Where there is no vision the people perish (Proverbs 29:18)
The New International Version shares this verse a little differently saying, ‘Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint’. Vision is the father of restraint. It gives one the power to bring under control the usual need for short-term gratification. The one able to see the end from the beginning can endure far more than the one who lives in the moment. This is of particular importance as it pertains to trials. When we lack vision, we can easily be paralyzed by present hardships. This applies to things both natural and spiritual. Since destinies are achieved through the long-haul, vision becomes a commodity essential for staying the course and running the race.
As a young man I remember the summer I awoke to an aspect of this truth. The revelation was in the realm of sports; I suddenly made the connection between practice and improvement. While I had been in sports for years, it dawned on me that if I practiced I would actually get better! Amazing insight right? It seems so simplistic now, but at the time it was a revolutionary idea to me.
Coaches had repeatedly told me this and I would have told anyone who asked I believed as much. But there came a definitive moment when I really saw it for myself. From that moment, no one had to compel me to practice. I understood the value! This is the nature of vision – it is an ability to see what others cannot. Once I had it, it created a desire and a love to practice. Vision created its own motivation and power to endure.
When you do not have this kind of vision, endurance is difficult (if not impossible) to sustain. You need others to push you because all you can see is your pain. Vision, on the other hand, allows you to see through the pain of the moment. In fact with vision, pain itself becomes a positive rather than something to be avoided. Pain is no longer pain; it becomes synonymous with advancement. Once we make the connection between pain and progress everything changes. Rather than being something to be shunned, pain becomes a barometer of progress.
This is the reason a weightlifter or an athlete loves the ‘burn’. There is actual pain, but it is an indicator of positive change. Inwardly the athlete is seeing each exhausting exercise as part of a continuum towards their ultimate goal. Sometime they may literally visualize the inward changes. Each spasm of pain burns a fat cell and each tiny muscle tear creates an opening for larger and stronger muscles. Seeing it in the moment aids to substantiate the exchange being made. Vision makes it all seem worthwhile. But, make no mistake, without this kind of vision, pain remains drudgery and cruel servitude.
Weakness and Strength
Recently I saw this same dynamic on a reality television program. It depicted the grueling effort of US servicemen wishing to become Navy Seals. The training was excruciating, though for me entertaining and interesting to watch. It demonstrated two seemingly conflicting expressions: Joy and suffering _ between them is an inherent contradiction.
As painful as the training was, there was a joy in pressing through each limitation. As one after another, thresholds of inability vanished, a sense of victory followed. Soldiers were experiencing elation and exhilaration through their sacrifice. They knew their efforts were conquering limitations and opening new possibilities. They literally found a place of rejoicing through inconceivable suffering. Facing exhaustion and physical debilitation on every side, they were introduced to a previously unknown source of energy. Weakness gave way to strength!
In part this is a picture of a principle at work in the Apostle Paul. He referenced a source of strength we know as the grace of God. It is discovered when one reaches the limits of his human capacity. That is, when we realize the miniscule capacity of our natural strength then, and only then, are we introduced to a realm of faith and grace far beyond ourselves. It comes gradually at first but is a heavenly reward.
“And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
Paul stumbled upon a truth that changed what appeared to be a negative into a great gain. He discovered an opening to amazing strength through the window of weakness. This is a mirror image of the whole message of the cross of Christ. That is, the idea of embracing death in order to lay hold of life. You might remember the theme as expressed by Jesus when He said, “he who seeks to save his life will lose it” (Luke 17:33). This is more than a vague principle left for us to ponder until we die. It is a recipe for success in the Kingdom. Paul was able to rejoice and take pleasure in the things most of us usually avoid. But it gets better!
The Portal of Sufferings
Paul entered into a realm few ever touch. He discovered the secret power behind Christ’s sufferings. It is reflected in his writing to the Philippians as he expressed his desire to know Christ. He wanted to know Him in the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings (Philippians 3:10). The dimension of Christ’s sufferings is not an experience alone but a door to a kind of knowledge. This knowledge makes up a significant portion of what is available to us, though few get the full picture. While we generally reach for the power of resurrection there is great authority released when we enter the fullness of who He is. This can only be provided through the ‘fellowship of His sufferings’.
Paul desired to embrace this realm for good reason. Like Jesus he had apprehended the value behind true spiritual sacrifice. They both understood the depths of this truth and were able to carry the cause of the Kingdom in an unusual way. Their sufferings, contrary to how some might categorize them, were not on account of unbelief, wrongdoing or misplaced affection. Vision enabled them to see the end of their travail while going through it. This is more than a colorful metaphor – it is a concrete expression of the road to glory.
“For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” (Hebrews 2:10)
Vision provides an ability to press through to superhuman strength. This strength is a kind of ‘sweetness’ in the person of Jesus, available to us just past the curtain of self-denial and restraint. It is an incalculable treasure to those who find it. But more than that, it is an essential part of the fabric of the Kingdom of God. Woven together as part of the mystery of the Kingdom, it provides a necessary and vital service to the Body of Christ. To many it is an enigma whose value remains questionable and obscure, but to those with true vision it is an essential ingredient. Vision truly is the father of restraint.
Marc’s website www.watchman.ca