Today we are finishing up our look at principles for everyday leaders and if there is one truth I want us all to leave here knowing it is this, we are all leaders. We might not see ourselves as leaders – but God does. We may not see ourselves as someone who can add value to our family, church, community or world – but God does. We may not see ourselves as the kind of men and women God will use to bring in the power, justice or love of His kingdom – but God does. We may not see ourselves as someone who can really change things – but God does! God sees us all as leaders and so the principles we have been exploring this summer are for us. We all need to grow in our passion, courage, commitment, generosity and wisdom and we need to learn how to celebrate and take the initiative because we are all leaders who can do anything and all things because God has tapped us to be leaders.
Today we are going to finish by looking at a man in the Old Testament whose story is often overlooked. When we think of the people of Israel making their way out of Egypt and into the Promised Land we think of leaders like Moses, Aaron and maybe even Joshua who actually led the people on the final leg of their journey across the Jordan River and into the Promised Land. But there is one leader whose story we might not know but he was an everyday leader who teaches us about vision because he saw things the way God saw things. He saw what could happen if the people trusted God.
After Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt and through the Red Sea, it took them about two years to come to the edge of Canaan, which was the land God was going to give them. Moses sent 12 men into the land to see what it looked like and what the people looked like who were living there. When they returned they told Moses and the people that the land was very good and produced a huge harvest but that the people who lived there were also huge. This is the report they gave – Numbers 13:26-29.
10 of the 12 men said that they should not enter into the land because of the people living there – Numbers 13:31-33.
But there were two men who saw things differently and the first one to speak was a man named Caleb. Caleb didn’t see big people or big problems; he saw the power of his big God. Numbers 13:30.
Caleb saw something very different from the rest of the men that day and so from him we learn about vision. While there are many different definitions of vision we could use, we are going to use one from Bill Hybles and his book Courageous Leadership. Vision is a picture of the future that produces passion. Vision does involve looking into the future, but it’s not just seeing something, it is seeing something so good and powerful that it motives us to move forward because it fills us with passion The first week of this series we defined passion as the underlying force that fuels all of our emotions and gives us energy, excitement and enthusiasm. So vision is seeing a preferred future, a better future, or maybe we should say God’s future that stirs our emotions and gives us energy excitement and enthusiasm to go for it.
When Caleb looked at the land of Canaan he didn’t see the big problems or people that confronted them, he saw the power of God who could overcome those things and lead the people into a land that was very good. What he saw, God’s people living in this land, excited and energized him so that Caleb was ready to move forward. He issued the rallying cry for the people to move forward because with God’s help he could see them all settled in the land and enjoying the bounty of the harvest, but why did Caleb see that preferred future while the rest of the men that day could only see the present reality? What made the difference in vision? The difference wasn’t what they saw with their eyes but what they believed in their hearts.
In Numbers 14:24 God said because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to and his descendants will inherit it. Caleb had a different spirit and a different heart which helped him to see things differently. He trusted God and followed God completely so when he looked at the land he could see what God had in store for them. Caleb was already living a passionate life for God and it was that passion and commitment that gave him the courage to move forward. It was his wisdom and generous spirit thinking about how this would help all the people which gave him the initiative to act. So Caleb was passionate, courageous, committed, generous, wise and willing to take the initiative – he already embodied 6 of the 7 principles we have looked at this summer and my guess is that if we knew more about his life we would find out that he was a man who knew how to celebrate as well. So he was living as a leader and his vision came from that life of faith.
What Caleb teaches us about a strong God given vision is that it doesn’t always lead to a life of faith and leadership but comes from a life of faith and leadership. Caleb had a different spirit before he entered the land of Canaan which meant it was that different spirit or his life of faith, trust and leadership that helped him see God’s future which just ignited MORE passion, courage, commitment, generosity and wisdom which then moved him to want to take the initiative and move forward despite everyone else saying no. While vision comes from all the principles of faith and leadership we have looked at this summer it also brings all of those into focus so that we see exactly what it is God wants for us.
Vision comes from a life of faith which means that vision starts within us. Vision always starts within because at its core vision is God working in us. With his eyes Caleb didn’t see anything different than the other people who entered Canaan that day, so we know that vision doesn’t come from outside of us but inside of us. A strong vision of the future comes from God igniting our passion and giving us wisdom and courage to act on it. If vision comes from God moving in us then we have to ask God to move in us and then we have to be willing to allow God to move in us. This means being open to the spirit of God and following that spirit each and every day. It means learning how to live with passion, courage, commitment, generosity, celebration, wisdom and initiative because God doesn’t give vision out of thin air, it comes from a vital and growing life of faith. It comes from God in us.
But vision also draws from history, both our history and God’s history or God’s story. As Caleb walked through the land and saw the large people he remembered his life’s story and God’s story. Caleb was there when God sent the plagues on the people of Egypt which subdued a people and nation much bigger and more powerful than they were. Caleb was there when they saw the hopeless situation of the Red Sea and the power of God which not only parted the sea allowing them to get to safety but he saw the waters come crashing back down on the horses and chariots of the Egyptian army that were pursuing them. So once again Caleb saw the power of God subdue a people and army much larger and stronger than they were. Caleb thought back on his own life and he remembered how God had moved in the past to subdue larger people and he realized that since God was bigger than the Egyptians, God was bigger than people living in Canaan and God could overcome them. Caleb’s vision of victory in the land came from his own life’s story and God’s story.
If we are going to have a vision that ignites passion and gives shape to what God wants for us then we have to draw upon our own life’s story and God’s story. What have we seen and experienced in the past? How has our unique life’s journey prepared us for the future God has for us? My life’s story is that I have always found meaning and purpose and joy in my connection to the local church. I loved being in church as a child. I was a leader in my church as a teenager, my faith exploded when I was part of a fellowship as a young adult and I finally saw God’s vision for my life and a glimpse of what I believe God wants for the world by seeing the power of the local church when I was in Seminary. My life’s story has always been seeing life and power and finding meaning and purpose as part of a local community of faith, a church, so it’s not surprising that I am here today.
But it’s not just my story that shapes my vision, it is God’s story too because when I read the Bible I see that God has always worked in the world through a community. He worked through Abraham and his family. He worked through the people of Israel, through the fellowship of believers that formed around Jesus and the greatest force for good in the world has been the Christian Church. The church is the front lines of mission and ministry because this is where God raises people up and equips his people to build his kingdom. This is where it all happens so the church is God’s story and it’s my story and when I finally saw that – I became passionate about serving in the local church and helping the local church become a vital place of life and faith and transformation. A vision for my life was formed through history, my personal history and God’s history or God’s story. When our history and God’s story come together we begin to see a clear and compelling vision of God’s future and it can be a vision that ignites our passion, renews our commitment and propels us forward.
One way to know if the vision we have is from God or just our own is to see if the vision includes others. Our vision needs to help meet the needs of others and not just our own because God’s story has always been about reaching out to others. The world was created because God wanted to reach out himself, which means that a true God given vision has to include reaching out to others. Caleb’s vision wasn’t just for himself or his family to enter into the Promised Land – it was for all of God’s people to enter the land. He wasn’t doing this alone and it wasn’t for personal glory or fame – it was for God’s glory and God’s people. Caleb’s vision wasn’t just for himself – it reached out to others and it also needed others.
A vision that God gives also needs others, it can’t be done alone. God’s vision will draw the gifts and resources of others into the work. Any vision of God is going to be larger than what we can accomplish ourselves; it will require the gifts, talents, resources, money and leadership of others. Caleb needed others to agree with him and be willing to commit to God’s vision. When that didn’t happen – the vision couldn’t move forward. It wasn’t that Caleb’s vision wasn’t strong; it was that the people refused to trust God so they didn’t give their lives to moving forward, which meant that for the rest of their lives they wandered in the wilderness and it was only Caleb and Joshua who finally entered into Canaan.
Vision from God will gather in the resources of others, even Jesus shows us this. Jesus didn’t work alone. Jesus’ vision of God’s kingdom on earth included the help of fishermen which is why he called Peter to take the initiative and become a fisher of people. Jesus needed Peter and many others to step out in faith to continue his work. If we want to know if our vision for the future is from God then we need to ask ourselves if it requires the gifts and skills and resources and passion of other people. God’s vision can’t be done alone.
So vision starts within – it starts with God in us. Vision starts with God working in us and our willingness to step out in faith and trust to work with God. Vision starts by seeing ourselves as the leader God calls us to be and then being willing to move forward. Vision then draws on our history and God’s story, it meets the needs of others and it gathers the resources of others. Vision is refined and refocused and even restored as we continue to walk with God and allow God to work in us. So vision comes from a life of passion, courage, commitment, generosity, celebration, wisdom and initiative but then vision ignites deeper passion which leads to courage, commitment, generosity, celebration, wisdom and initiative and then all those things lead to a clearer vision which keeps the entire process moving forward.
But there is one final thought about vision that is important to know. If we aren’t going to own the vision God gives us and move forward with it, God will give that vision to someone else. Esther was a woman in the Old Testament who had a vision of God saving his people through her but she had to agree to step out and be a leader. It was a difficult choice for her because it took courage and commitment and initiative on her part and there was a lot of risk involved, in fact she was risking her entire life. Esther struggled to know what to do and in the course of her decision making her uncle said to her, Esther 4:14 – If you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your family will perish.
A number of years ago that passage hit me hard because it reminded me that as a leader, if I don’t rise up and be part of what God is doing and work with God to make His vision a reality – God will still do the work, but it will be through someone else. The truth is that the 10 men who weren’t willing to be part of God’s vision to bring his people into the land of Canaan all died. They didn’t own the vision presented to them through Caleb and Joshua so in the end it was only Caleb and Joshua who were delivered into the Promised Land. If we aren’t going to embrace God’s vision and make it our own and if we aren’t going to work for it with others, God will give the vision to someone else and without vision, the Bible says, the people perish. Without a vision for our lives from God – life isn’t being lived to the fullest. This means we not only need to grab hold of God’s vision for our lives when it comes but it also means we need to work with others and give all we have to give to God when we see that their vision is from Him and needs what we have to offer.
So vision comes as we live out the principles of an everyday leader and when that vision comes it helps us become even stronger leaders who develop a clearer and more compelling vision of God’s future. If God is speaking to you today about becoming a leader – step out and follow him and if God is giving you a vision today that will fill you with passion – share it with someone who can join you in making it a reality.
Leadership Principles – VISION
1. Vision comes from God in us. Whether you have done it before, or if this is the first time, ask God to enter into your heart and life.
God, today I invite you to into my heart and ask you to give my life and faith vision. I yield my spirit and my plans to Yours as I step out in faith to live for You and with You. Open my eyes and the eyes of my heart so I may see You and all You have for me. In the name of Jesus I pray. AMEN.
2. Vision calls for listening. Spend time in quiet prayer and reflection listening for God to speak. Spend time in God’s work listening for his voice and learning God’s story.
3. Vision needs others. Ask others for wisdom, clarity and direction. Seek the resources and help of mentors, partners and experts. (Join us for this week’s Global Leadership Summit.) Invite others to be part of God’s vision or join the God-given vision of others that ignites your passion and connects with your life.
4. Vision must be owned. If you are beginning to see God’s vision for your life, make it your own by sharing it and living it out one step at a time.
4. Vision is just one leadership principle that comes from all the others and strengthens all the others. Review the principles of passion, courage, commitment, generosity, celebration, wisdom and initiative and continue to work the next steps from the entire series.