PULPIT TODAY SERMONS
Robert D. Pace
(Illustration) Andrew Carnegie was once asked the secret of his remarkable success. He replied, “I owe it all to my flashes . . . All my life I woke up early in the morning, and always there came into my mind with the waking a flash telling me what to do that day, and if I followed those matin flashes, I always succeeded.” The inquisitor replied: “You mean you have heavenly visions, and like the man in the Scriptures you weren’t disobedient to your vision?” “Call it that if you like,” answered Carnegie, “or call it flashes; but it was the following of those silent admonitions and directions which brought me the success you say I have achieved.”
Scripture mentions visions 101 times. Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Obadiah, Micah, Nahum, Malachi, Zacharias, Cornelius, John, Paul, Simon and others had visions. Human history has been shaped by this experience.
(Definition) Conventionally speaking, vision describes something that comes into view. It’s a focusing on three dimensional objects. But prophetic vision doesn’t come by ocular sight, it involves spiritual perception. And this perception comes in several ways: dreams; a quickened imagination; through spiritual gifts of discernment, prophecy, interpretation of tongues, or word of wisdom.
Let me reaffirm one certainty concerning vision: Although men experience this phenomenon, it never originates with men. As the “author and finisher of our faith,” godly visions are first drafted in God’s mind.
(Transition) As we begin this discourse let’s first discuss the person receiving a vision. We shall identify this person as the Visionary.
I. The Visionary
(Illustration) William Burns was a country boy that later became the great revivalist of Scotland and China who also influenced men like Hudson Taylor and Murray McCheyne. When William was seventeen years-old he visited Glasgow with his mother. They traveled the crowded streets and were momentarily separated. William’s mother anxiously searched for him before finding him brokenhearted and crying in an alley. When she asked what was wrong she heard the following through the sobs of this country boy visiting the city: “Mother, the thud of these Christless feet on the way to hell breaks by heart.” No wonder he became the great revivalist!
God imparts vision to those receptive and ready to respond to His impartation. And Paul was a receptive and ready to respond visionary! That’s what Acts 26 discloses. Apart from Christ Paul is more responsible for Christianity’s expansion and then barricading the spread of isms than any other Apostle. His missionary-evangelism took him from Jerusalem to Rome; through palaces and dungeons; to the wealthy and impoverished. And although Paul was not numbered with the 12 Apostles, he penned one-third of the New Testament and will always be recognized as Christianity’s premier Apostle.
Paul’s willingness to accept God’s plan for his life was vital to his successes. Willingness made it possible to fulfill his “heavenly vision.” When God imparted the vision, without argument, Paul accepted it! And this a familiar characteristic in the lives of many champions of God:
Abraham was receptive to God’s Promised Land vision.
Joseph was receptive to the vision of provision that sustained two nations during a devastating seven-year famine.
At the burning bush Moses was receptive to liberating Israel from earth’s mightiest monarchy.
And when Moses died Joshua was receptive to dispossessing the Canaanites and parceling their land to the 12 tribes of Jacob.
David and Solomon were receptive to building the Temple.
Years later, Nehemiah was receptive to reconstructing Jerusalem’s walls.
In the sixteenth century Martin Luther was receptive to heralding the message: “The just shall live by faith.” And it sparked a revolution that transformed Christianity.
John Knox, the great Presbyterian minister, freed Scotland from religious heresy and Western Europe’s dominion. Walker said in his book, A History Of The Christian Church, “On November 24, 1572, he died, having influenced not merely the religion but the character of the nation more than any other man in Scottish history.”
Are you receptive and ready to respond to God’s impartation? You don’t have to be an Apostle or Prophet to receive a heavenly vision. It’s not reserved for spiritual elites. Simply make yourself available to God. Let Him know you’re willing to accept His plan regardless of what He reveals. There is plenty to do in the Kingdom of God.
Do you realize that the Prophet Joel and Simon Peter predicted an interesting Endtime phenomena prevailing upon last-generation Believers? Notice what the Bible says in Joel 2 and Acts 2. “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.”
Did you notice that? The Bible says the Spirit’s final outpouring will include Christians being anointed with the power of perception! Visionaries will be a driving force of God’s work in the last days! That’s why it’s important to be receptive and ready to respond to the Spirit’s work.
(Illustration) After World War II General Douglas McArthur requested 10,000 missionaries for Japan. The Christian Church failed to catch McArthur’s vision and today Japan lies under the sway of Eastern mysticism. Thankfully, the Church promptly responded after Soviet Union collapsed in the last portion of the 20th Century. Evangelists and missionaries quickly saturated Russia after the Cold War melted and hundreds of thousands of Russians converted to Christ.
(Quote) Here’s the way I like to characterize a Visionary: “Vision without action is imaginary. Action without vision is mercenary. But vision with action is missionary.” (RDP) I trust you are willing to accept God’s plan for your life and launch forth with vision and passion.
(Transition) We’ve discussed the visionary, secondly, let’s discuss, The visionary’s vision.
II. The Visionary’s Vision
It’s been often said: “If your vision glorifies God, and benefits man, then pursue it.” While that statement resonates well in secular circles it does not suit a philosophy for the Kingdom of God. Yes, all vision should glorify God but that is not the primary criteria for Kingdom-vision. For example, it’s a noble a vision for someone to consider feeding an impoverished third-world country, but without a divine mandate God’s Will could be missed elsewhere!
The most significant criteria for capturing a heavenly vision is this: A Vision for God must first be ordained by God! Without the covenant-blessing of God upon the vision it has no guarantee of success.
One reason our ventures for God fail is because they’re flesh-born rather than Spirit-born. That’s why our visions must be more than a good idea; they must be a God idea! Jesus told Nicodemus, “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit” (John 3:6). Let’s illustrate what Jesus meant when He said, “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to Spirit.”
(Example) Have you ever wondered why children of highly successful ministers often fail to achieve the success of their father? There is a reason for this. It’s because their father’s vision was meant for their father but not necessarily his son. The “flesh” cannot produce life in the Kingdom of God. Life begets life and that’s why each person must discover the God-given vision for his/her ministry.
(Illustration) Dannaker was a famous German sculptor living centuries ago. His work included carving Greek goddesses. He was once asked to carve a statue of Christ. After working years on the project he summoned a young girl to test his craftsmanship. Dannaker asked, “Who is this?” She replied, “A great man.” He instantly knew his impression of Christ had failed so he undertook the project again. It took another six years to carve Christ’s image but during that time he became a Christian. Again, testing his work, he asked a little girl to identify the statue. She stood and stared with silent deliberation. Tears welled in her eyes and swallowing past her lumpy throat she said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, for such is the kingdom of Heaven.” Dannaker knew he had succeeded.
And what was the difference? He first attempted to carve another’s Christ but his second attempt carved his own personal Christ.
Like Moses discovered, Israel couldn’t be delivered through an attempt of the “flesh” (when he killed the Egyptian with his hand). It came when He used the Spirit’s power within the staff. And we can never carry out God’s plan by the flesh. It must be imparted, empowered, and impelled by the sovereign Spirit! That’s why Jesus said, “Be endued with power from on high.” It’s why He commanded the disciples not to leave Jerusalem until they received “the promise of the Father.” And it’s why Paul said, “Be filled with the Spirit.” God-given vision is only accomplished by the Spirit.
(Transition) Now, thirdly, let’s discuss the visionary’s responsibility. All gifts from God, especially visionary gifts, demand human cooperation. And God’s blessing hinges upon our faithful execution of His Will.
III. The Visionary’s Responsibility
Turn to Genesis 15 and let’s read about the virtue of responsibility as it regards Abraham.
After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” (2) But Abram said, “O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” (3) And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” 4 And behold, the word of the LORD came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” (5) And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” (6) And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness. (7) And he said to him, “I am the LORD who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.
God gave Abraham two promises in this passage: (1) First, God promised Abraham a son through whom would arise a great nation. (2) Secondly, God bequeathed Abraham land-rights for his people to inherit. Let’s note three aspects of Abraham’s responsible reaction to his vision:
1. Abraham sought confirmation of the vision. God isn’t opposed to confirming His plans. Some people assume that asking for confirmation signifies unbelief.
(Example) If you and your spouse were over 90 years-old and God promised a natural born son wouldn’t you appreciate confirmation before announcing it the word? If the Lord disclosed that through this child a nation would arise as numerous as the sand of the seashore wouldn’t you appreciate confirmation? There are occasions when soliciting God’s confirmation isn’t necessarily unbelief; it’s wisdom!
2. Abraham responded by believing God for the vision’s fulfillment. Hebrews 11:11-12: “By faith Abraham, even though he was passed age—and Sarah herself was barren—was enabled to become a father because considered him faithful who had made the promise. (12) And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.”
The reason it’s been impossible to eradicate the Jews during the past 4000 years is primarily due to God’s sovereignty. The Lord’s eternal decree has divinely preserved them. But there’s another factor figuring into Israel’s solidarity—Abraham’s faith! Abraham died thousands of years ago, but though dead, Abraham’s faith has lived to sustain that chosen company of people for centuries! In other words, man is mortal but faith is immortal.
3. Abraham warred over his vision. Never forget that a divinely-inspired vision often demands spiritual warfare. It takes fighting off the demons of hell to gain the promises.
God’s Covenant with Abraham involved an animal sacrifice. As Abraham placed his sacrifice before God the “birds of prey” attempted to devour it. Moreover, Abraham was forced to battle for the sanctity of his sacrifice and drive away the birds. You see, we must never become complacent once God gives us His vision. We must be willing to fight for what God has promised! You see, God’s promises and visions aren’t unconditionally guaranteed; He demands your cooperation.
For example, God planted a vision within Joshua to dispossess the Canaanites. But the “ites” didn’t abandon their houses and willingly surrender the land. The Israelites claimed their Promised Land as they rose-up and fought for their possessions. And your promises and visions are no different. You must stand in faith, obedience, prayer, and resist the devil.
But there was another attack Satan launched against Abraham’s vision: it was an attack of fear! Verse 12 says: “As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him.” Notice the phrase: “a thick and dreadful darkness came over him.” This was a blackness distinct from the darkness of night. It was a gloomy dread that Satan pulled over Abraham to create fear and deter him from his promises.
Has Satan ever attacked you as you slept? This happened to Abraham! But I like Abraham’s response, or lack of response: He slept right through the attack much like Christ slept through the storm of Galilee. And as Abraham calmly slept God’s Word came again to Abraham. And God’s reassuring words at the night hour sank deeply into his heart and he arose with renewed vision and faith.
Saints of God, don’t permit Satan to choke your vision. God’s Word is enough to sustain it. God wants you to catch a heavenly vision, trust His mysterious working, and cooperate with His sovereign power so He can accomplish the impossible!
In conclusion, I want to mention the attributes of a visionary:
First, they are misunderstood. Because the Holy Spirit inspires their perception they perceive what others don’t see.
Second, visionaries are often loners. The live with the attitude that says: “Regardless of cooperation or companionship, by God’s grace the vision will be fulfilled”!
Third, they exemplify extraordinary faith. In all circumstances, they expect God to intervene and accomplish the impossible.