Deuteronomy 5:33 (ESV) You shall walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you…
The fear of ‘missing God’s plan for my life’ was for many years the cause of my driven-ness. To somehow reach the end of life and discover I had not gone to the right church, believed the right end-time teaching, or been a part of the right vision, can produce paralysing fear and erratic living.
Under such pressure how can ‘the righteous live by faith’? How do you ‘walk by faith not by sight’?
The answer is as clear as it is simple. It is not so easy to miss God’s purpose when we realise that it is God who is at work to fulfil His purpose in us (Phil 2:13). And His purpose is that we should be like His Son Jesus Christ. Every event and purpose we encounter in life – if we are in Christ – works to this end.
Proverbs 19:21 (ESV) Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.
So, free from paralysing fear and erratic living we can live by faith knowing that He redeems the time in which we live and the paths in which we walk. The evidence that our steps are ordered by the Lord is not in what we think we see ahead and or in our plans (Pr 16:9), but in looking back and seeing His guidance through the paths we have already trodden.
Hindsight has 20/20 vision
The events surrounding the establishment of the first church are recorded in Scripture primarily in the book of Acts. Acts records the development of New Testament doctrine and it’s transformative purpose, as the Holy Spirit directed the actions of the apostles and other early church saints. In Acts we see what came to be known as praxis theology (theology which is the pursuit of the knowledge of God and praxis which is the cyclical process of experiential learning). In the gospels, when Jesus spoke of the future, the apostles struggled to understand, but once they ‘experienced’ that future then God’s plan and purpose became clear.
In simple terms, we come to know and understand God as a result of reflecting on what He has done.
Throughout the course of its history the early church came to know God and His ways through the revelation of Jesus Christ and the activity of the Holy Spirit. What is, from the perspective of praxis theology, most notable is that God’s ways, his plans and ultimate purpose came to be understood through the activity of the indwelling and ever present Holy Spirit.
Praxis Theology – An Example
In Acts chapters 11 and 12 a monumental event is recorded that changes – from man’s perspective – God’s historic dealings with Israel. No longer is he only the God of natural Israel, no longer is natural Israel the Israel of God, but the gentiles, foreigners, those who were not a people, are given equal status as citizens of heaven, grafted into the same vine (Rom 11:24). The church was to discover that not all who are circumcised are Jews but those whom the Spirit cleanses from within (Rom 2:28, 29; Phil 3:3; Col 2:11).
Though Peter’s vision prepared him for what was to come, the Spirit did not give him a ‘plan’ to be pursued, rather it was a peg that would later confirm the divine origin of the events that were about to unfold. Only in hindsight was God’s ultimate purpose revealed to Peter. Even the event itself, the outpouring of the Spirit on Cornelius and his household did not fully reveal the extent to which God would move among the gentiles. After the event the apostles and elders came together to try to comprehend what had happen (Act 11), so that they could move forward by faith as the Spirit propelled them into the phenomena that was to become The Church.
God’s reveals himself through his acts in human history (Rom 1:19,20; Ps 68:28). The height of His self-revelation is Christ Jesus (Ps 33:6; Heb 1:1-3) who is the express image of God, and it is through the cross of Christ that Trinitarian activity is revealed as the Father is revealed as the one who suffers the anguish of the Son’s death as man’s sin in dealt with in God-forsakenness, Jesus is revealed as Son of God who suffers the rejection of the Father (Mat 27:46) for mans sin, and the Spirit is revealed in the resurrection (Rom 8:11).
The premise is that all we have come to know about God and His will is revealed in His deeds throughout history. Indeed understanding only comes in ‘hind-sight’.
Today there are numerous books and seminars promoting vision and some personal purpose. The basic idea being that we receive a clear and divinely appointed mission that must be fulfilled according to the visionary’s plan. Speakers frequent the ‘Christian speaking circuit’ motivating well paying hearers to find their divine calling and purpose and to pursue it with determination.
Passages used like Proverbs 29:18 and Habakkuk 2:4 to inspire you to receive a personal vision and make it happen, are in fact prophetic pointers to Christ, who alone is the vision to which we press toward.
As apostle Paul proclaims:
Philippians 3:8 (ESV) Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ
The Christian life is less about a mission and more about a journey – a journey to gain Christ. It is not lived by the achievement of visions and goals but by faith in Him who is eternally faithful.
Philippians 3:9–11 (ESV) 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
A True Vision – Christ in You
God has a vision for you –it’s not a mission to be accomplished but a purpose to be embraced:
Romans 8:29 (ESV) 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
In bringing this to pass we are led down many and varied paths seldom fulfilling our expectations nor our understanding, which is the reason ‘the righteous live by faith’ even as the righteous one lived by faith!
We trust that the vision of God in bringing ‘many sons to glory’ (Heb 2:10), which was begun in Christ, will be completed in Him so that we will ultimately and completely be conformed to the image of His Son.
The ‘vision’ for us is to pursue Christ as we live by faith trusting in the hope to which we have been called. The detail of our daily living is engaged by faith not by sight or vision and in hindsight God’s dealing is clearly seen. If we venture down a path that ends abruptly, or we somehow appear to have missed some perceived mark, we do not fear, or become despondent as though we have failed to do amazing things for God, but rather by faith we trust him who works all things out for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose (Rom 8:28,29)
They were not given a vision to establish religious forms and structures but to preach the message of the Kingdom and make disciples. Church was the spiritual community birthed in Christ through gospel proclamation, whose members through faith engaged in shared life as the body of Jesus.