When we begin to dig into this text, we uncover perplexities which, to be solved, would demand far more time than is allotted for this message. Perplexities like: Were these three sons triplets since they are mentioned together or was this simply the biblical writer’s way of saying that at the age of 70, Terah began producing sons and he had three in all? And like: If they were not triplets, where was Abram (later Abraham) in the birth order? Was he the oldest since he is mentioned first? Or was he, as is implied in other passages, the youngest son but mentioned first since he was the most important? And like: How did the journey of Terah toward Canaan relate to the call of Abraham to go to the promised land? Did God call Terah first, and then, when he refused, turn to Abraham? Or was God’s call to Abraham the driving motive from the beginning?
Debating about these perplexities and suggesting solutions for them would keep serious Bible students busy for hours. I will leave all of that for another time and another setting. Today, I want us instead to catch the simple suggestion of this succinct story and apply its truth to our lives.
Terah traced his lineage back to Noah through Noah’s son Shem. Several generations removed and hundreds of years later, Terah was born. When we meet Terah in our text, he was living in the city of Ur with his three sons, Abram, Nahor and Haran. Haran died. Some time later, we don’t know how much later, Terah took Abram and his wife Sarai and Lot, the son of Haran who had died, and the Bible says “they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan.”
We don’t know why Terah wanted to leave Ur. It could have been because of a desire to get away from the idolatry which permeated the city of Ur for Ur was a center of moon worship. It could have been that he left over his grief for Haran. It could have been that God called him to go. We don’t know.
What we do know is that Terah never made it to Canaan. He wanted to go. He started in that direction. But the Bible says, in Genesis 11:31, “But when they came to Haran, they settled there.” The Hebrew word for “settled” means “to sit down.” Terah put his roots down in Haran, and there, according to Genesis 11:32, Terah died.
However you interpret the perplexities raised earlier, the simple suggestion of this story is that Terah had a dream to make it to Canaan but the dream died with him in Haran.
That still happens today. Most people, at one time or another, have a dream, a dream of what they want to do or who they want to be or where they want to go. But instead of making it to the Canaan of their dreams, many people die with their dream in Haran.
Why does that happen? Why do our dreams die?
Because of Changes
Sometimes our dreams die because of changes in our lives. We have a dream at one point but then, in the passing of time, we discover it was the wrong dream, so we change our minds. We realize this dream was not in line with our gifts or in line with our God.
Let me illustrate.
When I was six, I had made up my mind that I wanted to be a doctor. That was my dream through all my growing up years. If anyone had asked me during that time what I wanted to be when I grew up, the answer was certain and consistent. I planned to be a doctor. The dream died from a combination of two things: a realistic appraisal of my gifts and a response to the call of God.
When I earned my Eagle Scout award as a teenager in Bell County, I was given the privilege of spending a week with a man in the profession I eventually wanted to pursue. Naturally, I decided to spend this time with a doctor in Temple. We talked. He took me with him to the hospital. It was exciting. Then, at the end of the week, he invited me to observe a minor surgical procedure which he performed in his office. At the first sight of blood, I was out cold. I hit the floor like a sack of potatoes. While one nurse assisted him, another revived me. My adverse reaction to the blood in this minor surgical procedure caused me to reexamine what I wanted to do with my life.
At the same time, a growing conviction was taking hold of my heart, the conviction that what God really wanted me to do was to preach. As I evaluated my gifts these seemed to be more in line with what a preacher would do. I love to speak. I love people. I love to organize things and make them work. These gifts fit the ministry more than medicine.
My dream of being a doctor died simply because it was the wrong dream for me. It died because it needed to die. God had gifted me and called me to another dream. So I intentionally chose to let the dream die.
That’s what happens to dreams sometimes. They are conceived in the naivete of our immaturity. But then, during the process of maturing, as we get more in touch with ourselves and more in tune with God’s will, these dreams die a natural death.
Because of Circumstances
Why do our dreams die? Sometimes our dreams die because of the circumstances of our lives. In this case, our dreams are not intentionally changed. Instead, they are crushed by the changing circumstances around us.
Some commentators have speculated that this was what happened to Terah. Either his poor health or his advanced age prevented him from getting any farther than Haran. He wanted to go to Canaan. He wanted to fulfill his dream. But he was not able to because of the circumstances of his life.
This is what happened to Brook Berringer. You might not recognize the name but college football fans will, especially Nebraska fans. Brook Berringer had gone to Nebraska with the dream of being a star quarterback. He ended up playing backup to Tommie Frazier. Only once did he really get to showcase his skills, during the first eight games in the fall of 1994, when Tommie Frazier was out with an injury. That was enough — along with his 6’4″, 220 pound body with a strong, accurate arm — to make Berringer a prospect for the NFL draft when he graduated. He saw the draft as a fresh start, another chance to fulfill his dream of being a star football player.
However, it was not to be. On a Thursday afternoon shortly before the draft, he borrowed a 1946 Piper Cub and cruised over the flatland around Lincoln, NE, as he enjoyed doing. He flew 250 feet into a cloudless sky before the plane, according to eyewitnesses, shuddered, banked sharply to the left, crashed into a dormant alfalfa field and exploded. Both Berringer and the other passenger were killed instantly. His mother said, “We were going to watch him get drafted; everything was ready. Well, on Thursday he was drafted by a higher team.”1
Brook Berringer never became a star. He was not drafted into the NFL. He did not fulfill his dream. Instead, his dream died because of the circumstances of his life. That’s what happens to our dreams sometimes, in perhaps less dramatic ways. Our dreams are conceived in the white-hot passion of commitment but then are crushed by the circumstances of our lives.
Because of Choices
Sometimes dreams die because of changes. Sometimes dreams die because of circumstances. That, however, does not tell the whole story. Sometimes our dreams die because of what we do or fail to do. Sometimes we simply let our dreams die by the choices of our lives.
What do we do to let our dreams die?
Sometimes we give out. It is hard work to dream. It takes a lot of energy. Dreams have to be continually nourished and fed. Sometimes we run out of energy.
Sometimes we give out because we do not properly pace ourselves. Life is not a dash; it is a long distance race. For those of us who live “on the corner or work and worry,” fatigue often becomes the destroyer of dreams. Because of fatigue our work output is decreased. Dissatisfaction and restlessness become apparent. Consequently, we do not have the energy necessary to pursue our dreams.
Sometimes we give out because we do not properly prepare ourselves. Our preparation for life’s challenges is not completed when we get out of high school or college; it is a life long process. Our education becomes obsolete almost as soon as we receive it. If we rely on the education we received in high school or college it will be said about us: “These are people who know how to handle what was, only sometimes are prepared for what is, and seldom if ever for what will be.”2 Often our dreams die because we give out.
Sometimes we give in. A person has to stay focused to dream. If we let down for a moment, the forces around us will squeeze our dream out of us. I read an interesting story a number of years ago about some bloodhounds. According to this story, the bloodhounds started a hunt by chasing a stag. A fox crossed the path, so the hounds chased the fox. After a while, a rabbit crossed the path so the hounds chased it. Later, a mouse crossed the path and the hounds chased it into the hole. These hounds had begun their hunt on the trail of a magnificent stag and ended up watching a mouse hole.
How tempting it is to take the path of least resistance as we go through life, to give in to the whim of the moment and to be satisfied with the easy and the convenient instead of pursing our dream.
Sometimes we give up. It takes time to fulfill a dream. Early disappointments and constant failure can discourage us from moving ahead in the pursuit of our dream. This is probably the key factor for most of us. Most of us never fulfill our dreams because we give up too soon. Dreams are realized by people who persistently pursue their vision.
William Tyndale had a dream of translating the Bible into English. The church opposed his work, even putting a bounty on his head. Tyndale taught himself Hebrew in order to translate the Old Testament. Then, he worked feverishly from dawn to dusk, six days a week, for eleven years until the translation was completed. He refused to give up.3
Louis L’Amour had a dream of being a writer. The publishing world did not share his dream. He received 350 rejections before he made his first sale. He persisted until finally one of his books was published, the first of over 200 western novels written which have sold over 200 million copies. He refused to give up.4
Charles Schultz had a dream of being an artist. But he had a bad start. As an awkward kid with a bad complexion who barely graduated from high school, Schultz submitted cartoons to the high school annual which were rejected. He was told by his teacher he could not draw children, but persisted until he became one of the best known people in the world because of his cartoons depicting children, especially the lovable loser Charlie Brown. He refused to give up.5
William Tyndale and Louis L’Amour and Charles Schultz all fulfilled their dreams because it was the right dream and because they refused to give up in pursuing that dream.
Sometimes our dreams die because they should die. They are the wrong dreams for us. Sometimes our dreams die because of the circumstances of our lives. In this case, we cannot change the circumstances but we can determine how we will reshape our dreams in light of the changed circumstances. Sometimes our dreams die because of us. We have a legitimate chance to fulfill our dream but we fail to do so because we give out or we give in or we give up.
Let’s give credit where credit is due. At least he had a dream. At least he raised his focus from a preoccupation with the past and present and focused on the future. He dreamed of going to Canaan. He even took the first leg of the journey. But the dream died with him in Haran.
What about you? Do you still have a dream? Even more important, are you still pursuing your dream?1Sports Illustrated (April 29, 1996) 46-47.
2Hesh Kestin, Twenty-First-Century Management. New York: The Atlantic Monthly Press, 1992, p. 143.
3James C. Denison, 7 Crucial Questions About the Bible. Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 1994, p. 89-90.
4Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen. A 2nd Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, Inc. 1994, p. 255.
5Charles Schultz, Good Grief. New York: Pharos Books, 1989, p. 201.

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