Re:Solve - Week Three: Vision
Are you at a point in your life where you need some direction or a new vision? Would you like to learn how to stop trying to figure all that on your own and discover how to align yourself with God's vision for your life? With God's direction and purpose?
That's at the heart of this sermon series, Re:Solve: Aligning Yourself with God's Vision. We'll be spending the next several weeks studying the Old Testament book of Nehemiah--the memoirs of a man who sought to be aligned to God's vision and pursued it with all his heart.
Today we'll be exploring another important step toward aligning your life with God's will... having a clear vision. But before we dig into our text, let's take a moment to talk about Walt Disney, Bricklayers, and Helen Keller.
First, Walt Disney...
When Epcot Center was finished in 1982, Walt Disney had already passed away. Disney executives asked Walt’s wife to cut the ribbon at the opening ceremony. When she was called up to the podium, one of the executives said to her, “Mrs. Disney, I wish Walt could have seen this.”
She replied, “He did.”
There were three bricklayers working beside each other on a wall. Someone came up to the first one and said, “What are you doing” “What;’s it look like I am doing?” he replied sarcastically, “I am laying bricks!” The man asked the next guy on the wall what he was doing. He said, ”Can’t you see what I am doing? I am building a wall.” Then the last man was asked what he was doing. He exclaimed, “I am building a great cathedral!”
Third, Helen Keller...
Check out this quote from Keller, who was born blind, deaf and unable to speak:
"What would be worse than being born blind? To have sight without vision." - Helen Keller
So what do all of these bits and pieces have in common?
They speak to the importance of having a clear vision to see what no one else around you can see, and to move unswervingly in that direction. When it comes to understanding whether the vision you feel you have is real and true... Clarity is key.
Here's what I want you to remember from today's sermon...
With a clear vision you can see forever.
11 I went to Jerusalem, and after staying there three days 12 I set out during the night with a few others. I had not told anyone what my God had put in my heart to do for Jerusalem. There were no mounts with me except the one I was riding on.
13 By night I went out through the Valley Gate toward the Jackal[a] Well and the Dung Gate, examining the walls of Jerusalem, which had been broken down, and its gates, which had been destroyed by fire. 14 Then I moved on toward the Fountain Gate and the King’s Pool, but there was not enough room for my mount to get through; 15 so I went up the valley by night, examining the wall. Finally, I turned back and reentered through the Valley Gate. 16 The officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, because as yet I had said nothing to the Jews or the priests or nobles or officials or any others who would be doing the work.
Here's a basic image of Jerusalem during the time of Nehemiah. In 445 BCE, the walled city was only one small part of what is now considered the Old City of Jerusalem.
Nehemiah knows that he needs to inspect the state of the walls to see where repair is needed most and what kind of scale he'll be looking at in terms of the entire project.
But he's worried that if he does this in broad daylight or with a crew of people with him that the leaders of the Arab peoples around him will do what they did some years earlier when the re-building of the wall first commenced.
These same Arab neighbors started rumors about how the Jews were going to rebuild the wall and then rebel against their Persian overlords. Artaxerxes believed the rumors and ordered the construction to be stopped.
There was so much rubble on the east side of Jerusalem in what is still known as the Kidron Valley that Nehemiah could barely make his way around the ruined walls.
7 Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.” 18 I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me and what the king had said to me. They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work.
The key to this passage is right here in verse 18: "I also told them about the gracious hand of God on me..."
There's a couple of very important Hebrew words in verse 18. The word translated as "gracious" is the Hebrew word tob, which means: gracious, good, pleasing, desirable or goodness.
The word "hand" is the Hebrew word yad, which means: direction, control or power.
So when you put all of this together you basically get: "The pleasing, gracious, desirable power and control of God is upon me." Nehemiah has a clear vision and he wants the people to see it, too.
He doesn't shy away from the reality of things. In fact, Nehemiah highlights the sense of shame that they all feel because of the exile and the destruction of all they knew. And then he casts a new vision of what could be.
He basically tells them, "Listen, the grace-filled power of God is on me in this, people. I can see the walls where there is rubble. I can see a proud, strong city where there is now a bunch of scared, vulnerable people who feel like God has abandoned them."
So what does Nehemiah demonstrate to us here?
Having a clear vision means not only seeing what no one else can see but being able to describe it to them so well that they finally see it, too.
Because when you have a clear vision, you can see forever. You can see the best things, the brightest things... You can see where God is leading you, you can see it even when things around you don't look at all like your vision.
And once you have that clarity of vision---you will also discover the words to share it. And that's when the magic happens.
But how do you get to a place where you have a clear and compelling vision for your life? Where you know that what you are seeing is God's will and vision for you? Surprisingly, it comes down to three things. I'm fond of three. Three is a magic number, am I right?
First, you need foresight. This is the element of vision that helps life make sense. It's essentially like looking through a telescope to see down the road a bit. And when you exercise foresight with your vision, you find yourself asking some very important questions.
Like, "Is what I am seeing beneficial to me and to the world?" "Is it life-giving?" And most importantly, "Does it glorify God?"
I can't tell you how practicing foresight has changed my life when it comes to clarifying vision. Because there have been so many times when I have thought what I was seeing was some God-revealed vision, a way forward that was divinely ordained, but when I began to look at it through the telescope, I saw that it was self-serving instead.
Some of the worst decisions I've ever made have been when I refused to use foresight.
Second, you need to use insight. Insight for our purposes is essentially like looking at your vision through a microscope. When you put your vision under the microscope, you aren't dealing with the "what" so much as you do when you're looking through a telescope... you're dealing with the "why."
This is where you question your motivations to make sure that the vision you believe you are seeing is worth being pursued... or what would happen if you didn't pursue it.
Years and years ago, I was asked by the pastor search committee of the large church I was serving to interview for the position of co-pastor of the church. I was told that I was exactly what they were looking for by the chair of the committee and that they eagerly wanted to talk to me. It was made clear that I had an inside track to the position, and they wanted to keep me on staff.
At first, I was blown away. The idea was that one day when the current pastor retired, I would become the senior pastor. I caught that vision and it filled me with excitement. But when I put the thing under the microscope, I discovered that what was at the core of my desire was nothing more than pride.
I walked away from that opportunity---what some people would have called the chance of a lifetime. I have never regretted it.
But you also have to ask yourself, "If I don't pursue this vision, what will happen?" Perhaps you are being given the vision because you are the one God has called to fulfill it.
Finally, you need practice oversight. Oversight is like a drone with one of those cameras on it that you fly high above your house. Oversight puts life into context. It gives you a new perspective of where you are and what is around you.
When you are practicing oversight you begin to wonder "Where does this vision fit in God's big story?" Is what I am seeing in keeping with what I know about God?
I can't tell you how many times I've counseled people who came to me with what they felt was a certain vision for their life. They would talk to me about how they just knew that God was working it all out, that God was in the midst of it. And when I would ask them how they knew it--they would talk about how they felt, how their life would be better, how it would affect them.
Almost to a person, the people who made their vision all about them would end up wishing they'd abandoned it.
All because they never asked the question, "Where does what I am seeing fit within God's story...?"
Foresight... Insight... Oversight...
If you want to clarify the vision you are seeing... If you want to ensure that your vision is alinged with God's... If you want to be able to see a city where there is rubble... walls where there is ruin... Then practice these three things and test your vision.
Because with a clear vision, you can see forever.