July 18, 2023

Vision: The Fuel that Disciples Run On!

Series: Discipleship Scripture: Proverbs 29:18

Proverbs 29:18, KJV, “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.”

Proverbs 29:18, ESV, “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint but blessed is he who keeps the law.”

Proverbs 29:18, could be translated, "Where there is no continuing redemptive revelation of God, the people of God are in a state of wasting away."

Pastor Bill Hybels, in his book, Courageous Leadership, writes, "Vision is at the very core of leadership. Take vision away from a leader and you cut out his or her heart.  Vision is the fuel that leaders run on. It's the energy that creates action. It's the fire that ignites the passion of followers. It's the clear call that sustains focused effort year after year, decade after decade, as people offer consistent and sacrificial service to God."

If vision is the fuel that disciples run on, then it is no wonder that there is so little disciple-making taking place in the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ today!

Futurologist Tom Sine was correct in his assessment of the situation existing in the Church in the Western world today as he writes, “I am even more concerned at how few take seriously the importance of vision. I firmly believe the number one crisis in the church today is a crisis of vision.”

Pastor Kris Volloton states, “Vision is the bridge between the present and the future. Without it, we perish or go “unrestrained,” as the New American Standard Bible puts it. Vision gives pain a purpose. Those without vision spend their lives taking the path of least resistance as they try to avoid discomfort. The level of sacrifice that a vision requires will determine the size of people who follow. Sacrifice separates the small from the great.”

In treating the text accurately, we must admit that the Hebrew word "vision" (from the vision [khazah, "to see"]) really refers to divine communication to prophets (as in 1Sam 3:1) and not to individual insight, goals or plans. The TEV translates the word as "guidance"; the NIV retains "revelation", and the ESV translates it as “prophetic vision”.  Although the primary meaning of the text refers to divine communication to prophets, nevertheless, by way of secondary application, I think it is permissible to use the verse in respect to the importance of getting God’s vision by getting on our heart what He has on His, as well as understanding the implications of not having such a vision.

The fact of the matter is that church leaders or disciples without vision are like an airplane without wings -- regardless of the energy and motion generated, it will never fly. Vision is non-negotiable for developing disciples who grow and reproduce!

The Absence of Proper Vision has Pervasive Implications!

The word translated "perish" in Proverbs 29:18 has various meanings, which agree with the text. It may be rendered, "the people become idle"; “to cease from the performance of good works,“ grow immoral in their manners” and “wicked in their practices”: to “become headstrong; to be fierce, obstinate, and ungovernable, and rebel against their superiors: to be "made naked"; “stripped of their ornaments; of their privileges, civil as well as religious, which is often the case where no vision is; as well as of all virtue and morality, and of the blessing and protection of God.” Thus we see that the word translated "perish" is a Hebrew word that is heavily pregnant with implications from "casting off restraint, to loosen, to dissolve, to break up, to go to pieces, and to perish!" 

Where there is no vision, no prophet to expound the law, no priest or Levite to teach the good knowledge of the Lord, no means of grace, the word of the Lord is scarce, there is no open vision (1 Samuel 3:1, “And the child Samuel ministered unto the LORD before Eli. And the word of the LORD was precious in those days; there was no open vision.”) There was no “open vision” means there was no publicly known prophet raised up, to whom the people could apply for counsel, direction, and instruction in divine things.

My mentor, Herb Hodges properly notes the implications of no vision as he writes, “What does "no vision" mean in Biblical terms? It means that there is no awareness of God and His Perfect Plan. It means that Satan, "the god of this world," has "blinded the minds of men" to the only things that really and ultimately count! They cannot see or understand these things without regeneration and/or illumination (see I Corinthians 2:9?14).  Thus, there is no continuous traffic between heaven and the hearts of men. There is no commerce with that which is invisible, eternal, spiritual, and real. There is no listening to God and looking to Him. In short, "no vision" means that men do not see "the High and Holy One, Who inhabits Eternity," so we are limited to our little horizons and our selfish, petty, sinful plans.”

Leonard Sweet said: "We are living a gospel that produces nice people rather than saints; that stands for convention rather than adventure; is respectable rather than passionate; that calls for safety first / take care living rather than heroic/take risks living; that is more at home with the status quo than the supernatural."

George Barna said, “Unless God’s people have a clear understanding of where they’re headed, the probability of a successful journey is severely limited, at best.  Unless you attend to His call upon your life and ministry, you are likely to experience confusion, weariness, dissipation and lack of impact.”

Preacher Rodney Johnson declared, “No organization will survive without vision. Apart from vision, individuals will perish. Without vision, our children will perish. Without vision, communities will perish.  Without vision, churches will perish. Without vision, societies will perish. Without vision, lost souls will perish. Without vision, the sick and the elderly will perish. Without vision, the incarcerated will perish.  Without vision, we as a people will surely perish.”

The Presence of Proper Vision Brings Productive Motivation!

A. Vision is Started by Faith

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” Hebrews 11:1 (NASB). For the Christian, it is impossible to talk of proper vision without speaking of faith. Vision and faith go hand in hand. Vision spawns faith and faith, in turn, enlarges vision. Here are two faith-building exercises God gave Abraham: Count the stars; count the sand. God used these metaphoric exercises to buttress Abraham's vision. And it worked: "Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed...being fully persuaded that God had power to do what He had promised" (see Romans 4:18-21).

A Louisiana Cajun had put his mule up for sale. A prospective buyer asked, `Are there any problems with the mule? The Cajun answered, "Only that he don't look so good." The man answered, "Well, I don't really care about that. Does he work hard?" "Oh, yea, he work hard, he just don't look so good." So the man bought the mule, and the Cajun loaded him onto the new owner's trailer. When he arrived at his farm, he put down the ramp and brought the mule off the trailer. The mule immediately ran into a tree, then into the side of the barn. The farmer cried angrily, "I've been cheated! This mule is blind!" He reloaded the mule onto the trailer, went back to the original owner, and loudly exclaimed, "You mis­represented this mule to me. This mule is blind. You lied to me!" "Oh, no," the Cajun replied, "I don't lie to you. I tol' you, `He don't look so good'!" Friends, everything depends on how good we look, how well we see.

Vision has everything to do with sight, but not natural sight. Vision is seeing through the eyes of the heart. True vision is far more powerful than natural sight. A leader filled with vision can look beyond small numbers, financial difficulty, and impossibilities of the present and see, with clarity and passion, the future as if it has already come to pass. For the leader, present problems are temporary inconveniences to be tolerated on the road to what will certainly be a more glorious future. The future is just around the corner. In seeing it, the leader can almost touch it.

How Are We to Define Vision?

Vision is a mental image of God's plan, based on God's Word, imparted by the Holy Spirit to His willing people, accompanied by the power of God to accomplish the purpose of God.

Leroy Eims said: “Vision is seeing a harvest when everyone else sees a plowed field.”

Biblical vision never comes from a majority's common agreement; it comes from God. A vision from God will be preceded by a greater vision of God. The often quoted "vision verse," Proverbs 29:18, could be translated, "Where there is no continuing redemptive revelation of God, the people of God are in a state of wasting away."

BIBLICAL VISION INVOLVES THREE TYPES OF SIGHT:

True Godly vision consists of foresight, insight and oversight that come from His-sight.

Foresight is like looking at life through a telescope. This outlook allows us to know what is ahead as it connects us to our future. Foresight is the element of vision that helps life make sense and gives us the motivation that we described earlier.

Insight is like viewing life through a microscope. This perception gives us an understanding of why things happen in life. It also helps determine the underlying motivations of the heart.

Oversight puts life into context. It is like flying over our house in a helicopter. There is a perspective that we can only receive from this vista that helps us understand where we are with respect to where everything else is. The sons of Issachar are great examples of this kind of vision. The book of I Chronicles says that these men understood the times and had knowledge of what Israel should do (12:32). People that are blessed with this type of vision often have great wisdom concerning the seasons of life.

His sight assures us that the vision we have is from God. A vision from the Lord creates a mission from heaven. This is illustrated in the life of Moses when he went up on the mountain, received a vision of the tabernacle, and was told to construct it according to the pattern that he had received. (Exodus 24:16-28:43) Visions like this are just “pipe dreams” without some sort of administrative plan to complete them. A lot of people have lofty ideas about things they would like to accomplish for God but they seem to have no sense of how to see the dream fulfilled.

David Shibley reminds us that “Your vision should be large enough to honor God and attract people."

One visionary who always led in light of the Great Commission was Henrietta C. Mears, the founder of Gospel Light and the most innovative Christian educator of her day. She said: "There is no magic in small plans. When I consider my ministry, I think of the world. Anything less than that would not be worthy of Christ nor His will for my life."

Missionary to India, William Carey said: “Attempt great things for God. Expect great things from God.”

B. Vision is Substantiated by Scripture

Eugene Peterson said, "There is no living the life of faith, whether by prophet or person, without some kind of sustaining vision. At some deep level we need to be convinced, and in some way or other, we need periodic reminders, that no words are mere words. In particular, God's words are not mere words. They are promises that lead to fulfillments. God performs what He announces. God does what He says."

Where did Jesus' visions come from? They came from the images of the Scriptures, for Jesus was steeped in the Old Tes­tament Scriptures. So when at his baptism Jesus heard the voice of the Father saying, "This is my beloved Son," he was likely seeing in his mind the picture of Abraham ready to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac, or the picture of the beloved servant from Isaiah Forty Two.

Jesus was far more than an entrepreneur. He was not just another ecstatic prophet. His visions were not created or invented; they were truths that he saw from his Father and truths he lived. He himself explained this: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does" (John 5:19-20).

Jesus was a leader who paid attention. Vision for Jesus was seeing how the truth, as his Father showed it, touched life as Jesus lived it.

Leighton Ford writes, “If we are going to be leaders in Christ, our vision must come from the same place as Jesus'. It must come from the Word of our God, and from Spirit-filled minds and imaginations, and from asking, "How does Jesus see my world and my life and the people around me?" Our task is not to dream up visions or to develop strategies, but to see Jesus' visions and understand what the Father's strategy is for our lives.”

Acts 17:11, “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”

We are to be like the Berean Christians, who with readiness of mind received the Word, yet they did not swallow it in a blind faith, but since Paul reasoned out of the scriptures and referred them to the Old Testament for the proof of what he said, they substantiated his teachings with their Bibles. No doubt they turned to the places to which he referred them, read the context, considered the scope and drift of them, compared them with other places of scripture, examined whether Paul's inferences from them were natural and genuine and his arguments upon them cogent, and determined accordingly.

Likewise, we are to make sure that any vision we receive or formulate is supported by scripture. It may be extra-biblical in that it is not directly stated or forbidden in scripture, but that does not make it unbiblical.

C. Vision is Sustained by Hope

A leader is a dealer in hope. —Napoleon Bonaparte. "Where there is no vision, there is no hope." - George Washington Carver

Biblical hope is a future certainty grounded in a present reality – and the present reality is the indwelling, infilling presence of the Holy Spirit – who is the Other Jesus without a body.

Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”

The above text declares that we are to abound in this true and sure hope because it is life-giving, faith-supporting, vision-sustaining, love-affirming, joy-creating, peace-giving, power-imparting, and victory-assuring. This hope in future certainty is based upon the Word of God; it springs from the power of the Holy Spirit; it centers in and celebrates the Presence of the Person of Christ. This hope is designed to permeate, enliven, fill, embolden, and energize the believer – enabling them to enjoy God, irrespective of how dark the times, difficult their troubles, or how powerful the enemy appears!

Dudley Hall writes: “Hope is the foundation of all purposeful behavior. Something has happened in history that makes everything make sense. There is a future that makes the present meaningful. The recipients of the gospel have a reservoir of blessings in the bank of heaven. They can draw on the account now and forever.”

Vision sustains the disciple when his or her best hopes are reduced to ashes because its hope is heavenly conceived and not just humanly crafted.

D. Vision is the Shaper of Our Thoughts

"Visions," says Thomas Sowell, "are the silent shapers of our thoughts, which grip the actors in history and determine how they act. One way of seeing things is what he calls the "constrained" vision, which takes very seriously human evil and self-centeredness."

“A vision is the dominant factor that governs your life. It determines all the choices you are making. It's what's left after all the layers are peeled away like an onion. It's what your mind naturally gravitates toward when it is not legitimately concentrating on something else. It's ... what determines your friendships and your relationships that you are cultivating ... It's what your prayers are about--what you dream about and are giving money toward.” (Phil Grant)

Some years ago a British communist worker, Douglas Hyde, came to faith in Christ. In his book Dedication and Leadership, he analyzed why the communists were so successful and what others could learn about leadership development from them: “Marx concluded his Communist Manifesto with the words "You have a world to win." Here is a tremendous aim. In material terms, one could hardly aim higher. The belief that the world is there to be won and that Communists can win it is firmly implanted in the mind of every Com­munist cadre. It is with him all the time Communists, says Hyde, believe that if you make big demands on people you will get a big response.”

The vision of world conquest has captured the imagination of millions of Communists, but Jesus' vision was even wider. See, for example, how Jesus' vision of the kingdom he proclaims actually goes into action in the first two chapters of Mark's Gospel.

Jesus shows his followers that his kingdom is God's total answer for their total need. He calls fishermen to follow him, drives out an evil spirit and heals many of diseases. He teaches with authority in the synagogue and cleanses a man who has leprosy. He forgives and heals a paralyzed man and calls a tax collector to follow him.

Here was a total kingdom. It offered teaching for the ignorant of mind, deliverance for those oppressed spiritually, healing for the diseased, forgive­ness for the sinner, and reconciliation for all to God. Here was good news for the entire world!

E. Vision is Strengthened by Constant Repetition and Clear Articulation

Discipleship is about relationship, leadership, and Great Commission partnership that is strategizing on going to the ends of the earth to make disciples of all nations. Effective discipleship/leadership begins with a clear vision, whether for your personal life, your family, or an organization. If your followers don't know where you are going and where you are trying to take them, they will have a hard time getting excited about the journey. It is especially important to have a compelling vision that provides direc­tion and focuses everyone's energy on getting where they are headed.

According to Ken and Jesse Stoner in their book, Full Steam Ahead: The Power of Vision, a compelling vision has three parts. To engage the hearts and minds of others, you must be able to communicate the following three things:

  1. Your purpose -- What "business" are you in? Where are you going and why? Or in terms of your family, what is your family all about? Where is your family going and why?
  2. Your picture of the future -- What will your future look like if you are accomplishing your purpose?
  3. Your values -- What do you stand for? On what principles will you make your ongoing decisions?

A compelling vision tells people who they are, where they are going, and what will guide their journey.

A man was struggling to get his washing machine through the front door of his home as his neighbor was walking past. The neighbor, being a good neighbor, stopped and asked if he could help. The man breathed a sigh of relief and said, “That would be great. I’ll get it from the inside and you get it from the outside. We should be able to handle this quickly.”

But after five minutes of continual struggle, they were both exhausted. Wiping the sweat from his brow, the neighbor said, “This thing is bigger than it looks. I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to get it into your house.”

“Into my house”, cried the man? “I’m trying to get this thing out of my house!”

Few things are more vital than clear communication, particularly for leaders. The ability to cast or clearly communicate one’s vision to others to the extent that cooperate with you in getting it out of the house is strategic.

Pastor Andy Stanley sets forth five things to do in regards to communicating one’s vision to others.

  1. State it simply -- Generational reproduction requires greater simplicity. There is no advantage to a complex vision that no one knows or remembers. Your vision statement needs to be short to be remembered. Your vision statement does not need to be self-defining…it needs to be memorable
  2. Cast it convincingly -- A good Biblical example is found in Nehemiah 2 -- Define the Problem: without this, no one cares. Offer a Solution: what must be done, or what will go undone if we do not do it? Explain why and why now.
  3.  Repeat it regularly  -- VISION LEAKS so repeat it regularly and encourage those to whom you are trying to convey the vision to repeat it with you.

A vision that remains merely in your mind is only a dream.  When you commit something to writing, a commitment to achievement of the written dream naturally follows.  Every Christian should carefully think out and carefully write out the personal “mission statement” which he intends to follow in obeying Christ.  The written vision and corresponding goals are like lane markers on a running track; they tell us and others where to run.  Without such lane markers, we are more likely to waste time by hesitating or by running haphazardly or in the wrong direction.

For future reference, for personal reinforcement, for a perpetual reminder, for penetrating relay of the message, the vision should be written down. “The weakest ink is far stronger than the strongest think.”

  1. Celebrate constantly-- You are painting mental pictures (hard to see) so publicly share stories of success. Stories do more to clarify vision than anything…don’t miss the opportunity
  2. Embrace it personally and publicly -- Don’t try and control people, instead invite them into your vision by showing them you believe in it (join a life group, be a disciple, etc.) A great leader's courage to fulfill his vision comes from passion, not position. —John Maxwell

F. Vision, When Convincingly Shared Focuses the Energy Efficiently

Someone defined vision as a “mental image, a vivid description of what will happen when the mission is achieved. It engages our spirit, expressed our deepest wishes, inspires performance, connects us with others and aligns energy”.

Vision prioritizes your life and affects the choices we make. Time management moves from theory to necessity. Without a clear vision we tend to make choices based on what is pressing us at the moment.

With a clear vision, we make long-term choices that produce genuine change. We cease to react to circumstances and begin to act in light of the compelling vision. Interestingly, the greater the vision, the fewer your options. Your days and minutes are determined. Unnecessary activity diminishes in direct proportion to the size and clarity of the vision.

David Shibley writes, “God-given vision calls to you in the night and focuses you in the day.

Aubrey Malphur said it best: "Christian leaders are godly people (character) who know where they are going (vision) and have followers (influence). If you don't know where you're going, please don't try to lead others. We don't need more spiritual nomads.”

I start with the premise that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers. —Ralph Nader

Soon after the completion of Disney World someone said, “Isn’t it too bad that Walt Disney didn’t live to see this!” Mike Vance, creative director of Disney Studios replied, “He did see it—that’s why it’s here.”

G. Vision becomes Successful by Implementation

A formula concerning vision:

No vision = total failure; (The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision. - Helen Keller)

Limited vision = little success;

A vision - a plan - action = only a dream;

A vision + a plan -  action = a haunting dream (guilt); but

A vision + a plan + action = a spiritually productive ministry.

“One man awake Can waken another; The second can waken His next-door brother. The three awake Can rouse a town By turning the whole Place upside down The many awake Can make such a fuss That it finally awakens The rest of us. One man up, With dawn in his eyes, MULTIPLIES!”

Ever hear of Ronald Gerald Wayne? He was born May 17, 1934, and is a retired electronics industry worker. He founded Apple Computer (now Apple Inc.) with Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, providing key administrative oversight for the new venture. He soon, however, gave up his share of the new company for a total of $2,300.

He worked with Steve Jobs at Atari before he, Jobs, and Wozniak founded Apple Computer on April 1, 1976. Serving as the venture's "adult supervision", Wayne drew the first Apple logo, wrote the three men's original partnership agreement, and wrote the Apple I manual.

Wayne received a 10% stake in Apple but relinquished his stock for $800 dollars less than two weeks later, on April 13, 1976. Legally, all members of a partnership are personally responsible for any debts incurred by any partner; unlike Jobs and Wozniak, then 21 and 25,

Later that year, venture capitalist Arthur Rock and Mike Markkula helped develop a business plan and convert the partnership to a corporation. Wayne received another check, for $1,500, for his agreement to forfeit any claims against the new company.

Wayne also stated that he felt the Apple enterprise "would be successful, but at the same time there would be bumps along the way and I couldn't risk it. I had already had a rather unfortunate business experience before. I was getting too old and those two were whirlwinds. It was like having a tiger by the tail and I couldn't keep up with these guys." Had he kept his 10% share of the stock, it would have been worth over 75 billion dollars in May 2017.

When God gives you His vision, you sense His presence, perceive His power and focus on His plan for fulfillment.

Clear vision creates the future. It fosters hope and lifts people. A vision from God will lift you and all who embrace the vision out of despondency.

The words of Proverbs 29:18 were written by King Solomon, a man in whose reign the vision faded.  And there was no more disastrous failure in the history of Israel than that of Solomon.  The people went to pieces!  The nation collapsed!  The Kingdom was divided!

The alternative before us is clear: it is either "VISION OR DIVISION"!  This is true universally, nationally, locally, but especially is it true in the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the individual Christian life!

We must wait upon God in quietness and prayer, armed with a deep sense of need and a teachable heart, and ask Him to restore the vision?? of His overwhelming Personal Glory, and of His overpowering Plan for us and the world!

Dawson Trotman, the founder of The Navigators, said, "Spiritual vision is getting on your heart what is on God's heart—people - the world of people!"  Paul prayed that the Colossian Christians might "see things from God's point of view" (Colossians 1:9, Phillips).  What a revolution would occur if we did.