Vision and Valleys? (Part 1)

The Valley of Vision: A Prayer – revPACman

Christian ministers in America, often use phrases which we believe to be biblical. This is done the purpose getting a point across or stirring up a congregation, to enlist their effort to execute a leader or leaders agenda.

Consider the phrasing of being on “a journey”. Pastor’s have been using this phrase for decades  to encourage churches to stick to a particular teaching. Pastors also use this phrasing when congregations get restless with a lack of results concerning a particular program or ministry. The “journey” phrasing is used so much, I almost have a physical reaction to hearing it in others. My question is, as important as the journey may be, are we ever going to get to the destination.

Another particular phrasing we Christian ministers have beaten like a dead horse concerns the words “vision” and “valleys”. With “vision” we bandy about phrases like “vision casting pastor” or what is your fellowship’s “vision statement”.

A “vision casting pastor” usually means a pastor who dreams up plans he desires the congregation to carry out and God to bless. This phrasing sounds exciting, but is simply advertising, from men less talented than P.T. Barnham, and most often not led by the Spirit of God.

What is the vision statement of all the church, throughout the ages?

Matthew 28:18-20 18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

If we would spend our time trusting the Lord with all our heart, not leaning on our own understanding, acknowledging His presence with us in all things, He would direct us, away from the need for vision statements (Proverbs 3:5-7).

The very real draw back to phrases which misuse the biblical word vision, is to potentially redefine what a biblical vision is and never consider why the person received the vison. Consider Paul’s most well know vision.

What does the Bible mean when Paul mentions three Heavens? - Quora

2 Corinthians 12:1-41 It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord: 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a one was caught up to the third heaven. 3 And I know such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— 4 how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.

Clearly Pauls’ “vision” was filled with “revelation” for him, but he did not over focus on what others could not understand.

Paul’s reporting of this “vision” is nestled in a two to three chapter section, where he is defending His apostleship. He does not use the vision to elevate himself over those who are opposing him, but to shine the light on what makes his character truly apostolic.

That element of true apostolic character is absolute dependence on God, as experienced in a humbling experience. This humility is an alien concept to the false apostles and prophets.

Why was Paul’s blessed to receive this vision in the first place?

Who can argue Paul’s influence on the church or the LORD’s abundant illumination and revelation to him. Not only was Paul chosen to write a majority of the New Testament letters, he did miracles, founded churches received information from angels about surviving ship wreck, and much more. Again why was Paul chosen for such revelation and vison(s)?

The answer is his love for Christ, which was rooted in Christ’s forgiveness of Paul. Although forgiven, Paul never forgot that he was the chief of sinners. That distinction did not mean he saw himself as such in the present tense, but that no one was as foul and antichrist before their conversion as he was.

1 Timothy 1:12-14 12 And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, 13 although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. 14 And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.

When Paul was still known as Saul of Tarsus, he watched the cloaks of the men who murdered Stephen the first martyr.  He was not old enough to be an elder and therefore could not carry out the sentence of stoning.  Although he could not throw rocks used to end Stephen’s life, the young persecutor had much power. Given authority by the religious leaders, he would be consenting to the separation of Christians from their families, as well as their deportation to Jerusalem to stand trial (Acts 7:54-8:1-3).

Remember that Luke, Paul’s travelling companion wrote the book of Acts of the Apostles, so the account of Stephen’s death would have been relayed to Luke by Paul. Even this accounting.

Acts 7:55-56 But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, 56 and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”

Note the word does not begin with “Stephen said ‘Look! I see heaven open and the Son of Man…'”, but it does first say the Stephen “gazed into heaven and saw… Jesus standing at the right hand”.

This was before Stephen spoke what he saw, so how would Paul know? Because he saw the same thing. Remember Paul was a living witness to the events and was practicing by the mouth of two or three witnesses all things will be established.

2 Corinthians 12:1-5: What did the apostle Paul mean when he said: “caught  up to the third heaven” and “caught up into paradise”? - Christian  Publishing House Blog

It is my strong and biblically informed position, that when Christ appears to Paul in Acts 9, where Paul is blinded and knocked from his horse, and where he addresses Christ as “Who are you Lord”, that Paul knew it was Christ. I believe this for he had seen Jesus before, in Jerusalem, in the same vision that Stephen had seen.

Why is this important? Because Paul, who had lived in Jerusalem from late boyhood, studying under Gamaliel, was present in Jerusalem when was Christ was crucified. During the time of Christ’s death, Paul hated Jesus and was that chief of sinners. How do we know? Because Paul wrote this under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 5:8 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Who else could write that as an actual real time and lived out experience, but Paul, who most likely was in the very crowd of mocking blasphemers that day. This brings us to why Paul received visions. it was his love for Christ, because of Christi’s love to a  to him; a man wanted the Messiah dead, and attempted to bring death to those who loved Messiah.

We know this because from the moment Paul was healed, by the laying on the hands of Ananias in Acts 9, Paul was wholly and holy committed to making Christ known. In this commitment, he left everything behind to follow the Master.

Philippians 3:7-11 7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

This is love, to the extent where a person strives to look unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of their faith alone. In this love for Christ, Paul would pray to “know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings…”. This prayer was answered over and again, as Paul lived in the fullness of the Holy Spirit and suffered greatly for it.

In American Christian culture those who would claim vision, love to declare with prosperity gospel garbage, that God would not want them to suffer. Paul understood that love for Christ, is expressed by those who are blessed, in valleys of trouble, all of which are either ordained by God or allowed by Him..

Paul had such great revelation, because His love for Christ, called for his unconditional surrender to God’s will, regardless of the cost. He was glad to surrender.

Paul also understood that being blessed in receiving a true vision, comes with a heavy cost. The cost is in maintaining and attitude of dependence on the Lord, which means walking through dark and difficult valleys.

In my next post, we will discuss Paul’s valley concerning II Corinthians 12 (the other misused word in often repeated and assumed biblical phrases), which arose from the vision he  received.

About Michael J Erdel

Mike is a pastor with The Assembly of God Fellowship. He is the lead pastor at Encounter Church in Fostoria Ohio. His desire is to encourage the Church of Jesus Christ, and declare God's hope through His Son Jesus, to a world which is long on excuses and short on hope. Mike has experienced the truth that when we kneel before Christ, surrendering to Him as Savior and LORD, being led and empowered by His Spirit. To Jesus Christ be all glory and honor.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.