What Dream Are You Living?

There once was an American businessman sitting by the beach in a small Brazilian village, watching boats come in and out. One day, he noticed a local fisherman rowing a small boat towards the shore after having caught quite a few large fish.

Impressed, the businessman asked, “How long does it take you to catch so many fish?”

“Oh just a short while,” the fisherman replied.

“Then why don’t you stay out longer and catch even more?”

“This is enough to feed my whole family,” the fisherman said.

“So what do you do for the rest of your day?” asked the businessman.

“Well,” the fisherman said, “I usually wake up early, go out to sea and catch a few fish, then I go back and play with my kids. In the afternoon, I take a nap with my wife, and in the evening I join my buddies in the village—we play guitar, sing, and dance throughout the night.”

The businessman was astonished and offered him a suggestion.

“I have a PhD in business management,” he said. “I could help you become more successful. From now on, you should spend more time at sea and catch as many fish as possible. When you’ve saved enough money, you can buy a bigger boat and catch even more fish. Soon, you’ll be able to afford more boats, and you could set up your own company—a production plant for canned foods along with a distribution network. Then you’ll be able to move out of this village to Sao Paulo, where you can set up your HQ to manage your other branches.”

“And after that?” the fisherman asked.

The businessman laughed. “After that,” he said, “you can live like a king in your own house. When the time is right, you can take your company public and float shares in the Stock Exchange—you will be rich!”

“And after that?” the fisherman asked again.

“After that,” the businessman replied, “you can retire and move to a house by the fishing village. You’ll have plenty of time to wake up early in the morning, catch a few fish and then return home to play with kids and enjoy an afternoon nap with your wife. When evening comes, you can join your buddies to play guitar, sing, and dance throughout the night!”

Puzzled, the fisherman asked, “Isn’t that what I am doing now?”

If that story doesn’t strike a chord with you, I’m not sure what will! At first glance, the fisherman’s life sounds pretty good to me. But I think I’d eventually get tired of all that leisure. On the flip side, as Americans, we can easily get so caught up in the drive to obtain the biggest and best or to produce more and more that we define and measure success solely on possessions, output, and consumption. It gets exhausting.

So who was correct—the fisherman or the businessman? The answer is that there’s a better way: God’s Way.

Let’s take a quick look at some of what The Lord has to say about working hard:

●     “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might…” (Ecclesiastes 9:10)
●     “Do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.” (Colossians 3:23-34)
God also speaks to the importance of joyful rest and celebration:

●     “I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.” (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13)
●     “One hand full of rest is better than two fists full of labor and striving after the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 4:6)

And on the dangers of greed:

●     “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” (Luke 12:15)

But God’s will for our lives can be summed up in this passage from the book of Micah:

●     “And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)
Do you notice any common threads throughout these verses? I’ll give you a hint: it’s about heart motivation.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with working hard in pursuit of retirement and financial stability. In fact, God sees hard work as necessary and highly admirable—but not hard work just for the sake of it. He’s saying that whatever we are working on, let’s work with an eternal mindset rather than a temporary, worldly one.

There’s also nothing wrong with slowing down to relax, enjoy God’s creation, and spend time with friends and family. God is certainly in favor of us taking this time to rest rather than striving hard after the wrong things.

The danger is when the desire to work hard and achieve (or have fun and play) becomes the main driving force in life. When we allow our hearts to be motivated by chasing after these things, we’ve removed God from the equation and grossly missed the mark. (And we will feel this tension, too!)

Whether you’re fishing in Brazil or working on Wall Street, work as if working for the Lord—be more concerned with building His Kingdom than your own. Whether you’re playing with your kids or vacationing in the mountains, let those good gifts point you back to the goodness of God and the importance of the calling He’s placed on your life.

Anything else would be like chasing after the wind.

Table Topics of Conversation

What better way to dig into the idea of hard work and rest in God’s economy than by sharing a meal with those you love? Whether you’re having lunch with friends, a date night with your spouse, or family dinner, spend some time this week asking the questions below and sharing your answers—you’ll be glad you did!

1.    Who in the story did you identify with more: the fisherman or the businessman? Why?


2.    What’s your motivation behind working hard and/or resting? Did this story make you think differently about it?


3.    How can you be more mindful of God’s goodness when spending your downtime?


4.    How can you work hard and use the gifts and talents God has blessed you with to make a difference in the lives of others?


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