Long before Drucker and Covey wrote about it, God told the prophet Habakkuk how to write a vision that sticks: “Record the vision and inscribe it on tablets, That the one who reads it may run. For the vision is yet for the appointed time; It hastens toward the goal, and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay” (Habakkuk 2:2, 3, NASB; emphasis mine).
In other words, if you’re running and if you want to run your race well, write your vision down and your vision will happen. Just make sure you: (1) keep it simple and (2) make it timeless.
I decided to do that. With God’s help, I believe I’ve got one more really good run in me. So what’s my vision for what will come as I run the final stretch of my race? I had asked myself that many times but I had never written it down.
But I have now! And my vision consists of five simple words—words, when inscribed under the inspiration of the one who leads me, that contain incredible power!
So what does this runner want to accomplish as I make my final run? I want to lead people to follow Jesus.
Don’t let its simplicity fool you. The strength of this vision is found by breaking it down line by line, digging deeply to its core. In fact, that’s where I started—with the core of who I am and how I want my run to read.
The first word of my vision is actually the last. Which is fitting, since Jesus is our “Alpha and . . . Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” (Revelation 22:13) and the ultimate target I run toward.
When Jesus assembled his initial team of runners, his first assignment was even more simply-worded than mine—yet beyond vital. He said: “Come, follow Me” (Matthew 4:19).
All three of his inviting words matter, but the most important of the three is Me. A word that puts every runner who runs on notice: Being a Jesus-follower has little to do with performance or the successful completion of a program. It has everything to do with Jesus’ person.
My vision begins and ends with Jesus, for he is the sum of my faith—a faith that is nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else. It’s all about him.
Another word in my vision is follow, for follow is how every runner comes to learn of Jesus. God’s desired plan for all people is this: he made us so that he could re-make us to look like, live like, and love like Jesus.
And follow is how we get there. We learn at his feet as pupils. We mimic his skills as apprentices. But most of all, we submit ourselves to following him as our ultimate leader.
How will this process unpack for me? Jesus gave me my follow-plan in Matthew 4:19, when he said this: “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
- The first step in my follow plan is to make a head-driven decision that I am going to “come, follow” only him.
- Then I give my heart to him, because only after I invite him to shape my heart as he pleases can Jesus “make” me into something I’ve never been before.
And since Jesus taught me that the “first and greatest commandment” is to “love the Lord [my] God with all [my] heart and with all [my] soul and with all [my] mind” (Matthew 22:37), and since he also said that the second greatest commandment is to “love [my] neighbor as [my]self.” (v. 39), my heart—as I follow hard after him—is to love God and, with equal fervor, love people.
We runners love to call Jesus’ commission “great,” yet he never did. What he called “great” is his call to love. God first, then others. So before I spend my time trying to reorient people to follow Jesus, I need to rearrange my life around a commitment to love them as beautifully as he did.
- Finally, I offer my hands—my skill, talent, and gifting—to reach the goal that he set before me. And Jesus clearly wants me to fish for people.
More on that in a moment. But that’s how I read the way I must run. So I choose—head, heart and hands— to follow Jesus because I want to look like, live like, and love like him.
Which brings me to my assignment—and the reason I breathe. Following has never been Jesus’ end vision for runners who run. No, he wants those who follow him to lead others to follow him too.
Jesus told a group of fishermen, “If you are fishers of fish, keep fishing—but if you choose to follow me, I’ll teach you to fish for people.”
How simple is that? If you sing, don’t sing for applause, sing to lead people to Jesus. If you make fiery tamales, make them to lead people to Jesus. Whatever it is you do, make sure you do it—to lead people to Jesus.
Jesus would go on to speak many vision-shaping statements, but Matthew 4:19 was his first. And in case you’re wondering, this was his last—a vision both eloquent in its simplicity yet equally timeless: “Therefore go, and make disciples” (28:18-20).
In other words, “As you run, I want you always to be leading people to follow.” He calls me to fish for people who will fish for people.
The Core Isn’t the Whole
But the core of my vision isn’t the whole of my vision. No, Jesus’ brilliant simplicity begs another question: How? Exactly how did those who first followed him actually follow him? And not just them, but is there some way I can know how Jesus wants me also to run?
Jesus gave his disciples many vision markers during his ministry, but three have come sharply into focus for me. They’re markers Jesus himself described. In fact, his premise to would-be followers went something like this:
- If you do, in fact, choose to “come, follow me . . . .”
- I hope you will come, and if you do come, you will have to deny yourself and take up your own cross, and follow me (see Matthew 16:24).
The thought is breathtaking, and so is this. Matthew tells us that immediately after Jesus invited them to come and follow him, the instantaneous response of the fishermen to his call was to follow at that moment: “At once they left their nets and followed him” (4:19, 20).
Jesus said, “Come, follow” and his first band of runners eagerly, enthusiastically, and readily left behind everything they had known and followed.
That’s the first marker that determines the way I will run the final leg of my race. I intend to follow Jesus with ready obedience. No limits. No holding back.
Turn the page and right on the heels of that awesome moment, Jesus envisioned how his community of runners would transform the word. We call this first formal message the Beatitudes. But as he closed his initial description of those who would run, Jesus said that even in the face of insults and vicious persecution, we runners would “rejoice and be glad” (Matthew 5:11, 12).
Not exactly the reputation most Jesus-runners are known for. But it makes sense, since the gospel, by definition, is good news. Remember the night the angels announced Jesus’ birth? They called it “good news . . . great joy for all the people” (Luke 2:10).
Jesus reflected that kind of radiance to such a degree that he was often criticized by the spiritual elites because of his joy. But Jesus knew that truly good news will always make people glad.
And that’s why the early Jesus-followers radiated with a captivating, refreshing, and healthy glow. They were so radiant, in fact, that when they launched into their new fishing assignment (for people, not fish), they ran with a disarming charm Luke described as “glad and sincere hearts” (Acts 2:46). They were holding out the gospel’s exceedingly “encouraging message” (see 15:31).
The implication is clear. If I want to run in the footsteps of Jesus until he comes for me or I go to him, I must run with radiance.
I’ve written down one last marker in my vision. Jesus clearly said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24, NASB). As I read this verse I hear him say to me, “Wyatt, if you’re going to follow me, make certain your following is total. Because if you would be my disciple, you’ll have to give yourself ‘fully to the work of the Lord’” (1 Corinthians 15:58). And you must also “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30).
In other words, my following is to be relentless, marked by a resolute determination to keep following until my fight is done and my race is finished (see 2 Timothy 4:7). Until then, my following must be always all-in.
So there it is. My vision as one who runs. I must always be all about leading other people to follow Jesus. And that means that this leader must also follow, for the world will only recognize me as they see in me the one I purport to follow. It’s not just who, but also how I follow. And the one I’m running after has called me to run—readily, radiantly, and relentlessly.
So I will. I choose to lead people to follow Jesus by readily obeying his directive, by radiantly reflecting his disarming charm, and by running relentlessly—always, always, always all-in!
Steve Wyatt is lead minister at The Crossroads Church in Anthem, Arizona.