Have you ever had a sense that God has given you a vision of some completed project, a mission to complete, or a direction for a new chapter in life?
It might have been a multi-color vision dream, or an extremely clear mental picture of an outcome or direction.
A vision like this received in prayer can be God’s invitation for us to pray it into reality.
Vision is our invitation to shape the future.
In the Scriptures and in Church history, we discover that vision is the primary means that God has given for His people to participate with Him in shaping reality.
Without vision there would have been no salvation history, no church, no great works of mercy, no advancement of the cause of Christ.
Abraham, Moses, Nehemiah and the prophets were all people who undertook humanly impossible tasks because they were fired up with a vision of this new reality given by God.
It was a vision of Christ and His Kingdom that inspired and directed Peter, John, Paul along with the others who followed Jesus.
It was a vision of God’s reality that inspired St. Augustine, John Calvin, St. Teresa of Avila, Hudson Taylor, D. L. Moody, Corrie Ten Boom and a great host of other vision shapers of history.
Without vision there would have been no salvation history, no church, no great works of mercy, no reformation, no missionary enterprise, no advancement of the cause of Christ.
Vision comes at God’s initiative.
All human beings are created in the image of God, and so have the capacity for creation and dominion.
The Christian, however, carries a special call to share in the advancement of the gospel and establishment of the Kingdom of God.
For our purposes here, we focus on the vision from God that is found in prayer, an invitation to cooperate with God the Father in shaping reality and accomplishing His purposes on earth.
God is the giver of the visions of what the He invites us into, a glimpse of the future that He invites you to create through prayer and your action.
Vision is found by the prompting of the Holy Spirit, who opens our spiritual eyes and brings us into an encounter with the Living God.
Through vision, we apprehend the portion of the Kingdom that God is calling us to bring into reality.
“I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.” Acts 2:17 (NIV)
Through vision we see God and His Kingdom. We are guided into how to transform our circumstances to conform to the image found in God’s mind.
Vision is given as His gracious gift. In the same way we receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we cooperate and obey through steps of obedience to carry out the call.
Vision that is from the Holy Spirit, will allow us to see Jesus with the total self and be brought into a living relationship with Him.
Christian vision is uniquely a vision of Jesus Christ and the practical shape of how His presence, love, grace and power are to be expressed in the world at a particular time or place.
This vision will give glory to Jesus Christ, will reflect His nature, and will fulfill His purposes as revealed in Scripture. (Read The Four Discernment Tests)
Oswald Chambers, in reflection on Acts 26:16, which is Paul’s Damascus Road experience, observed the following about vision:
“The vision Paul had on the road to Damascus was no passing emotion, but a vision that had very clear and emphatic directions for him, and he says, ‘I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision.’
When we are born again, we all have visions if we are spiritual at all, of what Jesus wants us to be. And the great thing is to learn not to be disobedient to the vision, not to say that it cannot be attained.”
It is not sufficient to know that God has redeemed the world, and to know that the Holy Spirit can make all that Jesus did effectual in me; I must have the basis of a personal relationship to Him.
Paul was not given a message or a doctrine to proclaim, he was brought into a vivid, personal, overmastering relationship with Jesus Christ. ”Chambers, Oswald, My Utmost For His Highest: Selections for the Year (New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1935), January 24th, p. 24
From this vision of Christ may flow purpose, direction and colossal program–like making disciples of all the earth–but all this is secondary to knowing Christ.
Examples of Vision to Shape the Future
Vision, given by the Holy Spirit, will usually have implicit within it a call to action, and may include specific instructions of what one is to do.
In the examples that follow, some experienced a vivid, full color experience. Other times, we might experience a mental image, a dream, a word of scripture, or some kind of clear but compelling picture in our imagination.
Some examples include:
- Exodus 3: Moses at the burning bush– In Moses’ encounter with God he received the call and commission, to go to Egypt to set the people free.
- Ezekiel 37:3: Ezekiel’s vision of dry bones– “Son of Man, can these dry bones live?” Out of this incredible vision of the dry bones, came the commission to take the word of prophecy to the people in exile in Babylon. This promised that, though as a people they were dead, God would raise them up and they would live again.
- Isaiah 6:1-13: Isaiah in the temple saw the Lord high and lifted up. Out of this encounter came the call to go and speak words of judgment and hope to the people of Israel.
Some modern heroes:
- Hudson Taylor was given a vision of the need of the Chinese to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. In obedience to the vision, he went to China as a missionary and founded China Inland Mission.
- Archer Torrey was given a vision of a living laboratory where people, through a life of prayer, could learn the power of prayer. This gave birth to Jesus Abbey in Korea.
- Loren Cunningham was given a vision of a wave sweeping over the whole world carrying the gospel. Obedience to this vision led to the founding of Youth With a Mission, a worldwide missionary movement that has mobilized hundreds of thousands of young people for mission outreach.
The call or direction that is given in a vision of God, may be of something as vast as the New Jerusalem or the Church renewed in the Holy Spirit.
It may also be of something as simple as seeing someone through God’s eyes, apprehending their uniqueness and needs.
It may be that one’s heart is opened to see the suffering of a single child. It may be a specific aspect of the Kingdom reality that one is shown, and then sends one upon their life’s work.
It may be the compelling call, to “come over and help us” that sends one to the mission field.
Whatever the specific content or the details of the call, the mark of vision inspired by the Holy Spirit is that it is of God and will partake of the immensity of God. It will be bigger than we are and impossible to fulfill in ourselves. Its fulfillment will require our abiding in Christ, the gifts and empowerment of the Holy Spirit.
While the vision sends one into work, it is never primarily about work but rather about God. This preeminent focus upon God, however, may yield colossal works.
Oswald Chambers offered profound insight on the dimensions of this vision:
“A man with a vision of God is not devoted to a cause or to any particular issue; he is devoted to God Himself. You always know when a vision is of God because of the inspiration that comes with it; things come with largeness and tonic to the life because everything is energized by God.
“Though it tarry, wait for it.” The proof that we have the vision is that we are reaching out for more than we have grasped. It is a bad thing to be satisfied spiritually. Our reach must exceed our grasp. ‘Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect.’ If we have only what we have experienced, we have nothing; if we have the inspiration of the vision of God, we have more than we can experience. Beware of the danger of relaxation spiritually.”Chambers, p. My Utmost For His Highest: Selections for the Year (New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1935) 123.
Discernment helps the vision process.
If one receives vision, you can follow this checklist for confirmation.
- Is it in accord with Scripture? Is it consistent with the nature of God as revealed to us in Scripture?
- Is there an awareness of peace in one’s own heart if one is moving with the Holy Spirit? (See St. Ignatius’ Rules for Discerning Spirits)
- Is there a confirming witness of the Holy Spirit in others?
- Does the short-term and long-term fruit give glory to Jesus?
- Would the fulfillment of the vision accomplish the purposes of God the Father as clearly revealed in Scripture? (See John 14:12-14, 15:8)
- Is it in God’s time?
- Are there actual objective confirmations such as open doors or beckoning signs?
- Does the vision move of itself in God’s power toward partial or total fulfillment? Does the vision carry the visionary or does the visionary carry the vision?
Always in vision, there is the element of risk. There are some cases when one will really not know whether a vision is from the Lord, until it is tested. That is, one must take the risk of obedience.
We may be wrong, but will not know until taking the risk of trying. It may also cost you everything that you have as found in Jesus’ parable of the Pearl of Great Price, (Matthew 13:45-46).
Between Vision and Fulfillment
Vision is given by God as an invitation and command to share in the fulfillment of His purposes. It is the nature of a God-given vision to set in motion a process that will ultimately lead to the fulfillment of the intention that He contained within the vision, (Isaiah 55:10-11).
There is usually a gap between the vision and its fulfillment. It may be impossible and usually is, but with vision we are set upon a journey. Such as Abraham seeking the “city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” Hebrews 11:10
Just as the giving of vision rests with God so, too, does its fulfillment. But we also have a part in the process of fulfillment.
The following are principles of how the Holy Spirit may call us to share in the process of vision fulfillment.
Prayer is the first step
Usually vision is given while in prayer, and prayer must be the means through which a vision is fulfilled. Vision comes in prayer and now gives clear shape and focus to one’s prayers.
An example from the life of Brad Long, Executive Director of PRMI:
In Taiwan, I was given the vision of building.
A lay training center that would be a place where renewal in the Holy Spirit could take place.
In the vision, I saw Chinese Presbyterians gathered in a multi-story building.
They were on their knees in prayer, on their feet in praise, and then going out to all of Taiwan in the name of Jesus.
For two years, I prayed with several faculty members for the fulfillment of this vision.
Amid weeds, old rusted cars, piles of junk and trash, we met several times a week in an unused part of the Bible College’s campus to pray for this building.
As we prayed, I vividly saw the original vision of Presbyterians gathered in prayer and lifted that up to the Lord. In this way, the vision guided our prayer.
Now in Taiwan, there is a million-dollar building on that very spot. And in that building, what was seen in the vision now takes place.
Write and Wait for Vision Fulfillment
“Write the vision; make it plain upon tablets, so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its time; it hastens to the end– it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay.”Habakkuk 2:2-3
God is the giver of vision, but He gives the prophet Habakkuk concrete directions as to how to fulfill it. The Holy Spirit may lead us in the same way.
The vision must be made clear, first to ourselves and then to others. The best way to do this is to write it down.
This is essential for discernment. Writing down the vision gives us the opportunity to sort out what is from God and what is from ourselves. It provides us with materials that may be analyzed and systematically measured against the witness of Scripture.
Writing also enables us to refine our language, so that we may clearly articulate the vision.
One must then carefully discern whether it is a kairos moment, in which the vision is an appropriate word to be spoken.
Like giving birth or growing a garden, a vision from the Lord will have its own time and process of fulfillment. The great temptation will be to try to put the vision on our time table instead of sticking to the Lord’s.
Our task is to wait for God’s timing. This is not a passive matter of sitting back and letting God do it all, rather, it is an active waiting, a striving with God in prayer. A preparing one’s self for the day that the kairos moment will come and one may act decisively in obedience to the vision.
Listen to the Leading of the Holy Spirit
In the vision one may be given a momentary glimpse of what one is called to create.
Or one may be given the general direction of his/her life’s work.
For instance, Paul received the clear revelation that he was to bring the Gentiles salvation in Jesus Christ. This was a momentary glimpse that set his life’s compass. They were the marching orders that Jesus gave him, from which he never varied.
But the day-to-day living out of this vision in its step-by-step fulfillment took place as Paul day-by-day received guidance from the Holy Spirit.
It is often in incremental steps that the vision unfolds, and we are able to shape a new reality.
The vision of racial equality given to Martin Luther King Jr. was brought into fruition, step-by-step by the overtly inconsequential action of a black person sitting in the “whites only” section of a bus and refusing to leave.
Such small acts of obedience, set in motion forces that have reshaped the reality in America.
Vision without action is pointless
We must act on the vision by the leading of the Holy Spirit, for we are the means that the Spirit will use to accomplish His work.
It is through our own obedience, as led by the Holy Spirit, that we give the Holy Spirit the raw materials with which to build the miracle of the vision fulfillment, to the glory of God the Father.
Without obedience, vision will just remain a distant impossible dream or an uplifting religious experience.
Vision will be given in vain unless acted upon in radical obedience, empowered by the Holy Spirit to live into the vision through unwavering faith.
Usually vision is given while in prayer, and prayer must now be the means through which vision is fulfilled. Vision comes in prayer and now gives clear shape and focus to one’s prayers.
Our invitation is to move step by step from contemplation, to intercession and into prayer-filled action, reflective of the Kingdom!
One who is totally dedicated to labor with Jesus, is ripe to receive this blessing- heavenly visitation.
We must act on the vision at the leading of the Holy Spirit, for we are the means that the Spirit will use to accomplish His work. St. Paul said that he was not disobedient to this heavenly vision.
Without obedience, vision will just remain a distant impossible dream or an uplifting religious experience.
Without obedience, the cycle of withdrawal and return is not completed and one is stuck at the phase of withdrawal.
Invite God to reveal His vision for the part of His Kingdom into which He’s calling you to cooperate with the Holy Spirit, to advance the Kingdom of God.
Record your vision, then share and submit it to a mature Christian to assist you in discernment.
Then begin to pray that vision into reality.
In Dunamis Video Course 3 -The Power of Prayer you will look at how any Christian can pray with vision and power. Sessions move between focusing on growing in intimacy with Jesus Christ through prayer and participating with God in shaping the future through intercessory prayer.
Prayer that Shapes the Future guides you into that kind of prayer, powerful, life-changing participation with our Heavenly Father in bringing forth His Kingdom here on earth.