Everybody ends up somewhere in life. A few people end up somewhere on purpose. Those are the ones with vision. The most practical advantage of vision is it sets a direction for our lives. It serves as a road map.
Vision provides the push through the problems. Vision provides the energy for the effort. Without vision our passion leaks, our agendas surface, our production falls, and our people scatter.
In the pages of the Old Testament is the journal of a man who stands tall as person with vision who rebuilt what was broken. His name is Nehemiah. The name means “the Lord’s comfort.” Nehemiah’s visionary efforts brought comfort to God’s people in a time of great need.
No matter what your position in life, Coaches, supervisors, parents, student leaders, executives, and spiritual leaders can all learn from this great man.
Let’s start by understanding a little about where, when, and how he lived.
The setting is about 500 years before the time of Christ. God’s people had lived in Israel for centuries before. God had told them: “Obey Me and you’ll live in the land for a long time. Disobey Me and you’ll be carried off into captivity.” That’s what happened. The Babylonians came and conquered God’s people and took the leading citizens 1,000 miles away.
But the discipline was ending. Several years before Nehemiah’s day, some of God’s people were given permission to return to Jerusalem to rebuild a broken down temple and a broken down city.
But the attempts to rebuild the protective wall around the city (destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC) had been frustrated by some ‘the enemies of Judah’ (Ezra 4:1, 7-16). As a result very few people lived in the capital city (Nehemiah 11:1). Jerusalem was a city of ruins.
Nehemiah lived in the royal city of Susa, the winter residence of Artaxerxes, the Persian king. Judah, the homeland of Nehemiah, was a thousand miles away.
Nehemiah was the cupbearer to the king. He was more than a “butler”. A cupbearer held a position of great responsibility. At each meal, he tested the king’s wine and food to make sure it wasn’t poisoned. If he died, then the king wouldn’t. A man who stood that close to the king in public had to be handsome, cultured, knowledgeable, and able to advise the king when asked. Because he had access to the king, the cupbearer was a man of great influence. The cupbearer was rather like a prime minister and master of ceremonies rolled into one.
Nehemiah was the right man in the right place for God to use. He had vision
– vision to see a problem… and it’s solution. And because he had vision, he had hope
A visionary person…
1. … sees the need. vv. 1-3
Nehemiah’s routine was interrupted one day by a group of men who had come from Judah…The report was grim…
1 The words of Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah. Now it happened in the month Chislev, in the twentieth year, while I was in Susa the capitol,
2 that Hanani, one of my brothers, and some men from Judah came; and I asked them concerning the Jews who had escaped and had survived the captivity, and about Jerusalem.
3 They said to me, “The remnant there in the province who survived the captivity are in great distress and reproach, and the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates are burned with fire.”
Bad news came from Jerusalem: walls flattened, gates burned, morale low. But Nehemiah cared about the glory of God and the good of the people in Jerusalem. Now he hears that the Jerusalem Jews were living in desperate days.
Ruin, and reproach…Instead of a magnificent city, Jerusalem was in shambles; and where there had once been great glory, there was now nothing but great reproach.
God was being dishonored as long as Jerusalem lay waste. This was the place where the reality of God’s presence would be experienced in love and mercy by those who sought Him. It wasn’t happening, so Nehemiah was concerned.
A God-ordained vision will begin as a concern. Something will bother you about the way things are or the way things are headed.
There are far more needs in the church and the world than any of us has time or energy to meet, and no one is required to try to relieve them all. But God’s call to serve will be a call to meet some human need.
The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that’s the essence of inhumanity. George Bernard Shaw
As you start, by the grace of God, to rebuild the walls, you must first of all see the ruin in which they lie.
Vision is a reflection of what God wants to through us to impact the world. It is not about maintaining the status quo.
Living where we live, we can become comfortable. We can lose sight of the need. Do you see the needs that are around you? This is a hemorrhaging and hurting world. There are broken hearts, fractured families, lives. Do you see the brokenness of humanity? People are looking for meaning and value and turn to heart-breaking things.
Visions are born in the soul of a man or a woman who is consumed with the tension between what is and what could be. Anyone with vision will tell you this is not merely something that could be done. This is something that should be done. This is something that must happen!
What makes you pound the table – angry? What makes you weep?
Nehemiah was not the last to weep over Jerusalem—one day our Lord sat on the slopes of Mt. Olivet and wept over that city, and mourned and prayed and sacrificed His life for it…life’s work for God has only begun when they have wept and mourned and fasted and prayed over the revelation of conditions as they really are.
You never lighten the load unless first you have felt the pressure in your own soul. You are never used of God to bring blessing until God has opened your heart and made you feel deep sorrow about the needs around you.
You have first sat down and wept over the ruins in your soul, in your church, and in the Kingdom of God.
Through prayer, God goes to work on you to prepare you for the fulfillment of the vision. Vision comes before preparation. But the preparation must come. Why? Vision will exceed your ability. Prayer prepares you for the job ahead. And prayer mysteriously moves the hand of God to work behind the scenes preparing the way. Prayer helps you distinguish between a good idea and a God idea. It helps you make sure that you are in line with what God is up to in the world.
Prayer keeps us looking. It keeps the burden fresh. It sensitizes us to the subtle changes in the landscape of our circumstances. When God begins to move, we see it. Praying helps us not miss the opportunities that come our way.
While Nehemiah was praying, his burden for Jerusalem became greater and his vision for what needed to be done became clearer. Real prayer keeps your heart and your head in balance so your burden doesn’t make you impatient to run ahead of the Lord and ruin everything. As we pray, god tells us what to do, when to do it, and how to do it;
A person with vision shares the need… with God… Someone said that prayer is not getting man’s will done in heaven but getting God’s will done on earth. However, for God’s will to be done on earth, He needs people to be available for Him to use.
God is still looking for people who care… “Here am I, Lord—send me!”
Get out of your comfort zone. Get out of the nest! A nest is good for a robin while it is an egg. But it is bad for a robin when it has wings. It’s a good place to be hatched in, but it’s poor place to fly in. It’s always sad when people don’t want to leave the nests of their lives.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena… who strives valiantly… who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.-Teddy Roosevelt.
This is the way to have hope when things are broken.
As long as there’s a God in heaven and people on earth who believe in Him and who will work with Him, there is hope!