Dangerous Dreamers

“All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake up in the day to find that it was vanity. But the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act out their dreams with open eyes to make it possible. This I did.” – T.E. Lawrence

When I first began studying the Bible, a brother in our church showed me a Scripture that I remember to this day. In Proverbs 16:9, the Bible reads, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”

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This passage cut me to the core, as the obvious truth that I was not in control of my life came into focus. By nature, I am very goal-oriented, driven and motivated. But that same ambition was not being used to further God’s purposes. Instead it was used to glorify myself. I grew up in a strong religious family, and was taught from a young age to respect God by going to church and reading the Bible. However, the goal of “holding to the Scriptures” (John 8:31-32) in addition to my beliefs was not significantly enforced in my life. I could boast that I knew more than my Sunday school teachers, yet by the time I hit college, much of the morals that were instilled in me from a young age vanished. The knowledge of the Word that I had learned had not been planted deeply to my heart, and was easily snatched up by Satan due to a lack of deep spiritual roots (Mark 4:16-17).

Before heading off to Upstate New York for college, I grew up playing the organ at several different churches. I saw many things that questioned my faith in God and church as a whole. “Elders” who did not even believe in the Bible entirely; gossip and slander amongst the congregation; lack of fellowship and accountability; blatant sin unchecked (sexual and otherwise); and the Bible being more of a reference book than a standard for life. I grew so disillusioned with the religiosity of the world that I threw in the towel. The “Have It Your Way” (Burger King) form of Christianity was getting under my skin. By the time I went off to Cornell, I was done with being “religious”. I decided to check out the world and all its sinful pleasures. To this day I am grateful that I did not end up with a child out of wedlock or an STD.

During my junior year, I was in a lunch line when a girl unknowingly cut in front of me. She invited me to a “Singles Retreat” that her church was having. I still remember thinking how unusual that encounter was. First, I had never seen this girl before. Then I also noticed her level of purity. Most people hear “Singles Retreat” and they start thinking in an impure way. However her description of the event was totally focused on God and building great friendships. I was eager to learn more. I gave her my email and number, and she passed the information on to some of the brothers in Syracuse. That same week, brothers from the church drove down from Syracuse to Ithaca – about 1.5 hours – just to study the Bible with me. I remember one of my first questions being, “How do I know the Bible is really from God?” As a Pre-Med major, I had to be convinced that the Bible was inspired by God. Otherwise, I was not interested in learning another philosophy of man. I had sat through enough philosophy classes already! I wanted to know and understand the heart of God. The more I learned, the more I was inspired. The water cycle (Isaiah 55:10; Job 36:27-29), the sphere of the earth (Isaiah 40:22), the earth being suspended over nothing (Job 26:7)… the scientific evidences were incredible! The water cycle was not discovered until the 1800s. The fact that the earth was a sphere was not considered until the 1400s. The Greeks thought that the world was on the back of Atlas, and other religions believed that the earth rested on four elephants standing on the back of a giant turtle that was swimming in a bowl of milk! My faith in the Bible grew like a mustard seed. I finally understood that there was a single truth. I had found the path in life that was not just a moral way of living, but a standard for perfection as I looked examined the life and heart of Jesus. How could 40 different authors, writing on 3 different continents (Africa, Asia, Europe), in 3 different languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek), over a period of 1500 years be totally united on hundreds of controversial issues without the use of a cell phone or email? These facts set my faith in motion. I had one burning desire: People needed to know this!!!

My dream was simple. If more campus students could understand the truth of the Word, they would want to change the world! Let’s face it: Most students put on a façade to get through life. Selfish ambition is the driving force to further oneself. I came to acknowledge this blunt reality one weekend as I thought of my future career in medicine. Why was I doing what I was doing? Was it entirely to help people, or was my motivation more focused on prestige, a black Mercedes and MD license plates? The world needs doctors, but while they can help fix a clogged artery, they cannot change a corrupted character. As a physician, I could save someone’s life on the operating room table, but they would probably live the same life they did before. I wanted to change their hearts to become more like Jesus and guide their eternal destination through the Word. I decided that my dreams for the ministry were more important than anything else in life for me. If God could use me despite of my sin, then I wanted to give myself wholly to Him.
What a dream! Six years later, I am now serving the church I was baptized in as its Evangelist. My incredible wife, Patrique, leads the Women’s Ministry for the church, and we are focused on winning Central New York for Christ! What’s more is that more men and women are catching a hold of the dream to commit their lives to spreading the good news of Christ across Upstate New York. This summer we will be hiring two interns, Patrick Warner and Nichole Euson, who have expressed the desire to give up everything, go anywhere, and do anything to see the Kingdom of God forcefully advance in the 21st century! Pray for us as we work to win “as many as possible” (1 Corinthians 9:19) for Christ as we grow in our knowledge of His grace and love. Pray for us as we live to be “dangerous dreamers” in a world where God’s grace is taken for granted and substituted with complacency, ingratitude, and compromise. Pray that we inspire to not just wish for great things to happen, but to have the courage and faith in God to make it happen. I will end with a quote that I read in a little inspirational book I gave to my nephew-in-law at his graduation from elementary school:
“The reason some people do not succeed is because their wishbone is where their backbone ought to be.” – Anonymous

My challenge to you: Be a dangerous dreamer. Don’t just wish for great things to happen for God. Have the courage and faith to make it happen. And to God be the Glory!

Andrew Smellie