Vision and Revision

by Rick Shrader

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart

Nought be all else to me, save that Thou art;

Thou my best thought, by day or by night;

Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Irish hymn, c. 8th century


Vance Havner said, ‘‘A leader is a person with a magnet in his heart and a compass in his head.’’ We are living in a day when prominent leaders seem to be people with one index finger on a statistics manual and the other held up in the wind. In a day when a proper and precise vision is vitally necessary, there seems to be as much muddle as mettle.

The information age puts at our finger tips the goals and dreams of nearly all the world’s prominent leaders. We can access the vision of Sears, Penney, Walton, and Iacocca or any number of Christian leaders as well. Now, it seems, everyone has his own unique vision statement modified slightly from everyone else’s. One author even advocates getting alone with God and praying that He will reveal a vision tailor made for your ministry. The few dozen or so that I have read seem to be general statements that often could be translated, ‘‘We believe in doing what the Bible says,’’ which, I am about to argue, is what we ought to plainly say. (Let me insert here that I know we need to have better focus. My point will be that we cannot maintain focus without maintaining the large, constant vision which God has already revealed.)

One of the greatest steps in my Christian walk was taken years ago reading (as a textbook) Alva J. McClain’s Greatness of the Kingdom. McClain proposed that the two-fold theme of the Bible is the King and His kingdom. The goal of our personal character is to be like Christ, the coming King and the goal of our stewardship is to emulate the coming kingdom in the age in which we live. In Philippians three, Paul says, ‘‘that I may win Christ;’’ ‘‘that I may know him;’’ ‘‘I am apprehended of Christ Jesus;’’ and at the same time says, ‘‘I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead;’’ ‘‘I press toward the mark for the prize;’’ ‘‘For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.’’ This way of looking at the whole scope of God’s revelation gives us the Christian vision to which we put our hands constantly to the plow. The Lord commanded us to ‘‘Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.’’

We have seen the effect of the Christian vision in history. Western civilization is a history of Christian principles lived out by society.  From the Reformation to the Great Awakening, industrious changes and progress were made because the Christian work ethic was eternally (kingdom) based. Self government and individual moral behavior were the norm because the Christian individual goal was the righteousness of Christ. The present resistance within us to Eastern mysticism and African spiritism is not a resistance to people who look and sound different. It is a resistance to a non-Christian world view that has proven to be disastrous economically, politically, morally and spiritually.  Human efforts to build anything worthwhile without the Christian vision will eventually fail.

G.K. Chesterton painted it this way. The naturalist (or antitheist as Ravi Zacharias calls him) sees no meaning or life beyond the world in which we live. To him, this earth is his only vision. It is large and awesome, acting as his mother, his instructor and his spiritual advisor. The supernaturalist on the other hand, sees this world as a waiting station to the next world. It is smaller and secondary.  It is at best his sister instructing him of its Creator who is waiting to meet him beyond the world’s limits. To the naturalist, the world is his vision, constantly changing and being updated. To the supernaturalist, the world is the canvass and God is the vision.

When an artist paints a portrait he expects the subject to remain constant throughout the process though he himself may change or destroy many canvases. His vision is his subject and that must not be changed but the canvas necessarily changes until it is the best the artist can make it. Now if the artist has a different subject every hour, what is the use of starting anything on the canvas? His vision changes too often to produce anything. So the naturalist sees the latest product of evolution as the latest and only vision. There is nothing to emulate beyond that. It is no wonder that such artists reduce their vision to defeated abstractness where the only vision is within themselves.

If our analogy squares with our theology, it makes sense that our job is to make continued and varied efforts to paint a picture of a constant vision, the King and His kingdom. It is because our vision remains forever the same that our efforts must constantly be scrutinized and sharpened. We may change a method or a brush stroke, but to change visions every hour is to admit that we have no vision. In that case we will begin to produce abstract Christianity that resembles only ourselves.

Are we not painting this picture so that others will see a true presentation of what is eternal? It is not our concern that they see themselves. They have mirrors for that. It is not our concern that they see us. We don’t need a vision for that. It is not our concern that we make a name for ourselves in the art of ministry. The fact is, we were employed by the Subject of our picture to bring glory to Him. Rembrandt was only ‘‘successful’’ because he represented his subject as no one else could do.

Gutson Borglum was the sculptor who carved the massive figures of four American presidents on Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota. When asked how he produced such an amazing work, he replied, ‘‘Those figures were there for forty million years. All I had to do was dynamite 400,000 tons of granite to bring them into view.’’ So it is that our King is the same yesterday, today and forever and His kingdom is forever!