One of the elements of living successfully that has become clear to me in recent years is the matter of vision. Most people live their lives in the hope that something good will eventually happen in their lives. They wait for opportunities or circumstances to emerge in a way that will lead them to some kind of successful experience. Often they are not exactly sure what success will actually look like but they think they will recognize it when they see it. And in some instances it is amazing to see how some people seem to literally bump into success of one kind or another.
However, it seems to me that most people move toward success in one form or another because they are inspired by an idea, a concept, or a person. In other words they become preoccupied with a vision of some future reality based on some insight that captures their imagination. To me this seems like a very biblical concept. Though our lives are totally dependent upon God’s providence and grace in a general sense we come to experience God’s grace in a more specific ways in response to faith. And faith is not mere belief in the idea that something good will happen for its own sake. No! Faith is a conviction that God will do something in line with what He has revealed. Faith is taking God at His Word. It is the substance of trust in the promises of God.
So it is that from a Christian perspective vision is faith in action. Vision is the insight that comes from seeing the reality of some spiritual truth in the Bible and building your life upon it. Vision is grasping hold of a spiritual concept that can meet a very pressing personal or societal need. It is something in the spiritual world that relates to and can bring change to the human condition. That is why the Bible is such a powerful book. It postulates spiritual realities that can actually change the way people think and live. And it includes the recipe for the supernatural means by which these things can be accomplished.
Ephesians is a great example of a book of the Bible that paints a picture of a spiritual reality concerning the life of someone who is a Christian. It speaks of that kind of person’s purity from God’s point of view. It speaks of such a person being adopted into God’s family, of being totally forgiven of all sin, of understanding the mystery of God’s will and purposes, and of being branded by the presence of God’s indwelling Holy Spirit. Paul prays that the eyes of the Ephesian Christians might be opened to see the wonder of this reality that has become theirs by faith. Unfortunately, too often, we don’t take time to cultivate this vision and suffer untold consequences.
In the same way, the Ephesian letter goes on to provide a lofty view of God’s plan for His church. Too often we get bogged down in church problems because we lose sight of this reality. Vision for our lives is informed by these truths in God’s Word. But it is also informed by prayer and by reading and listening to the words of great Christians. The Holy Spirit may also inspire vision by such other means as in worship and contemplation.
Churches often fail to really move forward in biblical mission for lack of vision. Vision is absolutely crucial to long-term church effectiveness. Vision is closely tied to leadership because to lead means to provide a clear sense of direction. Preaching, I often say, is mainly about casting vision based on insight into what the Bible says. And vision leads toward an obvious sense of mission. One of the best statements of vision I’ve ever heard is one established by Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. Its pastor, Rev. Tim Keller, expresses it this way: our vision is to ignite a movement of the Gospel that transforms New York City spiritually, socially and culturally. And it is that clear sense of vision and purpose that is actually enabling them to see that happen.