From Vision to Action
From Vision to Action
Jackie Pullinger has spent her life working with the poor and destitute, triad gang members, heroin and opium addicts. She has helped thousands to come off drugs through the power of the Holy Spirit. She has seen transformation in numerous lives and has made a huge impact on the city of Hong Kong.
Jackie wrote, ‘I have spent over half my life in a dark, foul smelling place because I had a “vision” of another city ablaze with light, it was my dream. There was no more crying, no more death or pain. The sick were healed, addicts set free, the hungry filled. There were families for orphans, homes for the homeless, and new dignity for those who lived in shame. I had no idea how to bring this about but with “visionary zeal” imagined introducing the Walled City people to the one who could change it all: Jesus.’
Vision is a ‘holy discontent’ – a deep dissatisfaction with what is, combined with a clear grasp of what could be. It is a picture – ‘a mental sight’ – of the future that inspires hope.
Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision is a nightmare! But vision combined with action can change the world.
The importance of visionProverbs 29:10–18
‘Where there is no vision, the people perish’ (v.18, KJV).
The Hebrew word used can be translated as ‘revelation’ (NIV) or ‘vision’ (KJV). It refers to God’s communication to his prophets. Where there is no revelatory vision from God, there is often spiritual and political anarchy – ‘the people cast off restraint’ (v.18).
Vision and restraint should go together. The passion and moral outrage that drives vision can lead to ‘uncontrolled anger’. But, says the writer, ‘Fools give vent to their anger, but the wise keep themselves under control’ (v.11). Jackie Pullinger, alongside Martin Luther King, William Wilberforce and many others, is a superb example of a leader holding together the tension between vision and restraint.
In the rest of the passage we see the results of both good and bad leadership. ‘When degenerates take charge, crime runs wild’ (v.16, MSG), whereas ‘leadership gains authority and respect when the voiceless poor are treated fairly’ (v.14, MSG).
Lord, please help me to hear your voice. Give me a fresh revelation of who you are today.
The power of vision1 John 2:28–3:10
Jesus had a very clear vision for his life and he combined that vision with action: ‘he appeared so that he might take away our sins’ (3:5).
John goes on to say, ‘The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work’ (v.8). Through his death and resurrection, Jesus has taken away your sins and destroyed the devil’s work.
Do you realise how much God loves you? ‘How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (v.1).
God had a very clear vision in sending his Son to die for you. He wants to lavish his love on you. His vision for you is that, one day, you will become like Jesus and see Jesus ‘as he is’ (v.2).
God has a vision for your life. You too should have a vision for your life. Your overarching vision should be to become as much like Jesus now as possible: ‘All of us who look forward to his Coming stay ready, with the glistening purity of Jesus’ life as a model for our own’ (v.3, MSG).
The test of whether you are a child of God is this: ‘It’s not in the nature of the God-begotten to practice and parade sin... The one who won’t practice righteous ways isn’t from God, nor is the one who won’t love brother or sister. A simple test’ (vv.9–10, MSG). Love and right living are the two indicators that you are a child of God.
Joyce Meyer writes, ‘I used to be a full-time sinner, and once in a while I “accidentally” did something right. But now that I have spent many years developing a deep, personal relationship with God… I still make mistakes, but not nearly as many as I once did, I am not where I need to be, but thank God, I am not where I used to be. I do not do everything right, but I do know that the attitude of my heart is right.’
Your vision should be to stay close to Jesus: ‘stay with Christ. Live deeply in Christ... with no cause for red-faced guilt or lame excuses when he arrives’ (2:28, MSG).
This should be your primary vision for your life. It is possible to focus on specific things that we (usually rightly) believe God has called us to do, and yet neglect this overarching vision for our lives. God is much more concerned about how you live your life than what you achieve. Our individual callings are good and important – but our primary vision for life should always be to draw nearer to Jesus.
Lord, thank you for your amazing vision for me – that one day I will be like Jesus and I will see him as he is.
The fulfilment of visionDaniel 8:15–9:19
Daniel was a ‘visionary’ in both senses of the word. He received divine revelation (‘vision’ – a word that appears seven times in Daniel 8:15–27) and had visionary goals for his life.
In the first half of today’s passage, Daniel is given the interpretation of his vision (divine revelation) by the angel Gabriel (v.16, this is the first place in Scripture where an angel is mentioned by name). Gabriel explains to Daniel that the vision he has seen ‘concerns the time of the end’ (v.17). ‘This vision... is accurate... It refers to the far future’ (v.26, MSG).
There is both a historical fulfilment of this vision and a long-term fulfilment. The historical fulfilment is probably to be found in a particularly dark period in Jewish history. Between 175 and 164 BC they were ruled by a foreign king, Antiochus IV Epiphanes. He persecuted the Jews, outlawing the worship of God, desecrating the temple and killing thousands. But the spirit that possessed Antiochus and allowed him to achieve earthly success (vv.23–25) is the same spirit that will inspire the final antichrist in the last days (see 2 Thessalonians 2:3–8; Romans 13:11,14).
Daniel prophesied that ‘he will be destroyed, but not by human power’(Daniel 8:25). Antiochus’ troops marched into Jerusalem and massacred 80,000 Jews and enforced the worship of Zeus. He died suddenly and unexpectedly in 164 BC from an unknown disease. This prophecy will find its final fulfilment when Jesus returns and destroys the devil ‘with the breath of his mouth’ (2 Thessalonians 2:8).
Daniel was also a visionary in the other sense. He understood ‘from the Scriptures’: ‘I, Daniel, was meditating on the Scriptures... according to the word of God to the prophet Jeremiah’ (Daniel 9:2, MSG; see also Jeremiah 25:11–12; 29:10), that the exile would last seventy years (that is, from 587 BC to the rebuilding of the temple in 516 BC).
If you want God to give you a specific vision for your life, we see in this passage that there are two essential keys. First, all godly vision needs to come from, and be earthed in, our understanding ‘from the Scriptures’. Second, fulfilment of vision begins with prayer. Daniel turned to the Lord in prayer. He was conscious of the greatness of the God to whom he was praying (Daniel 9:4).
Daniel’s prayer was a free-flowing outpouring of his heart to God. He was conscious throughout of God’s greatness and mercy and his own unworthiness. But he was also confident of God’s ability to answer his prayer.
God longs for you to talk to him about what is on your heart. You don’t need to hold back or censor what you talk to him about or try to come across as something you are not. He already knows everything about you; he wants to hear it from you and to talk it through with you. Be yourself with God when you pray – not the way you think you should be.
Daniel confesses that they have sinned in every way imaginable, ignoring God and doing what they please. They are filled with guilt and shame (vv.3–16, MSG).
Yet Daniel knew that God would never give up on those who love him (v.4, MSG) and that ‘compassion is our only hope’ (v.9, MSG).
On that basis, he prayed for his city and his nation (vv.17–19). Daniel’s prayer was answered. You too can cry out to God for your city and nation, and believe that God will answer your prayers and fulfil the vision he gives you.
Lord, give me a vision for my city and my nation: For the sake of your Name have mercy on us, O Lord. Revive us and heal us. Glorify your Name.
1 John 3:1
‘How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!’
‘Lavish’ is such an extravagant word.
Verse of the Day
‘See what great love the Father has lavished on [you], that [you] should be called children of God!’ (1 John 3:1).
The Bible in One Year commentary is now available in book form. Available on amazon.co.uk
* Tricia Neill, From Vision to Action (Alpha International, 2006). In her book, Tricia draws on years of experience at HTB and Alpha International and offers valuable insights to church leaders on how to form a vision and turn it into reality.
Jackie Pullinger, Crack in the Wall (Hodder & Stoughton, 1997) p.15.
Joyce Meyer, The Everyday Life Bible (Faithwords, 2018) p.2101.
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.
Scripture quotations from The Authorized (King James) Version. Rights in the Authorized Version in the United Kingdom are vested in the Crown. Reproduced by permission of the Crown’s patentee, Cambridge University Press.