A) The Physical Part:
Physical vision is a combination of objective stimulus (something real in the surrounding world) and subjective experience (the way that the individual perceives the objective stimulus). The objective stimulus may never change, but once it registers upon the eyes of the individual, it is subject to distortion, rejection, or reception- in short, it is subject to the interpretation of the person upon whom the stimulus acts. And this is why we may each see the same object but yet perceive it differently.
Of the five natural senses, vision is the one an individual can least afford to lose. Oft quoted Methodist preacher Ralph Sockman was right when he picturesquely said, "The eye is the pope of the senses." Claud Monet, famous French painter said, "I am the absolute prisoner of my eyes." To a large degree, this is true of every man. Perception is everything.
Think about this formula:
Perception (how you perceive) leads to Process (or procedure), and Process will lead to Product. In the church today, it is apparent that we suffer from a radical crisis of product. What I mean is that we are simply not producing the kind of Christians who produced the book of Acts! And thus, if our product is deficient, than our perception must be deficient also.
B) The Spiritual Part:
What is spiritual vision? Colossians 1:9 defines it for us. Paul wrote,
"For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding." What Paul was saying is, "I pray that you will see things from God’s point of view."
Spiritual vision is seeing things from God’s point of view! The problem is that the Bible tells us plainly that His viewpoint will not agree with ours. Isaiah 55:9 says,
"For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." And because of this, a radical spiritual adjustment is necessary to bring our viewpoint into agreement with God’s view point!
Someone said, "Vision is getting on your heart what God has on His." This begs the question then, what does God have on His heart? Our text verse Proverbs 29:18 answers that question in one word, "people." "Where there is no vision, the people perish." God has people on His heart. How many people? All people. God has on His heart every person on earth. And He expects His children to come into agreement with His concern.
II Peter 3:9 says,
"The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."
According to God’s word, He seriously expects no less than His children to impact the whole wide world. And so, a global mission requires a global vision. We must see our responsibility to carry the gospel to the whole world in order to begin to impact it for Christ! We must have that vision!
Let’s ask that question again: What does God have on His heart? And what should be at the heart of the believer’s dreams and visions? Once again the text verse answers: People. ‘Where there is no vision, the people perish."
Why then, is 4/5 of the world’s population only very poorly evangelized and very poorly educated in the strategy of the Gospel, with nearly half of the human race never having even heard the gospel message? Then what is the difference between the Christianity in the book of Acts and the version of Christianity that largely prevails in today’s Church?
Is the Jesus of today’s church different from the first century church? No. Is the Holy Spirit different? No. Is the Bible different? Not different, but they did not yet have a completed New Testament, so the advantage here lies with us. But even with this advantage, we are nowhere near their impact level. And so what is the difference between the Christianity that produced the book of Acts and our kind of Christianity? Simply and realistically it is only one thing, strategy.
Their strategy showed an apparent disregard for building institutions and majored almost exclusively on building individuals. Their strategy was one of explosion (outward) instead of implosion (inward).
Let’s take a closer look at what Jesus did with the twelve men that He personally trained. Luke 6:13 says,
"And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles;" Why did our Lord change from the naming of others that He chose from "disciples" to "apostles?" The key is in the meaning of the word. Apostle is a compound Greek word, created by the joining of two smaller words. "Stolos" means to send. "Apo" means away from. "To send away from."
Jesus built those specially chosen men to be "with Him" only long enough to train and infect them with His life, His vision, and His strategy, and then is was His design to send them as far away from their training base as they could, or would, or might go!!!! You see His direction was temporarily in, but vocationally out!
And the fact that the list of gifts or "gifted men" in Ephesians 4:11, (look at it)
"And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;" The fact that this list begins with apostles indicates that the apostle was given to the church to turn members and the ministry of the church "outward."
It is my conviction that Jesus Christ fully expects every saved person to be dominated by a vision that is always turning his eyes (vision) and his feet outward- to the ends of the earth!! He clearly gave us a global mission, but a global mission requires a global vision. I also believe that both the vision and the mission are to be individual and not primarily institutional. It’s each saved individuals responsibility to have a vision and a strategy to impact the world to the ends of the earth and until the end of time or until Jesus comes. And a church full of individuals who are doing that very thing will turn the world upside down like that first century church did!!!!!!!
The inactive Christian of today’s church is mostly uninvolved in the task of a world vision, is inconceivable and intolerable in the plan of God. Remember that God has all people on His heart and he expects no less of us. A Christian without such a vision is like a spaceship that has lost its flight plan. Its momentum will cause it to arrive somewhere, but its intended goal will be missed if it refuses to operate by its original flight plan.
As born again believers, our "flight plan" has always been one which calls for Total World Impact and its strategy is decreed in our Lord’s Great Commission. Anything less than this is man-made, and is not big enough to satisfy a "not willing that any should perish" God.
Another formula concerning Vision:
-No vision = total failure.
-Limited vision = little success
-A vision w/ no plan and no action = only a dream
-A vision w/ a plan and no action = a haunting dream that brings guilt
-A vision w/ a plan and w/ action = a spiritually productive ministry.
Note here that the test of a person’s vision is in the action that is stimulated by the vision. Without action, both you and your gifts will remain in the category of what we call "potential."
Potential is dormant ability that is never mobilized or put into action through vision.
Listen to what Myles Munroe, a Christian leader, wrote in his book entitled, "Understanding your potential." He said, "The wealthiest spot in this planet is not the oil fields of Kuwait, Iraq or Saudi Arabia. Neither is it the gold and diamond mines of South Africa. Though it may surprise you, the richest deposits on our planet lie just a few blocks from your house. They rest in your local cemetery or graveyard!
Buried beneath the sod and soil are dreams that never came to pass, songs that were never sung, books that were never written, paintings that never filled a canvas, ideas that were never shared, visions that never became reality, inventions that were never designed, plans that never went beyond the drawing board of the mind, and purposes that were never fulfilled. Our graveyards are filled with massive volumes of potential that remained only potential!!! And that my brothers and sisters is a sad fact!
Potential demands that you never settle for what you have accomplished. One of the great enemies of your potential is success. Small successes destroy great possibilities. Never let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do. One of the greatest tragedies in life in not death, but in a life that never reached its potential!
Let’s simplify this concept. Look at one of the most powerful elements in nature…the seed. If I held a seed in my hand and asked you, "What do I have in my hand?" What would you say? Perhaps you would answer what seems to be the obvious….a seed. However, if you understand the nature of a seed, your answer would be fact but not truth. The truth is that I hold a forest in my hand. In every seed there is a tree, and in every tree there are fruits or flowers with seeds in them. And these seeds also have trees that have fruit that have seeds, that have trees that have fruit that have seeds, and on and on.
What you see is not all there is. The margin of difference between one seed and a food supply of wheat which could feed the whole world is called "potential." It is the margin of difference between what you see and what could be.
Some What If’s:
-What if Shakespeare had died before he wrote his poems and plays.
-What if Michelangelo had died before he painted the Sistene Chapel.
-What if Mozart had died with all that music in his bosom.
-Suppose Moses had died before he saw the burning bush.
-What if Paul had died before he met Jesus on the Damascus Road.
-What if Abraham had died before Isaac was born.
-Suppose Martin Luther had died before he wrote the Theses and nailed them to the door of the church.
-Suppose John Wycliff had died without translating the Bible into English.
How different the history of the church might have been!!!
I wonder what would have happened if your father had died before you were conceived or your mother before you were born. What would the world have lost if you had not been born? What will the world lack because you fail to live out your potential? Will you carry songs, books, inventions, cures, or discoveries to your grave?
Could it be that the greatest sin of Christians lies in their unrealized spiritual potential? And the greatest unrealized potential today lies in the area of the fulfillment of the Great Commission of our Lord. God has assigned to us a specific role in Total World Impact, and it is a far greater role than you or I have yet played!!!! And the sad fact is that this role will never be played without a vision of its possibility!!!! And so the most important thing in your life is to have and pursue a vision that agrees with God!!! Because our assignment is global, our vision must also be global. The question is, do you have such a vision?
Once again, there is a workable formula:
Proper information + spiritual illumination = vision, which in turn produces motivation and will lead to spiritually productive action.
NOTE that vision begins with proper information. Just as physical vision begins with the presence of external stimuli, so spiritual vision begins with the truth of God from Scripture and all that the Scripture relates to. The building blocks for such a vision are:
-A working knowledge of Scripture and a sensitive heart to obey it.
-An awareness of world Geography and national and ethnic cultures of the world.
-A spiritual appraisal of current events.
-Firsthand experience of some of the world’s mission fields.
-Giving to missionary causes.
-Meeting productive missionaries and world-impacting Christians.
Tragically, most Christians do not have such a vision!
#1) We looked at the importance of a Vision,
#2) Let’s look at the Sad Condition:
Proverbs 29:18, "Where there is no vision, the people perish."
The sad condition at stated in Proverbs is "no vision." What does no vision mean in Biblical terms? It means that there is no awareness of God and His perfect plan. It also means that Satan, "the god of this world," has blinded the minds of men to the only things that really ultimately count! They cannot see or understand these things without spiritual regeneration and illumination.
II Corinthians 4:4 says,
"In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them."
I Corinthians 2:14 says,
"But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."
In short "no vision" means that men do not see the "High and Holy One, Who inhabits eternity," and so we are limited to our own little horizons and our own selfish, petty, and sinful plans!!!
Another sad fact is that most believers are nearly as introverted, self-centered and survival dominated as are lost people. Why? Again the Scriptures provide the answer, No Vision. We seldom have on our hearts what God has on His heart- a whole world of individuals lost in their sin.
The business community and others have come up with a word that echoes the Biblical concept of vision. That word is "Paradigm." A person’s seeing depends on the lens that he looks through just as his hearing depends on the filter he listens through. This lens and filter comprise a person’s "paradigm." Let’s look at an example of a paradigm.
To a child, spinach is the ultimate punishment; but to Popeye, spinach is the ultimate nourishment. We have two paradigms revealed here- The child’s and Popeye’s. The paradigm of each will totally determine how each person will see and understand spinach. To the child, spinach is "yuk!" But to Popeye, who has a different agenda and strategy, spinach is necessary for energy and victory over the enemy and the taste is unimportant.
Let’s look at a Bible example of a paradigm.
Numbers chapter thirteen records the story of the nation of Israel in Kadesh-Barnea, just south of the land God had promised them. They are apparently ready to enter the land. However, they balked in unbelief and sent a team of 12 spies into the land to check out the land and the people there and bring back a report. You know the story. The spies came back with a divided report. Ten of the spies, an overwhelming majority, recommended against possession of the land on the basis that the inhabitants were "stronger" and that the children of Israel looked like "grasshoppers" compared to the "giants" that were there. Two of the spies gave a minority recommendation saying "let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it." (Num 13:30)
So the minority group (the two) factored God into their conclusion while the majority (the ten) did not. Two paradigms determined the different recommendations: One included God, the other did not. They all saw the giants; ten saw themselves as "grasshoppers"; Only two truly saw God. And so their perception determined their proposal and their performance.
That shows us the difference between vision and no vision. Human intelligence will always give you "your point of view." Only a miracle of illumination will give you "God’s point of view." Therein lies the difference between "no vision," without which "the people perish," and "vision," by means of which the people flourish.
Why do the church members get much more excited about a thousand other things than about God, spiritual things, heaven and hell and eternity? The answer is NO VISION! No motivation, because motivation arises out of vision!!!
A few questions.
-What if Christians totally lost the vision of their role as salt and light in a decaying and dark world?
-What if we lost our vision of ourselves as bodily representatives of Jesus Christ in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation?
-What if we lost our vision of our high status as ambassadors for Christ, commissioned to mediate our King’s cause in this dark and alien world?
The truth is we don’t have to guess about it. The absence of vision is clearly observable in pulpits, pews and public life merely by examining the occurrence of the consequences declared in our text. Which leads us to point #3,
#3) The Serious Consequences of No Vision:
Once again Proverbs 29:18 says,
"Where there is no vision, the people perish."
As we will see in our next lesson, the Hebrew translation of the word "perish" is a most frighteningly revealing word that has several meanings.