(we pick up again on this series we started recently)
Ways of Seeing Meditations: 11. Big Vision
Heb 11:13 “They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.”
Disappointments: Over recent decades, in the West at least, there has been a clear trend: many people have given up on church because its failures have become more clear. Yes, this is far from true for everyone and in various places life has abounded, yet for many it has still been true, many have dropped away, maybe not from belief in God, but belief in church.
For some shear repetition has become boring. For others the hurts, caused by thoughtless or insensitive people not being held to account, have created in many a cry that, “I do not feel safe here,” and they have gone. Others have had high expectations of what church should be, could be, but when those expectations, those hopes, never seemed to come about, a sense of disillusionment set in. Some even stepped out in new ventures, new approaches, but years on they find themselves with ‘the same old’, and are wondering.
Proverbs 13:12 declares, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life,” or as the Message version puts it, “Unrelenting disappointment leaves you heartsick, but a sudden good break can turn life around.” Over the years I have watched and seen all the above causes why people drift away, and even experienced some of them myself. I would expand this verse to, “when your hopes, dreams and expectations seem to come to nothing, it creates within you a sense of disillusionment, disappointment, and discouragement, but when that inner God-yearning is fulfilled, it releases a whole new creative energy and supply, a new resource by which to live as you enter into those hopes, dreams and expectations.”
Faulty Sight (1): Now this creating of an army of not-quite-prodigals has, I believe, two causes and both involve faulty sight or a wrong way of seeing. The first of those failures is genuinely a failure to see what church should be and what it actually has become in the twenty-first century. The failure to see what church should be comes from a casual and sometimes defensive reading of the Bible. When we see great things happening after, say, the day of Pentecost, we excuse ourselves by saying, “Well, yes, but that was the equivalent of a revival where the power of the Spirit was obvious, but we’re not in such a time.” Well possibly not, but surely the characteristics of such a time should suggest to us that this is what God desires. The nature and characteristics of the church are seen throughout the New Testament, and even Jesus’ expectations of his church in Rev 2 & 3. I have written it elsewhere but I believe it bears repeating. I believe the New Testament portrays
“a church that is alive with the presence and power and revelation and activity of God by His Spirit, where God is truly honoured, where life and vitality, where fellowship and friendship, where power and authority, pour through the congregation, through this potentially wonderful ‘body of Christ’, bringing constant life transformations, with conversions, deliverances and healings being a regular feature of their life and the world is impacted and transformed”
If we respond defensively to such a vision then the answer must be that we need to pray and seek the Lord for grace and wisdom to play our part and for Him to come in power. The point in this study, is that many sense that this is what the church should be, could be, and seeing no one taking steps towards it, have become disillusioned and fallen away.
Faulty Sight (2): The second of these failures, involving faulty sight or a wrong way of seeing, has been the inability to catch the big picture. Let me explain. Heb 11:13, our starter verse speaking of the Old Testament people of faith, reads, “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.” The JBP version of this is particularly good: “though they had seen them in the distance, had hailed them as true and were quite convinced of their reality.” So. I am utterly convinced of the reality of that stated vision above and that it is what is on God’s heart. However, the big picture recognises that these things only come about by the grace of God. While we pray for His grace and pray for His coming in power, we need to recognise various things: a) He is sovereign and they will only come when He releases His power, b) His timing is not always ours, and that sometimes means a call for patience and perseverance, c) our part is to remain faithful, available, obedient, prayerful and still yearning for the vision while not being put off if it appears delayed.
Today: This is where I believe we are today nearing the end of 2020. In many places church numbers have continued to drop. In a few places they have continued to rise. In numbers there is a sense of disillusionment and in even more there is an accommodation of the world’s way of thinking for the same reasons as above. So two schools: the ‘it’s not working’ and the ‘but He’s coming in power’. Both are right and both are worth listening to, but in the meantime remain faithful, available, obedient, prayerful and yearning. These are the ingredients, I believe, the Lord desires in us while we wait in these imperfect days. May He find them in us.