That Vision Thing

J. Mark Jordan

The burden of the valley of vision. . . . For it is a day of trouble, and of treading down, and of perplexity by the Lord God of hosts in the valley of vision, breaking down the walls, and of crying to the mountains (Isaiah 22:1, 5; emphasis mine).

Where there is no vision, the people perish (Proverbs 29:18).

And Joseph remembered the dreams which he dreamed of them, and said unto them, Ye are spies; to see the nakedness of the land ye are come (Genesis 42:9).

Then thou scarest me with dreams, and terrifiest me through visions (Job 7:14).

Dreams vs. Visions

Visions and dreams are used interchangeably in the Bible. Both can be either from God or from the flesh. Jacob was a dreamer. Joseph was a dreamer. But even though Peter and Paul had dreams, we do not call them dreamers. We call them visionaries.

Dreams seem to be premonitions of the future. Visions seem to be understandings of the future. Dreams wait to be fulfilled. Visions call for action and active faith. But our use of the words dream and vision today differ from the language of the Bible. Today, vision relates more to tomorrow; dream relates to yesterday.

And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams (Acts 2:17).

– Visions are for the future.
– Dreams are for the past.

– Dreams focus on what was or what might have been.
– Visions focus on what has not happened or what will be.

– A dream needs no basis in reality in order to have value.
– A vision has value precisely because it is based in reality.

– A dream needs no connection to the present.
– A vision thrives on its connection to the present.

– Dreams happen when your eyes are shut.
– Visions happen with your eyes wide open.

– Everybody can dream.
– Vision requires something more.

– Dreams may be nothing more than fantasy.
– Visions are ventures of faith.

– Dreams are cheap.
– Visions are expensive.

– Unfulfilled dreams can fade without a second thought.
– Unfulfilled visions lead to discontent and frustration.

When you say, “I will do this or that,” you are expressing your vision; when you say, “I will not do this or that,” you are also expressing your vision.

You must have a vision for the future. You cannot dream about it.

If you dream about the future, you are treating it as if it were the past.

Dreams deceive the dreamer with a false sense of rest and fulfillment.

Visions demand high energy, commitment, and work.

A dream or a vision: which do you want?

The future will happen whether or not you have a vision. Without a vision, you will perish. With a vision, you will flourish. Which do you want to do, perish or flourish?

Ne Plus Ultra

In Spain, a mountain rises from the bottom of the ocean 1,500 feet above the surface, called the Rock of Gibraltar. Only a little more than five hundred years ago (in history, five hundred years is a very short time) the Spanish government still had carved on the Rock of Gibraltar the words, “Ne Plus Ultra,” to protect people from falling off the cliff of a flat world. It means “There is nothing beyond! Stop! Don’t go any farther!” When Columbus discovered that the world did not stop at Gibraltar, Spain removed the word “ne.” “Ne Plus Ultra” became “Plus Ultra”; there is something beyond!

Vision recognizes something exists beyond where you stand!

The Vision of Joshua and Caleb

Your vision defines your attitude and action. In Numbers 13:1-33, God told Moses to send spies to explore the land of Canaan that He had bequeathed to the Israelites. Moses recruited twelve men and instructed them to see what the land was like and to assess the strength and numbers of the people who lived there. He especially wanted to know whether the land was fertile. He told them to bring back some produce so he could judge for himself.

The men went but brought back an ambiguous report. The land, they said, “floweth with milk and honey,” but powerful giants who inhabited large, fortified cities lived there. Despite Caleb’s strong assertion that the Israelites could prevail, ten of the twelve spies were dead-set against it. Fear of failure overwhelmed them. “We were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight,” they cried. Their faith rose no higher than their vision.

Your vision informs your feelings how to feel. When you envision weakness, you make yourself weak. When you envision God’s strength, you will be strong.

Negative visions are as contagious as positive ones. When the evil spies’ pessimistic report was published throughout Israel, the entire nation began grumbling en masse against Moses. They spewed out their bitterness with such fury that they even cursed their deliverance from the bondage of Egypt! An unthinkable scenario developed: they were ready to pick a new leader who would take them back to slavery.

In dramatic fashion, Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before the people to counteract the negative report. Joshua and Caleb then stood up and pled with Israel to change their minds and move forward. They assured everyone that Canaan was a luxuriant and fertile country and that God would give them victory over the inhabitants, even though they seemed like giants. They repeatedly pressed the people not to be afraid of the obstacles before them. Although Israel rejected their plea, dooming the people to wander thirty-eight more years in the wilderness, the vision of Joshua and Caleb never died. It took the passing of a generation, but they saw the walls of Jericho fall.

Six Musts of the Vision of Joshua and Caleb:

1. They desired to possess the land.

2. They believed they had a right to the land.

3. They believed that failure to act was to rebel against the Lord.

4. They believed they could defeat the enemy.

5. They refused to be ruled by fear.

6. They were ready to make their move.

The Bible brims with visionaries. Abraham saw a new land with a new city; Joseph envisioned power and influence; Moses saw deliverance for the Hebrew nation; King David envisioned building a beautiful temple to honor God; his son Solomon envisioned a kingdom that spread over the earth; Peter saw a society free from racial prejudice; Paul envisioned preaching the gospel to every nation. Whether the vision was small, like Dorcas clothing the saints, or vast, like Christ saving the world, nothing significant happened without the force of vision birthing it into existence.

Your Vision Is Waiting

A vision for yourself. Start by acting upon your personal vision.

A vision for your family. You don’t work on your vision by telling others what to do. You work on your vision by investing yourself into your vision. Put a plan into action that brings reality to your family vision.

A vision for your ministry. What has God called you to do? Notice, I didn’t say, “called to be.” Too many of us think that to do something we have to be something. You can win souls without thinking of yourself as a soul winner. You can witness without being a preacher. You can care for people without being a pastor. You can work in ministry without the title or position of minister. Take care of what you do. Who you are will take care of itself.

A vision for your church.

– Envision a loving church.

– Envision a forgiving church.

– Envision a caring church.

– Envision a helping church.

– Envision a participating church.

– Envision a giving church.

– Envision a growing church.

A vision is not “I want this”; a vision is “I see this.” A vision does not say, “If only I had this”; a vision says, “I will get this done.”

Going after your vision will not be easy. “For it is a day of trouble, and of treading down, and of perplexity by the Lord GOD of hosts in the valley of vision, breaking down the walls, and of crying to the mountains” (Isaiah 22:5, emphasis mine).

These are your musts:

– You must desire to take possession of your vision.

– You must believe you have a right to your vision.

– Failure to act on your vision will be rebellion against the Lord.

– You must believe you can defeat the enemy of your vision.

– You must refuse to be ruled by fear of your vision.

– You must be ready to move toward your vision.

Revisit your dreams. Have they faded and died? Are they forgotten? Turn those dreams into visions. Inject life into your vision. Your vision is worth everything. Your vision is worth dying for. Your vision will forevermore define your life.

Earmarks of the True Visionary

A true visionary:

– Starts something he cannot finish. . . .

– Builds something he cannot control. .

– Goes places not on the map. . .

– Embraces things not fully understood. . .

– Becomes someone he has never been.

You are a true visionary when you are willing to start something you cannot finish. Either your vision is too big for you to finish by yourself, or it will take too long to complete in your lifetime. You need not harvest the glory of a completed task; indeed, it would be absurd to think in terms of personal glory. You are content to sow the seed that puts it all into motion. This is not condoning procrastination or laziness but is a testament to the grand dream.

The founders of the American democracy knew they could not finish their task. Abraham Lincoln did not know the full ramifications of the Emancipation Proclamation. The apostle Peter did not know where the open Gentile door would lead the church. None of them allowed the enormity of their vision to stop them from lighting the fuse.

You are a true visionary when you are willing to go places that are not on the map. You do not seek the charted course. You don’t look for a dream previously accomplished. You do not need the security of the known way. You see places others think don’t exist; you envision successes that history has not yet recorded; you hear sounds that have not been produced.

Abraham left Ur of the Chaldees, not knowing where he was going. Paul launched his missionary journeys not sure of his destination. Christopher Columbus left “Ne Plus Ultra” on the basis of a dream.

You are a true visionary when you are willing to build something you cannot control. To see your success skyrocket far beyond that which you anticipated excites you. You see something so big, so wildly successful that you actually become immaterial to the end result. You realize that the thing you create may render you obsolete, but you would rather be eclipsed by your own success than marinate in mediocrity. It was said of Jesus, “Because zeal for Your house has eaten me up” (Psalm 69:9, NKJV). A Bay Area analyst, Robert Warburg, jokes, “[Bill Gates’] greatest fear is that some kid will brew up the next killer app in his garage in Kenosha, and Microsoft won’t own it!” You are willing to turn the control over to God.

You are a true visionary when you are willing to embrace something you do not fully understand. Wilbur and Orville Wright did not understand the impact that their flying machine would have on worldwide transportation when they became airborne at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Bill Gates did not understand all the implications the nascent computer field would have for the world when he designed Microsoft Windows in his garage. Frank Ewart and R. E. McAlister did not fully understand all there was to know about Oneness theology when they began preaching it in the early twentieth century. Yet all of them took the leap because they were convinced it was the right thing to do.

The visionary suspects that there are endless possibilities in his idea or dream. He boldly lets that truth go wherever it wants to go. To insist on understanding every minuscule detail of the truth would abort the birth before the baby ever has a chance to say hello to the world.

You are a true visionary when you are willing to become who you have never been before. Securely locked within our insular definitions, most of us shut down when life tries to transition us into a new calling. When innovative ideas threaten to inflict too great a change on our status quo, our crusty old wineskins start to burst. We would rather say no and be safe than say yes and be infinitely better or set off vast changes on the human landscape.

Abe Lincoln started out as a farm boy, but he saw himself as a businessman, a surveyor, a postman, a lawyer, a congressman, and then as President of the United States. Neil Armstrong, from his beginnings in the small town of Wapakoneta, Ohio, started out as a navy aviator, then a test pilot, a backup astronaut, then the first man on the moon.

John Nickerson, while a UPCI missionary in Nigeria, believed that the African continent stood ready to be set ablaze with revival fires not only for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit but also to receive the revelation of the oneness of God and baptism in Jesus’ name. He shared his vision with his many partners in missions, and he readily admitted that the river of his vision could overflow its banks. Even now, as momentum builds, hundreds of pastors with roots outside of Apostolic circles have already been baptized. His passion represents the earmarks of a true visionary.

Bring me men to match my mountains,
Bring me men to match my plains,
Men with empires in their purpose
And new eras in their brains.
– Sam Foss

I Am a Person of Vision!

I have been a pew-warmer, a fence-walker, a spectator for too long.
I am getting up, getting right, and getting going.
I may not see the entire picture, but I see my picture.
I can’t try everything, but I will try something.
I may fail trying, but I won’t fail to try.
I may not make much on my investment, but I won’t bury my talent in the ground.
I will act even though I receive no thanks in return.
I will pray and leave the answer up to God.
I will witness and leave the response up to the person.
I will smile even though no one smiles back.
I will give because it is right, not because I expect something in exchange for my gift.
I am blood bought, Word taught, and miraculously wrought.
I am divinely created, Spirit-filled, God called and Heaven sent.
I am saved by grace, programmed to succeed, wired for power, and mission-oriented.
God is my commander-in-chief.
Jesus is my Savior.
My pastor is my coach.
The Bible is my blueprint.
The Holy Ghost is my guide.
The world is my mission field.
I will be immune to criticism, unbowed by critics, unmoved by suffering, and unashamed of the gospel.
I will obey like Noah, sacrifice like Abraham, fight like David, pray like Daniel, be patient like Job, see God’s greatness like Isaiah, weep like Jeremiah, preach like Peter, and reach out like Paul.
I have nothing greater to live for and nothing better to die for.
I am a person of vision!
– J. Mark Jordan

This article “That Vision Thing” was excerpted from the book The View from the Back of the Pulpit written by J. Mark Jordan. It may be used for study & research purposes only.