Summary: Our Scripture today is from Proverbs 29:18 “Without a vision the people perish.” With a clear vision from Christ, no ocean of difficulty is too great. Without it, we rarely move beyond our current boundaries or comfort zones.
Lynn Anderson tells the story a shipload of pilgrims who landed on the northeast coast of America 350 years ago. The first year they established a town site. The next year they elected a town government. The third year the town government planned to build a road five miles westward into the wilderness. In the fourth year the people tried to impeach their town government because they thought it was a waste of public funds to build a road five miles westward into a wilderness. Who needed to go there anyway? Here were people who had the vision to see 3000 miles across an ocean and overcome great hardships to get there. But in just a few years they were not able to see even five miles out of town. They had lost their vision.
Our Scripture today is from Proverbs 29:18 “Without a vision the people perish.” With a clear vision from Christ, no ocean of difficulty is too great. Without it, we rarely move beyond our current boundaries or comfort zones. Helen Keller was asked “What would be worse than being born blind?” to which she replied “Having sight without a vision.” The writer of Proverbs knew that discerning God’s vision and living out that vision was at the heart of being a follower of God. It is at the center of the life of being the people of God. But without a vision, the body of Christ is loses its way and is in danger of dying.
What is vision? George Barna writes, "Vision….is a clear mental image of a preferable future imparted by God to His chosen servants and is based upon an accurate understanding of God, self and circumstances." Vision is a portrait of a future that does not yet exist, stretching reality beyond the current circumstances to make a better future. Vision by its very nature implies change as it is grounded in the acknowledgment that we are not the people or the church God has called us to be and yet we are given the grace and the power to change.
At the heart of a vision is the idea that God is the very center of life. People today usually add God into their life. That is to say, that God is a part of their life but not necessarily their life. So you have a vocational part of your life, a family part of your life, a marriage part of your, a parenting part of your life and standing next to all of those is the spiritual part of your life. The ancient Israelites approached life and spirituality very differently. They didn’t believe that a relationship with God, serving and worshipping God were a part of life, they believed it was the very essence of life. So much so, that they understood if you were living apart from God, you were essentially dead because the very purpose of life is to live, serve and worship God. Apart from that, we are nothing and everything else is meaningless.
So at the very heart of being God’s people is not only understanding God’s purpose and vision for the body of Christ but pursuing it as well. The question we must begin seeking the answer to today is: “What is God’s vision for our church?” I was talking a church leaders last week and the leader dreamed of our current sanctuary filled with 400 people in worship each Sunday. That’s a wonderful hope and dream but not necessarily a vision. There are several things we need to learn about vision before we begin seeking God’s vision for our church
First, a God’s ordained vision is the ability to see the need. Nehemiah lived in the royal city of Susa, and served the Persian King Artaxerxes as his cupbearer. This was a position of great responsibility as he tested the king’s wine and food to make sure it wasn’t poisoned. He had a comfortable position and one of luxury living and serving the king. And then Nehemiah’s brother came to visit bringing the news about Jerusalem. Its walls were flattened, gates burned, the city was abandonedand and the morale of the people living aound Jerusalem were at an all-time low. These were desperate days. Instead of a magnificent city, Jerusalem was in shambles; and where there had once been great glory, there was now nothing but great reproach. God was being dishonored as long as Jerusalem lay waste. This was the place where the reality of God’s presence would be experienced in love and mercy by those who sought Him. Instead, it laid in ruins. The city of Jerusalem needed to be rebuilt, not just for God but for the Jews as well.
Second, A God-ordained vision will always begin as a concern. In other words, you feel the need or pain of a situation. Something will bother you about the way things are or the way they are headed. A need will grip your heart or a situation will take hold of your thoughts and you can’t get rid of it because it won’t let go of you. This is what happened when Nehemiah’s brother shared the state of conditions back in Judah. It literally broke Nehemiah’s heart. It consumed his thoughts and led to restless nights of sleep. Nehemiah was so moved by the need that he refused to eat—at least on a regular basis. Nehemiah felt the pressure and burden in his own heart. And he could not let it go. Or better yet, it would not let go of him. A God-ordained vision will always begin as a concern. Anyone with vision will tell you this is not merely something that could be done. This is something that should be done. You are never used of God until God has opened your heart and made you feel deep sorrow about the needs around you.