Receiving an empowering vision
We live in a generation in the church in the West, and I believe the UK in particular, where this type of dynamic revelation and empowering vision is in short supply. In fact I would suggest we may be living in days like those prophesied by Amos [8: 11]. This is the worst kind of famine – especially for the Body of Christ. In my observation, I think there can be an issue of being “a second generation” which comes behind an era of significant impact in vision. For many of us we came into the Body of Christ on the back of a moving of the Holy Spirit in refreshing the vision for “body ministry”; five-fold ministries; church government through anointed eldership and other truths which came through in what has become known as the “restoration movement”. We now need ourselves to receive a fresh vision for a new phase in what God wants to do. My personal conviction is that God wants again to make us a grass roots movement, building His Church bottom up from the vision He imparts to many individuals.
Revelation – receiving the vision
Let us be very clear – I do not expect to see a mass exodus from here with everyone booking a trip to Damascus! Nor do we all need to be like Saul – haters of Christians set on a path of destruction to receive revelation! Revelation is not about the “experience”, but about hearing/seeing God at work & our co-operation with what we see/hear. The Holy Spirit is quite capable of speaking to us in very matter-of-fact ways & we are often encouraged to listen for the still small voice, the whisper of the voice of the Holy Spirit. The nature of our experience is essentially irrelevant; but our response to what we receive from God is critical. Let’s reflect again on Paul’s response as indicated in Acts 26 – “I was not disobedient to the vision which came from heaven”. Even among the examples we will go on to look at in this session every individual received their revelation in a different way, so we should in no way succumb to formulae.
Whilst revelation is an act of the Holy Spirit in our lives that we cannot “work up” on our own, we can be appropriately prepared in heart so that when God does begin to speak to us we recognise His voice; or as the vision comes we recognise that it is the Holy Spirit at work.
I would not suggest Eli as a shining example as he did not exercise his priestly office to the best; but his instruction to Samuel when the young man was in the temple is a great one for us to follow. As Samuel was growing up to be a prophet, God wanted him to have a very personal encounter to set him on the path into his ministry, and so He called to him in the temple as he was sleeping [1 Sam 3: 1-10]; and Eli indicated Samuel should respond to the initial revelation with
“Speak Lord, your servant is listening”.
As we begin to hear or see something in God we should consciously open our hearts wider and listen out for more. In our society where everything has become so instant I think many people begin to see something, but then run into action before they have received the whole picture of what God wants.
Creation should also help us with this lesson! God gave us two ears and one mouth and we should use them in that proportion!
Daniel and his friends are also great examples for us. They were taken captive into Babylon as young men, to serve in the King’s household. In this foreign land they resolved ahead of time not to defile themselves with Babylonian food [Daniel 1: 8], but to eat a restricted diet. They also held fast to their faith in the face of the foreign culture and religion they were surrounded by.
Joseph also teaches us that when we receive something from God it will not necessarily work out as we expect [Genesis 37 – 40]. However, throughout bad experiences, over a considerable period, even when the path seemed to get worse rather than better, Joseph held onto the vision he had received. In the end he received the fulfilment of everything God had said.
Looking at these and other examples, I see a common thread – these people each had a personal encounter with God. In this encounter God revealed to them the secrets of His heart, His will not only for them as individuals but for the society of their day. Other examples of this that spring to mind are Jacob struggling with God & not letting go until he received a blessing [Jacob at Peniel Gen: 32]; and Joshua before taking the people across the Jordan and into battle for Jericho [Joshua 2].
It is important to see that this is a very personal encounter – a second hand experience does not cut it in this regard. This was a lesson learned the hard way in the NT by a group who started to try to “cast out demons in the name of Jesus who Paul preaches” and got severely beaten up by the demon possessed for their trouble [Acts 19: 13-16]!
I want to refer briefly to things that I believe we can substitute for a heavenly vision, because I will pull no punches this is idolatry and needs to be eradicated from our lives. Do not mistake my meaning, many of the things below are good things, but if they are a substitute for a heavenly vision and a burning desire to achieve God’s plan they have become idols and our attitude needs to change radically.
1. Career – is your career your aspiration, or do you recognise God’s placement of you in a role for His purposes?
2. Children – are all your hopes and dreams tied into your children and their achievements, or are your children a gift from God and available to Him to achieve their purpose and plan in His ways?
3. Houses – do you aspire to a nicer and nicer home, with all your efforts bent on earning that few pounds more to be able to afford to upgrade, or is your house an open door of hospitality and available in the service of the King?
4. In summary – anything in our lives that becomes a substitute for a dynamic relationship with God!
The results of obedience to the vision
Below are just a very few examples of the results of obedience to the vision:
1. Recognition – in the cases of both Daniel and Joseph they rose to great prominence in the government of ungodly nations through their obedience to God’s vision and the ability to hear from God to interpret dreams and visions.
2. Taking ground for God – in the case of Joshua he recognised that God was preceding the Israelites and that through obedience they could both take Jericho and also possess the Promised Land as God had said.
3. Provision – through Joseph’s interpretation of the 7 fat and 7 lean years Egypt was able to be a bread basket for the world around them as they had stored up grain to be able to cope with the period of famine.
4. Many people born again – when Peter took up the keys that Jesus had spoken to him of and he preached on the Day of Pentecost and afterward many people were converted.
5. The gospel taken across the known world – Paul responded fully to the vision he received and with God’s commissioning journeyed through many countries, taking the gospel message, founding churches and seeing many lives radically changed
6. This list is not exhaustive – I am sure your search of the scriptures will show you other examples of the result of receiving and obeying the vision which God gives
Hebrews 11: 32 – 12: 2 like the writer to the Hebrews – there is no time to explore these examples of what has been accomplished.
- Paul received a vision as a result of a direct, personal encounter with Jesus which radically changed his life, and was his core motivation in life and ministry
- There are many other examples in scripture which show us a similar pattern, a divine encounter, a God-given vision combined with obedience to produce a fruitful life and ministry; including powerful impact on worldly kingdoms
- Power and authority; ability and direction in combination is what God wants in us to enable us to realise Jesus’ prayer (and ours) – Your Kingdom come, Your Will be done on earth as it is in heaven
A final reflection:
I know that I need fresh/more revelation so that I can combine Word and Spirit to accomplish all that God has got planned. I will spend the time asking God for this and set myself to hear from Him, not just use my time with Him in reading and speaking. I will be spiritually greedy, never afraid to come before Him and cry “more Lord!”. I will expect revelation when I spend time in listening to Him.