By Nick Nilson
Foreword by Joel Osteen
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A National Bestseller!
Start living the life of your dreams today with the help of this inspiring guidebook from the Associate Pastor at Lakewood Church as he shows how to stop delaying and start enjoying the life you have right now.
Nick Nilson, Associate Pastor at Lakewood Church, offers a different approach to overcome these challenges: a change of perspective. What if we stopped focusing on what we lack, and instead focused on what we do have, and the possibilities our life currently offers us? What would change if you truly believed that God was in the middle of your troubles, disappointment and heartache and actually working all things out for your good!? Imagine if your dream wasn’t a destination you chased , but a mindset you chose?
You Can Live the Dream outlines how readers can harness the power of perspective in every aspect of their lives. Recognizing that you don’t have to wait to live the dream, you can live your dream now.
Nick Nilson is an amazing leader, an insightful minister, and a gifted speaker. For more than seventeen years, Nick has served faithfully and passionately as an indispensable member of Lakewood Church’s pastoral leadership team. His love for the Lord is the centerpiece of Nick’s life, and he serves as an example of how to lead at work and at home. He is a natural team builder, a great husband and father, and a wonderful friend. I can think of no one better to write about making the most of where you are than Nick.
Sometimes the most difficult place to be is where you are, especially when it’s not the place you had hoped to be. We all plan for our future, dream our dreams, and put into motion everything necessary to see our aspirations come to pass, yet, oftentimes, we find ourselves frustrated by the timing of it all. You spend four years in college, study diligently, and graduate with honors only to find that every prospective employer wants you to start at the bottom, perhaps even work for someone who didn’t go to college at all. It’s easy to become discouraged. Perhaps, you have worked hard to save for that new home, the one with the backyard, where your children can play. Yet, it seems that every time you save enough for the down payment, something unexpected happens and there goes a chunk of your savings. That can be disheartening to say the least.
It is times like these when you must set your mind and choose to believe that your dreams and your goals are God given. Big dreams require not only faith but patience, as well. The question may not be whether you have faith in God, but whether you’re willing to wait on God—and do so with expectancy and joy.
The last part—joy—may be the most difficult for us all, but it is critical if you’re going to achieve your dream. Joy comes from knowing that while you are not where you want to be, God has your answer just down the road.
Joy is what keeps you energized and diligent in your efforts. Joy is the reason that that entry level job is not a setback but a challenge to do your best. Joy brings you to your job early each day, before anyone else arrives, and gives you the edge over your competition. Joy shows God that you have not given up on the dream and is why you’ll be ready when He places opportunity in your path. Joy is what keeps you looking for that perfect house. It’s what drives you to visit open houses, call realtors, and scour the internet even though you’re short on the down payment right now.
When the present isn’t working out the way you thought it would, staying joyful can be a challenge, especially considering how much easier it is to become disappointed and discouraged. It’s difficult to be “living the dream” when things don’t seem to be going your way. But living the dream means exactly that—living. It’s not a moment; it’s a way of living your life. Joy doesn’t come and go with your circumstances; it stays with you regardless of your current situation.
You may be asking yourself, “How am I living the dream when I seem to be stuck?” It’s a good question, and it’s one that Nick answers in this book, You Can Live the Dream. Through countless examples and personal experiences, Nick takes you on a journey that is as fulfilling as the destination itself. I encourage you to read this book with expectancy and joy and let today be the day you start living the dream.
Choose the Right Perspective
I couldn’t wait to take my five-year-old son, Denver, fishing for the first time. It was so exciting to start a lifelong tradition with him. I went out and bought the fishing poles, snacks, and a container of worms for our time together. There was a spot on a bayou near our house that I thought would give him an easy introduction to fishing on that summer afternoon. All we had to do was sit on the concrete bayou bank, bait our hooks with worms, cast them into the stream, and wait for the fish to strike. We sat for about thirty minutes, eating sunflower seeds, watching our lines for a bite, but there was nothing.
To my surprise, Denver was being fairly patient. Every so often, he would reel his line in, take the dead worm off, and ask me to help him put on a fresh one. Then he would sling his line back into the water and sit back down. After about an hour of this, Denver remained unshaken and content. I, on the other hand, was done. I wasn’t having fun, I was hot, and we hadn’t had a single bite. So we packed up our gear and headed home.
To me, this was a major fail. I was hoping this would ignite a bond over fishing that would last us a lifetime. But we caught nothing. We didn’t even have a nibble. I was worried that Denver would never want to go fishing again, so I broke the silence and asked him, “Hey, D, what did you think? Did you have a good time today?”
He looked at me and said with a beaming smile, “Dad, I loved drownin’ worms with you.”
Drownin’ worms? What? The whole time he thought we were drowning worms?!!!!
It took everything inside me to keep from bursting into laughter. Since we went through about two dozen worms that day, he thought it was a very successful trip. A few days later, I invited him to drown some worms with me in a different spot, but this time he realized that if he could keep the worms alive, he could also catch some big largemouth bass.
That afternoon with Denver taught me a lot about perspective. We were sitting on the same bayou concrete at the same time, seemingly doing the same thing, yet we had two totally different perspectives on our time fishing. From my perspective, we were there to catch fish, and we failed, causing me to chalk it up as a loss. From Denver’s perspective, we were there to hang out together and drown some worms. To him, the day couldn’t have been better.
Perspective is that powerful.
You could say that Denver and I were looking through two different sets of lenses that day. As a result, we had two entirely different attitudes and reactions to what happened. Your personal perspective will always impact how you respond to everything that happens to you.
See beyond the Circumstances
I believe that the key to living the life God has designed us to live and to becoming all He has created us to be is found in the perspective we choose to have. We often can’t choose what happens to us, but we can choose how we see it, how we think about it, and in turn how we respond. We can choose to see ourselves and our circumstances as they are, or we can choose to see them through a unique set of faith lenses. The perspective from which you see your life and your experiences can make all the difference.
The reason this is powerful and life-changing is because nothing has to change in your life for you to experience peace, contentment, and joy. Your external circumstances don’t determine your quality of life. Your perspective of your circumstances does.
A few years ago I was invited to speak at a conference in Southern California. When I arrived at the hotel where I was going to stay for a few nights, we were met by a construction crew as we tried to pull into the entrance. They were doing a lot of roadwork in front of the hotel. Jackhammers were slamming the concrete, cement trucks were lined up and pouring out cement, and project managers were yelling commands through megaphones. It was a loud, chaotic mess.
We were quickly detoured to the side entrance of the hotel to check in. I remember getting off the elevator on the tenth floor, walking into my room, and sliding the balcony door open to a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean. When I stepped out, I was captivated by the glorious sunset and the calming sounds of rolling waves hitting the sand. Five minutes before, in the same hotel, it was hard to avoid the construction chaos, the diesel exhaust, and the stress of the noise. My address on the map hadn’t changed, yet I was experiencing something completely different.
What changed? My elevation. My perspective changed. I had been elevated above the noise, and I was able to see beyond the chaos to something beautiful. That tells me that you can be experiencing chaos all around you and simultaneously experience peace, contentment, and joy. Your problems don’t have to go away for you to experience peace. You can experience peace when you elevate your perspective.
We all come into seasons in our life that seem to take the wind out of our sails. It gets chaotic, and the pressure seems overwhelming. The addiction seems unbeatable. The financial burden seems too heavy to carry. The doctor’s report just got worse. We feel surrounded and defeated. In those difficult seasons, you have to elevate your perspective, see beyond your current problem, and hope again in God’s promises.
When you feel overwhelmed by what’s coming against you, the apostle Paul says, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6–7 NLT). You might not know that when Paul wrote those words, he was sitting in a Roman prison cell and his life was in the balance. Peace isn’t the absence of problems; it’s the awareness of God’s promise and presence in your life.
I’m not saying that we should ignore reality. The challenges are real, and we need to face them. Faith doesn’t ignore the facts; it sees beyond them. Faith helps you see beyond your circumstances. Faith is knowing that the God who is for you is greater than the obstacle that is in front of you.
In other words, give your circumstances a glance, and give His promise your stare. When you do this, you will begin to experience His peace. The more attention and focus you give to His promise, the more you will experience His peace. It’s time to stop giving your problem more attention than His promise. It’s time to stop talking about the size of your problem and start talking about the size of your God.
Don’t go around thinking and believing that you will never reach your dreams because of a difficulty you are facing. Don’t let other people convince you that it’s over, that you will never amount to anything, You have to see beyond what’s in front of you and beyond the limitations some people have put on you. Get in agreement with God about who you are and what He says about your life. When you begin to do this, you will begin to experience the abundant life He’s designed for you to live. Or should I say, “Livin’ the dream.”
See beyond the Pain
I’ve found that when I get a change of perspective on a problem and begin to see beyond what’s in front of me, I see that God has a purpose even in what is very painful in the moment. Behind every obstacle is an opportunity. Maybe you are facing something painful right now—a difficult situation with your health, a painful season in your family or at work. I want to encourage you that pain never travels alone; it always brings things along with it. If you shift your perspective, you will begin to see that growth, favor, blessings, and other opportunities are attached to these painful seasons and situations. In fact, there are times when closed doors that are painful can be just as important to your purpose and destiny as open doors.
Football has always been my passion. As I blew my birthday cake candles out as a young boy, my one wish was always to become the leading rusher in the NFL. It was my deepest dream, and my brothers and neighbor kids pushed me and fueled that fire. Growing up, we would play tackle football every weekend at the park around the corner from my house. Most of the boys were older and stronger than me, so I learned at an early age how to juke, spin, and run for my life. On Saturdays, we all showed up with our “uniforms” on, which typically were old tattered college or NFL jerseys of our gridiron heroes. Those formidable Saturdays in the fall were where the dream to play pro football was birthed in me, and I couldn’t be talked out of it.
My dad coached my first years of Pop Warner football, and he was the best coach I ever had. I had played running back since I was a kid running away from my brothers on Saturdays, so carrying the ball came naturally. Middle school football seemed to fly by, and by the time I reached the summer before my senior year of high school, I was getting invitation letters from college football programs. Every day, I checked our mailbox for campus invites, excited to plan my next visit and map out my future. This was before MaxPreps and social media. Recruiting was done predominantly in close proximity to the universities. My dream was to play for Michigan State or Wisconsin. I was locked in, working out every day, and getting ready for my senior year under the Friday night lights, when I would hopefully stamp my future at one of these programs.
After three games, I was leading the district in rushing yards and touchdowns, including five in one game. I was leading the district in rushing yards and touchdowns, including five in one game. I was feeling great, and the college scouts’ interest in me grew by the week. However, the fourth game of the season felt off from the beginning. It was a back-and-forth, hard-fought first half. When I walked into our locker room at halftime, I had two black eyes from my helmet getting ripped off, and I realized I had a broken thumb. Nonetheless, I had over one hundred yards rushing, and we had the lead.
Halftime concluded, and following the kickoff our coach called “28 Outside Zone,” which was my favorite play. I was running at full speed when I got the ball, and when I attempted to make a cut on the wet grass, a defender put his helmet right into the side of my knee and I dropped. Everything from that moment went into slow motion. I knew something was severely wrong with my knee. I had never had a serious injury before, but I could tell this was bad. I couldn’t move my leg.
I don’t remember every detail of that moment, but I remember that my dad ran out on the field, helped me get up, and walked me to the bench. He sat there with me as the trainers examined my knee. I just sat there in tears with my helmet still on, coming to the realization that my football season was probably over.
I soon learned that I had torn the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and MCL (medial collateral ligament) in my knee, which required reconstructive surgery. I was devastated. All the hard work. All the countless workouts, practices, and other sacrifices I had made to see my dream a reality… all for nothing. My childhood dream and hopes for the future felt gone.
At seventeen years old, I had a fight of faith on my hands. I spent many nights during my senior year wondering what my future held. There were many nights of questioning God about where He was that night when I was lying on the wet field at Guilford High’s football stadium.
Ever been there? Have you ever had the feeling you get when you invest so much time and effort into something and it doesn’t turn out how you imagined? Your business? Your career? Your health? A relationship? You felt certain that something was right, it’s what you were supposed to do, everything was going great, and then the door slams shut. It doesn’t work out.
It’s easy in moments like those to think it’s the end based on what we see and think and feel. But in those moments we are also given the opportunity to exercise our faith as at no other time. We can choose to believe that God is going to somehow work everything out for our good. It’s easy to have faith when all is well, but what moves Heaven is when you choose to remain in faith in spite of things not working out the way you want.
By the grace of God, though it was very difficult, I chose to see my situation through the lens of faith. During that winter, I began to believe that God was going to somehow work the devastating injury for my good. He was going to bring beauty from ashes. I believed that there must be a way for this to become an opportunity for me to grow.
Something else really crazy happened as well. Years later, it’s still hard for me to explain. But late in that football season, as I watched from the sideline with crutches, God began to shift my heart’s desire from football to ministry. Becoming a pastor wasn’t something I had ever really thought about. I didn’t spend much time in church when I was growing up, and I didn’t know much about what a pastor did. But something began to stir in me throughout that winter as I rehabbed my knee. I started to become passionate about the idea of helping people experience the goodness of God and becoming everything God created them to be.
Eventually my knee healed, and college football was still an option on the table. But I chose to turn down those opportunities even though those closest to me thought I was crazy. I knew in my heart that God had purposed me to pursue the ministry and study to become a pastor. I didn’t know what it was all going to mean, but I knew I needed to take the step toward it. Now I find myself pastoring and leading in Lakewood Church in Houston, one of the largest churches in America, doing something I never thought would be possible.
Looking back, as hard as that time was in my life, I can thank God for that closed door. In the moment, I didn’t see it, and I didn’t understand it, but I knew that He was up to something. I don’t believe He caused the injury, but He gave me the grace to get through it, and He used it to get me to my destiny. He used it to shift my mind and heart beyond what I saw. It was as if God had hit Pause on what I wanted to do and redirected me to what I was made to do. He knew ultimately where I would be the happiest and most fulfilled.
There was purpose in the pain; it just took me some time to see it and to believe it. It was a blessing in disguise. God will never allow a door to close without already having a bigger and better door ready to open for you. Sometimes you just need to have the right perspective to see it.
See beyond the Opposition
In 2 Kings 6, the house of the prophet Elisha and his servant had been surrounded by a great enemy army in the night. When the servant rose early in the morning and went outside, there were troops, horses, and chariots everywhere. “Oh, sir, what will we do now?” the young man cried to Elisha.
“Don’t be afraid,” Elisha answered, “for there are more on our side than on theirs.” Then he prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes and let him see.”
Let’s pump the brakes for a second here. Obviously, the servant’s eyes were wide open. He could clearly point out the fact that they were about to be destroyed. So what Elisha is really praying here is: “Lord, help him see this from a different perspective. Help him to see beyond the facts, beyond what he sees in the natural.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and when he looked this time, he saw that the hillside around the house was filled with horses and chariots of fire.
The servant had seen half of the reality. In the natural, they were overwhelmingly outnumbered, up against a wall. But when Elisha prayed for him, his vision was elevated, and he saw the angelic forces of Heaven positioned to fight for them. He got a new perspective, and that new perspective completely changed his posture and attitude. As with the servant, God wants you to know that there are more for you than there are against you.
You may be up against a wall at work or in your finances. It’s real. You may be facing a broken relationship that seems beyond restoration or facing an obstacle that’s overwhelming and you can’t see a way out. I know how hard it is to see beyond it in the natural. I’m asking you to open your eyes of faith as the prophet Elisha did and to see beyond your current obstacle and see that God is on your side and He’s fighting for you.
After you get informed of a problem and face the reality in front of you, there comes a point when you have to choose a new perspective by exercising your faith and trust in God. This means that you say, “Lord, I’m up against this giant, but I believe You are in control. I didn’t expect this negative doctor’s report, but I believe that You are working all things for my good. People are gossiping and spreading lies about me at work, but I declare that no weapon formed against me will prosper. I don’t know how I’m going to pay next month’s rent, but I believe You will meet all my needs according to Your riches in glory. I’ve made a mistake that I’m not proud of, but I declare that I am a victor and not a victim, and therefore my story ends in victory.”
The obstacle may or may not change immediately, but your elevation can. Your perspective of your situation can change. The obstacle may not move, but your hope and trust in God’s promises can lift your faith and cause you to see beyond your circumstances and have hope that Jesus will bring you out and over what is in front of you.
The Scripture says, “With our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2 NCB). The assumption is that we all have things that call for our stare, our fixed attention, and permanent focus. The giants, the obstacles, and the challenges we face are real and deserve acknowledgment and a glance, but if you want to overcome them and experience true peace and joy, you have to look beyond the giant in front of you and fix your focus on Jesus.
Following Jesus doesn’t necessarily change the circumstances of your life, but following Jesus gives you a new perspective of your circumstances. More important, following Jesus gives you a new perspective of yourself and your destiny.
That means that the mistake you made doesn’t disqualify you. That means that the divorce or the illness or the job loss is not the end of your story. Those things could mean your story is over if you are the author of your story, but you’re not. God is. So shift your perspective today. Stop staring at your failures, your past, your hurts, and the giants in front of you, and turn your attention and focus to God, who is the author and finisher of your story.
It’s time to shift your perspective and start livin’ the dream.
THE POWER OF LETTING GO
Make Room for the New
I am somewhat scarred from an incident that happened to me when I was ten years old.
My older brother, Adam, and I had begged my mom for years to buy us a dirt bike. Well, much to our surprise, she finally gave in, and one summer morning she woke us up, told us to hurry and get dressed, because we were going to go test-drive a motorcycle! We were so excited as we pulled up the long driveway to the seller’s house. The minibike was parked outside the garage when we arrived. It was more of a road bike with smaller tires, taller handle bars, and a banana seat with “El Tigre” written on the back of it. My brother hopped on it first, and without hesitating, he pulled the throttle and took off down the driveway. I watched as he made it look effortless, weaving in and out of the trees of the yard. He rode the bike back to me, brought it to an abrupt stop, looked at me, and said, “Be very careful when you start. It has some power when you hit the throttle.” Then he handed the bike over to me.
It was my turn. I had never actually ridden a minibike like this before. I sat down on the bike, very nervous, but I was anxious to introduce myself to El Tigre. I took a deep breath, gripped the handle bars, pulled the throttle, and the tiger took off! Next thing I knew, El Tigre had almost completely thrown me off the bike, and I was clutching the grips by the tips of my fingers. As gravity was pulling me back, I instinctively tightened my grip. The only problem was that the grip is also the throttle, so by holding on, I was causing the bike to go even faster. I started swerving all over the place, with my legs dragging the ground and kicking dirt with every jerk of the bike. Then I suddenly heard my mom and my brother screaming,
“LETTTTT GOOOOO! LET GO OF THE BIKE!”
Just before hitting a huge maple tree, with my ten-year-old life flashing before my eyes, I let go of the bike, which went crashing into a fence. I ended up taking a few barrel rolls across the grass and miraculously only ended up with a couple of scrapes and bruises. Thankfully, there was only minimal damage to the minibike, but there was a mutual understanding that we had to buy it after the incident.
El Tigre taught me a valuable lesson that day. Holding on, in that moment, meant disaster for me. It was frightening, and almost surreal, but I’m so glad I chose to let go of the bike that day. I’ve learned that there are so many things in our lives that, if we hold on to them, can limit our growth, delay our destiny, and keep us from God’s best. For many people, there are relationships or even mistakes that are hindering them from being their best, simply because they haven’t let go of them.
Letting Go Of the Past
In the book of Exodus, we read that God’s special people, the Israelites, had been oppressed in slavery for hundreds of years in Egypt, under ruthless work conditions and heavy demands from Pharaoh. The Israelites who knew of the covenant and promise that God had made with them as a nation began to cry out to God in desperation. God heard their cry and assigned Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt. Through a series of astonishing plagues upon the Egyptians and miracles for the Israelites, God delivered them. However, not long after God parted the Red Sea, brought them through on dry ground, and was leading the Israelites through a wilderness, they began to complain against Moses and Aaron. They said, “Our Egyptian slavery was far better than dying out here in the wilderness. Why did we ever leave Egypt? There’s nothing good to eat here and nothing to drink.”
I can imagine an Israelite man being hungry, thirsty, hot, and uncomfortable in the desert, with an unhappy wife and unhappier children in their tent, picturing the home he left behind in Egypt. His past life is suddenly looking so good in his mind. He’s forgetting the bitter slavery and the bondage, and he’s only remembering how predictable it was. He’s craving the familiar.
Here’s what’s crazy. The journey to the Promised Land that should have taken weeks, maybe a few months max, took the Israelites forty years! Yes, forty years. Their destiny was delayed. Why?
They wouldn’t let go.
“In You Can Live the Dream, Nick shows us that you don’t have to wait for circumstances to change before you start living the abundant life Jesus offers us all. This book will stir your faith, inspire you to live your purpose, and show you how to walk by faith and not by sight. This is a message of hope we all need right now.”
—Christine Caine, Founder A21 & Propel Women
“Nick Nilson's debut book is for anyone who is ready to see your potential from God’s perspective. In our struggle we always have a choice — to give up or to break through our limitations. If you've been feeling stuck, and are ready to move forward, You Can Live The Dream is a great place to start.”
—Steven Furtick, Lead Pastor of Elevation Church and New York Times best-selling author of Crash the Chatterbox, Greater, and (Un)Qualified.
“In a day and age when striving is common, I am grateful for a message that gives us permission to thrive. As someone who has battled the cycle of discontentment in the past, this book is personal for me. I cannot think of anyone better than Pastor Nick to lead us into this mindset of living our dreams through the power of perspective. He shares this principle with everyone he encounters, not by the words he speaks, but simply by the life he lives. I encourage you to take the time to truly absorb the words on these pages so you can start living the dream!”
—Travis Greene. Pastor of Forward City, Recording Artist
“If you’re ready to stop living in self-doubt and start living your dream right now, this book is for you! Nick shows us how a simple shift in perspective can change everything, and how you don’t have to wait for some day far in the future to live your dream life, that day can be today! And in this book, he shows you how!”
—Kamie Kern Lima, New York Times bestselling author, Believe IT & Founder, IT Cosmetics
“Every page in this book is a joyful invitation to a perspective changing way of life! The real-life stories, unique insights into God’s word, and practical applications to so many areas of my life kept me in it cover to cover! Nick shows us all once again that he’s a now voice for this moment in history.”
—Tauren Wells , Platinum Selling Recording Artist & Pastor
“In Nick Nilson's debut book we get a heavenly perspective on our earthly circumstances. No matter what we're going through we can look at the Father and see there's always a way forward with Him! You Can Live the Dream is just what you need right now to help you see with that perspective!”
—Derek Carr, 4x Pro Bowl NFL Quarterback (New Orleans Saints)
”I can’t count how many times in my life that the very thing that disappointed me, was connected to an unexpected upgrade that God was preparing for me. Nick Nilson has provided a powerful practical guide that will empower you to realize a life beyond what you’ve dreamed even after a setback.”
—Toure Roberts, Author, Pastor, Entrepreneur
“A good book about dreaming can inspire somebody’s soul, but getting to know an actual “dreamer” is like touching a flame that ignites the soul with purpose. I believe Nick Nilson is one of those torch bearers. His faith is contagious and his hard work, focus and enthusiasm has always caused those around him to shine with hope. He is not only sharing a book here, he shares his heart and soul in this book. I know that after reading this, you’ll be fueled with a clear sense of purpose and passion!”
—Danilo Montero, Pastor, Author & Latin Billboard Award Winner & 2x Latin Grammy Nominee
“We have all had moments of disappointment and exhaustion when it feels like our dreams are at the other end of a long winding road. Pastor Nick’s message will transform your view. He is gifted to inspire. This book will teach you how to embrace a mindset rooted in emotional well-being so that You Can Live the Dream starting today!”
—Dr. Anita Phillips, LCSW-C, trauma therapist and author of The Garden Within
- On Sale
- Aug 8, 2023
- Page Count
- 256 pages