Romans 4:17 …This happened because Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing.
This year, my wife and I will be celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary. As I pondered about what gift to give to her on this momentous occasion, it dawned on me. I decided to give her less of me. I would go on a diet and exercise regimen, start P90x, and by the time our anniversary date came around, she would be able to see the difference. After years of inactivity, promising myself that I would exercise “soon”, I began the journey after a post on Facebook. Progress has been good. I have lost some weight, and am on my way to my goal of losing twenty pounds. My vision of a healthier life is coming true. Finally.
This is an article on vision. Vision, simply defined, is to ability to “see it before you see it.” What does vision have to do with weight loss? Or an exercise regimen? My journey to better health began with a personal vision of what could be. I could get in shape. I could feel better. It waspossible.
Before every great invention, before every great accomplishment, before every transformational idea, someone had a vision. Someone “saw it, before he/she saw it”. Visionaries share similar characteristics. I would like to share four of them with you. We will illustrate these qualities through the story of a biblical visionary and his armor bearer. Theirs is a compelling story of vision implementation that has some practical applications for leaders everywhere.
Israel was in bad shape. Their constant enemies, the philistines, had them on their heels. The people were demoralized. The king was distracted. The enemies we destroying them. In that failure –ridden climate, God raises a leader. His name is Jonathan. The story is found in 1 Samuel 14. Jonathan had several characteristics that visionaries have in common.
1. Careful who he/she shares the vision with.
1 Samuel 14:1
One day Jonathan said to his armor bearer, “Come on, let’s go over to where the Philistines have their outpost.” But Jonathan did not tell his father what he was doing.
Suppose for a moment, that you are Jonathan. If you had a plan to attack the enemy, wouldn’t the logical choice for sharing that valuable bellic information be the king, who was also your father? Yet, Jonathan chose not to share his plan. Visionary leaders are careful who they share their vision with.
- Some will get upset. They don’t like the fact that it wasn’t their idea.
- Some will oppose it. They don’t like the fact that it wasn’t them who was chosen.
- Some will laugh at it. They see silliness where you see success.
- Some will question it. They say “You sure?”, not “how can I help you?”.
Here is some practical advice. Once you are convinced that God has in fact given you a vision, when someone comes to give you the all the reasons why it won’t work, you can take criticism in stride. Don’t discount criticism altogether, it can be the sandpaper that can polish the work of art God and you are building. At the same time, don’t let criticism stop progress. Whatever God blesses the devil attacks.
Remember,they are not supposed to understand it, it’s not their vision to begin with. Not everyone is happy, thankful or supportive about your vision. Opposition does not mean your vision is not worth pursuing. While you don’t want to be reckless and irresponsible with your decisions going forward, you do want to step out in faith. Most great inventions, as well as almost every great accomplishment had two things in common:
1. Was conceived by a visionary.
2. Was opposed or dismissed by many.
When I declared in Facebook, that I wanted to start P90x to lose the weight I thought the support would be universal. Yet, it wasn’t. Here are some of the comments:
“You are crazy”
“You won’t do it”
“I started, but quit”
Maybe you identify with me. We have all been there. You show up with a fist full of dreams like balloons, and someone greets you with a hand full of bobby pins. In order to lead many, sometimes you must listen to just a few.
2. Gets going while others talk, plan, rest, and complain.
1 Samuel 14:2
Meanwhile, Saul and his 600 men were camped on the outskirts of Gibeah, around the pomegranate tree at Migron. 3 Among Saul’s men was Ahijah the priest, who was wearing the ephod, the priestly vest. Ahijah was the son of Ichabod’s brother Ahitub, son of Phinehas, son of Eli, the priest of the Lord who had served at Shiloh. No one was aware that Jonathan had left.
A cursory look at the previous text reveals three groups of people that were camping under the pomegranate tree:
Camping Saul- he was the king, who should have received the vision.
Camping Soldiers- the followers, who should have implemented the vision.
Camping Ahijah – the religious leader, who should have confirmed the vision.
Should have, would have, could have, but didn’t! Jonathan, instead, preferred death to inactivity. He decided it was better to attempt something and fail, than to do something and succeed. The greatest enemy of the church these days is not worldliness, is laziness. One of my favorite quotes encapsulates my point:
“I’ve searched all the parks in all the cities and found no statues of committees.” CK Chesterton
God’s calls us to do something! More important than discussion, charts, ideas, opinions, words and desires, is action. One key part of the text must not be overlooked. While the demoralized people camped and complained about how bad their situation was, Jonathan, a young person, was active. The sad part reads like this: “no one was aware that Jonathan had left”. That should hit us right between the eyes. Are we so worried about the previous defeats that we neglect the next generation? Some commentators argue that armor bearers were usually young people, probably because they were the only ones who were that crazy!
What you say is not as important as what you do. Opinionologism (a word I coined meaning to share with others the opinions no one else is asking you for), is not a spiritual gift. When I was pastoring a church, I always liked to have a soccer team from the church. It built community, (except when they punched each other, which thankfully was not every week) and was great exercise. Other than the occasional laying of hands on the opposite team, we had a good time. Since I was the pastor, I always got to play. As the game got going, so did the crowd. Everyone had an opinion on the game. It was interesting to hear some misguided soul yell “take the pastor out, he’s horrible!”. At halftime, people from the crowd would come into our huddle, and offer unsolicited advice, strategy and ideas. Not only were they very straightforward about what we should be doing, they became upset if we did not do it the way they prescribed. Sounds a lot like church. Many watching, complaining and planning, few actually working. According to church growth experts, usually 20% of the congregation does 80% of the work, the same ratio applies to giving.
God does not expect us to do everything, yet he does expect us to do something. Maybe you are reading this article in your computer, the same one who contains the blueprint of the next big idea for your organization. My question for you is this: What is stopping you? Instead of waiting around for circumstances to change, you be the change. They might not build a statue in your name, but it will make your creator smile. Action inspires your followers, develops your strengths, and catches God’s attention. Do something!
3. Acts, regardless of fear.
1 Samuel 14:6 “Let’s go across to the outpost of those pagans,” Jonathan said to his armor bearer. “Perhaps the Lord will help us, for nothing can hinder the Lord. He can win a battle whether he has many warriors or only a few!”
The third characteristic of a visionary is the ability to attempt great things, regardless of fear. There are two important principles I would like to share concerning fear and leadership:
1. As a leader, I would venture to say that if before you act on a vision from God, you are not even a tiny bit apprehensive, then that vision is probably not from God. Ask yourself, If you already knew you could do it, why do you need God for? If you wait for the fear to subside before attempting something great, you probably never will.
2. The process God uses to increase the leader’s faith is detailed in this verse.
a. Faith cares-“lets go…”
b. Faith crisis-“perhaps”
c. Faith conquers-“He can win”
Another way of saying it is: Promise, Problem, Provision. As part of His plan, God sometimes allows us to experience trepidation before triumph. Why? Maybe because we must understand that at the end of the day, it’s not about us.
Early in my ministry I read a quote that impacted the way I operated. It went something like this: “what are you doing, that if God is not completely involved, and comes through in a big way, it will absolutely and utterly fail?”. If you think about it, many of the things we do, we could do without divine intervention. What have you attempted in the last year that took you out, way out, of your comfort zone? What risk, without being reckless, have you proposed to the people you lead? What innovative, daring, out of the box idea have you implemented? God did not call you to the ministry of beige. Yes, I said it. Beige. Safe. Familiar. Known. Beige. When was the last time you came home excited to tell your family about the beige building you saw? I encourage you to use God’s paintbrush and repaint with vivid colors. Go spend a weekend in the mountain and rediscover His passion for your life. You were meant for bold passion. Definitely, not beige. (I apologize in advance to the beige lovers of the world. All three of you. Sorry. Email me and I will send you a bright red bumper sticker that says: my other car is beige) Do something!
4. Understands the power of two.
1 Samuel 14:7 “Do what you think is best,” the armor bearer replied. “I’m with you completely, whatever you decide.”
Unity multiplies impact. That is another key lesson visionaries have learned. Jonathan understood that while it’s easier to do it alone, it’s more effective when we involve others. There is a small word, with big power, and that word is: and. It’s one thing to say, it’s me. Another thing to say, it’s me and my church. Unity multiplies impact. What we sometimes fail to understand in this polarized society, is that we need each other. We can grow as we learn from each other.
God created us for community. God is emphatic about giving the vision to the leader first, but not exclusively. A right vision, shared with the right people, at the right time, for the right reason, will accomplish more, in less time. I believe every leader should connect on a regular basis to the following three people:
Mentors. These are wise people whom you can listen to. They have probably gone through similar experiences to yours and can point out some specific ways you can deal with your present situation.
Friends. These are caring people you can lean on. They might not have all the answers, but just the fact that you know that they are there for you makes a huge difference. Students. These are the less-experienced people who can learn from you, similar in this story to the armor bearer. Every experience you have had is a lesson that can be shared to encourage, inspire, or warn others.
Unity, multiplies impact. In order to finish the work God has entrusted to us we need everybody.
*Publicand personal evangelism.
*1stand 2nd generation.
*Educational institutions and self-supporting ministries.
*Lay members and paid denominational employees.
*Administratorsand normal people.
We are one church. When we attack each other it creates confusion in our youth, discouragement in our members, and delay in our progress.
One last note. As God gives you vision, and the vision is implemented, there will be some times where you will feel discouraged. Let me share a story with you, to put things in perspective. One night, I was coming home late, and hungry. Very hungry. Recently married, I was not expecting my wife to be up, but she was. A feeling of happiness began stirring up inside of me. Maybe she will cook something for me. I did not have to ask. She volunteered to prepare anything I wanted. I asked for fried plantains, beans, and sour cream. (Don’t judge me, I was hungry!) As she cooked, that loving feeling grew to gargantuan proportions. After what seemed to be an eternity, she came out of the kitchen, a celestial vision like no man had ever seen. Angels were singing the Hallelujah chorus and her hair moved in the wind (the fan was on) as she made her way toward me. My heart was going to explode from all these feelings of appreciation and love.
She gave me the food. I prayed a short prayer, a hungry prayer. Then I proceeded to put the first spoonful of beans in my mouth. Now, there are two recipes for preparing beans. One is beans with a little bit of salt. The second, lesser known one, is salt with a little bit of beans. Guess which one my celestial vision used that night? If you guessed option number two, you are correct! I love sugar, but I’m not a fan of salt. The beans were so salty that the Dead Sea took a bite and said, “Wow, that’s too much.“
I learned a couple of lessons about feelings that night. It was amazing how fast the adoration was replaced by discomfort. All the time it took for the “loving feeling” to disappear was the time it takes a spoonful of beans to travel from the plate to the mouth. Feelings are tricky. If you make decisions based on them, you are treading on dangerous ground. Instead, let God’s word, his principles, and his vision be your guide. I pray that God will help you discoverand develop His vision, for your life, today.
Romans 4:17 …This happened because Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing.