An excerpt of Unfulfilled Dreams from A knock at midnight: Inspiration from the great sermons of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.
This is one of my favorite sermons by the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It was delivered at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, on March 3, 1968.
"And each of you this morning in some way is building some kind of temple. Well, that is the story of life. And the thing that makes me happy is that I can hear a voice crying through the vista of time, saying: 'It may not come today or it may not come tomorrow, but it is well that it is within thine heart. (Yes) It’s well that you are trying.' (Yes it is) You may not see it. The dream may not be fulfilled, but it’s just good that you have a desire to bring it into reality. (Yes) It’s well that it’s in thine heart. Thank God this morning that we do have hearts to put something meaningful in. Life is a continual story of shattered dreams.
Now let me bring out another point. Whenever you set out to build a creative temple, whatever it may be, you must face the fact that there is a tension at the heart of the universe between good and evil. It’s there: a tension at the heart of the universe between good and evil. (Yes, sir) Hinduism refers to this as a struggle between illusion and reality. Platonic philosophy used to refer to it as a tension between body and soul. Zoroastrianism, a religion of old, used to refer to it as a tension between the god of light and the god of darkness. Traditional Judaism and Christianity refer to it as a tension between God and Satan. Whatever you call it, there is a struggle in the universe between good and evil.
And this brings me to the basic point of the text. In the final analysis, God does not judge us by the separate incidents or the separate mistakes that we make, but by the total bent of our lives. In the final analysis, God knows (Yes) that his children are weak and they are frail. (Yes, he does) In the final analysis, what God requires is that your heart is right. (Amen, Yes) Salvation isn’t reaching the destination of absolute morality, but it’s being in the process and on the right road. (Yes)
There’s a highway called Highway 80. I’ve marched on that highway from Selma, Alabama, to Montgomery. But I never will forget my first experience with Highway 80 was driving with Coretta and Ralph and Juanita Abernathy to California. We drove from Montgomery all the way to Los Angeles on Highway 80—it goes all the way out to Los Angeles. And you know, being a good man, being a good woman, does not mean that you’ve arrived in Los Angeles. It simply means that you’re on Highway 80. (Lord have mercy) Maybe you haven’t gotten as far as Selma, or maybe you haven’t gotten as far as Meridian, Mississippi, or Monroe, Louisiana—that isn’t the question. The question is whether you are on the right road. (That’s right) Salvation is being on the right road, not having reached a destination.
Oh, we have to finally face the point that there is none good but the father. (That’s right) But, if you’re on the right road, God has the power (Yes, sir) and he has something called Grace. (Yes, sir) And he puts you where you ought to be."