Visions for the Future
By Stephen B. Springer
It seems that during every age of world history individuals have found that problems seemed overwhelming. From the Garden of Eden to the advent of the space age, we have faced numerous problems from the physical as well as the spiritual viewpoint. Often these problems seem to cloud our faith in God for the future.
Persecution of Christians is evident from the time of Christ's death until even today. Reviewing the mental anguish some individuals go through who defend their beliefs in our society, it is not difficult to throw our arms up in total despair. We may feel that we have no hope and that evil will triumph. We know that this is not true and we know God will eventually judge the actions of all people; however, for now is it possible to look ahead rather than concentrating on the immediate problems we face?
If we can look down the road to what God can do and what he expects, life will be much fuller and more meaningful. In reviewing Numbers 13, we see that the spies for Israel searched out the land for 40 days. We note in verse 28 that the cities were walled and in verse 33 the report indicated the vast size of the people. Initially the majority of the spies provided a negative report regarding the possibility of going into the land. However, Caleb, in the 14th chapter verse 8, refuted the report and indicated that if the Lord delighted in them that they could accomplish the task.
This far-reaching view of the future didn't concentrate on the problems of immediate concern, it looked at what could be done. Joshua and Caleb viewed God's power and knew that despite the difficult current situation there was hope when God was on their side.
In first Samuel 17, we read the vision of the young David. Incensed by the bragging of Goliath, David related to King Saul in verse 37 that the Lord would deliver. He again reaffirms this in verse 45 where he indicated that he was coming to the giant in "the name of the Lord of hosts." David's vision was of a free Israel, one that was not enslaved by its enemies, and he knew the Lord would deliver Israel. We may then wonder what our vision is ... what do we see for our local congregation and the church around the world?
Unfortunately, we may have no vision of what the church can be and we may have no vision regarding what we can be as a Christian. We may then be "aiming at nothing and hitting it every time." We must have a vision, a forward look to progress to where the Lord wants us to be. Yet, we may ask what are the elements that can transform us from a fearful individual to one who is a visionary?
Essentially, the first area we must review is that we must have our lives in tune with the Lord's will. In Jonah the first chapter we find a man who is not in tune with God's will. The Lord clearly told Jonah to go and preach the word - yet in verse three, Jonah attempts to flee from the Lord. The story shows how failing to heed the Lord's directive and choosing another road is dangerous and leads to destruction. Therefore it is essential that we understand the will of the Lord and obey it. To understand the Lord's will we must read and study the Bible and heed its teachings.
The second point we must remember in looking forward is to exercise consistent behavior. If one constantly goes off on tangents and never follows anything to its conclusion, full potential cannot be reached. Christ himself pointed out the idea of assessing the cost of being a disciple. In Luke 14 verses 2834, he discusses the idea of assessing the cost of the tower before it is built. Individuals who do not know the importance of "keeping on keeping on" will likely never have a positive vision for the future.
The third concept in looking toward the future is that the Lord is always there to support us. He never gives up on those who follow him - he only stays away when we close him out of our lives by our own choices. In Daniel 3 we found that although Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were faced with almost certain death, they believed that the Lord was with them and that he could deliver them if he so willed. Even in the darkest period of Christ's life in the Garden chronicled in Mark 14 verse 36, Christ prayed that it be not his will but God's will. In all cases God was clearly with those who followed him.
Certainly another point for those who have visions of what can be done is the point that one must act or do something. We cannot sit idle and allow the world to continue to move toward destruction. God could have told Abraham about his son Isaac and avoided Abraham's near sacrifice of Isaac - yet God wants to see faith in action. Certainly God could have built the ark for Noah; however, again God wanted to see Noah take action on his commandments. So it is today. God has given us various commands and he expects us to take action. Those who have no vision of the future will take no action - they may only complain and never set their sights on positive goals.
As we review and critique our lives daily, can we say we have a vision of what the church will look like in five years, in ten years, in twenty years? Unless we do have a vision of what the church will look like and we are taking steps to make that vision a reality, the church will be no better than those who are members during that period. We can have a positive vision for the future by making certain that positive things are happening now. It will take the talents of all members as noted in 1 Corinthians 12 - all of us must have a vision for the future. If there is no vision, what will we leave for our children and future Christians?