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Vision

Vision  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  29:03
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As the reign of Saul was ending, and the time as king was beginning for David, the people of Israel were faced with a moment of changing priority and focus. Sometimes in our lives, following God requires a vision that recognizes a changing of priority and focus.

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This week wraps up our series on vision. And even though I’ve been calling this series VISION, what I’ve actually been talking about the last three weeks is mission. We have been using the three key words from Fellowship’s mission statement: Love, Grow, and Serve as the themes for the last three Sundays. So, today is where we bridge the gap and see how it is we jump from mission to vision.
You see, sometimes I think people use those two terms interchangeably. Call it mission, call it vision, we’re talking about the same thing, right? No. Mission and vision are not the same thing. Today—in a little bit—we’re going to look at a story from the Old Testament that shows us a picture of vision. But before we get to that, let’s make sure we understand mission first. Because you cannot have a vision without first having a mission. Stay with me. I promise I will do my best to make this all clear by the end of this message.
So, right now, before we read the passage, we are looking at mission. The things I’ve talked about the last three weeks with Love, Grow, Serve are mission. Mission is about laser focus. When my Colorado Rockies are on a mission to win the NL West division and head into the postseason, it means this is a baseball team with a laser focus bent on doing what it takes to win ball games. When a military operation is being considered, the mission at hand requires laser focus so that those who plan and coordinate the efforts know what their objectives should be. Mission gives us focus.
This is true in the church and true for each one of us no matter where we are in the journey of faith. God gives his church a mission—a laser focus—and calls each of us to be disciples who take part in that mission. Jesus has given my life a focus. I have a mission. Here’s how we have talked about that the last few weeks.

Love

Love God in faithful obedience
Three directions - upward, inward, outward
Three weeks ago, we talked about love. We talked about what it means for this church and for us to have Love as a part of our mission. If you were here, maybe you remember that we saw from the story of David and Jonathan that love for God takes expression in three directions. A love for God is pointed upward towards God in worship. A love for God points inward to one another as God’s love becomes the foundation upon which our relationships are built. It is the love of God which joins us and unites us together as disciples in Christ. And it is a love for God is pointed outward as the reason why we reach to our community and sacrifice something of our own time and our own resources to benefit others beyond our own walls.
Mission is a laser focus. I know that we can easily start talking about our mission to love and get pulled in a million directions. I know we can probably make the case for love spreading all over the place. We can say that we have a mission to love God. And we can also say that we have a mission to love each other. And we can say that we have a mission to love those out in our community. And we can say that we have a mission to demonstrate loving care for the creation which God has made. Alright, I see where that goes. How can I argue that any of that is bad? Not really. But this is about mission. And mission is about laser focus. And the focus of our mission to love begins with God. It is a mission built upon God’s love reaching down to us, and our response of love to God.
Now then, all those other applications of our Christian love in this world are all held together and all have their laser focus because they all proceed out of our professed love of the Lord. Our expressions of mutual love inward towards one another all come from a singular focus. It springs from a love of God. Our activities that express love outward towards our community all come from a singular focus. It springs from a love of God. Even our worship that is pointed upward to God springs from a love of God. Alright, maybe that statement sounds like it ought to be obvious. But let’s admit that sometimes we all might struggle with worship being about things other than a love for God—like maybe music I love (or don’t love), or what I feel like I need to get out of worship or what’s in it for me.
We talked a few weeks ago about this mission of love, and we talked about the necessary balance of love that is pointed upward, inward, and outward. I want us to pull through that today the reminder that all those expressions of love come from a single laser focus mission to love God.

Grow

Two weeks ago we talked about growing. And here again we found that we could interpret what it means for us to grow in many different directions. We can grow in personal devotion and personal piety in our faith. We could grow intellectually in our knowledge of God as we read scripture. We grow numerically when we reach out to neighbors and others with the gospel message of Jesus. And we grow in maturity as our relationships with one another take root and lean upon one another with increasing responsibility and dedication.
Grow in relationships with one another
It was the instruction of the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 4 where we saw how this growing of interdependent relationships became something of the laser focus mission upon with all other forms of spiritual growth find connection and flourishing. Spiritual growth is something that for each one of us happens at its best when we are in a community of believers. Mature growth in Christ recognizes that we need relationships with one another. The church is God’s gift to his people, a gift that does much more than place us in each other’s company. It places us in each other’s lives.
Flourishes in unity with those who are different
If you were here a few weeks ago, maybe you remember we noted that unity in relationship is about more than just sitting together in the same room facing the same direction for one hour each week. We noted that unity is not the same thing as homogeneity (sameness). But the laser focus mission of what it means for us to grow points us toward deepening relationships in ways that reach beyond ourselves and beyond our own social bubbles.

Serve

Serve surrounding community
Not projects, but people
Last Sunday was talked about serving. We saw in a story about two sisters—Martha and Mary—that serving is not just piling on more busy work of making projects happen. We noted last week that nobody wants to be treated as a project. Nobody wants to just be seen as a problem that needs to be fixed.
And so, our efforts to reach into our community to serve others follow the pattern of Jesus, a pattern that never treated others as his project, but always accepted others as his people. And once again, this gives us a laser focus mission for what it means to serve.
Loving, Growing, and Serving. These things form a mission for us. We love God because he loves us and created us to be in relationship with him. That is the laser focus of our mission to love. All the various other ways that we love spring from this love of God. We grow in relationship with one another. That is the laser focus of our mission to grow. All the various other ways that we grow in faith spring from this unity of relationship together. We serve our surrounding community because God loves other people as his creation. That is the laser focus of our mission to serve. All the various ways that we serve spring from this devotion to treat others as people loved by God rather than projects to be fixed.
We love God in faithful obedience as our creator and redeemer. We grow in relationship with one another as our expression of unity. We serve our surrounding community as our devotion to other people loved by God.
Love God. Grow relationships. Serve community.
Laser focus. That’s mission. Now then, how exactly do we go about knowing how to do this? Now it’s time for vision. Let’s take a look at a passage that’s all about vision.
1 Chronicles 12:23–40 NIV
These are the numbers of the men armed for battle who came to David at Hebron to turn Saul’s kingdom over to him, as the Lord had said: from Judah, carrying shield and spear—6,800 armed for battle; from Simeon, warriors ready for battle—7,100; from Levi—4,600, including Jehoiada, leader of the family of Aaron, with 3,700 men, and Zadok, a brave young warrior, with 22 officers from his family; from Benjamin, Saul’s tribe—3,000, most of whom had remained loyal to Saul’s house until then; from Ephraim, brave warriors, famous in their own clans—20,800; from half the tribe of Manasseh, designated by name to come and make David king—18,000; from Issachar, men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do—200 chiefs, with all their relatives under their command; from Zebulun, experienced soldiers prepared for battle with every type of weapon, to help David with undivided loyalty—50,000; from Naphtali—1,000 officers, together with 37,000 men carrying shields and spears; from Dan, ready for battle—28,600; from Asher, experienced soldiers prepared for battle—40,000; and from east of the Jordan, from Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh, armed with every type of weapon—120,000. All these were fighting men who volunteered to serve in the ranks. They came to Hebron fully determined to make David king over all Israel. All the rest of the Israelites were also of one mind to make David king. The men spent three days there with David, eating and drinking, for their families had supplied provisions for them. Also, their neighbors from as far away as Issachar, Zebulun and Naphtali came bringing food on donkeys, camels, mules and oxen. There were plentiful supplies of flour, fig cakes, raisin cakes, wine, olive oil, cattle and sheep, for there was joy in Israel.
Do you get what’s going on in this passage? This is about vision. Sure, maybe it just looks like a rollcall of militia, but more is happening here. This is transition of the kingdom from the family of Saul to the family of David.
I started at verse 23. In fact, the entire chapter of 1 Chronicles 12 is a list of warriors who stand with David as their leader. But here is what is noteworthy about the list of people in verses 23-40. These were all fighters and families that—up to this point—had been loyal to Saul. And now they are turning to follow David.
I come from a Spartans family here in Michigan. That means there is no maize and blue in my closet. I’m probably not ever going to see the Wolverines at the big house unless the green and white are showing up to play. My March Madness bracket has Tom Izzo all the way every year. And it has always been that way. All the years I lived away from the state of Michigan, my allegiances stayed firmly with the Michigan State Spartans. When your family has been entrenched in following a certain team for years-upon-years, you stick with it. College sports loyalties can run pretty deep here in Michigan. You don’t turn your back on the team you follow.
But that’s exactly what is happening here in this passage. All these delegated militia from every single tribe of Israel that are listed in verses 23-40 are switching allegiance. This doesn’t just happen on a whim. It’s not like they’re swing voters—they’re not the moderate independents. These were all the guys who were hard-core members of Saul’s army. These are the guys who have season tickets and show up with body paint all over their chest and goofy hats. They are all-in. These are the guys showing up now to change which team they follow. It’s almost unimaginable. But that’s what vision does.

Mission and Vision

Let’s talk now about how it is that mission turns into vision. The Old Testament Israelites had a mission. Their mission was to live as the chosen people of God in the promised land. This was a mission these people were reaching after ever since Moses led them to the border. It was the mission Joshua kept in mind as he led the people into the land. It was the mission that the various judges kept bringing back to mind every time the Israelites forgot that they were to be living as the chosen people of God.

Mission – Stays the same through different times and places

That’s the thing about mission. Mission rarely changes. Mission stays the same. But vision is different. Vision changes quite a bit. Vision does not ever stay the same. Vision is what looks at the particular time and that particular place in which you live, and asks the question of what it will look like to see the mission happen in this particular time and in this particular place.

Vision – Changes in to align with particular times and places

The Israelites had a mission of being the chosen people of God in the promised land. In the time of Joshua before the Israelites possessed the land, the vision for how Joshua would go about the mission was about organizing the people to move in and occupy the land. During the time of Samuel, the vision was to live as the chosen people of God under the direction of God’s prophet. Later, the vision changed to live under the direction of king Saul—even though the mission stayed the same. Now we read a story about another pivotal adjustment of vision again. The mission was the same; that did not change. But all the people were now recognizing that there was a new vision. At that particular time and in that particular place David and his family were being placed by God into a position of leadership. That leadership presented itself to Israel as the best possible way for Israel to live out their mission to be the chosen people of God in the promised land. They saw the vision, and they made the adjustment to align themselves with that vision.
But here’s the deal—and let’s not lose sight of how huge this is. Latching onto this vision of moving from the leadership of Saul and his family to the leadership of David and his family was not easy for everyone. Some people saw the vision and moved onto David’s team long before he was ever declared king. Some people enthusiastically jumped on board with that vision from the very beginning. Others held out and did not join into that vision until the very end. Those who stayed with Saul as long as possible actively fought against the vision until it was blaringly clear that things were all going David’s way.
Let’s bring this all together. I’ve been talking mission. Love, Grow, Serve – that’s mission. That stays the same. That does not change. But what does it look like for you to do that right now at this particular time and in this particular place? That’s vision. What does it look like for you to live as a Christian who is loving God, growing relationships, and serving community the best possible way right now and right here? That’s vision.
In all that list of people who saw the vision of what God was doing and came to David’s side, there is one line in particular that jumps at me. Verse 32 says this: “from Issachar, men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do.” They saw that God was doing something in particular in their time and in their place. And they knew that this vision required them to respond—to do something.
How is God active in this particular place at this particular time?
This is where we find ourselves. This is where our vision connects with our mission to love, grow, and serve. We ask ourselves this question: How is God active in this particular place at this particular time? I believe that God is always active in the world created. God’s activity in the world shows up in different ways at different times in different places. So, what does that look like right here in this place right now at this time?
Maybe it is some way you see God providing for a particular need. Maybe it is the way people are coming together around a particular ministry opportunity. Maybe it is a need in our local community that has presented itself. Maybe it shows up in a particular relationship or group.
This isn’t a question of whether or not God is active. It’s a question of whether or not you see it. This isn’t a question of whether God is skipping over doing anything in your life. It’s a question of whether or not you are tuned into what God is doing in your life.
God is at work in my community right now. How am I a part of what God is doing?
If your answer is that God is not active, then (A) you’re not really looking, or (B) you don’t really want to be a part of the vision God is placing in front of you. We see today a story of those in the Old Testament who faced that same thing. God was at work in their community. They had to choose for themselves to be a part of what God was doing. That is what connected their mission into a vision. It is no different for us. God is at work in my community right now. How am I a part of what God is doing?
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