Summary: Getting your church and yourself ready to receive God’s vision.
On day six of the ill-fated mission of Apollo 13, the astronauts needed to make a critical course correction. If they failed, they might never return to Earth.
To conserve power, they shut down the onboard computer that steered the craft. Yet the astronauts needed to conduct a thirty-nine-second burn of the main engines. How to steer? Astronaut Jim Lovell determined that if they could keep a fixed point in space in view through their tiny window, they could steer the craft manually. That focal point turned out to be their destination--Earth.
As shown in 1995’s hit movie, Apollo 13, for thirty-nine agonizing seconds, Lovell focused on keeping the earth in view. By not losing sight of that reference point, the three astronauts avoided disaster.
Scripture reminds us that to finish your life mission successfully, "Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2).
Today I want us to continue our look at Nehemiah and vision.
Why do we want to look at a book written in 450 BC?
Two major reasons. First, Nehemiah was one of the most visionary leaders of the Bible. He pulled off one of the most amazing projects in the Bible—the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem. Second, the book of Nehemiah contains the step-by-step process of vision.
The first chapter of Nehemiah lays out the five steps of preparation for vision.
1. Collect information
The words of Nehemiah son of Hacaliah: In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, while I was in the citadel of Susa, Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem. They said to me, "Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire." (1-3)
Nehemiah questioned those with firsthand experience about the conditions in Jerusalem. He gathered all the information he could get. He studied the circumstance. Why?
Because Nehemiah understood this vital principle: vision is best birthed out of thorough knowledge.
It is not unspiritual to think, study, and do some basic research.
Two areas we must study to collect the necessary information to prepare for vision.
First, learn about the unchurched people in our community. Sometimes you will hear people say, “All you need to do is preach the word of God.” That statement is not true. The preaching of the inspired and inerrant Word is central and is fundamental. We must have Biblical preaching for people to come to know Jesus Christ. But we also need to understand the people that we are trying to reach.
Think about what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23
Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
Paul studied and collected the necessary information on those he was trying to reach whether it was the Jews, those under the law, or the weak.
The second area we need to study is on churches that are reaching unchurched people. When you want to learn something you go to the people who are doing what you want to do and are doing it well.
2. Holy discontent with the status quo.
What Nehemiah learned about the conditions in Jerusalem changed his heart forever. Look at his response in verse 4.
When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. (1:4a)
Nehemiah was heartbroken. God broke his heart over the people of Jerusalem and their condition. God let Nehemiah feel about Jerusalem the way He felt about Jerusalem. God let Nehemiah see Jerusalem the same way He saw Jerusalem.
Vision is usually birthed out of heartache and burden. It must come from the heart.
Think about it:
§ Jesus wept over the lost sheep of Israel (Matthew 10:6)
§ Moses stood in the gap for the Israelites (Exodus 17:4)
§ Jeremiah wept over the burden he carried (Jeremiah 3:21)