Everyone ends up somewhere, but few end up somewhere on purpose.
Pastor Bill Overstreet
At some point in our lives, usually as emerging adults, we have all looked up and wondered what being “out there,” out in the real world, was all about. As adults we’ve thought many times about our destination in life. Are we doing what we’re called to do? Have we made a difference? Have we used our talents as God has directed us? Are we just passing through life, being buffeted by whatever ill-winds of fate pass our way? Or are we so busy with the journey, playing with our toys, that we don’t worry about the destination, the purpose of it all?
What have we done with our lives that we can look back on and say, “It is good,”?
Where there is no vision, the people perish… (Proverbs 29:18a NIV)
The Purpose of Vision
- To bring spiritual revival
- To bring passion to life
- To give us direction
- To give motivation to life
- To give us confidence in the performance and direction of our lives
- To further the Kingdom of God
Nehemiah is the last historical book of the Old Covenant. The events take place somewhere around 445 BCE, during the Babylonian exile. There have already been two attempts at return to Jerusalem, to rebuild the city, but there was no vision, and the builders were in trouble.
In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, while I was in the citadel of Susa, Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that had survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem. They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.”
Nehemiah is a contemporary of the prophet and priest Ezra, who led the second return to Jerusalem. However, the spiritual condition of the Judeans is such that rebuilding the city is not possible until spiritual revival ensues. Whereas Ezra implements a spiritual return, Nehemiah is tasked in bringing about a physical and governmental reform of the people. Along with Ezra, he helps to bring about the postexilic restoration of the remnant of Judeans and Jerusalem which will eventually lead to the birth of Christ four hundred years later.
Understand that Nehemiah had never been to Israel. He had lived his entire life in captivity and was the cup-bearer to the king, Artaxerxes I, (Queen Esther’s stepson), a trusted and revered position. He tastes everything the king drinks to prevent him from being poisoned. He is in a position of responsibility, and his life is proceeding along a predictable and comfortable path.
Notice Nehemiah’s response when he hears about the Jewish exile and the condition of Jerusalem. He is disturbed beyond comfort:
When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. Then I said: “LORD, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses. Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’ They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.” (Nehemiah 1:4 NIV)
- He was convicted
- He prayed
- He confessed not only his personal sins, but the national sins of Israel
- He asked forgiveness
- He repented
- With a view of the vision he had, Nehemiah asked for specific direction and leadership
God gives to each of us a personal vision that is based on His agenda. The work of creation is not over with. God is working yet, in many, many lives and He wants to include us in what He is doing. And as believers, we know already what God is up to – freeing people from captivity (Luke 15:7).
Are You Disturbed?
Disturb us, Lord, when we are too pleased with ourselves, when our dreams have come true because we dreamed too little, when we arrived safely because we sailed too close to the shore. Disturb us, Lord, when with the abundance of things we possess we have lost our thirst for the waters of life; having fallen in love with life, we have ceased to dream of eternity and in our efforts to build a new earth, we have allowed our vision of the new Heaven to dim. Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly, to venture on wilder seas where storms will show Your mastery; where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars. We ask you to push back the horizons of our hopes; and to push back the future in strength, courage, hope, and love. This we ask in the name of our Captain, who is Jesus Christ.
– Sir Francis Drake
Vision is the tension created by the contrast of what is and what could be. By its very nature it disturbs us. There is a disquiet within us because we know we are not living up to the full purpose of our lives, that we have not signed on to the agenda of God, and that we are wandering quite aimlessly in those lives. Many times we cannot even give voice to what we feel. We simply submerge it and ignore it.
And find ourselves left behind in the work that God has for His people.
Do you find yourself longing for something more? Do you feel your walk with God lacks…purpose? Are you guilty, as so many of us are in America, of manipulating the gospel to fit your preferences, preferring your ears tickled instead of facing Truth head on?
It’s Time for Revival – It’s Time to Rebuild the Walls
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)
Our country is in dire straits. We have allowed the walls of our spiritual heritage to fall into ruin. We have razed the strength of our moral compass and in its wake are ruined lives. For example, we’ve killed approximately 50 million of our children through abortion (the combined population of 25 states worth of people), and if God judged the Canaanites for their child sacrifices to Molech, we should not assume that we will not be judged for ours.
We are a sexually charged and perverted nation. We allow our children to be taught that their animal appetites are natural and should be indulged, and that holiness and modesty are passé and unattainable. If God judged Sodom and Gomorrah for their sins, we should not feel we have nothing to repent of.
We have served at the altar of Mammon and have seen our currency dissolve into nothing. We have placed riches and wealth above service to God, allowing the preaching of a blasphemous prosperity gospel in our churches, and wonder why God has removed His hand of blessing from this country.
The American church has become the church of Laodicea in Revelation, and we have been weakened by our failure to meet the spiritual and physical needs of our communities. Our churches don’t need another life building – they need the heart of God for the lost sheep. Unless we repent and rebuild the walls of our spiritual house, we will find ourselves spit out of His mouth as an abomination. However, even there God shows His mercy.
We are seeing flames of revival all across this land, in small country churches and large mega-churches. The Church of Brook Hills, a four-thousand-member congregation, is changing the landscape in Birmingham, Alabama with their pastor and his Radical Experiment. Churches are venturing out into the communities around them, establishing relationships, making disciples, and sharing the Gospel. Even as the established church in America lays dying, God is bringing revival and a renewed vision to those hungry for His voice and involvement in their lives.
Without the element of the Divine, there is no purpose in our lives or to our lives. We are more than a blob of meat taking up space. We are created in the image of God, endowed with His sense of vision and purpose, struggling to fulfill our purpose of creation yet unable to do so because we have abandoned the moral constraints that actually free us to be everything we were meant to be.
God’s people perish for lack of vision. Vision only comes through prayer, repentance, and reliance on God. As we rebuild the walls of our spiritual house, we transform the physical and political landscape of our nation. As we persevere, we are strengthened and made whole.
It is so simple, yet so hard. It means persecution and enduring hatred. It means a very real fight with evil, perhaps the threat of death, yet worth every bit of the struggle. We have a decision to make.
Are you ready to get radical with the vision God has placed on your heart? Or will you ignore the call, cocooning yourself in fruitless pursuits and creature comforts, doling out excuses one after the other until you no longer feel the hand of God tapping you on the shoulder.
God awaits. The answer is entirely up to you.