Devotionals by Dr. James MacDonald

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When a Dream Dies

But the Lord said to David my father, “Whereas it was in your heart to build a house for my name, you did well that it was in your heart. Nevertheless, you shall not build the house, but your son who shall be born to you shall build the house for my name” (1 Kings 8:18-19ESV).

We usually list our failures and disappointments in the negative column of our lives, but God views them from a different perspective. The life of King David clearly illustrates what God does with an imperfect person whose heart is in the right place.

David’s son Solomon built the magnificent temple in Jerusalem, but it began with David’s dream. He wanted to build a permanent house for God to replace the tabernacle, and his dream became a reality—but not until Solomon’s reign. During the grand dedication ceremony, Solomon reflected on the significance of his father’s original idea and on how the Lord had responded.

Though David desired to construct a house to honor God, the Lord told him no. But God clarified it wasn’t David’s idea He was rejecting; it was the circumstances. David’s reign as a warrior-king made him unsuitable for the role of temple-builder (1 Chronicles 28:2–3). He drafted the plans and made the preparations, but Solomon constructed the building.

Imagine David’s disappointment . . . God’s chosen king, longing to build a house for his Lord, watching his dream die. Yet he was commended by God for even having his dream: “You did well that it was in your heart.” In fact, God used the phrase “in your heart” twice, describing how David’s deep desire pleased Him.

But how could a desire that God would not fulfill actually please Him? Because of David’s motive—he wanted to build the temple not to inflate his own legacy but to publicly express God’s worth and majesty. The Lord did not overlook David’s dream—he was still “a man after [God’s] own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14).

God’s response to David reveals a phenomenal principle about His view of our lives: He honors not only our right actions but also our pure intentions. Many of us envision some good things God might do with our lives. Yet how often do some of those righteous dreams we want to accomplish not happen? Hear this: Just as God was pleased with David, so He is pleased “that it was in your heart.”

Spend some time considering your disappointments. How many of them could you describe as desires to exalt the name of Christ in your generation? Perhaps you’ve had dreams to write, create, build, speak, or participate in something that would draw people’s attention to your Savior, and you’re disappointed those dreams haven’t come true. Whether or not they ever do, know that God sees what is in your heart. And if your motives are to bring Him glory, your very intentions are pleasing to Him.


  • When you consider your dreams to honor God, what disappointments do you feel? What dreams have you watched fade or die?
  • How does God’s assurance to David re-shape your view of your disappointments?

Lord, I admit that from my earthly perspective, the death of a dream can feel devastating. Thank You for this reminder that You value even my dreams and intentions. Thank You that I can entrust to You what’s most precious to me—my hopes, my dreams, my failures, my disappointments. I commit the desires of my heart to You, and I trust You, even when my plans aren’t realized. Even when my life doesn’t turn out the way I’d hoped it would. I commit the desires of my heart to You. In the name of Jesus, amen.

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Walk in the Word...Igniting passion in the people of God through the proclamation of truth.

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Pastor James MacDonald preaches without apology straight from the pages of Scripture, provoking Christians to think and act on their faith. His Bible-teaching ministry, Walk in the Word, launched on as a radio broadcast in 1997, with the mission of "igniting passion in the people of God through the proclamation of truth."

About Dr. James MacDonald

James MacDonald (D. Min., Phoenix Seminary) is the founder and Senior Pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel. He has led the church from the time it began with just 18 people in 1988 to the present, where 13,000 people attend seven campuses in the Chicago area weekly. His practical teaching of God’s Word is broadcast daily around the world on radio and TV through the program Walk in the Word, and more than 160 vertical churches have been planted on four continents under Dr. MacDonald’s leadership. Pastor James has authored several books and Bible studies, including: Act Like Men; Vertical Church; Lord, Change Me; Lord, Change My Attitude; When Life is Hard; Always True; and most recently, The Will of God IS the Word of God. He and his wife Kathy live in the Chicagoland area near their seven beloved grandchildren, and three adult children who serve alongside them in ministry.

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