Vision – that’s the catch word of modern business and churches. It’s a good word. One that Webster defines as unusual discernment or foresight. Some people have it, some don’t – it seems. What really makes the difference? Well, the disciples were your basic plodders, that team of men who would later revolutionize the world as appointed witnesses of Christ (Acts 1:8).
These followers of the Lord Jesus were not inherently men of vision. They came from the hum drum of life, caught up in daily, dull routines like everyone else without much glimmer of hope beyond their practical existence.
Men of vision don’t jump out like hot pop tarts on hurried Sunday mornings. Jesus ignited the first flicker of light in his novice followers, saying, “Blessed are your eyes, for they see.” (Matt 13:16). And then He began to fan their flicker into flames!
Basic requirements of vision
How can we become a people of vision? This question challenges the church today. The answer is quite simple: incubation of godly character breeds godly vision. A brief look at the Apostle Paul’s farewell to the elders from Ephesus (Acts 20) reveals some of these basic character requirements.
Paul had spent three years stoking the young faith that had flared up in their hearts (Acts 20:31). Now he was giving the fire one last aeration.He would never see them again. Yet, no detailed plan was left with them. Rather, Paul’s discourse conveyed the qualities necessary to apprehend a vision from God for themselves.
Every generation must have its own vision
Every generation, every new guard, must possess its own vision from God. What is needed is not the passing down of our humanly designed forms of ministries and applications. We don’t want succeeding generations to mimic our outward arrangement of things, like carbon copies. The greatest heritage to be passed from one generation to the next is the Christ-like character that engenders sacrificial vision for the kingdom of God.
Godliness makes the difference between a vision of God versus a vision from man. In this magnificent discourse of Paul, we see six characteristics necessary for becoming elders embraced with a vision for God’s work. In this post we will cover two of them.
1. Godly Vision Requires Humility
“I served the Lord with great humility …” (Acts 20:19). Humility proves to be the most elusive of Christian character traits. The very effort of ascending to this trait belies the very thing we seek to acquire. Yet, Scripture is saturated with teaching on this subject! See for example, Rom 12:3, Phil 2:1-11.
For a vision to be godly, we must forgo the need to draw attention to ourselves. For it is not the man who commends himself who is approved, but the man whom the Lord commends (II Cor. 10:18). If it is God’s vision, He Himself will commend us. We are free to direct all credit and attention to Him.
Some helpful measuring sticks are:
- How frequently do I use the personal pronoun when I talk about “my” vision?
- How do I react when people disagree with me or oppose my vision?
- Do I complain about others who don’t share the vision?
A spectacle to the whole universe
A godly vision is not self-affirming, big numbers or hype. For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as men. We are fools for Christ … up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world (II Cor 4:9-13).
So how do we get humility? One thing is sure, the harder we try by human means, the worse it gets! True, we are told repeatedly in Scripture, Humble yourselves.
Yet, only God can fashion humility in our lives and we need to welcome the tools He uses: trials, opposition, adversaries, humiliating circumstances.
These things either bring out the pride in us (Why me?) or develop humility (Lord, thank you for cutting me down to size). Seems to me that humbling ourselves is more of an acceptance of God’s work in our lives than an activity that we do.
2. Godly Vision Requires Passion
“… with tears …” (Acts 20:19). Paul modeled the passion of Jesus. Not a sterile, logical choice, Paul’s passion catalyzed his vision. Passion, according to Webster, is an intense, driving feeling. There is no vision without passion. Much spiritual sight is lost for lack of time in our busy lives. Nowhere does Scripture say, If you have time, then help with the vision. The question is not really one of time, but of priority.
We always make time for that which grips us deeply. What our passion is, becomes our priority. What our priority is, we give our time to. The Lord Himself was motivated by passion for mankind. “For God so loved the world …” (John 3:16), and therefore, He gave it priority.
The Creator longed for His image-bearing creation to be reconciled to Himself. The Apostle Paul’s heart was on his shirt sleeve when he said,
I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race. (Rom 9:2-3).
John Knox is reported to have said, “Lord, give me Scotland, or I die.” How can we develop this kind of passion? I find myself praying, O Lord, break the stranglehold of fleshly passions and self-centered desires. Break my heart with the things that break your heart.
Then, go out and make yourself available to those who are struggling, the unlovely people of your fellowship, the down and outers and those who are hurting. Listen, feel and reach out.
Editorial Note: This article was first published in Elder’s Shop Notes in May 2002. It is used here with permission of the author. We will post parts 2 next week.