By David Faust
Bill Hybels defines vision as “a picture of the future that produces passion.” George Barna says
vision is “foresight with insight based on hindsight.” It’s “seeing the invisible and making it visible,” following “an informed bridge from the present to the future.” Barna’s definition of vision for ministry is “a clear mental image of a preferable future imparted by God to his chosen servants . . . based upon an accurate understanding of God, self and circumstances.”
An Important Verse—Part Two
Speakers who talk about vision frequently quote Proverbs 29:18 from the King James Version, which says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”
No matter which translation we use, we need to include the whole verse if we use Proverbs 29:18 to promote the “vision thing.” The verse does say, “Where there is no vision, the people perish”—but that’s only the first half of the verse. Have you ever heard anyone quote the rest of it? In the King James the next line says, “but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” In the New International Version the entire verse reads, “Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint, but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction.” The Message paraphrases the verse, “If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; but when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed.”
That’s the part I wish received more emphasis: attending to what God reveals. Godly vision leads us to honor God’s Word and heed his instruction, not to “cast off restraint” as if we can do whatever we want. A healthy vision for ministry must be more than a catchy new idea; it must lead us to obey the revealed will of God. A big fund-raising goal or a building project means nothing unless our ultimate purpose is to proclaim the whole will of God and make disciples who will trust and obey the Lord (Matthew 28:20).
In biblical times charismatic leaders made big claims. They boldly proclaimed, “I had a dream,” but God hadn’t spoken to them. They were prophesying the delusions of their own minds (Jeremiah 23:25, 26). They had vision, but their ideas weren’t inspired by God. In Jesus’ words, they were “blind guides” (Matthew 23:24, NIV).
I understand the importance of the “vision thing.” Without a compelling vision of a preferred future, it’s hard to be a leader and even harder to be a follower. If we don’t know where we’re headed, no one will go with us and we won’t know when we’ve arrived. Without a clear sense of direction, a leader is like a traveler without a map, a novelist without a plot, a songwriter without a melody, a guide without a compass. Leaders must have clear eyes to see the invisible, and they must have the discipline and tenacity to persist until the dream becomes a reality.
But if we read Proverbs 29:18—the whole verse—we can’t escape another important conclusion: Our vision for the future must align with the truth God has revealed in the past. u
Note: this article first appeared in The Lookout on May 23, 2004.
David Faust is president of Cincinnati Christian University, Cincinnati, Ohio, and past Executive Editor of The Lookout.
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
The Lookout’s Bible Reading Plan for September 23, 2012
Isaiah 54, 55
Isaiah 65, 66