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Deleted Scenes: Dreams: God-given or bad sushi? (Daniel 4)

A Note From Craig...
Recently, Carolyn and I re-watched one of my favourite all-time movies: Inception. If you’re unfamiliar, Inception is a 2010 movie all about dreams (specifically, sharing dreams with others with the purpose of either stealing secrets or planting ideas). One of the big questions throughout the movie is the difference between dreams and reality. Of course, dreams are often powerful because they point to some kind of reality in our lives. They are especially powerful when the dream has been given to us directly by God to speak to us about something “in real life”.  That means that the big question for many of us is not telling the difference between dreams and reality, but instead between “I ate too much pizza last night” dreams and God-given dreams.

We’ve seen this as a theme in the book of Daniel. On two occasions, Nebuchadnezzar receives a dream from God that he immediately knows means something. In Daniel 2, it’s a giant composite statue. In Daniel 4, it’s a magnificent tree that is cut down and given a wild delusion. In Daniel 7, Daniel himself dreams about four beasts. We see it throughout the Bible at other times: Joseph’s dreams in Genesis 37 and his interpretation of dreams in Genesis 40-41. Another Joseph, the husband of Mary, famously received a God-given dream in Matthew 1. In Acts 16, Paul has a vision at night that sparks the expansion of the Gospel into Europe. In other words, in both the Old Testament and New Testament, dreams are a recurring way that God reveals things to people.

The thing is, there’s no straightforward guideline in the Bible about how you know a dream is from God. I think we can come up with all kinds of rules that don’t actually hold much water. For example, one blog I read says you should ask how a dream makes you feel, and that “if you feel confused or fearful after a dream, that dream is most likely not from God.” Really? In Daniel 4:5, Nebuchadnezzar writes, “I had a dream that made me afraid.” I don’t know about you, but it sounds to me like he felt fear. In Daniel 2:3, Nebuchadnezzar says “I have had a dream that troubles me and I want to know what it means.” Now it sounds like fear and confusion. Oh, but that was just a pagan king. It would be different for a believer, right? Oh, would it? Daniel 7:15: “I, Daniel, was troubled in spirit, and the visions that passed through my mind disturbed me.” Sounds like the feelings weren’t entirely positive for him at first.

My point is, there’s so much about dreams, about what they mean, about when it’s from God and when it’s not, that we don’t understand. We haven’t been given a manual about these things, so I’m hesitant to make big declarations about when a dream has a divinely-appointed meaning or not. Here is what I will say: I believe a much more important question than how a dream makes you feel is the fruit a particular dream produces in your life. Ultimately, the dream in Daniel 4 led to a humbling of Nebuchadnezzar and a greater surrender to God as well as an accompanying authority (4:36). Can a dream end up drawing you near to God? Does it bring about a greater conformity to the character of Jesus? Does it help you know Him and love Him better, in accordance with the Scriptures? It might do these things even if the dream is somewhat foreboding (like Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams were for him). However, if the answer to those questions is yes, then thank God for that dream!
In my life, I’ve had some dreams that I’ve wondered about in terms of their origin or meaning. There’s one dream I had, though, that I don’t question much. Early on in my time at The Bridge, for three straight nights, I asked God in prayer why there wasn’t more fruit from my ministry. It felt like I was running on a treadmill as a pastor, not getting anywhere fast. For three straight nights, I asked that question and sat in silence. On the third night, I had a dream. I don’t remember all the details, but I remember that on a number of occasions in the dream, I heard the words “Psalm 63”. At one point in the dream, I even picked up a Bible and was looking for Psalm 63. As soon as I woke up, the first thing I did was look up the reference. Here are the first few verses:

“You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.”

It seemed pretty clear to me that this was the answer to my question: to stop hungering for “fruit” in my ministry and focus on hungering and thirsting for the presence of the Lord. That dream brought about some very good things in my life. It brought me further into God’s will.

How about you? What’s your experience with dreams? How do you discern if a dream is from the Lord?

- Craig


Ceilidh - May 9th, 2024 at 6:54pm

Great article Craig! Love that you addressed dreams as they are a consistent way that God speaks to me.


Beba Morales - May 9th, 2024 at 10:47pm

Hi Greg.

nThis is a very exciting theme walking with God. I dream a lot and definitively God speaks in dreams and they reveal a lot of what's going on in our daily life and our walk with him. I have read many christian books about dreams. I think this is one of the many ways that God speak, warn and reveal himself to us. I will watch the movie you mention earlier. Thanks for this article. Many Blessings.