Importance and Value of God-given Vision
hither, I will shew thee..." Rev. 21:9.
Once again in the course of its
history the Church of God is found in a time of serious crisis as
to its life and world-testimony. Not once, nor twice, has this
occurred, but many times have conditions arisen which have raised
the major questions as to its next phase or entire future. At
such times there has always been one factor which has been
decisive; that was, the presence or absence of God-given vision.
Again and again, such vision has been, by its absence, the cause
of calamity and disaster; or, by its presence, the turning point
for good or ill, according to the attitude taken to it. God has
many times reacted to either actual or threatening tragedy by the
presentation of a new vision; new, so far as His people were
We are now entering more and
more deeply into a situation which threatens the life and
testimony of the Church, and already in large areas of the world
it is an actual and desperate reality. It is no hypothetical or
imaginary situation, nor one of supposition, but there is a
terrific drive from the unseen with a view to the engulfing of
all that is of God and of His Christ.
So the need of the hour is once
again God-given vision. The value and importance of such vision
is found in its various features. In the first place:
Vision is Something Concrete with God
It is something which has
existed with God in clear-cut definition in the eternal counsels
from the beginning. It is not something abstract or nebulous,
something that is what people term 'visionary' or mystical. It is
quite definite, clear, and real in the mind and intention of God.
God-given vision is not something subsequent to eventualities, an
afterthought because of things having arisen unexpectedly; a kind
of alternative to what God originally meant. It is not a
substitute for His original plan. No, it is not an emergency
expedient because of a situation unforeseen. God-given vision has
its roots outside of time and circumstance, eventualities,
contingencies, emergencies! All those things have been already
taken account of, and have - so to speak - been swallowed up in
the vision of God.
To be brought into such vision
is to be brought on to a ground of confidence and assurance when
the sands seem to be sinking and everything giving way. This,
surely, is of no little importance and value. Then again:
Vision Comprehends All Detail
Things, whether they be good or
whether they be evil, are not ends in themselves. They are either
embodied in or overcome by the vision. Under the sovereign
government of the Spirit of God all things are made to serve that
purpose which is the substance of God's vision. That is just the
significance of the words so familiar and so often used about all
things working together for good (Rom. 8:28). But we so rarely
see them in their setting, and stop short of the full import. We
just say "All things work together for good..." and
stop there. The context has two aspects. Lives wholly under the
Holy Spirit's government are in view, and "his purpose"
is governing. Unless these two things are implicit, all things do
not work together for good! Given that being "called
according to his purpose" we in response are lovers of God,
then all things are the sphere of a sovereignty which makes them
work together for good. Purpose governs all, and the
purpose is the substance of God-given vision. It therefore
requires a vision of God's purpose in greater fulness, not in
part. The purpose comprehends all parts. No phase or part is an
end in itself. One wheel of a machine has no adequate meaning in
itself. There lacks a real motive if all the other parts are not
in view. We must not be too obsessed or taken up with the part or
phase. If we are, the whole becomes bound up with that phase, for
us, and we see no more. This may put us completely out of
commission if any one phase has served its purpose and God is
moving on. Sufficient motive demands sufficient vision, and we
must see much more than that which is immediately before our
eyes. Then, further still:
Vision is Constantly Enlarging
It is very important to
remember that God-given vision is never given in completeness any
one time. This is something borne out by an abundance of
Scriptural evidence and instances. Such vision is always subject
to enlargement. It will always be developed and fulfilled
through new phases. This is a law in nature, and nature embodies
The means employed by God at
one time may - and very likely will - pass or be changed. In the
sovereign ordering of God one particular phase, method, or means
will pass out, though greatly used and blessed so far. This does
not involve a change of vision (unless it is ours and not
God's) but an enlargement of vision. With God all that He uses
and blesses, however wonderfully, is only relative and not final
or ultimate. Therefore we must not cling to what has been and
regard that as the form for all time. So often this has been a
most disastrous attitude of mind, and has resulted in God having
to go on with His full purpose in other directions and by other
means, and leave that fixed thing behind to serve a much lesser
purpose than He wanted with it. Eventually it has spiritually died,
although perhaps carried on by human effort and organization. It
just lives on its past and tradition. We go on:
Vision Always Moves Upward
In its first apprehension it
seems to have such immediate, temporal, and earthly significance.
The implications of any movement of God are not always recognized
at the beginning, but if we go on with Him we shall find that
much that is done here and is of time is - and has to be - left
behind. The spiritual and the heavenly is pressing for a larger
place and becoming absolutely imperative to the very life of the
instrumentality and those concerned. It is spontaneous, and just
happens. We wake up to realize that we have moved into a new
realm or position, and no amount of additional earthly resource
can meet the need. It is not only something more that is
demanded, but something different. This is a crisis, and it will
only be safely passed if there is vision of God's ultimate
object. This demands spiritual mindedness, capacity for grasping heavenly
things. One world may be tumbling to pieces, but the full and
final is the explanation.
The great pity is that so many
just will cling to the old framework or partial vision. God
presents His heavenly pattern in greater fulness and
demands adjustment. He does it with foreknowledge, knowing of a
day which is imminent when this vision alone will save. But,
because it is 'revolutionary' or not 'what has been in the
blessing of God' etc., etc., it is rejected and put aside. Then
the foreseen day comes and all sorts of expedients have to be
resorted to to save the ship. Paul warned out of his intuitive
vision that such would be the case on the journey to Rome, and it
proved true, the ship eventually foundered and much was lost.
Abraham had a vision of
"the city which hath foundations" and he "looked
for" it, but never found it on earth. He found it at last in
heaven, but it was the climax of a walk which was ever upward.
Ezekiel saw "in the visions of God" the glory lifting
from the earthly scene, and moving up and on; and this vision
related to all his other visions, culminating in a spiritual
house and river which have their counterpart alone in the
revelation given to Paul and John particularly: heavenly,
spiritual, universal. What a significant phrase that is about the
house seen by Ezekiel - "there was an enlarging upward"
(Ezek. 41:7). God-given vision is always "the heavenly vision",
and always moves away from the merely temporal and sentient. If
this were apprehended there would be much more vital fruit, and
many fewer 'white elephants'.
God is never on the line of
reduction, limitation. It may look like that, but it is not so.
If we really had His vision, that which looks like trimming and
reduction is His way of enlargement, but spiritual and heavenly
It was "the God of glory"
who appeared to Abraham (Acts 7:2). It was the pattern in the
heavenlies that was "shewn" to Moses (Heb. 8:5).
It was "...above the firmament... a throne... and upon...
the throne... a man above upon it" that Ezekiel saw. It was
"that the heavens do rule" that Daniel
apprehended. These are not only sovereign factors in government,
but heavenly conceptions in the nature of things.
These two things proceed as
one. God in sovereignty will run the risk of shattering, or allow
the shattering, of so much that He has used of scaffolding or
framework in order to realize the fuller purpose. It is not that
it was wrong, but now He wants something more. We thank God for
ever that He took Paul away from his travelling ministry and let
him be shut up in prison. It was then that the full glorious
vision and revelation of the "heavenlies" and the
"eternal" was given to eclipse all the earthly and
temporal. It was worth it, and was no tragedy! The Holy Spirit is
the custodian of the full purpose of God, and under His
government the Church and the individual believer will move ever
on and up.
Satan may have had
a lot to do with Paul's imprisonment, and with John's banishment
to Patmos, but the Church has gained unspeakably in heavenly things.
Vision is the Ground of Our Training
When God does give
vision it is that which becomes the occasion and basis of our
testing, our education, and our discipline. This is far more
important to God than easy fulfilment and realization; than that
kind of facilitation which knows only sovereign power. Look at
the prophets. They were men of vision. They stood in the gap
between threatening disaster and the survival of God's people.
But what discipline they knew because of their vision! It was
their vision that brought all the inward as well as outward
suffering upon them. Look again at Habakkuk. How he cries to God
about the situation and then takes position in relation to the
vision. But faith and patience are the great spiritual virtues
and values to be perfected. "The just shall live by
faith". Said John - with all his Patmos visions - "I
John... your brother... in... the patience of Jesus" (Rev.
So, things may be
taking a new and different shape, but the purpose of God is the
same. We may be presented with His vision in new and further-on
aspects, but it is only what He originally meant.
Can we adjust? Can
we leave "the things that are behind"? Without raising
any questions as to the right or wrong of what has been, can we
"go on" and "grow up", "attain"?
Vision Makes Men of Prayer
This is almost too
obvious when we remember the men of the Bible. It was vision that
got them away from the trivial and petty. It requires vision to
get prayer on to the major lines and to make it real travail.
What a bound and range those prophets had in prayer! But what
immense issues were precipitated.
It is not our
vision for God, but His vision in us that will be dynamic, and
that will determine value.
I cannot conclude
without pointing out that what could be voluntary with much gain
has often to be made compulsory with much loss.
This is because we
do not stand back from time to time and in detachment and waiting
upon the Lord give Him an opportunity of enlarging vision.
Many a work which
has mightily served the Lord and been a great spiritual testimony
has lost its former glory, purity, and impact because it has
become a 'Work', a 'Movement', an Organization, and its
ramifications and responsibilities have become such as to
completely rule out any such 'retreat' with God, where that work
is put back and a real openness to the Lord for anything else,
more or other, is enquired after.
The Lord might
send prophetic vision by ministry to lead into His fuller
meanings if there was a way for it, but we are too busy.
What tragedy is related to such preoccupation!
Extract from the book "Vision and Vocation". First published in "A Witness and A Testimony" magazine, Jan-Feb 1952, Vol 30-1