How many of you saw the award-winning musical movie, “The Greatest Showman?” Very powerful storyline, acting, and singing. It was a story that was loosely based on the real life story of PT Barnum, the guy we would credit with establishing the traveling circus. He was a visionary who could see a kind of entertainment no one else could have envisioned. That’s what I want to talk to you about this morning: vision. It’s a biblical topic for sure.
Proverbs 29:18 “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” KJV
Scripture teaches us that vision is a good thing. We need vision. It gives us passion and reminds us we have a purpose. Vision is what propels us forward. I am so thankful for the vision the founders of this church possessed. I am so blessed to be part of a church with a vision to win the lost, to help the addicted, to support the grieving, to help people move forward after the pain of divorce, to encourage folks to grow in the Lord, and to become a place our community can come for worship, fellowship and recreation. We didn’t get where we are without vision.
Vision is what kept us moving forward with the plans to develop this property when the community started to say, “I doubt they will ever build anything up there.” Vision gave us the drive to stay prayerful and to grow in faith to believe that God would make a way. Vision is wonderful because it keeps us from giving up. We need vision. You need a vision for your personal life. Perhaps today some of you feel like giving up. You need a fresh vision for your life. Why are you here? What is your dream? How are you moving toward the development of and implementation of your personal vision?
PT Barnum had a vision. It was his vision that kept him going in spite of what many would define as obstacles and failures. His vision started out with a dream to take care of his family, to provide for their needs. It was a noble dream. In a short amount of time, however, Barnum’s vision morphed from a dream to care for his family into a dream to make a name for himself. Becoming famous became his primary motivation. And instead of possessing the vision, the vision possessed Barnum.
That can happen, can’t it? No doubt you have seen it or even experienced it yourself. It can be easy to get caught up in the vision, to be possessed by the dream, so that the dream becomes the end-all-be-all, so that achieving becomes paramount, and in the process of achieving the dream we can lose sight of ourselves and what matters most. We need to drive the vision rather than the other way around.
We have been wired to be visionaries. God has given us the capacity to dream. Creativity and imagination, ingenuity and perseverance, are gifts God gives us in order to enable us to make a mark in this life and to help us experience the fulfillment that comes from living a life of meaning and purpose. In order to make sure we make that mark and experience the meaning and purpose God desires, we need to make sure our vision is God’s vision for our lives.
We need God’s vision for our lives.
Proverbs 16:9 says, “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”
We usually don’t lack for ideas, right? We can often picture the possibilities. But which path is the right one? What venture will enable us to fulfill God’s blueprints for our lives? Do you know when we become Christians we align ourselves with the Master Dreamer?
Jeremiah 29:11-13-“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will SEEK me and find me when you SEEK me with all of your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord.
Hold on to that word, “SEEK.”
God is the Ultimate Dreamer. He thinks big. Many people who don’t know Him, have Him pegged as a God of limitation, a God of small thinking, a God of restrictions. That’s not the God I know. That is not the God of the Bible. Our God is an “Out-of-the-Box” Thinker. He can appear to be backed into any corner and find a way out or simply create a way out. In fact, He can create something out of nothing. He can open doors no man can shut. There is no limit to His capacity to inspire and His network and resources to bring dreams to reality. The passing of time doesn’t diminish the odds that His plans will succeed; Instead, they seem to prove that He dreams up things that only He could do. Trust me, you don’t want your plans for your life. You want God’s. Yours are way too small.
I Corinthians 2:9-“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has conceived the things God has prepared for those who love Him.”
God’s dreams are bigger than our dreams for ourselves because His vision is perfect. He sees the end from the beginning. You want to shoot for the stars? Ask God what His plans are for your life. You will be blown away by what He will do when you start with His agenda instead of your own. You will also be sure to shoot for the stars and to hit them rather than to swing and miss.
Proverbs 3:5-6-“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.”
You want to spin your wheels and find out all of the ways not to execute your vision? Trust in yourself. If you want to succeed and move toward the realization of the vision God gives you, stay submitting at every turn. With every decision, submit your will to His will. When it is time to spend money, submit your will to His will. When it is time to involve other people, submit your will to His will. When it is time to get more education, submit your will to His will. When it is time to expand your borders, submit your will to His will.
Here’s what I know: If you surrender your dreams to God, you will gain everything worthwhile in the process. You lose nothing when you surrender everything to God. You gain more than you could have dreamed or possessed.
We want it all without submitting it all, and it won’t work like that. God will only allow us to possess what we first lay down. We can be guilty of submitting some, but Scripture teaches us that we are led to the place of success in Christ only when we submit it all.
Once you have consulted with God and have laid down your vision and allowed Him to birth His vision for your life into your heart and mind, you have the green light to start walking toward the fulfillment of your dreams. As you pursue your vision, however, I have two cautions for you:
1. Don’t lose sight of the Kingdom of God.
Matthew 6:33-“Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
There is an order to success. This is a first-things first principle. You can get lost in your dream to the point where you lose sight of God and the very Kingdom you are supported to be part of, the Kingdom you are supposed to be advancing. Why is it so important to stay Kingdom-focused? As you do, you will not only grow spiritually, but you will have discernment to do the kinds of things with your success as it comes to you, that God desires. Instead of being “changed” by success or being changed by the drive to be successful, you will be making changes that advance the Kingdom in and through your success. God wants you to understand that things will line up in your life in a way that will advance the Kingdom if you seek the Kingdom first; above your business plan, above your relationship desires, above the acquisition of wealth or notoriety. And this Scripture teaches that while we focus on advancing the Kingdom, a blessing comes into our lives-and all these things will be given to you as well.
I want to give you three ways to seek the Kingdom which will ensure that on your way to the top of your dream, God remains at the top of your priorities. It’s three easy steps.
Be like Him wherever you go.
Represent Him wherever you go.
Paul said in Philippians 3, “Yes, I am pretty schooled. I am pretty well-known. I am extremely connected and respected. I have status and privilege, but none of those things matter to me as a Kingdom person. None of those things are what I am pursuing now. None of those things are what give me passion and purpose. In fact, in light of my Kingdom pursuits,” he says, “Those things mean nothing. They are useless and meaningless because my goal is to know Christ.” (Everyone say, “Know Christ.”)
Paul went on to say, “I want to gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but the one that comes from Jesus alone. I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death in order to obtain the same resurrection He experienced.” (Everyone say, “Be like Christ.”)
Paul’s vision was always a Heavenly One. His goal was to make Christ known. If he was in prison, he preached. If he was in the synagogues, he preached. If he was traveling, he preached. If he was in the city square, he preached. Every circumstance, whether good or bad, was an opportunity for Paul to preach. (Everyone say, “Represent Christ.”)
Know Christ. Be like Christ. Represent Christ. This is the essence of the Kingdom. This is what it looks like to seek first the Kingdom. If you will do these three things as you pursue your dreams, I believe everything that you need in order to realize your dream will be added unto you. And if the vision for your life doesn’t include knowing Christ, being like Christ, and representing Christ, don’t expect “all these things to be added to you as well.”
2. Don’t lose sight of the value of people.
PT Barnum lost sight of why he set out in the first place. He had vowed to take care of his family. His dream, his vision, was supposed to be the way he could provide for and care for his family. As his motivation for his vision shifted to himself, his family not only got put on the back burner, but he almost lost them entirely as he contemplated having an affair with one of the performers in his show. One of the best parts of the movie for me is the moment he turned his business over to someone else so that he could regain his family as his top priority.
In addition to that, the cast of unusual characters that he assembled became a means to an end rather than people and relationships to treasure. He used people as stepping stones to further his selfish agenda. People are not pawns to be used and exploited and manipulated for our benefit. People are precious. People are to be valued, encouraged, appreciated and treasured. Be thankful for those God brings into your life to enable you to execute your vision and never take them for granted.
When Barnum’s circus building went up in flames, he most surely would have lost it all had it not been for the people in his show who decided to give him a second chance. Even though he had turned his back on them, they had compassion on him and helped him start over which is how the traveling circus got its start.
The visionary Barnum almost lost his family. He almost lost his livelihood. He almost lost it all because he lost sight of the value of the people in his life. Listen, everyone in your life is there for a reason. Some of them are to help refine you. Some of them are help to define you. Some of them are there to help align you with God’s designs for your life. Don’t discount anyone. Each person God gives you an opportunity to know is an opportunity to learn something more about His plan for your life. Treasure the people God gives you as you never know what role He intends for them to play in the development of your dream.
Paul tells us in Philippians 2 to not only look out for our own interests, but also for the interests of others. How we treat others matters and can ultimately be the reason we succeed or fail to see our dreams come into reality, and no vision, no dream, is more important than the people God has placed in your care and sphere of influence.
In recent years a head coach divorced his wife of 26 years when he left coaching a college team to become head coach in the National Football League. He said he needed a wife while coaching on the college level for social functions and to show families that he would be looking out for their sons. In pro football, however, she was an unnecessary accouterment and a distraction to winning. He said winning football was his number one priority and his two sons second. How tragic!
In contract to this, Tom Landry, former coach of the Dallas cowboys said, “The thrill of knowing Jesus is the greatest thing that ever happened to me … I think God has put me in a very special place, and He expects me to use it to His glory in everything I do … whether coaching football or talking to the press, I’m always a Christian … Christ is first, family second and football third.”
Landry understood the “Seek ye first” principle, and he practiced it. As a result, “All these things were added unto him.” He possessed and achieved big dreams because he walked with God.
When PT Barnum sort of came to himself in the movie, he sang a song called “From Now On.” Here are the lyrics:
I saw the sun begin to dim
And felt that winter wind Blow cold
A man learns who is there for him
When the glitter fades and the walls won’t hold
‘Cause from then, rubble One remains
Can only be what’s true
If all was lost
Is more I gain
‘Cause it led me back
From now on These eyes will not be blinded by the lights
From now on What’s waited till tomorrow starts tonight
Tonight Let this promise in me start
Like an anthem in my heart From now on
From now on I drank champagne with kings and queens
The politicians praised my name
But those are someone else’s dreams
The pitfalls of the man I became
For years and years I chased their cheers
The crazy speed of always needing more
But when I stop And see you here
I remember who all this was for
And from now on These eyes will not be blinded by the lights
From now on What’s waited till tomorrow starts tonight
It starts tonight And let this promise in me start
Like an anthem in my heart From now on
From now on. What is it you need to do from now on? Where are you in the development of your vision? Are you sure it’s God’s? Is He at the center? Is knowing Him, becoming like Him, and representing Him fueling your dream? Is your mind set on expanding God’s Kingdom? How is it with you and others? Is there someone you have stepped on along the way, someone who has been discarded because they no longer serve your purpose? Is there someone who has been mistreated or minimized so that you could achieve some kind of success? Is someone in your life owed an apology?
To gain it all you must first surrender everything. Are you willing to lay it down and pick up only that which God can bless? Let’s stay passionate. Let’s keep moving forward, but let’s not lose sight of that which God says has to be first.