May 9, 2016

Ideals and Visions

For a long time I thought that if I had unlimited education and resources, I’d start a Bible school. After being educated at four different colleges and seminaries, I became convinced of what would be an ideal school, one that would make solid disciples.

No one has ‘unlimited’ resources, yet as much as God has blessed us, that school has never happened. Chambers’ devotional for today gives me a good idea why not. He makes practical comments about this verse:

Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law. (Proverbs 29:18)

My school is an ideal, but it has no vision. I’m good at the ideal part. Creative thoughts flow out of me almost without ceasing, but as Chambers says, there is a difference between an ideal and a vision. He says an ideal has no moral inspiration; but a vision has. I’m not sure about that, but from experience I must agree with his next statement: people who have great ideals rarely do anything.

Ideals are not necessarily immoral, however they can be misused. I could argue that God is sovereign therefore He will save whom He will save. This is true and could be called an ideal, but I could understand it incorrectly and assume that I don’t need to share the gospel with anyone. On the other hand, if God gave me a vision of how He was going to save an entire city, that vision could impel me to seek my part in fulfilling it.

My ideal school is another example. As some might say, it is the stuff of which dreams are made of, but without a vision from the Lord, at the very least the ideal fades. It could also side-track me into daydreaming about what could have been instead of doing what God actually wants from me in the first place.

These are interesting thoughts. Was my ideal school first a vision and I let it slide without reaching for it? Did God intend that I take this and run with it? Or was it only my ambition seeking something else? I might never know the answers to those questions.

Chambers also says that when the vision fades, we cast off restraints. It seems the verse refers to those restraints that keep people walking the straight and narrow. Could they also include barriers God puts in my way so I will stay focused on His will, restraints He wanted but I didn’t want so tossed them out of my way? Whenever I insist on doing my own thing, I also begin pushing God away. With that, any vision I might have had fades as well. When that happens, life becomes mediocre instead of an exciting adventure.

In John Piper’s book, Desiring God: Confessions of a Christian Hedonist, one thought summarizes the gist of it -- we are too easily satisfied with mediocrity. We go for what this world offers when we could have the glories of Jesus Christ. Even then, the Christian life can also settle into a rut and because change is often stressful, we stay in the rut. Author and educator, Howard Hendricks points out the folly of resisting change because for Christians, change is our destiny.

Chambers challenges me too. He says ideals can lull me to ruin, the ruin of wasting minutes, hours, days, and years instead of focusing on God’s vision. I need to takes stock: do I have ideas only? Or do I have a vision of what God wants from me? Chambers says my reach should extend my grasp. At the same time, I realize that visions are from God. If not, then all my planning and imagination will come to nothing.

I’ve never been much of a risk-taker, never mind a visionary. However, God keeps stretching me beyond what my teeny mind can imagine.

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