the nation, away from the comforts of family and church.

Our lives did not turn out exactly as we dreamed, but as each of us obeyed God, we saw how He had ordained our steps so we can accomplish His purpose for us to serve others. In doing so, we get to see His kingdom advance wherever He has called us. We all agree: there is no dream bigger than His plan for us.

If God seems to be leading you in a different direction or if your reality seems too far away from your dream, take heart! He knows the beginning and the end (Psalm 139:16). When we trust Him with our lives and choose to live by faith, we will be amazed by how far He can take our single step, so that even the nations and the next generation may come to know Him.

The “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11 is a perfect illustration of how God’s purposes were accomplished through the faith and obedience of His people from generation to generation. What a privilege that we get to continue this legacy!

As you pray about your dreams, here’s something you and your friends can ask each other:

  • Am I ready for God to change my plans for my dream life?
  • What dreams do I have that could bless those around me? What dreams do I have that could impact the next generation?