Opportunity and Vision

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Opportunity and Vision.

Sermon Notes – Ps. Jim White

Sunday, 25th November 2018

The word for us this morning is “opportunity.”

This break that Venese and I have just had, was a time to rest, it was a time to clear our minds, it was time for ourselves…  

I know the right spiritual thing to say would be that we gave ourselves to prayer and fasting and the Word, to seek God for the future and for the church.  

But there wasn’t too much fasting going on…

But stepping back for a moment from the routine of life is a wonderful opportunity to reassess lots of things – to refocus on what really matters – to regain vision for your life – God’s vision…

And it’s good to let some things just fall off your life…  to see the weights lift off…   because it’s hard to look forward and move forward when the weights just want to hold you back.

I don’t know about you, but I just can’t keep carrying the regrets of what could have been done better, the guilt of missed opportunities, my own critical inner voice, all the stuff we put on ourselves, without anyone else’s help…

Sometimes you just have to step back and shake it all off.  That’s the kind of stuff that Jesus carried to the cross on our behalf – and really – to keep carrying it ourselves denies the power of the cross.

I want us to take this opportunity we have this morning – right now – to ask the Holy Spirit to bring clarity to our personal vision for our life – to reassess what’s really important and valuable – and if need be, to shake off the rest and let it go.  

In some ways, this is an extension on the last message I preached here a few weeks ago – on having clarity to see…  and I also believe it affirms the messages that have been shared here while we have been away.

The bible is full of scriptures that I shared in that message, that tell us to lift up our eyes, to open our eyes to the truth, to see the harvest, to see God’s heart…  to look unto Jesus.

I very much love seeing the world in pictures… But at times what we see can get filtered through our past experiences, our hurts, our judgements and prejudices… 

I believe we are called, and are well able, to see the world through the filter of Jesus.

There are times to pray, to fast, to allow the Word to speak into your life.  In fact, we’re to pray at all times.  But there are times to set yourself apart to deliberately seek God for direction.

Habakkuk 2:1-3,  “I will stand my watch And set myself on the rampart, And watch to see what He will say to me, And what I will answer when I am corrected. Then the Lord answered me and said: “Write the vision And make it plain on tablets, That he may run who reads it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; Because it will surely come, It will not tarry.”

Habakkuk says he is setting himself on the rampart…  sometimes we have to simply come to that place of saying, I’m going to set myself in a position and a place to hear God.

Habakkuk said he was going to watch and wait to see what the Lord would say…  but not only that…  he’s going to wait on his own response to what the Lord is saying to him.

The rampart is the walkway that goes right around the top of a high wall that is part of the defensive fortification of a city.

The rampart of our own life can be seen as the boundary of who we are – it’s the protective barrier that separates our own identity apart from whatever else is going on around us in the world.

Sometimes we need to climb up onto the rampart of our own life and get close to God – cry out to Him – listen for His voice – and then search our own hearts for our response to what He is saying.

Isaiah speaks of watchmen on the walls of Jerusalem, (Isa 62:6) never holding their peace day or night, crying out to the Lord, reminding Him always of the day that Jerusalem will be made a place of praise in the earth.

There are watchmen – men and women – who are literally in Jerusalem right now – praying around the clock – listening for God’s voice – reminding Him of His promises to Israel and to us.

But we don’t have to be in Jerusalem to be watchmen.

One of the defining moments and defining opportunities that I have experienced is when I went up onto the rampart of my own life – the rampart of our marriage – our family – our ministry – and sought God for His vision and direction for us back in 1999.

And I can’t say I heard an audible voice – but I certainly heard the voice of God in my spirit, as He said to me, go to Zephaniah.

And as I read through to Zephaniah 2:6,7 – He gave me clear direction and a prophetic decree for our move back to Ballina – back to the Seacoast.  

The whole story of why we are called Seacoast Church comes from that experience and that prophetic Word – and it comes from that moment when I cried out to God for His vision for our lives.

What we all need is a vision to live for something that is greater than ourselves.

We need to be motivated by a vision that is not primarily based on the never ending issues, the needs, and the problems that are before us.  

But a vision that is all about the lifting up of Jesus – bringing glory to God – and making room and providing opportunity for the those who are yet to discover the love of Jesus for their own life, to hear and experience that revelation through the church…  The Church which is you and I – empowered and anointed by the Holy Spirit.

As Habakkuk says, our vision needs to be clear – able to be written down…  a vision that we can run with, and those that are part of our life and our vision can also run with.

The vision is also about timing.

And this is where I can see the strong connection between vision and opportunity.

The vision is for an appointed time – the opportune time.  And so we need to be vigilant in looking for those opportunities that speak into our vision for our life and for the lives of others.

Just as a side note here, but still really relevant…

The word opportunity comes from the Latin, “Ob Portu”.  Before we even had modern ports where ships could freely come and go all day long, ships would have to wait for just the right tide before they could venture in to estuaries and harbours.  They had to wait for the “Ob Portu” moment, and seize it when it came.  Otherwise they’d have to wait for the next high tide.

There are a number of really good sayings about ships and harbours.

Jonathan Winters, an American performer, said:  “If your ship doesn’t come in, swim out to meet it.”

Another anonymous quote:  “A ship in a harbour is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.”

In both of these quotes there’s an element of us having to step out and take hold of an opportunity when it comes – even when it’s not necessarily safe.

But the Christian life never has had the guarantee of safety from the world’s elements.  And it always has the call to faith.

Hebrews 11:6,  “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

So I want to encourage you, as part of your vision for your life and for those who are part of your life, and for your church and your community:  Ask yourself – 

1. Where is my opportunity to believe?

What part of your vision for life is going to require faith on your part – stretching faith, maybe scary faith…  faith that requires you to diligently seek God and believe that He is the rewarder of those who seek Him wholeheartedly.

What opportunities do you think you’ll have in this coming week, the rest of this year, even as you look into 2019…  to jump into the water and swim out to that ship that refuses to come into the harbour all by itself?

God’s most important agenda is not necessarily just the end result.  Often it’s the swimming part – the pushing in part – the testing part – that is the most important thing of all.  Because that’s what builds who we are!

Here are a few more opportunities to consider as we stare into the face of another new year.

2. What opportunities might you have to love?  To actually demonstrate your love for others?  

That might be an easy one to answer when you think of those who live you – but what about loving those we don’t agree with?  What about those who hate us?

How do we uphold our vision for a godly, loving, gracious future toward others, if their lifestyles oppose God’s Word and His plan for their lives?  When they in many cases violently and militantly oppose our beliefs?

I think this is going to be one of the biggest questions to answer as time goes on.

3. What vision and opportunities might you have to serve others?

Maybe you are that ship that is safely tied to the wharf in the harbour.  You’re all good!  

But ships weren’t built for harbours.  Ships are built for the open sea.  It can get a bit rough out there.

I’ve been on a ship in 5 metre swells before today, and that was pretty hectic.

But we’re called out of our safe harbour to actually do something for God – and the best way to do that is by serving others.

Jesus made this very personal.  Remember when He said, I was hungry and you gave me food…  I was sick and in prison and you came to me…  I was a stranger and you took me in…  naked and you clothed me…

Matthew 25:37-40,  “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you,  inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.”

If you have a vision for Jesus – then you will automatically have a vision for people.  What opportunities do you think might come your way to help others – to serve them – even strangers…  even those who appear to be the least in our own eyes…  the naked and hungry and destitute and imprisoned?

4. What about your vision to give?  What opportunities might arise for you to fulfil your vision of becoming a generous, giving person – if in fact that is part of your vision.  It should be.  

Proverbs 11:25,  “The generous soul will be made rich, And he who waters will also be watered himself.”

Other versions of that say that he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.

What an awesome thing to give refreshment through the giving of yourself in some way to another person.

Proverbs 18:16, “A man’s gift makes room for him, And brings him before great men.”

If we are living from a place of vision – and not just from a place of need, then we will see the opportunities to respond and make a difference.

5. What about our vision for the harvest?  

John 4:35,  “Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!”

If we have a vision for the harvest then the opportunities will always be before us – because the harvest is already white and ripe…  

Even if you take someone one step closer to knowing who Jesus is – one step closer to thinking about eternity – one step closer to acknowledging their need to at least search for the truth…  What an opportunity that would be!

Here’s a thought.  Even though our vision for the future is based on faith and life and hope and eternity, and all the amazing aspects of who Christ is and who He has called us to be…  sometimes the opportunities that come before us can look like problems.  They don’t initially appear to be part of our vision at all.

But the problem or the insurmountable issue that is rising up before you like a mountain, may very well be the greatest opportunity you’ve ever had.

There’s the story of the shoe salesman who was sent to Africa to open up new opportunities for sales and expansion for the company.

But after two weeks he contacts his supplier and says, bring me home – nobody wears shoes over here.

So the company sends another salesman in his place, and in no time they get a telegram saying, send as many shoes as you can – because nobody wears shoes over here…

Sometimes it’s a matter of how we see things from our own limited perspective – other times it’s just pushing through in faith, standing on God’s Word, lifting up the vision above the circumstances.

Sometimes it’s a matter of timing.  It might seem like things are tarrying – but God has His perfect timing. 

Other times, things come quicker than we expect, and we aren’t ready or prepared or willing to let go of what we have, to receive the new and the better.

What a tragedy in one respect that God’s people, the Jews, including the Religious Pharisees, rejected Jesus as Messiah.  They were looking through the eyes of religion and tradition, of which they weren’t willing to let go, and they missed their opportunity.

Jesus said to them: (Matthew 21:43),  “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.”  And that made the way for the Gentiles – for you and I – to be gathered in and drafted into the vine.  

But a time is coming and has already begun, when the Jewish people will embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ and recognise Him as their long awaited  Messiah.

Romans 11 holds wonderful promises that when the Gentiles are fully received into the kingdom, then the Jews will also be saved.

And even though we were once in disobedience – just as we received mercy and salvation in Christ, so also will those of the House of Israel.  It’s happening right now around the world.

God’s ways it’s says, are a mystery.  If His mystery includes incredible gifts like salvation, then bring on the mysteries.

So lift up your eyes and your vision, even in the midst of the things that are coming against you and the things that you don’t understand.

God’s ways are mysterious, and He sees things so much clearer than any of us ever could.

The opportunities that you are waiting for are coming.  The vision will speak.  It will not lie.  Trust in the vision.  Let it speak into your circumstances.  Let it declare hope in your life.

If it feels like you’re going through a tough time in the process – don’t be surprised and don’t be discouraged.

Paul said:  (Acts 14:22) “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.”  

The kingdom continues to come.  It continues to unfold, just as your vision for life continues to unfold.

And I love the fact that our vision is an unfolding, ever expanding, progressive revelation. 

We can either embrace that reality or we can run in fear from it.

Actually, if you have a vision for the future that scares the living daylights out of you – and it’s so much bigger than anything you could accomplish in your own strength or power – then that’s fantastic.  It sounds like it could be a God vision to me.

I’ve shared this with you before, but Venese had a vision of our future at the end of bible college – and all she could get out of her mouth at the time was that “it’s big.”  And what she meant was that whatever God was birthing in her at that moment – which was for both of us – it was something that was way bigger then she could ever carry.  It was like she was being expanded and enlarged beyond her comprehension.

Well, I guess there’s going to be a lot of opportunities to see God move in His might and power over the coming years, because I’m already overwhelmed by what He’s done.  This church is already beyond anything I could have managed.  

But my vision continues to progressively unfold.  And we are in this together.  What a great journey.  What an awesome progressive revealing of God’s kingdom. 

Today is your opportunity – whoever you are – to let go of anything from the past, from your past hurts – loss of expectation – grief over what could have been but wasn’t…  We can’t take hold of the new until we let go of the old.

We can’t embrace the the fullness of God’s vision for our lives while we still have our eyes on the past.

It’s not 2019 yet, but already God’s speaking new life and fresh vision into our hearts and our spirits.

What are you going to leave at the altar this morning?  What fresh hope are you going to allow the Holy Spirit to stir up in you this morning?

Don’t miss this opportunity to be refreshed, to be challenged, to be released…

Come now…  if you want to be anointed with fresh oil to break off the old things from your life… come and be anointed…  

If you want to be anointed for the release of new life, new hope, fresh vision…  come and be anointed…

 


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