Sunday, December 2, 2007
"What is Spiritual Vision?"
Where there is no vision, the people perish. (Proverbs 29:18)
The Bible states in Proverbs 29:18, "Where there is no vision, the people perish." The vision to which this verse refers is spiritual vision.
Spiritual vision provides direction. It provides challenge and structure for life. Without it, people become spiritually dead. Developing spiritual vision is the process of recognizing the purpose for which you have been brought into the Kingdom of God. In this chapter, this development is called the "Birth of a Vision.”
WHY SPIRITUAL VISION?
Why is spiritual vision necessary? Why do people perish without it?
The answer is found in one of many Biblical examples of spiritual vision. Read the story of the Prophet Elisha and his servant, Gehazi in II Kings 6:15-17.
God's people, Israel, were surrounded by the enemy nation of Syria. There were many soldiers, horses, and chariots of war. When Elisha's servant, Gehazi, saw the great force of the enemy he was afraid. He cried out to Elisha, "What shall we do?" Elisha told him:
Fear not, for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.
(II Kings 6:16)
Then Elisha prayed that God would open Gehazi's eyes and allow him to see in the spirit world. The request was granted, and Gehazi saw the spiritual forces of God surrounding Israel.
In this example, God actually let Gehazi see the spiritual vision with his natural eyes. But the important point is that without spiritual vision the people of God cannot see beyond the natural circumstances of life.
Like Gehazi, they are defeated by the powers of the enemy which they see at work in the natural world around them. Their vision is focused on their problems and their life becomes a cycle of crying out, "What shall we do?" Without spiritual vision, they cannot see and understand the divine plan of God.
DEVELOPING SPIRITUAL EYESIGHT
Before you are born again you are blinded by sin. Through salvation by the blood of Jesus your basic blindness is healed. Then God wants to develop your spiritual vision.
This process is a spiritual parallel of an actual incident in the ministry of Jesus:
And He cometh to Bethsaida; and they bring a blind man unto Him, and besought Him to touch him.
And He took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town; and when He had spit on his eyes, and put His hands upon him, He asked him if he saw ought.
And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking.
After that He put His hands again upon his eyes and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly. (Mark 8:22-25)
This miracle was an actual physical healing performed by Jesus during His earthly ministry.
Why didn't the first touch of Jesus heal the man completely? Didn't Jesus have all power? Wasn't He the Son of the living God? Jesus was providing a natural example of a spiritual truth. Jesus wants to touch you spiritually just as He did in this natural healing. First He wants to clear up the basic blindness of sin in your life. Then He wants to develop your spiritual vision.
WHAT IS SPIRITUAL VISION?
Spiritual vision involves seeing beyond the natural world into the spiritual world. It is understanding the divine purpose of God and recognizing your part in His plan.
Believers who are spiritually "perishing" are in one of the following categories:
-They do not have spiritual vision.
-They have received a spiritual vision but have been disobedient to it.
-They have a vision, but do not know how to fulfill it. They have tried and failed or perhaps have never tried at all.
Spiritual vision provides a clear image of what God wants you to do and then directs every step of your Christian life towards achieving that goal.
THE VISION OF PAUL
The Apostle Paul had spiritual vision. He said:
I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision. (Acts 26:19)
The heavenly [spiritual] vision became the compelling force in Paul's life. He recognized that having a vision is not enough. Action must be taken to achieve the vision.
A vision can remain "visionary.” This means it never becomes a reality because you never act on it. When God gives a vision He also provides spiritual and practical strategies for fulfilling it.
When God gave Paul a spiritual vision, He gave him specific things to do to fulfill the vision.
...Rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which though hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee;
Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee.
To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.
God gave Paul spiritual vision for the purpose of making him a minister and witness.
His ministry was to be to a special group of people, the Gentiles. The term Gentiles refers to everyone who is not a Jew, so it really means all the other nations of the world.
God gave Paul objectives [a plan] to achieve the vision. Paul was to:
-Open their spiritual eyes from darkness to light.
-Turn them from the power of Satan to God.
-Lead them to forgiveness of sins.
-Reveal their spiritual inheritance made possible by faith.
THE BIRTH OF A VISION
God wants to give you a spiritual vision just as He did Paul. God also wants to reveal the purposes and objectives which will enable you to fulfill the vision.
As you experience the "birth of a vision" you will become a participator instead of a mere spectator in God's divine plan.
The natural birth process which brings a human baby into the world is similar to the process of the birth of a vision in the spirit world. You will experience the following stages as you give birth to spiritual vision.
"Conception" means to create. A spiritual vision is created in your spirit by God.
When God gave Paul spiritual vision He identified the source. He said, "I am Jesus" (Acts 26:15). God conceived Paul's vision.
When you first receive a spiritual vision, it is in "embryo" form. An embryo is a basic cell of life. Just like the development of the human embryo, God develops your spiritual vision as you grow in Him.
The basic cell of life in the human baby is the embryo, from it all the basic human features are developed. If you try to change the embryo, deformity or death can occur to the child.
God conceives the basic spiritual vision within you. The vision must remain the embryo from which all features develop. If you try to change the vision, it will be deformed from the perfect plan of God, or it may be aborted.
When the vision explained in this course is conceived by God in your spirit it must always remain the same although you may fulfill it in different ways.
The vision will grow and develop as you mature spiritually. Its features will not be the same as yesterday, last week, or last month. But you must never forget the basic vision which is the divine purpose for which you are called.
This development of a vision will be a stretching experience as it is in the natural world within the body of a mother. If the vision does not develop within you it will die.
Just as a mother carries her child within her body, when you receive this vision it is with you constantly. It becomes a vital, living part of you. It draws from your own life source as well as from the divine source which conceived it.
While the baby is developing, a pregnant mother will deny herself of certain things. As your spiritual vision develops, you may have to do this also. You may have to deny yourself of your own plans and ambitions. You may have to lay aside worldly treasures. You will have to sacrifice time to fast and pray.
Ecclesiastes 5:3 states:
For a dream cometh through the multitude of business. (Ecclesiastes 5:3)
The meaning of the word "multitude" is great. "Business", according to one Hebrew meaning, is travail [difficulty]. So a dream or vision comes through "great travail.”
In natural birth there are facts about travail that parallel the spiritual travail which births a vision. Natural travail is a time of intense, concentrated effort to birth the child. This time of travail is also called "labor.”
As in the delivery of a child, a spiritual vision is birthed by intense mental, physical, and spiritual concentration. As you study this course, concentrate on what God wants to birth in your spirit.
In the natural world during labor [travail], the one giving birth must let the natural forces take control. Physically forcing the child into the birth canal before it opens can kill the child.
The same is true in the spirit world. Let God take control of your life. If you try to birth the vision in your own strength it will abort the plan of God.
Everything within you may cry out to push and bring the spiritual vision forth with natural abilities. But by self-effort you can destroy the vision.
Peter cried out to Christ, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man," when he realized what Christ was calling him to do (Luke 5:8). He knew the vision was too great for him to fulfill by his natural strength and abilities.
As a mother in travail hides herself from public gaze, so those in travail spiritually must be alone with God.
THE TIME OF TRANSITION:
In the natural birth process there is a time during labor known as the time of "transition.” It is the most difficult time of travail right before the birth canal is open to permit the birth of the child.
This parallels the birth of a vision in the spirit world. When God births in you a spiritual vision you will experience a time of transition.
Transition means change. As God gives you this spiritual vision it is going to require change in your life. It will call for new commitment and dedication.
You may experience pressure in every area of your life. Everything within you may cry out for relief from the spiritual birth pangs of what God is bringing forth.
This is the point where many fail to receive the vision. Time and time again God has brought His people to the time of transition to birth His vision within them.
But because the transition was too difficult many have turned back. They could not take the pressure of this most difficult time.
It required changes in their thought patterns and lifestyle which they were not willing to make. They could not abandon self-effort and tradition. They could not set aside their own ambitions and desires to embrace the plan of God. This is what happened to the nation of Israel:
Like as a woman with child, that draweth near the time of her delivery, is in pain, and crieth out in her pangs; so have we been in Thy sight, O Lord.
We have been with child, we have been in pain, we have as it were brought forth wind; we have not wrought any deliverance in the earth; neither have the inhabitants of the world fallen. (Isaiah 26:17-18)
Travail brings sorrow but it leads to the birth which brings joy:
A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. (John 16:21)
We are told in Isaiah 53:11 that God witnessed the travail of Jesus Christ and was satisfied. A vision was fulfilled that day on Calvary...a vision that had been promised since the fall of man into sin (Genesis 3:15). Through travail, the vision of redemption from sin became a reality.
Travail is a painful experience, but it is only through travail that the vision can be birthed:
...for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children. Shall I bring to the birth, and not cause to bring forth? saith the Lord: shall I cause to bring forth, and shut the womb? saith thy God.
The development of a spiritual vision has an expected end, just as a human embryo. That end is birth. Prematurity of birth and delay of birth can result in death, both in the natural birth process and in the birth of spiritual vision.
After birth in the natural world the child continues to grow and develop. After the birth of this spiritual vision it will continue to grow and develop. It will have new features and form, but they all must develop from that basic cell of spiritual life which is the vision.
THE VISION OF ABRAHAM
Abraham tried to bring forth his God-given vision through self-effort by the birth of Ishmael. He knew God wanted to make him a great nation and he thought an heir could not come through his wife, Sarah.
So he did something about it and Ishmael was born. But whose power was behind Ishmael, that of Abraham or that of God? Was the fulfillment of the vision through Ishmael man-made or God-made?
You can bring an Ishmael on the scene through your own efforts. Ishmael represents your plans and methods of trying to do God's will through natural abilities. But the heavenly vision, represented by Isaac, must be birthed by God.
Who is the source of spiritual vision?
When asked, "What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?", Jesus responded, "This is the work of God", indicating that He, Himself, was the source (John 6:28-29).
God did not want Abraham to be the source of the heavenly vision any more than He wants us to bring forth man-made or organizationally-made visions.
God is the source of spiritual vision. The vision which you will receive in this course is His plan. It is not a plan of man, a denomination, or an organization.
Scripture has no record of God speaking again to Abraham for thirteen years after the birth of Ishmael. Not until it was humanly impossible for Abraham to have a child did God again stir the vision within him. By then, self-effort had died.
Then came the birth of a vision, for in the perfect timing of God Isaac was miraculously born. But with the birth of God's plan [Isaac], Ishmael [self-effort] must be cast out.
It is time for your Isaac [God's plan] to be birthed in your spirit. In order for this to happen, Ishmael must be cast out.
It is a painful experience to cast out self-effort, your plans, ambitions, tradition, and organizational programs.
But God is saying to you as He did to Abraham, "Grieve not for Ishmael [self-effort], for in Isaac shall your seed be called." In Isaac the source of the vision was God.
ARE YOU READY?
Birth requires change. In the natural world, the child must leave the security of the womb.
When you were born again you had to leave the old life of sin. You had to let Jesus change your thought and action patterns.
To give birth to spiritual vision also requires change. It requires courage to step from the known into the unknown.
Are you ready to receive that spiritual vision? Are you willing to experience spiritual travail in order to birth something new and vital in your Christian life? If you are not willing you had better stop your study here, for once you glimpse the vision shared in these pages your life will never again be the same.