It states in the proverbs: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Proverbs 29:18 (KJV). This passage once troubled me because I mistook vision for innovation (which I understood to be a product of imagination). I was further convinced that if I didn’t keep coming up with fresh ideas for our church, everything would go down the tubes. Then I read that same proverb in the NKJV: “Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint.” This more literal rendering of the passage opened my eyes to its actual meaning. It has nothing to do with folks having the life sucked out of them all because no one had any bright ideas. To paraphrase, Proverbs 29:18 tells us that without revelation, people lose their bearings. They go south.
With this in mind, it’s important to understand what vision is. It has to do with God’s revelation, and little to do with man’s innovation. As a matter of a fact, God’s Word warns against vision that doesn’t come from above: “Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They make you worthless; They speak a vision of their own heart, Not from the mouth of the LORD.'” Jeremiah 23:16
Notice that vision comes from the mouth of God and not the heart of man. I need to be mindful of this when people present their ideas to me. They may be as sincere as they are imaginative, but I must discern whether or not their idea was born from the mouth of God. We all have a tendency to get excited when the creative juices start to flow. We may even interpret our excitement as confirmation from the Lord. But that’s not always the case, is it? Experience has taught me well that God doesn’t get behind everything that excites us.
The Church of Ephesus was a very busy church – all hustle and bustle. The church bulletin probably opened up like a road map. The calendar was full and everyone was caught up in a slew of religious activity. But things eventually grew routine. The Ephesians were merely going through the motions. It was the same old hat. I find it interesting that the Lord didn’t tell them to come up with some fresh ideas. Instead, He told them to get back to the basics. To quote from the Book of Revelation, Jesus said:
“Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.” Revelation 2:4-6
There is nothing innovative about that. If a pastor were to stand before his flock and say, “Let’s get back to what we did in the beginning.” he might be accused of being unoriginal. And he very well might be! But that doesn’t matter. Vision as defined in scripture has nothing to do with anyone’s originality. It comes from the mouth of God! And it was the mouth of God that instructed the Ephesians to get back to the basics.
I do not believe there is a pot of gold at the end of every rainbow, but I have discovered there is a wealth of vision when we focus on the basics. I have also found that vision dries up when the basics are neglected. Creative juices still flow. Clever ideas still arise. The imagination still runs wild. But all the while we place our hands over the mouth of God and silence Him. You see, vision is about seeing what God is doing, and looking forward to what He wants to do. And unless we focus on the basics, our vision will be tainted. We begin to call our great ideas God’s ideas and our understanding of vision becomes progressively more warped. It’s that thing Stephen Spielberg has, and what Steve Jobs had. You know, dreams, ingenuity and creativity! All that is wonderful. But it can also get in the way of what God wants to reveal. And remember, without revelation, people lose their bearings. Who cares how creative the path is if it leads people downward?
This is why the basics are so foundational. They cause us to focus more on God and others than our ideas. The basics remind us to be constant in prayer, to dig deep in the Word and to make fellowship a priority. The basics tell us to care for, encourage, bless and invest in one another. This is why I call the basics the seedbed of vision. When we commit to these things, we capture the heart of God and catch His love for those around us. His love must take root in our lives if we are to hear Him speak. When He does, we see things as He sees them. We catch His vision. And we look forward to what He will do!
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Calvary Chapel of Austin Church
1601 Pecan St., Pflugerville, TX 78660