Over the last month, we've looked at several different people and the visions they had and how those visions changed their lives. In these examinations, we've seen what it takes to receive vision from God, how we can clearly understand the vision God has for us, and what we must do once given that vision. Today, we turn our focus to you the reader. What is the vision God has for you and what will you do with it? We hope to create a sense of urgency for you by examining the two scriptures attached to the logo above. Read them below before going any further. Warning! This Bible Study may completely change your approach to living for God:
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: (Joel 2:28)
And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: (Acts 2:17)
The Promise That Brings Purpose
Both of these statements were spoken by men moved on by the Spirit of God to speak to those in need of connection with God. Joel spoke to a wayward generation of God's people and heralded God's spirit yet to come. Peter spoke to a blinded and deaf generation of God's people that God's Spirit was already here and ready to fill and minister. One man spoke of promises yet to be fulfilled, while the other spoke of promises already confirmed and in the process of fulfillment.
What the prophet Joel prophesied was fulfilled some 400+ years later with the return of the Spirit of God to dwell with his people, not in a tabernacle or temple. Not beside or near them. But inside of the creation He loved forever and always. Jesus Christ had died, been buried, was resurrected and ascended into heaven. Now His Spirit was back and prepared to enter into the hearts of all who would receive Him. The result of this experience was that these individuals and all others who would receive Him would be grafted into the New Covenant with God. They would be saved from sin and hell, but there would be something more given to them, too. God would use them to spread his message. He would do so through prophetic utterances, dreams and even visions. These visions would guide the likes of Peter, John, Phillip, Steven, Paul and many more to do great works for the Kingdom of God.
The great news is that the Spirit of God is still being poured out. People are still being saved and that salvation is still resulting in the use of prophecy, dreams and visions for the furthering of God's Kingdom. The only difference is, it is getting more and more intense as we draw closer and closer to the coming of the Lord. We are in the last days and are closer than ever to seeing God return to claim His bride. It is incumbent on us to rise to the occasion as this time draws near.
Vision In Perilous Times
As we draw closer, God is looking to open our eyes and ears so we can see His vision for our lives and the community around us. These visions will guide us and help us to draw near to God as we face the trials and tribulations of this life and pursue our greater inheritance in the next life. As mentioned earlier, though, these visions are not just for our lives but for the salvation of countless lost and troubled souls. As this world draws nearer and nearer to the inevitable end, times become more perilous and sin becomes more pervasive and destructive. In these perilous times, God is looking to reveal to us faces and places, hurts and hangups, opportunities and ministries that can bring His Kingdom to the whole world. There are over 7 billion people on this planet and if God came back today, most would not be entering into His Kingdom. Is this because He doesn't love them? No. It's because the harvest is great and the laborers are still too few some 2000 years after Christ. It's time for us to catch a vision of a lost and dying world and allow it to convict us.
Will You Be A Power Practitioner?
The question is, will we heed the call? Will we submit ourselves to God's purposes like we saw in Lesson 1? Will we listen for God's direction like we read in Lesson 2? Will we go after God's vision for us like we saw in Lesson 3? Will we fulfill the message of Joel 2:28 and Acts 2:17 beyond God pouring out His Spirit? Will we do with that Spirit what God commands? Will we be His vessels? If we choose to pursue the vision He has for us the way He wants, we will truly exhibit what God intends for us. After all, it was said straight from his mouth in another scripture:
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (Acts 1:8)
We're not just called to be saved. We're called to serve. If we've received the Holy Ghost that God promises to those who seek after Him, we have the power to be mighty witnesses to the entire world. The thing that will make the difference in how we exhibit that power is vision. Will you Aim For It? Will you claim your purpose?
Check back on our Access Page tomorrow for a special Extra Access that shows just how deep we really are in the last days. We'll do so by simply looking at the prophecies of Jesus and comparing them to today's times. We look forward to seeing you then and God bless.
Putting Action To Your Vision
We've examined how Saul and Ananias placed themselves in submitted positions to receive their vision. We talked about how they listened to understand what they should do with their vision. Today and this week, we look at what Saul and Ananias did with the vision God gave them.
Obedience Above Ourselves
Last week we saw where both Saul and Ananias talked with God as they listened to His vision for each of them. Once the talking was over, though, all that was left was action. They had seen and heard from God. What would they do with the vision they had been given?
Saul's story post vision starts out in darkness. He loses his sight and is forced to rely on the men who traveled with Him. Fortunately, they had heard the vision as well (Acts 9:7). These men led Saul to exactly where God told him to go (v.8). From there he waited 3 days. 3 DAYS! For some requests and situations, waiting 3 days doesn't seem too bad, but not having the ability to see for 3 whole days?! Saul had to be a little miserable because he refused to eat or drink, a sign of mourning as much as it is humility before God. Worse, Saul had no guarantee of when God was going to send the messenger He had promised (v.6). Some signs in the Bible came years after God had given them. Would Saul have to wait years just to find out what he must do with no guarantee of returning of his sight? Yet, Saul waited and hoped.
Will we continue to pursue what God reveals to us, even when it takes something we perceive as necessary to us? Saul's sight was tied to his mindset. He looked at Christians and saw blasphemers and idolaters. God had to change his view. What is preventing us from seeing things the way God wants us to see them? Is it possessions? Do we have things in our lives that prevent us from going after what God wants for us? Are our houses, jobs, debts, etc. preventing us from taking the necessary step in our walk with God? Is it our ideology? Do we have biases, perceptions, hangups, etc that prevent us from stepping out and being God's vision fully? Are we going to let our view of ourselves and the world around us prevent us from fulfilling God's calling and purpose in our lives? Or are we willing to let him take it all from us (even if it is temporary) so that we might see His vision clearly?
As we'll see later, Saul's time in darkness was not spent in complete mourning, but was done in repentance and transformation. When God follows up the blessing of a vision with the removal of something from our lives, we can't look at it with woe and despair. Why me mentalities don't reveal the answer to what are we here for. In that time of removal, we should draw near to God and let him work on the transformation we'll need to fulfill His vision for us.
Immediately Instead of Eventually
Meanwhile, Ananias was just finishing up his question and answer session with God. His concerns set at ease by God, he whipped out his 30 day planner and penciled in Saul for the following Thursday. Not quite. Ananias left his meeting with God and went directly to his meeting with Saul (v.17). Ananias may have had errands to run. He may have had a job to do. He may have even had some work to do in the local church. Yet, when God showed up and gave him direction, that command took precedence.
Many people desire to hear from God. When God speaks and directs, though, even when it is something we want to hear, our timidity, fears and inadequacies seem to crop up immediately and attempt to tear us down. This isn't a coincidence and it's not just butterflies. It's the enemy trying to drown out God's influence in your life. One of his best tactics is to get us to say eventually rather than no. If he can get us to put off God's immediate will for a minute, an hour, a day, he'll eventually get us to never do what God wants. When God calls us to act, we have to be willing to go all in from the start or we'll never get in.
Ananias expressed his concerns, some of which came from a place of fear probably, but his faith in God trumped the fear the enemy had presented. Do we have faith that can overcome whatever tactics the devil and his minions throw our way? Will we overcome him and operate immediately within God's planned purpose for us? God has a lot of great tools for defeating the enemy and accomplishing His purpose for our lives, but none is greater than faith. It's the tool that moves mountains from your path. It's the tool that can grow from a grain to a tree. It's the tool that gives us the authority to cast out devils, lay hands on the sick and speak life to the dead. It's what allows us to do greater things than Christ did on (John 14:12).
When Ananias entered into the house where Saul was sitting, he laid hands on Saul, spoke over him exactly what God said to do, and Saul was immediately healed and filled with the Holy Ghost. Saul had already turned to God before Ananias had entered the home. The purpose of having Ananias there to meet Saul was twofold:
To show and confirm to Saul that Christ's followers were not the enemy
Saul could not have fulfilled salvation requirements without Ananias there
Let's look at point one, first. Saul may have had an encounter with Christ, but he had yet to interact with a Christian since his vision. God wanted to create a bond between Saul and the rest of his followers. Ananias represented that bond. Without Ananias, Saul wouldn't have had someone to vouch for him in Damascus and thus he would have been completely on his own. Had this happened, he would have most likely been killed by his former brethren. God is going to give us an opportunity to fellowship ourselves to others in Christ or bring others to fellowship with us in Christ. His purpose and plan is to connect people to Him and we are lines that link the lost and dying world to Jesus.
Now let's tackle the second point. Saul clearly had repented by the time Ananias showed up because he was following Christ's orders and not his own path anymore. His lack of eating and drinking showed signs of remorse for transgressions and his patience in waiting showed that he was positioned to receive from God. However, his conversion was not yet complete. Saul had yet to receive the infilling of the Holy Ghost and he had not been baptized in Jesus Name as was commanded (Acts 2:38). Ananias was their to see both of these items fulfilled and they were. If you have yet to be baptized in the name of Jesus and filled with the Holy Ghost, evidenced by speaking in tongues, Jesus Christ can wash away your sins in an instance and fill you with His presence in the next. Go here. At the bottom of the page their is an easy-to-use directory. Just type in your city and state in the church locator and it will show you what the nearest church is to you. Call or show up at the address and they will be glad to help you have both of these experiences so you can come into full communion with Christ.
God is going to give us opportunities to give and receive from him when we position ourselves and listen to the vision He has for us. What comes after that will test our commitment to Christ. Will we press forward and receive gladly what Christ has laid before us? Will we go to whoever and wherever God wants us? Will we see our calling in Him realized? If we do, we will see the miraculous, the supernatural and the powerful take place in our lives and the lives of others. Ananias got to lay hands on someone for their healing and salvation. Saul got to receive healing and salvation. What will you do/receive? How far will you go?
Hearing The Voice of God for the Direction You Need
Beyond Just Seeing
When we think of spiritual vision, we immediately go to the eyes and what we see. We expect to witness an angel, a supernatural sign or the promise we are seeking to play out in our minds like a movie. Vision is suppose to be something we see, at least in our minds if not in the world around us. After all, actual vision is directly associated with the sense of sight. Why wouldn't our spiritual vision be centered around seeing something from God, too.
However, most if not all of the spiritual visions in the Bible come with an added caveat: they required the receiver to listen to God or the angel presenting the vision from God. There is an oral utterance that goes along with the image God gives to His followers. We see it with the likes of Noah and the forerunners to the first covenant. We observe it in Abraham to Moses. Samuel, David, and Solomon all saw and heard from God as well did the prophets. John the Baptist, the apostles and even some ordinary saints heard and saw what God had for them in a vision. It seems that vision throughout the Bible requires open ears as much as it does open ears.
Let's focus in on our lesson from last week. Both Saul and Ananias got visions from God. However, within the telling of these visions, the only thing we are told that either one of them saw was the bright light that shone around Saul. We don't know what else these men might have seen, but we do know what they heard to the letter. The images, whatever they might have been, seem to be inconsequential compared to the inspiration and instruction given by God.
When God gets ready to share a vision with us, it is awesome if he shares a visual image with us. However, image or no image, we need to make sure that we focus on the verbal vision God speaks into our lives. Think about it like this. I present you with a picture of a new house that had your name on the mailbox. I show you pictures of each room, and the yard and it is exactly the home you have always wanted. You'd be excited and ready to move in, right?. Instead of telling you where the house was, though, I simply left you with the pictures and walked away. The pictures themselves don't have any indicators where the house is located. Your great reward is sitting in front of you but without any instruction all you have is a promise. God does more than just show us what He wants for us to do. He speaks to us to inspire and direct us towards that goal. We just have to open up our ears and listen.
Talking Back Is Allowed
Saul and Ananias had open ears. They listened intently, but they also spoke back to God. Saul asked who it was when God spoke. He knew it was God, but wasn't sure as he had thought he was doing God's will. Why would God be saying Saul persecuted Him? When God directs a vision at us, it's okay to ask God if it is Him. Many evil spirits desire to trick us with a false direction. If we don't have a clear understanding of God's voice and what it sounds like, it's easy to fall prey to those misleading statements. No evil spirit can claim to be Jesus, though, because it doesn't have the authority to claim that Name. So when you feel like God is speaking to you, it's okay to ask if it's Him. God will make himself known directly, while a spirit will try to further mislead you.
Once You Know, As Where You Must Go
Second, Saul asked God what he should do once He had identified Himself as Jesus. This goes back to the heart and intention of Saul. God had just called him out for being a persecutor. Saul wasn't proud or defiant in this. He humbly requested for God to direct him so he could get in line with God again. Once we are in communication with God and He is ready to speak, the only thing for us to do is ask what we need to do and listen. We must ask like Saul, though, with humility and submission to God's perfect will for our lives.
Deeper Relationship, Better Understanding
Ananias shows a similar approach to God, and his story gives us some further insights into communicating with Christ. First, when God addresses him, Ananias immediately knows it is Jesus. How did Ananias know it was God speaking to him? He had a devoted relationship with God and so had probably heard in some way from God before. When we get into regular relationship and communication with God it will be easy to recognize His voice when He speaks to us.
Answered Questions Give No Excuses
The second thing Ananias said to God was his concern about Saul. Ananias' concern was legitimate as Saul was a vicious and dangerous man. He had probably had people put to death less than 24 hours before so it's natural to be skeptical in our reasoning mind. However, God reassured Ananias and that is all He needed to go forth. We'll get into the going forth part next week, but it's important to understand that having concerns and questions for God is okay. When God calls us to do something, it's okay to question it. However, God is going to reassure us and give us the answer we need to move forward in His calling. It's up to us to make the choice to listen with believing ears when God speaks. If we do, we'll have a clear direction from Him to go forth.
From this lesson, we see that listening to God takes an understanding of God's voice when He speaks. When we begin to feel and hear the voice of God speaking, it's okay and even important to ask if it is God speaking, especially when we have little experience talking with Him. The closer we get to God, the easier it will be to recognize His voice when He speaks. Once we know it is God speaking, it's still okay to ask questions and have concerns. However, once God answers and directs us, it is on us to make the choice to follow Him in faith. If we do, we'll be in position to make our vision a reality.
We hoped you enjoyed this week's lesson. You'll be able to get Extra Access through our Access page tomorrow. To preview it for you, we will be discussing further the idea of listening by looking at another conversion story and it's effect on the world. Hint: It's just a chapter away from our current focus. Until tomorrow, we hope you keep your ears open as you pray this week. God might have something profound to tell you.
Nobody likes the idea of losing. We don't like the idea of having something taken from us or dropped by the wayside, especially when it is something we cherish. However, when we come into God's vision for our lives, there are times when we are going to have to lose some things. Find out what those are and how they'll actually help us gain below.
Making Persecution Your Memorial
We've talked a lot about persecution this month, addressing what it is and how it affects us in both the temporal and spiritual realm. Today, we take a look at how we can use persecution to drive us to move forward.
Chris Farris is the author of The Way, a manual detailing how to implement the Beatitudes into your life. He review events and other media and offers other insights into writing and working for the Kingdom of God.