11-29-2015 message by Pastor Rich Doebler

God At Work…lifting our vision

I want to talk to you for a few minutes today about vision.

Vision answers questions like: Where are we going? Why are we here? What are we doing? Where is God taking us? What do we see down the road ahead?

“Vision” is needed for business, government, leadership of all kinds. Inventors and explorers have vision to see things in new, fresh ways never been seen before.

Vision fires the imagination. You see it in people like Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, who developed computers for the average person. Or Orville and Wilbur Wright, who built a flying machine. Or
Thomas Edison who invented the phonograph, the movie camera, the electric light bulb—he held over 1,000 U.S. patents.

Vision is like that. It often means seeing things or hearing things others can’t. Vision opens the door to oppportunity. Vision unlocks creativity and innovation. Vision helps shape the future.

But there’s another kind of vision that goes beyond invention and creativity.

There is spiritual vision. Spiritual vision is more than physical vision. Spiritual vision taps spiritual power in the spiritual realms. It supercedes anything ever dreamed of by the Edisons, the Wright brothers, the Wozniaks or Steve Jobs of this world.

So let’s take a look at this kind of vision—spiritual vision.

The Bible says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” (Prov 21:18, KJV)

This verse helps us understand what vision actually means, because the rest of the verse provides the opposite truth:
“but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” The contrast is between “no vision” and “law”—that is to say, the commandments or the word of God.

So we see that “vision” means an insight or word from the Lord. It’s a “revelation”—or a prophetic utterance. “Vision” speaks of God’s guidance and direction. Vision is the ability to see and understand the ways of God.

[Also see 1 Sam 3:1—in those days, visions from God were infrequent; Lam 2:9—find no vision from the Lord; 1 Chron 12:32—from Issachar, men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do]

KJV: “Where there is no vision…”  But the NIV says, “Where there is no revelation…” CEV: “Without guidance from God…” NCV: “Where there is no word from God…”

And what happens when there is no word or guidance from God? The KJV says, “The people perish.”

The word “perish,” of course, means “to die”—but that’s English. The original Hebrew word had a very different connotation. I checked 49 different English versions: only 9 say “perish” (and most of those were derived from the KJV).

So what do the other 40 translations say instead of “perish”? They say that without a vision, “people cast off restraint” (NIV) or “are unrestrained” (NASB) or “lose self-control” (ERV) or “are uncontrolled” (NCV).

NLV says “Where there is no understanding of the Word of the Lord, the people do whatever they want to…” NLT says “When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild…”

I think you get the picture: If we don’t hear from God—if we’re not guided by a vision from God—then there are no constraints on human behavior. Without godly guidelines or boundaries, people act crazy.

Have you ever driven bumper cars at an amusement park? With no rules and no traffic laws? Instead of using roads with lines and well-defined lanes, everyone weaves wildly through the crowd, crashing into each other. Instead of following traffic signals that tell you when to go and when to stop, everyone does what they want. They try to get their own way by force, crashing into others.

That’s pretty much the way the world is these days. So many people taking everything they can. They push others out of their way. They don’t care about right or wrong. They don’t care about rules. They don’t care about the feelings of others. They live undisciplined, uncontrolled lives. It’s a “bumper car” world! Without God’s guidance, life would be like driving bumper cars.

The news is filled with stories of destructive behavior and its consequences: drug overdoses, armed robberies, gang warfare, rape, domestic abuse, divorce, terrorist attacks, police shootings, and so on.

Just Friday in Chicago, while shoppers from entering stores by protesters angry over a police shooting, a funeral was held for Tyshawn Lee, a 9-year-old boy who was on his way to play basketball when he was lured into an an alley and shot—just because his father was a member of a rival gang. The priest at St. Sabina Church, Father Michael Pfleger said, “This is a new low for Chicago”—a city where 427 have been murdered this year.

Prov 29:18 (CEV) says “Without guidance from God, law and order disappear…” GNT gets even more specific and says “A nation without God’s guidance is a nation without order…”

We see this same principle in Judges 21:25 where it says in the early days of Israel as a nation, when there was no king in the land (to provide central rule or authority), people did whatever they wanted to do: “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (NASB)

In other words: Each man for himself! It’s still the same today.

Without a vision from God, without a godly revelation to guide the people, without a word from the Lord, there are no rules, no controls, no laws.

The reason why society is such a mess these days is because they don’t know God. People don’t know God’s word. Society is unraveling—coming apart at the seams—because we’ve turned away from the revelation of God. The breakdown of the family, the disintegration of law and order, the chaos in the world, all our social ills can be traced back to people thumbing their noses at God. Where there is no vision, the people perish.

[Compare Amos 8:11—famine for the words of the Lord.]

This is why we need a vision! Without a vision, society dies. Without a vision, people “perish”—that is to say, we lose control and live undisciplined, self-destructive lives.

(Prov 14:12, NASB) There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death. (repeated in Prov 16:25)

And in the NT: (Rom 6:23) The wages of sin is death…

If we don’t have a fresh revelation from God, our lives spin out of control! We run amok. Without a vision, we can’t see how to live. We wander about blindly, doing whatever—and that’s a dangerous way to live.

On May 10, 1996, Jon Krakauer made it to the top of Mount Everest. It had been a harrowing experience: his muscles were exhausted, his limbs frozen, his brain starved for oxygen. But he had succeeded. In that rarified atmosphere, he paused for only a few minutes before heading down the mountain. As he descended, massive clouds rose up to meet him. Soon thunder, lightning, and a snow storm threatened to disorient him—but he was close enough to base camp number 4 to find the sheltering tents before the full force of the storm hit.

Four other climbers, however, were behind Jon. Although they had arrived at the summit shortly before him, they lingered longer. Now, facing the brunt of the storm and the approaching night, they were paying the price for their delay. Exhausted and lost, they decided to stop—to simply lay down and wait out the night and the storm. They hoped they could get their bearings in the morning.

When they awoke in the morning, the storm had lifted, and they could see where they were. With their vision restored, they discovered that they had lain down just one step away from the 4,000-foot cliff of the South Wall. They had slept the night on the edge of a cliff in the middle of a snowstorm. [From Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer—from preachingtoday.com]

Our society is on the edge of disaster. Asleep. Unaware. People are blinded by culture—and just a step away from destruction! People don’t realize the danger they’re in!

Society has grown complacent and apathetic, lulled to sleep by a false sense of security. Sin and compromise have dulled our spiritual senses. But it’s not just society in trouble…

Many churches and Christians also are asleep on the edge of a cultural cliff. Unable to see clearly, without vision, even believers can become disoriented and in danger of going over the edge.

We need vision from God so we don’t lose our way. We need a revelation—a word from God telling us what to do and where to go—otherwise we may perish in these chaotic times, in the cultural wars, in the storms of society.

The Bible says, ““Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (Eph 5:14)

God has a purpose and a plan for you. He wants to show you his way. He wants to reveal himself and give you a vision—so you don’t cast off restraint or run wild.

God wants the church—and each one in it—to receive fresh vision and revelation from him. God wants to shine a light on our path so we can see what to do and where to go.

In the NT book of Ephesians, we read about the change God wants to make in us. It’s literally the difference between night and day. Ephesians was written to people who’d been completely immersed in the first-century Roman culture…but then they discovered God’s grace through Jesus. They were saved!

8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” [And here is what we are to do]
15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. (Eph 5:8-18)

We’re in a spiritual battle. Many can’t see God or hear his word because the devil uses our culture to blind us to the problem and lull us to sleep: 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Cor 4:4)

But this isn’t just a problem for the world. Believers also need to wake up. These words were written to believers! To wake us up. To overcome spiritual blindness (to have spiritual vision), we need God!

We must recognize our desperate need. We must see how we are caught in sin and darkness. We must turn away from this world and turn to the Lord. We must repent and ask him to rescue us.

God saves us and gives us vision (wisdom, revelation, guidance)—what we need to “live as children of light” (v 8). As a result, we can win the spiritual battle. We have the vision (the ability to see and look for) what pleases the Lord (v 10).

Too many worry only about pleasing themselves or trying to please others. What’s most important, though, is pleasing God. Then we see several things that help us maintain this spiritual vision

  1. (v 15) Be careful how you live. As God gives you a growing vision and revelation of his ways, discipline yourself to live wisely. Practice doing what pleases the Lord. We understand how an athlete has to train and practice. Nobody walks on the field and plays the game at a professional level without first spending hours and hours—years and years—of practice.
    (1 Tim 4:7-8) …train yourself [or exercise yourself, discipline yourself] to be godly. 8 For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.
  2. (v 16) Make the most of every opportunity (KJV: “redeeming the time”). Especially now “because the days are evil.” A vision from God—hearing his word, receiving guidance from him—will give us new opportunities!
    There’s a story about Thomas Edison as a young teen—probably just a fable—that tells how he got a job as a telegraph operator. He arrived late, and a number of applicants were already ahead of him, waiting to be interviewed while the clicking and clacking sounds of Morse Code filled the air. Tom sat down with the others, but after a few moments, he stood up and walked through the door to the inner office, plainly marked “Private.” Soon the manager emerged from the office and told the other applicants they could all go home. The job was filled. Naturally, they all protested. Why hadn’t they been given a chance to be interviewed or to prove themselves? “You were,” the manager said. “While you all sat here, I was sending out a message in Morse Code: If you hear this, come in. The job is yours.” He gave the job to the first one who heard it and came in.”
    Are you listening for God’s word? Looking for a revelation from him? A vision from the Lord will open doors of opportunity to you. Making the most of every opportunity also includes…
  3. (v 17) Understand what God’s will is. Vision means more than hearing God’s word. It means understanding and obeying what God says.
    (James 1:22, NKJV) But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
  4. (v 18) Be filled with the Spirit.

Notice that before we can BEGIN doing these things, we must STOP other things. To DO one thing, we must NOT do the opposite thing.

To be disciplined and trained to follow God’s ways, you cannot live undisciplined, uncontrolled lives doing your own thing. If you want to be filled with the Spirit, then you can’t be filled with anything else: Don’t get drunk on wine…

OUR PURPOSE: Helping each other take the next step on our journey with Christ.

OUR VALUES (motivational CONVICTIONS): God is alive. People are important. Life is a journey. Better things are coming. So…

Because we believe God is alive, we believe his supernatural power is available today to change people! So we work and pray, expecting broken people to be healed, sinners to be forgiven, those who are stuck in habits and addictions to be set free. We expect change in everyone who experiences God’s life.

Because we believe people are important, we invest ourselves in people. We value them and help them and challenge them. We affirm their future in a community of people who care for each other.

Because we believe life is a journey, we’re going to walk through this life together. We’re traveling together to reach our destiny of becoming more like Christ. We’re in process—becoming transformed into his image, going from one degree of glory to another (see 2 Cor 3:18).

Because we believe better things are coming, we’re not going to give up or quit until the better things come. We’re going to keep pressing on to take hold of that for which Christ took hold of us, pressing on
toward the goal to win the prize for which God called us heavenward in Christ Jesus (see Phil 3:12,14)

God can change you! God changes unrestrained, undisciplined people by giving a vision—a vision of his ways, his word, his grace, his Son, Jesus Christ. Do you want change?


God at Work – Lifting our Vision