I always have a plan for the way things are supposed to go. And more often than not, God tends to throw a wrench into those plans. A lot of the time, I don’t even understand what’s happening or why there was a shift. But sometimes God grants us a peek at what He has in store, sometimes He allows us to see a glimpse of what is to be. Those are moments of vision. Sometimes God gives us a vision of how He wants us to move forward in furthering His kingdom.
Now, I’m not necessarily speaking of something supernatural like a dream where we see the future and know for certain exactly what it all looks like (though, with God, all things are possible). One of the ways Merriam-Webster defines ‘vision’ is “the mode of seeing or conceiving; unusual discernment or foresight.” God often gives us an unusual foresight to conceive what the future might hold. For instance, God has given Justin and I a vision for our church of young adult ministry, specifically for those outside the church. That vision certainly wasn’t expected. And since that moment of foresight, we haven’t heard much, I believe, because God is saying ‘not yet.’ I can see as I reflect upon this past year and our current situation that He is preparing us now for something in the future (However, about half way through writing this post…that ‘wait’ became a ‘ready, set, GO!’). He has given us a vision, of that I am certain.
So what should our response be when God does give us a vision? Nehemiah was a man of vision. Before there was ever a vision, he spent a lot of time in prayer (more on that here). Prayer is vital to any vision God gives us, both before and during the implementation of that vision. We can’t carry out God’s plans if we aren’t in daily, constant communication with Him. If we aren’t communicating with Him then we are doing nothing more than making the plans of God the plans of man. Prayer is essential.
Once Nehemiah is sure of God’s vision, he sets himself to plan for the task. He has to evaluate the situation, see the reality of what needs to be done. In the second chapter of Nehemiah, verses 12-16, he mentions twice that he doesn’t tell anyone what God has put in his mind to do. When God gives you a vision, it isn’t to bring glory and fame to your name. When God gives you a vision, it is still HIS vision. If we ever use that to bring attention to ourselves, we have missed the point. So Nehemiah quietly moved forward without attracting any attention.
In the midst of that planning and preparation, the vision or the problems that arise within the vision, may seem insurmountable. Nehemiah was surrounded by ruins and disappointment (quite literally). He was given a vision for a problem no one else seemed to want to fix. And in the middle of the night, as he was planning, he literally came to an impasse: “Then I passed on to the Fountain Gate and the King’s Pool, but there was no place for my mount to pass” (vs. 14). So what did he do? He found another way! Nehemiah didn’t give up at the first sign of difficulty. The vision seemed impossible from the start, but he didn’t let that stop him. And even when it became even more difficult, Nehemiah kept moving forward. Why? Because this wasn’t a vision of man. This was a God sized vision. And only with the power of God could it be accomplished.
Finally, Nehemiah feels it is time to cast the vision (vs. 17-18). He explains to the Jews the situation they are in, the why. Then he gives them a solution to fix it and says, let us fix the issue, together. He doesn’t cast the vision and say, ‘Okay, God gave me this vision, I’ll be over here working on that. Can you guys pray for me?’ No, a God-sized vision requires that His people come together in unity to accomplish the task. And He also explains how God has been in the mix. It’s one thing to cast a vision of how we see things. It is another when we are able to point to God in the process. I love how Matthew Henry looks at Nehemiah casting the vision: “By stirring up ourselves and one another to that which is good, we strengthen ourselves and one another for it; for the great reason we are weak in our duty is because we are cold to it, indifferent, and unresolved.” If we are weak it is because we have become indifferent. When God gives us a vision, it is our responsibility to stir ourselves and others up. And no matter how crazy or impossible the task, we can’t take the time to worry about what other’s think, “The man who is in dead earnest has no time to be self-conscious, he does not indulge in sickly reflection on the effect of what he says on other people’s opinions about himself, he will not care what they think about him so long as he moves them to do the thing it is laid on his soul to urge upon them” (Expositor’s).
And lastly, when faced with opposition, Nehemiah doesn’t give up on the vision God has given him. Instead, he clings more tightly. We will face opposition. When God gives us a vision, it is usually something that can’t be done by the hands of man. In order for that vision to succeed, God will have to be in the mix or it will fail. That way we can’t take the credit. Because of that impossibility, there will always be naysayers. And there will always be obstacles to overcome. Nehemiah’s response to that opposition is this: “The God of heaven will give us success; therefore we His servants will arise and build…” (vs. 20). In other words, we are determined to make this happen, we will not give up because God Himself will grant us success. When you know you have a vision from the Lord, there is no need for doubt or discouragement, there is only moving forward. If He has given you a vision, He will provide the means. All He requires from you is faith. I have been reading through Draw the Circle by Mark Batterson (I highly recommend it). He notes at one point that it is “Our job is to hear [God’s] voice. His job is to establish our steps. And if we do our job, God will do His” (pg.25)!
So stand firm. Push forward. And never forget to pray – “We need to work like it depends on us and pray like it depends on God” (Batterson, Draw the Circle).
The voyage continues here.