A WIDER VISION
Jackson Snyder  June 10, 1994

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Saul of Tarsus is a man hunter: he’s on the way to Damascus for the purpose of arresting disciples of Jesus.  But the risen Savior confronts Saul on the road: After knocking him to the ground, he asks, "Saul, why are you persecuting me?"  Saul is instructed to go on to Damascus to receive further instructions.  When Saul opens his eyes, he finds he is blind.  Those who are traveling with him carry him to Damascus, where he remains blind and without food or water for three days.

 

Acts 9:10-17 {10} Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, "Ananias." He answered, "Here I am, Lord." {11} The Lord said to him, "Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, {12} and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight." {13} But Ananias answered, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; {14} and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name." {15} But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; {16} I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name." {17} So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit."

 

PRAYER: Be thou our vision, O Lord of our hearts; Naught be all else to us, save what thou art.  Thou our best thought, by day or by night; Waking or sleeping, thy presence our light.

 

Ananias is described as a "disciple," a student or follower, striving in the faith: there could not have been too many other disciples in Damascus.  He is one of just a few.  But Ananias is a real disciple.  He personifies the seven essential characteristics of discipleship; he:

  1) knows the Lord Jesus and is known by Him; believing on Jesus & his name Yahshua;

  2) is called by name: "Ananias!" (Hanani-yah) which means, "Yahweh’s favored one";

  3) is available to the Lord - "Here I am, Lord!” he cries;

  4) trusts in the promise of the Lord, despite the fact Saul was murderous and had temporal authority;

  5) obeys the direction of the Lord, despite the danger of his mission;

  6) achieves results by hands on ministry, which means Ananias works for the Kingdom;

  7) is a visionary:

 

And Ananias was a true visionary

  1) What does it mean to be "visionary?"  Start with Prov 29:18a "where there is no vision, the people perish..."

            a) Scofield notes explains "vision" as revelation – “envisioning” is a response to the promise of God – seeing the Word of Yahweh come alive before one’s eyes!

            b) The RSV translates the word "where there is no prophecy" -- envisioning is prophesying!  It means to appropriate the promise of God to see the future NOW!

            c) The visionary takes Yahweh's promises as truth; the visionary believes what is promised to come as though it had already come:  Mark 11:24   "Whatever your desires, when you pray, believe that you have already received them, and you shall have them."  This is the way a visionary prays, for he has already seen his future answers! 

  2) Ananias' immediate task is to lay hands on Saul, so that he might be healed and filled with the Holy Spirit.  But Ananias has a vision that greater good is going to result from his action.  The Lord Jesus told him, "Saul is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name Yahshua before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel."  Not “he will be” but “he is.”  Through his power over space and time, Jesus collapses the future into present reality!

            a) And though Ananias was just a little guy that did no more that hear the voice of the Lord and answer it, without his ministry, Saul would never have become Paul, the Apostle, would not have been able to fulfill his calling to the nations; the Bible would not contain his words, and we probably would not be here in a church building today.

            b) So much hinged on one man's answer of "Here I am, Lord"!  Thus Ananias, though little, became one of the great visionaries in time upon whom the entire Kingdom of Heaven relied for its advent!

 

We must become visionary disciples like Ananias!

  1) We need to develop a common vision for this congregation that every member and friend can capture, own up to, and make into a personal reality. 

            a) Ananias captures the unlikely vision that the murderer Saul of Tarsus will become the greatest Apostle of all time, and relishes the idea that he is a part of such a great work of Yahweh.  He makes the vision his, he owns it -- it comes to pass.

            b) There was a study done of concentration camp survivors.  What were the common characteristics of those who didn’t succumb to disease and starvation in the camps?  Victor Frankl was a living answer to that question.  He was a successful Viennese psychiatrist before the Nazis threw him into such a camp.  "There is only one reason," he said in a speech, "why I am here today. What kept me alive was you.  Others gave up hope.  I dreamed.  I dreamed that someday I would be here, telling you how I, Victor Frankl, had survived the Nazi concentration camps. I've never been here before, I've never seen any of you before, I've never given this speech before.  But in my dreams, in my dreams, I have stood before you and said these words a thousand times."

   This way of envisioning is not so unlike the man in the gospel passage whom Jesus healed of blindness.  First he saw men as walking trees.  But finally, after another touch, he saw things real.  He was not content to see just a little, but he wanted to see clearly.  I have no doubt that once he had that ability, he never wished himself blind again, but went forth with a vision and a mission.

            c) Likewise, we need to see beyond “men as trees walking.”  We need a common, shared vision of more than mere survival; we need a vision of prosperity: We need to see these seats filled today as though they really were; And we need to put out our hands to work to see that vision fulfilled. 

            d) In Ananias' time, Christianity was a communal movement of poor and disenfranchised people.  But in Ananias' vision, Christ's name is to be proclaimed to kings, and rich Gentiles, and all of Israel.  His vision is WIDER than the rest!  His vision sees the Jesus Movement extending far beyond the little sect of the Nazarenes – his vision is cosmopolitan and universal in scope.

            e) In our time, Christianity is a movement not of community vision, but of individualism.  80% of Americans believe one can be a "good Christian" without ever attending church, without ever participating in the VISION.  This simply is not the case.  IN fact, this notion may be the greatest deception that the devil has ever introduced.  There are kings and Gentiles and Israelites in our very neighborhoods who will never fulfill their G-d-ordained destinies unless we act!

  2) That means we need to supplement our WIDER vision with the "laying on of hands."

            a) Had Ananias not acted, he would have lived his life wondering what might have been.  How many have been called, but have not chosen!  However, it’s not too late to fulfill your ministry and calling in Jesus.

            b) And we need a sense of mission: a burden, a calling, a longing, a destiny: something good we can put our hands and hearts to fulfilling.   

            c) We must not be hearers only, but doers of the promise of God in order to fulfill any vision we might have.

   Corrie Ten Boom: “If I straighten the pictures on the walls of your home, I am committing no sin, am I?  But suppose that your house were afire, and I still went calmly about straightening pictures, what would you say? Would you think me merely stupid or very wicked?  The world today is on fire.  What are you doing to extinguish the fire?”  The key word is DOING.  What is our vision and what are we doing to see it through?

  3) You see, we need to fulfill our vision not for the sake of a dying church, or for a few church faithfuls or for the sake of old memories of what once was real, but for the sake of Jesus and Heaven, for the sake of the lost who are loved, and for the fulfillment of the Kingdom.  Our intention and action must be righteous.

   A long time ago, a man was driving through a mining region when he noticed a large pack of mules in an open field.  He stopped and asked about this unusual site.  When he asked about it, he was told that these work animals had been brought up from the mineshaft below to preserve their vision. Unless they were regularly exposed to sunlight, they would eventually go blind in the darkness of the mines and be worthless. 

   Similarly, we Christians need to get out of the "habit" of dark and spiritless churchianity and into the light of vision and revelation!  There is absolutely nothing else that can preserve us against losing our spiritual vision but seeking the revelation of Yahshua’s will for our own mission.  Indeed, "Where there is no vision, the people perish."  Just how serious are you about the future of this church and its mission in the community?  YOU MAY NEED A WIDER VISION!

    IS THERE AN ANANIAS IN THE HOUSE?  ONE WHO IS A TRUE DISCIPLE?  ONE WHO IS DRIVEN BY A VISION?  LET THAT ONE COME UP OUT OF THE CELLAR, INTO THE LIGHT OF REVELATION!  {look up} LORD, LET THE ANANIASES OF THIS CONGREGATION NOW LOOK UPWARD INTO THE LIGHT OF THE VISION YOU HAVE FOR THIS CHURCH!  Amen.

   Friends, shall we call upon the rocks of tradition to fall on us and hide us, or shall we answer the call with the same fateful words that Ananias used: "Here I Am, Lord?" "Here I am, Lord!"  Here we are, Lord!  GRANT US a vision, and use us for your Kingdom!

 

PRAYER: We need a truer vision, Lord, a vision filled with Thee

To view this desperate world again with eyes that want to see

A world of people hurting so and hungry every day,

A world that's humbly waiting just to hear what You might say.

I need a wider vision, Lord, a vision filled with Thee.

To see that lonely woman’s heartache down the street from me.

The teen we know who’s is all mixed up, the child who's been abused;

The hopeless in our parish. Lord, we so want to be used!

Give us a brand new vision now, a vision filled with Thee

To see our home community as Your fair eyes might see.

Help us to use our grace and gifts in ways that you would choose,

To act with love and kindness to all those with a different views.

A truer, wider, vision, Lord. That's what we really need

To carry out Your will for us in word and thought and deed.

Now, Jesus, you are here with us, beside us in the pew.

Show us that wider vision of just what we are to do.

 

HYMN: "Be Thou My Vision"

 

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