A Vision Worth Having
On August 28th 1963, 250,000 civil rights supporters marched on Washington to call for civil and economic rights for all people. From the steps of the Lincoln memorial 12 men spoke passionately for equality and freedom for all American Citizens. It was a defining moment in American History. But for most of us, we can only call to memory, not the 12 speakers, but the words of one man who left his prepared text and began to improvise using an old sermon. History states that the great Gospel legend Mahalia Jackson said, “Tell them about your dream, Martin” and with that prompt Martin Luther King Jr. left his discourse on the Declaration of Independence, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the United States Constitution and dove headfirst into a description of his dreams of freedom and equality arising from a land of slavery and hatred.
Jon Meacham wrote: "With a single phrase, (I have a dream) Martin Luther King Jr. joined Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln in the ranks of men who've shaped modern America". And is it any wonder that his words would have such a profound influence on American culture, and our society as a whole? America is the land of dreams and opportunities. We are drawn to those who have a dream of how things could be, because each one of us also have a dream of how our lives, families, and communities can be better.
One of my favorite parts of scripture is how God uses dreamers. More often than not God used those people who were able to see what could be, to do His will. Even today, those people who we consider successful are those who are able to foster a vision for what could be. Every inventor, explorer, or those who have truly accomplished great things were, at some point in time, captured and captivated by a dream. It becomes the driving force in their lives so that they have the ability to accomplish goals that seem just out of reach by others who are just as talented.
Today as we continue to get to know one another I wanted to share my dream, agenda, or what I hope that we can accomplish as a body of believers. I want to cast a vision for what we can be and what I hope God will accomplish through us. I believe that God wants us to be dreamers, after all Paul says God can do more that we can ask or even imagine. In our time together this morning I want to share a few things that all dreamers know how to do.
First, We Need To Learn How To See
Nowhere in all of scripture is the importance of a dream more apparent than in the story of Joseph. In Genesis 37 we see that Joseph’s dreams were so strong and vivid, they became the compelling vision of his life. The two dreams in Genesis 37 were not only about God's blessing on his life, they were the north star that guided his life’s journey. Although these dreams seemed utterly unrealistic, Joseph never forgot them, he never doubted them, never abandoned them.
Even when it seemed to be completely shattered after his brothers sold him into slavery, or when he suffered humiliation by being thrown into prison for a crime he didn't commit, Joseph was always comforted by the dream, which he held in his heart. He saw what God had in mind for him, and that gave him the power to keep moving toward that goal. It filled him with the confidence that God was always with him and was somehow working through him to bring about its fulfillment.
Having a vision means we’re able to see the way we want life to be. So today what do you see? What is your dream? What is your vision of where you personally want to be five years down the road, ten years down the road?
Maybe your goal is to become more knowledgeable in God's Word, to spend more time reading and studying the Bible. Maybe your goal is to be more outgoing, to talk to more people about Christ and to invite more people to know Him. Maybe your goals center on your family and the need to be a better husband or wife, father or mother.
To be honest the particulars of your goals are not as important as having them. If you don't have a vision, if you don't set goals for yourself, then you can pretty much count on being the same next year as you were last year. Nothing will ever change, you'll never mature, you'll never grow unless you first have a vision of what you want to become and what you need to become.
On a broader scale, what is your dream, or vision for this congregation? What would you like to see us be accomplishing here five or ten years from now? Maybe we should ask the question this way; Why does the Greenbrier Church of Christ exist? What purpose do we actually serve in this community? Now what should we be doing, but what are we actually doing? What are you actually doing?
One of the things that excited me about this family, was during the interview process I asked the shepherds, If you knew you couldn’t fail, what would your dreams for this church be? I like to ask that question of every church I visit with, talk with, and counsel. I want to know how big is the God they serve. I have been to a lot of churches and heard a lot of talk about small and ineffective gods. But what excited me was the answer I got when I asked our shepherds. After a moment of reflection, I was told; “It doesn’t matter if we are successful or fail, we want this to be a place where everyone, no matter who you are or what is in your past, can feel loved.” That’s a big dream that comes from a big God.
I heard about a Sunday School class that was asked to go home and count the stars in the sky as part of their next lesson. They came back with various numbers. Some said they counted 100 stars, some said 1000, some said a million. But there was one little boy who sat there quietly, so the teacher asked him, "How many stars did you count?" He said, "3". The teacher asked him, “How did you only see three stars?” He said, "I guess we just have a small backyard.” I think a lot of us have a small backyard, spiritually speaking, because we don’t see much, we don’t have much of a vision.
What do you see when you look at a country of people who don’t believe in Jesus Christ? Or a community of people who don’t believe in Jesus Christ? Or even just a neighbor who doesn’t believe in Christ? When you see people whose lives are ripped apart by alcoholism, or divorce, or immorality, how do you react?
Do you say, I’m wasting my time because there’s a bunch of people here who don’t think God is important? Or do you see it as an opportunity and say, Wow, there’s a lot of potential here because these folks don’t have God and they need him? What do you see? Because what we see will determine what will come about in the future.
Vision is the Faith to Believe
Remember the story of the 12 spies that went into the land of Canaan? God had given the Israelites a vision. He had told the Israelites that the land of Canaan was theirs. All they had to do was go in and claim it. So 12 spies were sent into Canaan to check it out. When they came back, ten of them said, “There is no way we can go into Canaan. It’s full of huge men with lots of weapons and we don’t stand a chance.” But there were two men, Joshua and Caleb, who believed that the vision God had set before them could become a reality. Listen to their words in Numbers 14:7-9. (Read Text)
You can just hear their faith dripping from every word. These are words of vision and faith: The Lord is on our side. We can conquer the people and the land will be ours. God has called you to have the very same faith. He has promised us that we would possess all of the time, talent, and treasure to get His work accomplished in this community. I know that great things have happened in the past of this church, but do you understand that greater things are yet to come? Do you believe that our best days are ahead of us?
When we develop our vision of what we want to be and what we want this congregation to be, we need to believe that our vision is a reality, not because of what we can do, but because of our faith in what God can do through us. The apostle Paul writes “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”
The Jeremy Houck Version translates that verse, God gives me the strength to do the difficult things in this life. We tell the boys all the time, you were created to do difficult things, so dream big, and remember you have a big God. If Greenbrier is going to be what God needs in the east part of Alabama we must believe that God created us to do the difficult things.
Vision is the Courage to Do
Dreams are good, and necessary. But we all need to take the difficult step to make those dreams a reality. James 2:20 says, “Faith without works is dead!” It’s not enough for us to sit idly back and say that we have faith. Real faith is living, breathing, and active.
The scripture that was read for us this morning from Acts 16:9-10, we see that Paul had a vision of people who needed to hear the gospel, people in an area where the gospel had never been preached before. It was a great vision. Paul could see it. He believed it was possible. But he needed to act on his faith to make it a reality. In verse 10 we saw that Paul, “sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.”
Paul wanted to fulfill that vision whatever the cost to himself, or his plans. He knew that as long as that vision was just a vision, nothing would ever be accomplished. Paul had to say, I’m going to do what I can to make that vision a reality.
Paul was a big dreamer, and his dreams for the church intersected with his dreams for his personal life. He wrote to the Christians in Philippi: Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)
Paul’s all-consuming goal in life is to be with God eternally. That dream was the motivating factor in his life. It was a dream he never stopped pursuing. That vision of what he ought to be drove him onward with determination, and he took action.
I am glad that we have dreamers; we need to not only envision where we want this church to be, we need to believe that God can take us there, and commit ourselves to doing everything in our power to make that vision a reality.
As we close this morning I want to share with you my vision, or my agenda for the Greenbriar Family. My consuming dream for this church is that we will introduce Jesus to broken people. Let me spend a few moments unwrapping my vision so you will know where we will be headed over the next few weeks.
A Commitment to the Bible - For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
My vision is that we will so committed to God’s Word that we are actively studying it and seeing it come to live in our lives. And then we will start to look forward to our times of being together so we can share what we have studied during the week. I dream that we will be a people that are so immersed in the word we will be able to live in peace and in harmony with one another, as we are compelled to share the Gospel with everyone we meet.
A Commitment to Prayer - pray without ceasing 1 Thessalonians 5:17
My vision is that this church will be a house of prayer, a place where prayer provides the foundation for every ministry we are involved in. In the book of Acts we see that the church prayed about everything, and for everything. Are we in constant communication with God or do we only pray for the big things? It helps me to remember that if it concerns me, then God wants to know about it.
A Commitment to Service - whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, Matthew 20:26
The church must be filled with folks who are committed to doing whatever it takes to follow Jesus. If we are imitating Christ then the question will never be, “What are you doing for me?” Instead we will ask “How can I serve you?”
A Commitment to Balanced Christianity - 'You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' Matthew 22:37
Worship is emotional, as well as intellectual. God has given us a wheel barrel full of emotions and all of them are to be used in our worship of Him. And God has given us the intellect to understand a great deal about His personality. We must worship God with our hearts and serve Him with our minds as well.
Every Christian is a minister - you are chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, people who belong to God. You were chosen to tell about the excellent qualities of God, who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 1 Peter 2:9
We are all called to minister to our community and tell them of the excellent qualities of God. Every man, woman, and child in this place is called to be God’s ministers and to sacrificially investing your gifts, your talents, and your resources to make God’s vision become a reality.
A Commitment to Growth - I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 1 Corinthians 2:6
Finally, we must love the people God loves enough to invite them to know our Lord and Savior. We have the ability to introduce hundreds of un-churched people to our Lord and share the wonderful story of the resurrection. For that to happen we must desire their salvation more than our own comfort level, pew, or parking space.
This is a brief look at my dream for this church, and this community. Like I said last week, the difficult work is just beginning. What are your dreams for this church? What can you do to be involved in the work of the Kingdom?