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23 | Vision Part 2: Don’t confuse the tool for the vision


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Hi my name is Dean Smith and this is the second of a two-part podcast on purpose and vision.

In Jeremiah 29:11, God says:

11 For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.

Jeremiah 29: 11 NASV

We see from this verse that God has a vision or future for you. He has a purpose for your life.

But as we look at the verse one word pops out and that’s the word “plan” which is the Hebrew word “machashabah.” God says it twice. This word speaks of a plan and includes the idea of an invention.

What this tells us is that not only does God have a purpose for your life, but He also has a plan, a strategy to help ensure that it will unfold. God will not leave you high and dry in this process, the Lord will guide your steps to ensure that it comes to pass.

This is not to say that there won’t be road blocks in your journey. Sometimes Satan will oppose you. Sometimes fear will hinder us.

But in this podcast, I want to talk about one of the biggest mistake that you can personally make when it comes to fulfilling God’s calling and plan for your life.

It happens when we confuse our vision with a tool.

It was a mistake that I personally made and I want to help you avoid it.

Decades ago, God gave me a vision of starting a Christian magazine that would share Bible teaching with people around the world.

I went to the pastor of the church I was attending at the time and told him about this vision. He thought it was an idea worth considering and said he would think about.

But this vision never left me, so a few months later I went to him a second time. This time he decided the church should do it and turned the idea for the magazine over to a person working on staff.

Though another person started working on it, it was just another project for him, not a vision. So basically it stalled.

So I went to the pastor a third time and this time I was ready, because I told the pastor I wanted to start the magazine.

It took a few weeks and we started publishing a magazine. It was being distributed to people around the world. We also started publishing books.

And this went on successfully for several years, but when the church ran into financial difficulties over a building project, the magazine was shut down.

For the next several years I struggled. I still had this vision of the magazine inside me but no way of fulfilling it.

I thought the problem was the lack of finances, but the real problem was that I failed to distinguish the difference between a vision and a tool.

The vision that God had given me was to promote and share Biblical teaching. That was God’s vision. The magazine was just one of the tools that could be used to accomplish the larger vision.

But I had made the mistake of turning the magazine into the vision.

When it came to the organizational chart, the vision of sharing Biblical teaching should have been on the top with a line coming down to the magazine that was just one of the tools that could be used to accomplish the larger vision.

But instead I had the magazine on top with one of the spin offs being sharing Biblical teaching. Because I had switched it around, reversed it, and put the tool on top, it stopped me from looking at other options.

We have to make sure that we have properly defined the vision God has given us. The vision can’t include how we accomplish it because how we do it are the tools.

The vision explains what we want to do or accomplish, and there are a number of tools that can be used to fulfill the vision.

But because I had mistakenly turned the tool into the vision, this can cause some major problems because there are significant issues with tools.

They wear out

They break.

New tools are invented that do a better job, but if we have the old tool as our vision we fail to to take advantage of the newer tool.

The magazine was just a tool and it had worn out. It was too expensive. There were better, more cost efficient ways, of getting the Bible teaching out.

But because I had turned the magazine into the vision it took several years for me to realize that I could use the internet to send teaching around the world.

Once I realized that, it led to the development of a website, opentheword.org, which is another tool that can be used to accomplish the larger vision. That eventually led to radio and video podcasts that are also just other forms of tools.

So you have the vision on top with the tools listed below – a magazine, a web site, books, YouTube videos, and radio podcasts and there are no doubt other tools that can be used to accomplish this vision.

Years ago I had a boss tell me something that I have never forgotten. He said, Dean, there is more than one right way of doing something. So don’t get stuck in a rut saying this is the only tool that you can use, the only way to do it.

But this tool idea can apply to other things as well. A church building is just a tool but often people turn it into the vision. I was in a church that did that. The church building became the vision instead of the real church, which is the people of God.

We overspent building a palace instead of a sheep shed.

If we focus too much on the natural tools instead of the spiritual vision, the natural can actually blind you to the spiritual.

Unfortunately, there is real temptation to do this because the natural tool is something you can touch and even own. It seems more real and fulfilling.

Another temptation is that you can own a tool, but you can’t own a vision from God and because of this we can become emotionally attached to our tools making it difficult to throw them away when their usefulness is over.

I remember reading an interesting story about a young man from Lebanon. God gave him a vision to disciple and train Muslims and send them back into Muslim countries preaching the Gospel.

He lived in Lebanon and believed that God was calling him to build a training center, a facility, that would be used to train Muslims. But this proved frustrating because it was not coming to pass.

So what was his vision an actual building and training center or reaching Muslims?

While he was in Lebanon waiting for the vision to be fulfilled he became increasingly frustrated.

So what had he been doing for five years while waiting for the vision, this purpose and this calling to be fulfilled, he was teaching at a private Christian school with 500 students. Because it was a school with a high educational standard, Muslim families were sending their children to the school as well.

In fact, at times, well over half the children at the school were Muslims whose parents signed forms allowing their children to be taught the Bible.

As this young man waited for his vision to come to pass, he ministered in the school leading Muslims to the Lord and it took him five years to realize that he was actually fulfilling the very vision God had given him, but because he was so focused on the tool, the facility, that he was blinded to the fact he was actually fulfilling his calling and destiny.

Once he realized this, he began to focus more on what he was already doing, and his ministry blossomed of that.

When it comes to fulfilling God’s purpose and plans for your life, it is important that we realize four things:

First: God has a vision and purpose for your life and the Lord also has a plan to get you there.

Secondly: we need to accurately define our vision and keep it separate from the tools that can accomplish that vision. Vision is defined by what God wants you to do, what God is calling you to do.

Thirdly: in a separate column list the possible tools that could be used to accomplish that over all mission or vision. Tools are defined by how you can do it. Remember there can be more than one right tool for doing this.

Finally step out into the ministry that God has for you. Remember at times there can be delays but God has His timing in this process:

Then the Lord answered me and said,“Record the vision and inscribe it on tablets,That the one who reads it may run. 3 “For the vision is yet for the appointed time; It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail.Though it tarries, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay.

Habakkuk 2:2-3
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