The need for this hour is vision. If we change our focus because of the many challenges and adversity that distract us our result will either be disillusionment at best and disastrous at worst. Too many ministers in today’s society are satisfied with so much less than what God has promised. This is mainly because ministry is spelled wrong – it should be spelled w-o-r-k.
It takes discipline and right actions to build a growing, thriving church and believe it or not, it takes risk. You have to learn to risk everything on the truth that God is going to confirm your calling and use you for His kingdom. Not because you are worthy, but because you are available. My question to you this month is, “Are you available?”
If you are, there are absolutely no limits on what God can do in your life. Can you put everything on the altar and allow God to alter it to His own choosing? If you can, then you are God’s man for the hour. You may use this material in your personal ministry. It is a delight to serve you in this capacity and hopefully God will add to your faith the eight dimensions of a vision.
In Acts 26:19 Paul declared, “Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision.” The scripture teaches quite plainly in Proverbs that without a vision the people perish. The word ‘perish’ actually means, “without restraint”. If people are not consumed with the magnificent obsession of fulfilling the great commission of Jesus Christ, they will never commit or discipline themselves by our standards. They must know the purpose. That purpose has to be your vision. When God calls you to ministry He forges His vision into your life, which becomes your magnificent obsession – as Paul Tillich calls it, “the ultimate concern.”
Once you identify the vision, then you can go about finding a way to cast it into the lives of others and get them to buy into it. Ministry is allowing divine resources to meet the needs of your congregation. Vision is giving them a reason to live your dream. Ministry is the life and vision is the purpose for the life – two sides to the same coin.
As Warren Wiersbe said, “Ministry takes place when divine resources meet human needs through loving channels to the glory of God.”
1) Know the divine resources personally
2) See the human need compassionately
3) Become channels of God’s mighty resources so that
4) God alone is glorified.
The trouble with too many of us is that we think God called us to be manufacturers when he really called us to be distributors. He alone has the resources to meet human needs. When it comes to ministry, all of us are bankrupt and only God is rich. By the way, we are often tempted in ministry to get rid of the very people God wants us to help. The disciples did it more than once (Matthew 15:21, 28; 19:13,15). You must learn to freely give what has been given to you (Warren Wiersbe).
Once you accept your complete dependence on God’s power and God begins to bless your work, you won’t be tempted to take the credit for the great things that will happen. If you can explain what’s going on, God didn’t do it!
And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come. He that hath ears to hear let him hear. But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented. For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children (Matthew 11:12-19).
Preaching must produce that violence, which is basically interpreted to mean action or to create a response. Without it people will never be changed.
Notice in Matthew 11 that the level of dedication didn’t make a difference in the acceptance of the message. If people are not brought to a spiritual crisis by a visitation of the Almighty, your dedication will not matter.
Remember that your dedication has nothing to do with the acceptance of your ministry, only your relationship with God. It is this relationship that helps you keep your feet on the ground when your ministry is accepted of the people. This means your ministry will be accepted when you learn how to communicate.
The gospel that Paul preached was given to him by spiritual revelation and by vision. It was not learned through systematic or intellectual study. It was a revealed spiritual vision. Therefore, his convictions were strong, his commitment was firm, and he preached the gospel in the demonstration of the power and of the spirit. It must be understood that visions come from Jesus Christ himself, not from religion. Church membership does not insure your salvation or ability to perceive the power of the gospel. Only a personal relationship with Jesus will produce in you the vision that will increase your commitment and manifest the power of God. Remember Jesus’ analogy of the vine and her branches. Once you have received a vision of the exaltation, the triumph, and preeminence of Jesus Christ, you will never be able to escape the impact and affect that vision will have upon you. It may even die, but it will resurrect.
If you will fan the dying embers, it can grow and grow, even adding “to your faith virtue and to your virtue knowledge.” We need to learn how to add to our vision. We Pentecostals are so guilty of riding a good horse to death, getting one spiritual revelation and vision and thinking we have it all and know it all, not realizing that the purpose of God is progressive and often times the vision takes on new and different settings. Therefore, you must be open to add to your vision. Let’s take a look at Paul’s visions in the Bible. There were eight in all.
It must be understood that Paul’s visions always contained Jesus Christ. His first vision is found in Acts 9:5. We will call this the Conversion vision. And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. In order to begin, we must begin at the beginning – you must be converted first. There is no salvation without a true spiritual conversion.
As a result of this vision, opposition was mounted against him in the city of Damascus. However, in Acts 9:25 he was saved by being let down in a basket. Many Pentecostals, when we get converted, sit down and think we know it all. God did not want this to happen to Paul. After he was led into Arabia, he received divine revelation from Jesus Christ. He returned to Jerusalem and was preaching in the temple and Jesus Christ appeared to him and warned him to get out of Jerusalem or he would be killed.
In Acts 22:17-19, God insured that Paul would not become satisfied with conversion by adding a warning vision. Never become satisfied. Always stay alert and ready to move when God is ready to move.
And it came to pass, that, when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance; And saw him saying unto me, Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me. And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee: And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him. And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles (Acts 22:17-19).
We need to learn how to add some warning to our walk with God. This makes us pliable in the hands of God. However, it must be understood that the warning leads us to evangelism. Once you are able to take orders from God, you can now progress to finding out what your mission is.
The third vision Paul received is the Missionary vision (Acts 16:6-11).
Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia, After they were come to, they assayed to go Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not. And they passing by came down to And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us.
And after he had seen the vision, immediately endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them. Therefore loosing, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis.
As a result of Paul being sensitive to the warning, God was able to speak to him. When he wanted to go to Asia, he was directed to Macedonia. He saw a man telling him to come over and preach.
When he got off the boat, the most extraordinary things happened – no man came out to meet him. As a matter of fact, nobody came out to meet him. Contrary to his vision, he went to the riverbank and preached to the women and instead of converting a man, he converted Lydia, a seller of purple. Paul knew that missionary work and visions will eventually come to pass when we do what is most opportune at the time.
This is very profound because often after we receive our mission we are called upon to do many things that don’t apply, yet in the end we look back and discover that everything we did was preparation for the fulfillment of God’s complete promise. Later on in the chapter Paul found the man, the Philippian Jailer.
Paul learned something. God taught him how to be versatile as well as securely grounded in the truth. This is a very important principle to learn. You have to be able to adapt to new circumstances and environments that may be contrary to your immediate vision and purpose. Nevertheless, if you continue to pursue the goal by casting your vision, eventually you will win.
But God needs to continue adding to our vision and adds to Paul’s growing vision a Testimony vision in Acts 18:9-11.
Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city (Acts 18:9-11).
This is when Paul was teaching the Old Testament scripture at the synagogue in Corinth. The Lord came to him in a vision and said, “It’s high time you quit preaching the Old Testament scriptures and testify of me.”
God is going to call us to testify of who and what he is. You are not here to testify about yourself or what you are doing in the ministry. Every scripture that is written reveals Jesus Christ in His fullness to the world.
It is your mission to reveal Jesus to the world. All the practical Bible teaching on the planet will not change one single life. Not one person will be different. It will simply make them self-righteous fools. But when they see Jesus in the midst of the throne and the candlestick, as sovereign Lord over the universe and the church, they will never again be the same. Now the practical teaching of the word has new meaning and will have a powerful life changing effect on everyone who believes.
There are more revelations that need to be considered by Paul and by us. God had to give him a Work vision also, in Acts 23:11.
And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome (Acts 23:11).
No dream comes to pass without good, old-fashioned, hard work. When Paul thought his work was done, he found out instead there was much more work to do. The reward for doing a good job is more work and more responsibilities. You must learn to organize your time and your schedule. You can’t simply fill your calendar with the tyranny of the urgent. You must learn how to figure out what is more important and do those things first. This will clear the way for you to become more productive. Don’t work harder, work smarter.
The Encouragement vision is next and is found in Acts 27:23-25. Paul was going to need a considerable amount of special encouragement Not only was he in the midst of a raging storm with the boat about to break up and sink, but God told him he was going to go before Caesar and preach.
For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee. Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me (Acts 27:23-25).
Not only must he endure a mad storm, he was soon to endure the mad Nero Caesar. It seems to be an awkward time for God to reveal to him the most unusual circumstance in the midst of such tremendous adversity. But consider that in revealing the future mission he was automatically encouraged. He realized that if there is a future, the present adversity will be conquered.
When we are tested and receive God’s special encouragement, we then need His enabling strength to endure. This leads us to the Strength vision. Paul is now in the coliseum standing before Caesar and all the masses of Rome about to be eaten by lions. In 2 Timothy 4:16-17 he was promised the opportunity to preach to all of Rome. The strength of the text means he would preach to all of Rome at one time. Now he has his chance. 2 Timothy 4:16-17 teaches us that the Lord stood by him that day and strengthened him.
At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge. Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.
Here he was standing in the coliseum with the Lord standing right by him, lions about to eat him, all Rome in attendance, and God shut the mouths of the lions. The marvel of the miracle astounds the crowd and makes a rapt audience for Paul to preach to all of Rome.
The last vision should not be underestimated for it is the Heavenly vision of 2 Corinthians 12:1-4. Without the hope of heaven, we are of all men most miserable. All men fail when they lose sight of that city whose builder and maker is God. Without the connection to the eternal, no vision, no mission or ministry is worth 10 cents.
When you connect to the heavenly vision you are able to withstand greater conflicts and defeat more powerful foes. God is looking for men with a vision who are flexible enough so He can add the ingredients that will make you a man after God’s own heart.
I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter (2 Corinthians 12:1-4).