As a pastor, I’m most often asked this question: “Why is this happening to me? I don’t understand it. I thought I was pursuing God’s dream, but now I’m ready to give up.” Sound familiar? You see, when you don’t understand the six phases of faith, you may become resentful, even depressed. You will certainly worry. You may become fearful about the future. And, worst of all, you won’t be able to cooperate with what God wants to do in your life. But when you understand the six phases that God takes every believer through—and he takes us through them over and over—then you can say, “Oh, I see, I’m in stage four right now,” or stage six or stage two. You will understand what’s going on, and you’ll be less likely to get discouraged when times are tough.
So let me introduce you to the six phases of faith and their role in pursuing God’s dream. Then we will go deeper into each phase in the coming chapters.
Phase 1: Dream
How does God build your faith? He always starts with a dream. Nothing happens until you start dreaming. You have to get an idea, a vision, a goal, or a target. When God wants to work in your life, he gives you a dream about what he wants you to do and the impact he wants you to have in the world. In the next chapter, I will teach you how to figure out God’s dream for your life.
Phase 2: Decision
You have to make the decision to go for it! Nothing will happen to your dream until you wake up and put it into action. For every ten dreamers in the world, there is only one decision maker. The only way to move forward in faith is to decide to take a risk. In chapter 3, I will explain six biblical principles for making wise decisions.
Phase 3: Delays
When you pursue your dream, there is always a waiting period. Why does God make you wait? Because God wants to work on you before he works on your project. The purpose of the delay phase is to teach you to trust God and to be patient with his timing. How you handle God’s waiting rooms of life is a clear measure of the strength of your faith. In chapter 4, I will show you how to keep going when your dream is delayed.
Phase 4: Difficulties
Not only will you have to wait, but you will also have problems while you’re waiting. There are problems even when your dream lines up with God’s dream, because God is working on your faith and character. In chapter 5, I will share the dos and don’ts of dealing with difficulty. Finally, the difficulties become so bad that you come to your limit. You’ve tried everything, you’ve exhausted all your options…and now you’ve reached the fifth phase of faith.
Phase 5: Dead Ends
In the dead-end phase, the situation deteriorates from difficult to impossible. If you are at this stage, congratulations! You are in good company. Even the apostle Paul experienced dead ends. He wrote, “At that time we were completely overwhelmed, the burden was more than we could bear, in fact we told ourselves that this was the end. Yet we believe now that we had this experience of coming to the end of our tether that we might learn to trust, not in ourselves, but in God who can raise the dead.” God not only can raise people from the dead physically but also can raise people from the dead emotionally. He can raise a dead marriage. He can resurrect a dead career. He can breathe new life where all hope has died. In chapter 6, I will show you how to hold on to your faith when you reach a dead end.
Phase 6: Deliverance
In the end, God delivers. He performs a miracle. He provides a solution. God loves to turn crucifixions into resurrections, hopelessness into victory, and dead ends into deliverance. Why? Because he gets the glory. In chapter 7, I will show you the key to deliverance.
You might be in phase three right now. You have a dream and have made the decision, but now it’s been delayed. You’re asking God, “Why hasn’t my prayer been answered yet?” If you’re in phase three, remember, you’re in God’s waiting room. Don’t detour, and don’t get ahead of God either. Wait for him to open the right door.
Perhaps you are in phase four—you are being tested. What difficulties are you facing while you wait for the dream to be fulfilled? God says, “I know exactly what you’re going through. I see it. I’m watching. Don’t think I’ve forgotten you, because I haven’t.”
Or maybe you are in phase five and are thinking, “I’ve hit the wall. I’m at a dead end. I’m ready to give up.” Well, you’re right where God wants you. God is saying to you, “Hang on! Keep on believing! Don’t give up!” You’re on the verge of phase six: deliverance.
Do you expect God to deliver you? God is faithful. What he promises to do, he will do. Where God guides, he provides. But it doesn’t happen overnight. You go through the phases of the dream, the decision, the delays, the difficulties, and the dead ends… and then comes the deliverance.
Where God guides, he provides.
Look again at this verse: “God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!” It’s as if God says to you, “Think of the greatest dream for your life—I can top it.” That’s the kind of dream God has for you. It’s bigger and better than any ambition, goal, or desire you could ever dream up on your own. Are you ready to do what God created you to do? God’s dream awaits you.
Taken from Created to Dream by Rick Warren. Copyright © (April 2023) by Zondervan Books. Used by permission of Zondervan, www.zondervan.com
Rick Warren is an innovative pastor, renowned author, and global influencer known for founding Saddleback Church, the Purpose Driven Network, the PEACE Plan, and Hope for Mental Health. He has written several best-selling books, including The Purpose Driven Life, which has sold over 35 million copies in 200 languages. Time magazine named Warren the most influential spiritual leader in America and one of the 100 most influential people in the world. Since stepping down from the lead pastor role at Saddleback in 2022, Warren has continued to inspire people through his Daily Hope Devotional and podcast Pastor Rick’s Daily Hope. His first book in a decade, Created to Dream, will release in April 2023.