As a Christian leader, I have seen the value of having “vision” and “purpose.” Both are important aspects of leadership and life. If you look at my ministry, Identity Church, you will see lots of it.
Yet, I believe there is something deeper and more powerful than the concepts of “Vision” and “Purpose.” In fact, I am inclined to say that the concepts of “Vision” and “Purpose” have perhaps been overplayed, giving the impression that Christian leadership and life is simply about discovering and living with purpose and casting a vision of a preferred future for people to follow. Some Christians and leaders have a kind of telescope envy. Who has the biggest vision, projects, accomplishments, and sense of the cultural trends for the future? Are you completely and thoroughly dialed into God’s exact, specific, and surgical purpose for your life? Is your telescope as big as mine?
Make no mistake, God uses vision and purpose, but believe it or not, they are not foundations for Christian life or leadership. Rather, I believe the biblical concept of “Promise” is the foundation for Christian life and leadership, and missing in so much of modern, Christian life and leadership. We have indeed, in my humble opinion, placed the cart before the horse. We have placed vision and purpose, before promise.
What do I mean?
“Vision” and “Purpose” are things you work on. Like putting together a puzzle, we see the big picture and it’s function and start working to put the pieces together. We see the top of the mountain, believe we are called to reach it, and begin our climb. Our faith may be utilized and required along the way, but the foundation is our sense of calling and our efforts in climbing.
“Vision” and “Purpose” are inspiring as they bring to our life levels of meaning and direction. But, for many, the attraction to these concepts is connected to the adrenaline that comes from believing in and clinging onto a hope that one can become something greater and do something better through primarily our actions and efforts. God may give us a sense of “Vision” and “Purpose,” but we must “work it” for it to materialize. Therefore, “Vision” and “Purpose” typically end up appealing to a desire to perform our way to a better future and becoming a better person who has a better, more significant life. They call up the resources and hope of our flesh to bring us to a better reality and future. We all love visionary and purposeful phrases like, “I think I can, I think I can” and the courage for progress these words solicit. Yet, the inner warrior they conjure up is merely that, an inner warrior of flesh and bones, who is at best, trying to work out something spiritually great in and through one’s physical resources.
Conversely, the concept of “Promise” can’t be worked on, it can only be “lived out” through faith. As Christians, we are all heirs of “Promise” (not “Vision” and “Purpose”) given to us through Abraham. The powerful “Promise” that was over Abraham’s life is over our life, through Jesus Christ. It is God’s promise over our lives (and the lives of others) that is foundational to all life and leadership. It was this promise that led, enabled, and assured Abraham his destiny, identity and his significance.
In fact, in the verses below that articulate the promise of God over Abraham’s life and ours, notice the absence of vision. Abraham was directed by God to go to a land that God did not reveal to him from the beginning. He would only see it when he arrived. Furthermore, notice that the pendulum of blessings and accomplishment are heavily leaning towards God’s working, not ours. The foundation is faith, not vision and purpose. Abraham was never applauded for being a man of leadership-vision and life-purpose, but for being a great man of great faith.
Genesis 12:1-3 The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. 2 “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
Genesis 22:15-19 The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”
Galatians 3:29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Philippians 1:6 “He who began a good work in you will carry it onto completion…”
There are many other passages that speak to God’s “promise” over our lives. Comparatively, there are significantly less that speak of vision and purpose. The Promise of God over our lives is not future reality to be obtained, but present realities to be lived out. What are the details and applications of this Promise for us in the here and now?
In addition to our salvation through faith in Jesus Christ , there are several profound applications from these verses…
Because of the “Promise” God has over our lives, we…
1) Reign in Life – We live above our circumstances and surroundings. This is not a future possibility, but in Christ, a current reality. It’s not about what you do, it’s about who you are and what has been promised over your life. The Name of Jesus has become your name through faith. His Name is above all names.
2) Rule with Christ- We have divine power and authority now and in the future. The Kingdom of God is a “now and yet to be” reality. Present or future, in Christ, we are rulers with Christ. The world does not rule us. We are leaders in every way in every place. This is our position. Faith is what brings this reality into reality.
3) Blessed to Bless the world- We have prosperity from God that leads to generosity. True Grace received never leads to living a selfish, lazy life. Rather the opposite. God’s prosperity is attracted to faith in the Promise. Prosperity… spiritually, emotionally, and physically are ours now.
4) Relational Prosperity- We are whole and complete in Christ and able to truly love others from and out of that completeness.
5) Divine Greatness- We are the righteousness of Christ, seated with Him in the heavenly realms. This is a current reality, promised over us. You are greatness before you ever do anything great, and because you are great in Christ, everything you do, by faith, is great. Greatness is not something you achieve for Christ, it’s something you are in Christ.
6) Constant Significance– Regardless or where we are and what we do in life, we have divine significance because of who we are in Christ and God’s promise over us. Before your actions are ever significant, who you are has become significant through faith in your new identity in Christ. When you truly take hold of your identity in Christ through faith, you can’t help but change the world whatever happens from there.
These are the real-life realities of the “Promise” that we are heirs to, right here, right now. All of these applications of God’s promise over our life happen effortlessly through our faith. They are promised over us and received by us and worked out through us by our faith. They will prompt our actions for sure, but they will not require our work. Big difference.
“Promise” begins and ends with God working in and through us. Our faith is what materializes the “Promise” in our lives. The foundations of promise our not connected to our performance but rather God’s working and our faith.
The “Promise” of God over your life does not require having “vision.” In fact, our own sense of vision may in fact eclipse our ability to sense what God has “promised” over our lives. Where “vision” bends our sense of purpose in life as being centered around our actions and accomplishments, “Promise” directs our sense of purpose in life to be centered in our faith. One leans towards relying on human responsibility for its fruition, the other leans on believing in God for its fruition.
In fact, “Promise” is a current reality that is lived out in life now. “Vision” is a future reality that is worked on for it to be materialized in the future
Should we throw out “vision” and “purpose?” No, absolutely not! Both are valuable and important. But they must never become foundational nor birthed from anything less than faith in the promise of God.
How can you apply this teaching? Here are a few suggestions…
1) Focus on who you are now in Christ more than what you should do for Christ in the future. Place your focus on what Jesus has and is doing in you today, not what you will do for Him tomorrow. Put much more value on the size of your faith in the present work of Jesus in and over your life, not the size of your telescope into the future.
2) Believe in your position in Christ as one who reigns in life and rules with Christ. This will change your whole mindset and living as you deal with challenges, circumstances, and responsibilities in your life.
3) Don’t spend your energy on becoming significant and successful, put your trust in Jesus that because of Christ and His promise over your life, you are and everything you do is significant, right now. You are great because He is great in you. Live from greatness, not towards greatness.