The Purpose of Visions
Robert D. Pace
God has blessed Christians with two types of vision—natural and spiritual. As you understand the purpose of natural, ocular, vision it helps demonstrate the purpose of spiritual vision. Our physical eyes guide, disclose, and perceive opportunity. For example, if our natural eyesight is blurred and darkened it becomes difficult to manage life; our entire welfare is threatened. And the same holds true with our spiritual perception. Spiritual vision is a God-given grace that provides Christians with knowledge, direction, and opportunity. And before going any further with this message, I want to pause to clarify the type of vision I’m referring to today.
(Definition) A vision may come to your mind with dimension, shape, and color—something as vivid as John’s apocalyptic revelation at Patmos. Or, it may appear like Peter experienced in a mystical trance, when God told him to take the Gospel to the Gentile house of Cornelius. Or, God’s vision can come in the form of a deep impression that presses against your soul. However, God chooses to communicate His vision, it always involves a special consciousness that God has ordained it.
(Transition) I want to use this message to disclose three benefits of a heavenly vision. First, let’s talk about the Direction that vision offers.
I. Vision Offers Direction
Vision helps us prophetically prepare for the future and plan our course. Let me show you what I mean.
(Illustration) In 1953, my dad, at 22-years-old, experienced a wonderful vision regarding his military assignment to France. My dad was also the Chaplain of his Army Post. God gave him this vision just before leaving the United States for France. The Lord showed him my mother leaving America and crossing the Atlantic Ocean toward Europe. So he told his new bride, “Honey, I want you to sell the car when I leave and purchase a ship ticket to France.” But when he arrived at his Post he was told it would be nearly impossible to get his wife over. Even military officers weren’t permitted to bring over their wives. But as my dad followed his vision from God, he filed the paperwork, and for some reason an officer approved it! Consequently, my mother bought the ticket, boated over, and I was born 9-months later! Thank goodness for heavenly visions!
We should always follow the Spirit’s visionary revelation when God chooses to guide us by it:
A vision guided Joseph and Mary into Egypt to avoid Herod’s slaughtering of infants.
A vision, given to the prophet Agabus, foretold a devastating famine that was coming to the Middle East and, thus, helped the New Testament Believers overcoming it.
An angelic vision to given Paul during a storm gave the crew enough encouragement to sail on to safety.
You see, there is visionary blessing that God offers His people.
One of the most notable visions in the New Testament was given to Paul as he was planning a missionary journey. The Bible says the Holy Spirit spoke to Paul warning him not to go into Asia. Paul immediately changed his plans to comply with the Lord’s instructions. Shortly thereafter, God showed him a vision of a Macedonian calling for help. So, Paul re-charted his course, headed for Macedonia, and God blessed his ministry.
Incidentally, Macedonia is where Paul met Dr. Luke. And it’s likely that Luke was the man in Paul’s vision that became Paul’s personal assistant and would later write the Gospel of Luke and Acts. I want you to think about the value of vision-sent vision. What might have happened if Paul ignored the Macedonian vision? Perhaps the Physician’s pen would have never written the 52 combined chapters of Luke and Acts. . . . Don’t ever ignore the visions God gives you. They could have great impact on many people. As I mentioned, Simon Peter’s mission to open the Gospel to the Gentiles emerged through a heavenly vision (Acts 10).
And remember this about a God-given vision too: such visions always serve to glorify Jesus Christ. Regardless of the vision, it will always, ultimately, glorify Christ.
(Transition) But I also need to pause and issue a warning about something:
The reason Scripture condemns the act of consulting spiritists and mediums, horoscopes, astrology, and Ouija boards is because Christ is absent! The focus on horoscopes and astrology is on the seeker not the Savior! They are self-oriented.
When a person consults these forbidden practices they invite the powers of hell to intrude upon their life. Think about it. Witchcraft, incantations, séances, and horoscopes are only effective as spirits of darkness empower them. And when someone focuses on these forbidden practices of Scripture it creates an attachment to the demons behind them. It creates a bonding of unclean spirits to the person consulting them.
The reason some people are troubled and tormented is directly related to their attachments. When a person’s mind and heart are attached to the works of darkness; when someone pursues peace through worldly philosophy or with illicit drugs they willingly attach their self to a condemned practice of Scripture. They become ensnared by something that will always work against them.
Isaiah 57:21 says: “the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud. (21) There is no peace, says my God, for the wicked.”
But Paul says: “we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2CO 4:18).
This is why God wants our “attachment” connected directly to Christ. It’s because He renews, refreshes, and fills us with joy and peace. Listen to David’s words in Psalm 16:8. “I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. (9) Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices.”
Do you hear David’s confession? His attachment to His Savior brought him total fulfillment. And when you “set the Lord before you at all times,” it keeps you in perfect peace.
As the “water of life” He completely refreshes our soul.
As the “bread of life” He fills and satisfies our spiritual hunger.
As Emmanuel, He is “God with us” for every circumstance.
As our Savior, He provides us with life today, tomorrow, and forever!
(Transition) Second, vision not only offers direction, Vision Offers Opportunity!
II. Vision Offers Opportunity
Thank God for opportunity! Opportunity is the passageway to enlarging your life and becoming more for God. When God supernaturally inspires you with a “vision of opportunity” it’s His way of offering you the chance to accomplish something that will glorify His Name. Perhaps you haven’t experienced a vision of opportunity like Moses, Gideon, David, or others in the Bible. That’s okay! Don’t get discouraged. Let me show you where you can start: You can begin by focusing on Jesus and God’s vision for you will take care of itself. This is why Hebrews 12:2 says: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.”
(Definition) The words, “let us fix our eyes on Jesus” form a vivid photographic image. The scholar W.E. Vines translates the word “fix” this way. It means, “to look away from one thing so as to see another.” It’s shutting your eyes to worldly affections and opening your eyes toward Christ and His kingdom.
(Application) Most people enjoy peering through a telescope to investigate the constellations. But there is something you must do in order to keep the planet, comet, or star within view of the telescope. Simply pointing the telescope toward the sky doesn’t accomplish this. You must “focus and follow” the object in order to keep the object in view. Always remember that! You must “focus and follow” to keep object in view. That’s because the constellations are always moving.
This was the chief failure of the First Century religionists. They refused to “focus and follow” the Lord. Listen to how Jesus characterized them: Matthew 13:15 says: “For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’”
Of all people, the Pharisees should have embraced the Messiah because they had all the equipment required for “focusing and following” Him. They had the Law, the Prophets, the prophecies, and the skilled doctors to interpret the Scriptures for them. The events prophesied in the Old Testament unfolded in their midst: His birth, life, death, and resurrection. But they hardened their hearts and shut their eyes. They didn’t “focus and follow” the Lord! And Jesus said if they had done that, they would have known He was the Messiah!
Do you realize that as Peter and Paul focused on Christ and followed His commands they received visions? It stands to reason that God will deal with you and me likewise! Keep your eyes on Jesus; following Him; and He will offer greater opportunities!
(Transition) But a God-given vision not only provides direction and opportunity, it offers divine disclosure of coming events. There’s an information aspect to vision.
III. Vision Offers Disclosure
Vision discloses the future by speaking of a course of action we should take, a word of warning to heed, or coming events to pray about. Simply put, a vision supplies a vital piece of information that guards our welfare. 1 Corinthians 14:1 says the purpose of prophecy is to provide “edification, exhortation, and comfort.” And visions can certainly be prophetic.
(Illustration) Years ago, I leased a home with a $900.00 per month payment. It was a temporary six-month lease that allowed us to search for a permanent place to live. Things were beginning to tighten financially during that six month period, but the Lord brought comfort through a dream. He showed me two $900.00 checks lying on the mantle over the fireplace. I felt the Lord was saying He would provide two month’s rent for our home. And sure enough, the next two months two different businessmen handed me $900.00 for the rent payment.
God discloses visions to build faith, create hope, and help us trust Him during trying times. That’s what Paul discovered in Acts 18 when he ministered in Corinth. Turn to that passage and let’s read.
When Paul brought his ministry to the city of Corinth he was initially fought; and he was fought by the religionists no less! The opposition he suffered reached the stage of critical mass and Luke notes that it even became blasphemous! But this triggered the turning-point of Paul’s ministry. He literally began shaking off his garments in front of his enemies and concluded that God was leading him to focus on the Gentiles. That’s when the Lord gave him a vision to forget his fears and keep on preaching. God literally said, “I am with you, and no man will attack you to harm you.” The Corinthian revival exploded and the ministry to the Gentiles began!
I want to pause long enough to say something. Don’t be dominated by your fears! Do not take counsel from your fears! Don’t permit fear to guide your life. If God has given you a vision, then let God’s Spirit and power direct you! Israel was content living under Egypt’s oppression until God raised their misery index to an intolerable threshold. They were overworked and underfed. They were scourged, ridiculed, and over-heated under that hot Egyptian sun as they mixed mortar. But when they cried unto the Lord, God answered them. The more the Israelites looked upward, the more God looked downward. And when they focused their vision on Jehovah everything changed! God didn’t dispatch an angel with a sword; He commissioned a prophet with a staff. And when Moses raised his staff, he conquered Egypt, split the Red Sea, and claimed Canaan. It took forty years to reach the Promised Land, but their visionary look upward got them there.
Maybe you feel slighted because you can’t remember any significant vision God has given you. But I want to tell everyone here that you have received a clear-cut vision from God. And it’s contained in this Book I hold before you—God’s Holy Word. God even took the time to reveal His plans to the last generation of people that would live on the earth. He wanted to warn the world of the Apocalypse, so He opened the Apostle John’s eyes to see the Revelation of the Last Days. Do you realize that God could have remained silent and not warned mankind about the Anti-Christ and the Tribulation? But He graciously disclosed 22 chapters of visionary warning to John in the Book of Revelation and now the world knows what to anticipate!
(Transition) Let God speak to you through the vision that He opens before you!
I can’t provide anybody with “Five Steps that Capture Your Heavenly Vision.” I don’t believe you can contrive a formula for Christian living. Our victory in life comes through a relationship with Christ, not a cold, distilled formula. However, there is a principle you can employ that will help you claim a heavenly vision. Commune with God! It’s as simple as that. Just spend time with your Creator. God not only listens, He speaks! And your fellowship with God will bring foresight to your life.