A person can have sight, yet be practically blind.
Vision extends beyond sight. It’s not daydreaming. It’s not an emotional hallucination. Vision is the ability to see beyond: to have a grasp on the future through a command of the present.
Let’s unpack that definition and take a look at some ways vision can be built in your life.
“Command of the Present”
I don’t mean “control.” Sure, there are plenty of things you can control right now. But there are a whole lot more things outside your realm of personal control. To contrast, take government, for example. You can’t control what decisions our nation’s leaders make — but you can control the principles you invest in the lives of others around you, and that can lead to better government from the bottom up. You may not be able to stop human trafficking by sheer will-power, but you can choose to protect the vulnerable from it.
So by “command,” I’m talking more about discipline. You might call them “habits,” or “self control.” It’s mastery over self. The person who masters his Self is free from slavery to self, and is able to better direct the choices he makes. The choices you make in this moment affect those you make in the next, leading to either the fulfillment or failure of your vision.
On self-mastery’s flip side is being mastered by God, rightful King over the physical universe. Much of the time He works powerfully without (or in spite of) our help. But in His sovereignty, He gave freedom. Will we give prominence to His voice, or ours?
He’s the One Who said, “Without divine vision, people are unrestrained.” (literal reading of Proverbs 29:18a) It’s easy to see two aspects of vision from this verse: first, it needs to come from God, and second, the opposite of having it is being without discipline or mastery (restraint).
Part of commanding the present is choosing to allow what will and won’t have importance and influence in your life. It’s the process of eliminating distractions: saying “yes” to relationships and ideas and actions that matter, and saying “no” to those which pull you off course even a tiny bit.
“Grasp on the Future”
Is it really possible to have a grip on the future? It’s a valid question.
You can touch the future simply by living, consuming, and leaving a couple children to continue the human race. This is floating.
You can mar the future by pursuing self, being consumed with evil purposes, and seeking to leave a scar on the world. This is infamy.
You can grasp the future by standing for principle, creating, and leaving a legacy through affecting the mindset with which your children live life. This is vision.
Your great-great-uncle who nobody remembers touched the future.
Hitler marred it.
William Booth grasped it.
To walk through life with a Spirit-led vision is to truly grasp the future in a way that says, “This is a principle I stand on; I will live by it so that my ancestors may also stand on it.” It’s being a gatekeeper for future generations.
If you choose to follow Jesus Christ in the radically different way of Life in the Spirit — really live it, in truth and power — how will that change the people you touch, the legacy you leave?
If you have the chance to prevent one child from being enslaved, who knows what might happen?
If you buckle down and discipline yourself to be serious about thinking deep thoughts, then let them change your path, who will your grandchildren know you as?
“Ability to See Beyond”
It’s really easy to get caught up in what you can see right now. There are a million voices clamoring for your attention, as many ways you can amuse yourself, and myriads more you can worry yourself with. Most of those voices don’t matter. The majority of amusements are distractions from real life. And worrying about the future cripples you from being able to do anything about it.
Having the ability to see beyond means that, even while living Now, you’ve got a destination in mind. You’ve chosen your course and go purposefully in that direction.
One example my dad always used was that of plowing fields. Early on in his hobby farming, he learned that as long as he focused on plowing straight lines by watching where his tractor was, the lines were never straight. But when he chose a point at the end of the field and drove towards it, more times than not the line would be straight.
Translated to character, if your goal is to have humility, it never works to try being humble. That’s focusing on the here, the now, the obvious, the supposedly easy. To have humility, you have to learn to esteem others as more important than the all-consuming Me. That’s hard, and requires thinking ahead and self-discipline.
Vision is knowing where you need to be — having an end in mind — and intentionally going for it.
A deep, far-reaching, mature vision isn’t crafted in a week. My vision is still under construction, but it gets clearer as the years go on.
Here are some ways a vision can be developed:
By developing the skill of thinking, you’ll discover a whole world outside your Self. Stop to consider the commonplace. Examine the world views around you. Renew your mind in the Spirit of Holiness. Take time to consider the actions and paths you’re taking as a person.
Walking in the Spirit
If you’re not walking in the Spirit of God, you can still have vision — but it’s not going to extend into the ultimate future: eternity. The goal of a relationship with God isn’t to further your own vision, but that’ll be a natural result of walking with Him. God’s will isn’t found hidden in a fog you have to stumble around in. By spending more time understanding the depths of His eternal will, you’ll better understand how to respond to it with choices to spread His Kingdom.
Part of mastering yourself is being mastered by God.
“We do not win our strength and stability by mastering ideas, but by being mastered by them — held in their grasp…” – Charles Henry Parkhurst
That mastery by someone or something else helps shape your vision. If you understand that God has made life sacred, you’ll have a stronger vision to see an end come to ideas like abortion and depopulation.
Skills and Interests
God has equipped each of us with particular skills and interests. Many of these you gained through associations and environments growing up, but for most you can choose to invest time and effort. Sometimes God moves people to do something completely opposite of their natural bent, but often He uses people as He’s called them.
Similarly to thinking, a study of the world around you yields analogies and insights to help you gain or focus vision in life. Study of the Word of God brings clarity to your worldview. Study of people’s behavior helps you understand how we work. To examine details of things takes time, effort, and often much self-discipline.
For some people, picking up a skill comes naturally at first. But it’s often harder to stick with something. I’m that kind of person; if I can’t naturally do something well after a while, I tend to discourage myself from continuing to try. It’s helpful to find mentors or other ways of learning: books, classes, people who can answer questions.
Vision is inherently risky. I can’t see the future, so why try to grasp it through mastery over the way I choose to live? Plus, having vision to stick to may (and probably will) mean missing out on personal comfort or gain. Small risks are stepping stones to large risks. If you overcome the fear of small risks, you’re prepared to overcome large risks — and make lasting change.
Focusing Your Vision
All of the above ways can fit together to focus your vision; the way you think about and interact with the world will affect your actions. It’s been said that if we say we believe something, but it doesn’t change how we live, we don’t really believe it.
It’s easy to lose focus on what’s important, letting your attention be sidetracked to what’s flashy and excitingly unimportant in the world. Honestly, I’d rather sit around on computer games all day than have a meaningful, risky, and (probably) uncomfortable life. That’s why I don’t allow myself to play them.
When I lose my vision is when I am most prone to discouragement, paralyzation, rotten attitudes, and sin. Both my wife and I know this too well. In a way, I perish a little. And when God renews vision, it’s a fresh breath of life.
Vision is far too important to pass up. It’s scary, absolutely, and that’s why we don’t see much of it in our culture and times today. That’s also why we don’t see many modern day Wilberforces, Muellers, Nees, Alywards, Pauls…
“We shall have all eternity in which to celebrate our victories, but we have only one swift hour before the sunset in which to win them.” – Robert Moffat
“The trouble with people, nine out of ten of them, is that they stand on insulators and watch the play of lightning through drawn shutters, and never stand out and let the electric storm play in their own bosoms.” – Charles Henry Parkhurst
Fellow disciples: let’s become a body with vision again. I need it as much as you do.