(Prior to this sermon, utilized a Bible "Jeopardy" game with three volunteers from the congregation. Helped bring into focus the idea of asking the right question.)
There is a great similarity between success at Jeopardy, and success in seeing the current vision for your life come into focus. To be successful at Jeopardy, you have to ask the right question. That has always been the unique twist of that popular game show. The answers are given, and the question has to be asked.
As you begin to see a vision come into focus for your life. As God begins to reveal that area of concern, and passion for your existence. As Jeremiah phrases it, when you seek God and seek Him with your whole heart, He will have an answer for you. Then you will need to ask the right question. However, it will not be the question that you expect. Because if I was to come up to you, and share a given vision with you. . .I can probably guess what question you will ask.
For example, if I came up to you and said, “God has birthed within me a vision to reach the homeless of Lexington through our church.” Or if I came up to you and said, “God has placed within my heart a vision to reach out to teenage moms across Lexington.” You would probably look at me and ask, “How?” “How are we going to do that?”
And on the surface, that seems like a good question. In fact, in many ways, it is a very legitimate question. Yet, it can also be the question of vision death. Two reasons that explain how the “How?” question can lead to vision death. First. . .
1. IF THE VISION IS FROM GOD. . .THE HOW IS GOD’S PROBLEM. . .NOT OURS
Last week we looked at Nehemiah spending four months in prayer and reflection with God. The solution, the plan that he presented to the King, that wasn’t of Nehemiah’s doing. That wasn’t his creation. That was what God communicated to him.
Nehemiah was seemingly in the wrong place, at the wrong time, working for the wrong guy, at the wrong job. Humanly speaking, his vision was dead. There was no good answer to the “how” until he began praying, recognized it as God’s problem, and listened for God’s solution.
And many visions die in the “how”. We can’t see the “how”, so we lose sight of the vision. We can’t understand the “how”, so we assume we misunderstood the vision. We start walking around like Nehemiah. Remember his condition. Chapter 2:1 (read). He is down in the dumps. And most of us don’t want to walk around down in the dumps, so we dump the vision.
But if the vision is from God, the vision is going to need God. If you sit around totally preoccupied with how you are going to bring about a divine vision on your own, you run the danger of watching your vision blur away once again. If the vision is from God, the how is God’s problem.
Think for a minute through your entire Bible. Can you think of a place where the responsibility for coming up with the solution to a divine vision was ever the problem of man? Did Moses come up with the way to get out of Egypt? To cross the Red Sea? Did David have to figure out how to get Saul off the throne? Did the disciples have to figure out how to get the gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth? Nowhere in this book is the solution, the “how” to a divine vision the problem of man. If the vision is from God, the “how” is His problem. Not ours.
God knows how to reach your lost family member or friend. God knows how to protect your children when you are struggling as a single parent. God knows how to get your business off the ground. God knows how to pay for your schooling. God knows how to heal your hurt. God knows how to reconcile your marriage. God knows how to start your ministry. And God even knows how to turn this church around. When the vision is from God, the “how” is God’s problem. And this is the really cool part. . .
2. “HOW” IS NEVER A PROBLEM FOR GOD
Let me start getting you in the Christmas mood. My three favorite holidays lie dead ahead. So let’s get Christmassy for a moment, and turn to Luke 1:26 (read through verse 37).
Mary asked the question of vision death. . .seemed like a very legitimate question, don’t you think? But she got the divine answer, “For with God nothing will be impossible.”
Now, I am a person that is highly motivated by vision, so let me tell you from experience, if we aren’t careful, we can “how” a person’s vision to death. In fact, I dare say, some of you have “how”d your own vision to death. It was welling up inside of you. It was exciting you. You were really starting to get charged up, ready to take the mountain, ready to make things happen. . .and then you started asking yourself “how” you were going to do it. And before you knew it, you talked yourself out of it. Why? Because you made the “how” your problem, and it’s not. If the vision is from God, it is God’s problem, and “how” is never a problem for God.
If you still have your Bible open to Luke, turn further into the book a few chapters to Chapter 9. Familiar story. Luke 9:10 (read through verse 17). I can’t repeat this enough, I can’t say it enough, I hope by the end of our time together this morning you have it memorized from hearing it. . .”If the vision is from God, the how is God’s problem, and ‘how’ is never a problem for God.”
This winter we are going to look at some key teaching from the Gospel of John. One of the teachings will be Jesus as the vine, and us as the branches. And look what Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”
Apart from God, the “how” is hopeless. But with God, nothing is impossible.
So if “how” is the wrong question, is there a right question? I think so. And I think the question that you need to ask, that we need to ask, that people need to ask more fervently and often is “Why?” “Why is this my vision?” Let me tell you why I think “why” is the question. First. . .
1. “WHY” WILL REVEAL YOUR VISION’S ORIGIN
Just imagine one simple vision someone might have. Imagine someone has a passion, a vision, to see us have a modern worship service with the latest greatest technology and instrumentation. And you walk up and ask them “why”. Think of some of the answers you might get. “Because I like that kind of music.” Kind of reveals the origin of that vision, doesn’t it? Or how about if they answer, “It’s the most popular kind of worship.” Again, kind of reveals the origin of that vision, doesn’t it?
Or how about, “Because I have some lost co-workers at work. They love modern rock. They have said that church is dull and boring, and out of touch with them. They’ve said that if there was a church that knew how to be relevant, and worship God with a passion and excellence, if they could find a church like that. . .they just might go.” Now that kind of reveals a bit different origin of the vision, doesn’t it?
I’m learning as a pastor that when someone comes to me with a new idea, a new ministry they want to launch, a new place they want to get involved. . .don’t ask them “how”, that might just show whether they have applied intellect to the vision. Whether they have planned it in some human form. Ask them “why”, that will show where their vision originated.
Which closely relates to the second thing the “why” question will reveal.
2. “WHY” WILL REVEAL YOUR MOTIVATION
Visions that originate with God, are motivated for God. It’s all about Him. Visions that originate with man tend to be man motivated. They’re all about us.
Check this out. This is so important. Nehemiah didn’t just march into the King, and say, “King. I need to go rebuild a city, and I need you to supply the goods.” Look at what happened. Nehemiah 2:1 (read). Now look at what the King asks. Verse 2 (read).
Why? Why are you this way? The king is saying, before I know anything else, I want to know your motivation. The origin of this emotion. This sadness. This state that you have been walking around in. And after Nehemiah shares the why, look at the king’s response. Verse 3 (read through verse 4a).
The king’s why revealed Nehemiah’s vision origin and motivation, and on that basis, the king had confidence allowing Nehemiah to move forward. Nehemiah wasn’t trying to build his own kingdom. Nehemiah wasn’t trying to raise a power up against the king. Nehemiah was motivated by a pure heart, with a pure vision, and the king knew that after hearing his why.
In fact, you will notice. The why opened the door for the how. And where did Nehemiah go for the how? Look again there in verse 4 (read b). God provided the how, and the how was no problem. Nehemiah knew that. Look at where the credit went. Verse 7 (read through verse 8).
Why will reveal your visions origin, and your motivation. Let me share one more thing on my heart about asking the right question. I believe that the more eternal the “why” answer, the greater the momentum your vision will have. Listen to that one more time, the more eternal the “why” answer, the greater the momentum your vision will have.
I didn’t get this from a book. Came up with it all on my own. So I could be way off base. But the more I reflect on it, the more I believe that when you take your vision that is burning in your spirit, and you ask “Why God? Why won’t this let me go? Why am I finding myself drawn to this?” The more eternal the answer to that question is, the more momentum your vision will have.
Let me illustrate. Let’s say your vision is for your marriage to be Godly, fulfilling and maturing. If you ask yourself why, and answer, “Because I’m tired of fighting.” That won’t sustain it. That is temporary. Eventually, the fatigue from fighting will fade. Eventually, you will even think it is time for a good fight. You might even miss the fight. The vision will die.
If you ask yourself why, and answer, “Because marriage is supposed to be happier than this.” That won’t sustain the vision for your marriage. Eventually you will find other forms of happiness. Eventually you will figure that maybe happy marriage is just a myth. Eventually, you might just say your vision was wrong, and the vision will die.
But if you ask yourself why, and answer, “Because I believe God ordained our marriage, desires to bless it, and His word says that what He has brought together, no man should tear apart.” Now you have put your marriage in God’s perspective. A more eternal perspective. And regardless of what comes against it, in the light of God’s ordination, you will give it everything you have to make it work.
Let’s say your vision is for a great youth department at our church. If you ask yourself why, and answer, “Because my kids will soon be in it, and I want them to be ministered to.” That won’t sustain it. Eventually your kids will grow past the youth department, and your reason will no longer be valid. Your vision for the department will pass along with your children’s birthdays.
If you ask yourself why, and answer, “Because it will be easier for me to get my friends and neighbors to come to church if we have a strong youth department.” That may last a little longer, but it still won’t sustain it. Your friends and neighbors are going to age too. They may not even have teens. Their teens may not have any interest in any church, let alone this one. Their teens may know of dozens of churches where they can find a better youth department anyway. Eventually, your vision for a great youth department will die.
But if you ask yourself why, and answer, “Because I believe Jesus cares about the eternity of teenagers.” Now that will sustain a vision. Jesus will always care about the eternity of teenagers. No matter what music, fashion, or style of youth ministry is en vogue, a vision for youth driven by Jesus concern for their eternity, will never change. The “how” may take on all kinds of different shapes and sizes. But the “why” will keep you focused, and moving forward toward the vision God birthed in your heart.
I don’t know if you have noticed this, but we haven’t gotten real far into this book. Let me tell you “why.” This sermon series isn’t about the wall getting built in Jerusalem. In fact, I hate to spoil the ending for you, but if you don’t already know. . .Nehemiah gets the wall built. Does a great job with it. Record time. Unites the city like never before.
But that’s not what this is about. This is about you. This is about me. This is about our church. Taking the time to come into focus on the vision God has for us. It’s what we call in the ministry, practical application. I don’t want this to just be some great story of God’s moving thousands of years ago. I want this to be something that motivates your life. Picks you up out of the rubble, and inspires you to pursue that vision that God desires to birth in your spirit.
So we have been taking our time. Three weeks. Simply to focus in on that vision. Simply to figure out what is that thing that God would burn in your heart to pursue with a passion for your life. I hope and pray that you are starting to see it. That it is coming into focus for you. And that if someone comes up to you and says, “How you gonna do it?” Rather than letting that kill your vision, you can respond with, “That’s God’s problem, but let me tell you why it must be done!”
My vision is to see God use the church to impact lost lives in our community. To see people come into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through the ministries and workings of local churches. Throughout my two years here, I’ve heard a lot of different “how” questions. I haven’t been able to answer a whole bunch of them. And I’ve let that discourage me.
Some of them I’ve answered, “I don’t know. That’s God’s problem.” And had people look at me like, “That’s great pastor. Sounds real spiritual, but isn’t very real world.” And I’ve let that discourage me.
You know what? I still believe that the vision in my heart for this city is from God. And I still believe that makes the “how” God’s problem. And I still believe for God, “how” is not a problem. And I still believe one more thing. . .why it must be done. Because people are lost, and dying every day, and entering into an eternity of pain and sorrow separated from their creator and their heavenly Father, and that just is not acceptable. And the day it becomes acceptable in my mind, is the day I need to hang up my preaching Bible, and go sell insurance.
My “why” sustains me. Keeps me going. Drives my vision, and keeps it clearly in focus. Don’t lose at Jeopardy. Ask the right question. Then watch God provide the answers.
(Major inspiration for this sermon was derived from Andy Stanley’s "Visoneering", and Dan Southerland’s "Transitions".)