When the Enemy Sends a Dream

It’s becoming somewhat well-known that many Muslims have a dream about Jesus as a part of their journey to faith. These dreams don’t save them, but they are often full of biblical language and imagery. They function as an important piece of how a Muslim comes to realize the gospel is true.

This dynamic might seem strange or suspicious to Westerners. But when we step back and take the big view of biblical history and church history, we see that God has regularly used dreams to advance his purposes. Among the faithful, spiritual dreams have not served to undermine God’s inerrant written word, which many believers are rightly concerned about.

It’s really only in the last couple hundred years in the West that spiritual dreams have become abnormal. Apparently, even the Southern Baptist Convention has a history linked to dreams. During the first Great Awakening, Shubal Stearns became the founder of the Sandy Creek Association, the Baptist church-planting movement in North Carolina that sparked the planting of Baptist churches all over the southern United States. Why did Shubal Stearns leave New England to plant churches in the South? According to the Baptist historian Gregory Wills, he had a dream where Jesus told him to. So he went to North Carolina and got to work. Church history overflows with these kinds of stories. Stearns’ story may be obscure, but Patrick’s is definitely not. Neither is the testimony of the late Nabeel Qureshi.

If God can use dreams to advance his purposes, it shouldn’t surprise us that the enemy would also seek to use dreams. It’s clear from scriptural example that God and angels have access to the dreams of believers and unbelievers (Gen 20:3, Gen 31:24, 1 Kings 3:5, Dan 2:28, Joel 2:28, Matt 2:12-13, Acts 16:9). It’s not quite as clear from scripture that the enemy has access to dreams (Deut 13, Jer 29:8), but if we remember that Satan and his demons are simply fallen angels, then by inference there is a case to be made that they also can have access to dreams. Many have certainly experienced this on the mission field.

Here is a prayer update from one of our teammates last week:

Pray for my friend. He has heard the gospel for many years and has always claimed to not care about spiritual things or eternity. Recently, he’s been straying from Islam and his mother received a dream warning her that her son was distancing himself from their faith. She confronted him, asked that he return to their faith, and he came back, more devout then ever. However, he confessed to me he is not satisfied and was disturbed by this dream. After sharing the gospel with him he now seems more open to following Jesus than ever.

What is going on when something like this happens? This young man has very close friends who are followers of Jesus who have been regularly sharing the gospel with him. Someone or something is playing serious defense. The enemy apparently sent a dream to this man’s mother, hoping that it would have the powerful effect of scaring them all back into a stricter Islam. Why would God allow this? Interestingly, it looks like this disturbing event might be used by God to make this young man even more open to Jesus than he was before. In other words, it may backfire.

Pray that it does.

We shouldn’t be overly fixated on dreams. Yet an honest survey of the scriptures, church history, and even contemporary evangelical missionaries makes a good case that we should probably find spiritual dreams somewhat normal – though always subject to testing by the word of God. Honestly, the modern propensity to make it merely psychological seems to be the outlier here.

What do we do when God or the enemy sends our friends a dream? Same as always – make a beeline to the Scriptures, share the gospel, and recommit to earnest prayer. Dreams do not save. But God does use them powerfully, and the enemy attempts to also.

Photo by Kasper Rasmussen on Unsplash

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