The One Question You Must Ask to Get a Vision for Your Life

VIsion.

Without a vision for where we want our lives to go, we drift. We float from experience to experience hoping to find some fulfillment. We chase pleasure instead of purpose and ultimately find ourselves frustrated that things didn’t turn out as we hoped. Proverbs 29 goes as far as to say that people perish when they don’t have a vision. That’s a pretty strong statement but it rings true in the people I’ve met with no real vision for their lives.

They may not be literally dead but they’re a bit like zombies, living out their lives with no real joy, passion, or sense of belonging to something greater than themselves.

A vision for our lives gives us a reason to keep going when the going gets tough. When obstacles come, we don’t give up because we hold a greater vision than simply what’s in front of us. We take our licks because it’s worth it. We deal with difficult people, we get up after setbacks, and we keep moving forward because the vision inspires us, even demands us, to reach for the prize.

A vision for our lives pushes us to grow, learn, and stay healthy. The interesting thing about a great vision is that it requires us to become better people than we currently are. When I had the vision to plant a church, I had to grow into a person who listens better, endures much, and stays physically and emotionally healthy. When I wrote my first novel, I had to learn about story structure, formatting, and promotion. You cannot accomplish big things without being willing to grow, learn, and work your butt off.

So what about discovering a life-vision? When you have one, it helps to guide you into the future with purpose and fulfillment. It keeps you from wasting months and years floating around wondering what you’re supposed to do with your life. Well, here’s a big question that will help you when you’re trying to make sense of your future and move from uncertainty to focus.

What do I want the end result of my life to be?

Like any good plan, we have to start with the completed results and then work our way backward. Our lives are really no different. Do we want to be able to look back at our lives and say that we did our best to lead our families? Do we want to be able to say that we helped the less fortunate, were generous with our time or made a positive impact on the world around us?

Grab a notebook and a pen and spell it out. Journal, seek the Lord and determine what you want to be said about you at your funeral. How do you want to be remembered?

Don’t worry about getting it wrong. Writing out a vision for your life does not mean that it’s now set in stone. It just means that you now have some direction, which is a huge step in the right direction for many people. Now you can tweak it, pray over it some more, expand it, and dream about how you will get from where you are to where you want to be someday.

Also, once you have a vision, you can start to define your purpose and mission in life. But you can’t do that until you’ve established a vision.

I hope that you’ll take this question seriously and start to do the work to develop your life vision. There are very few things that you can do that will lead to more meaningful decisions, more fulfillment, and greater growth.

My Personal Mission Statement

Mission statements are extremely important. Any business, church, or organization that’s moving forward has one and sticks to it.

A mission statement is like a compass.  It keeps you heading in the right direction when distractions or hard times come.  It keeps you focused on the main thing and urges you onward when passion wanes and feelings just aren’t there.

Since mission statements are so vital to organizations, I think they should be important to individuals as well.  After all, a stated ideal and standard for living helps to keep us moving toward the life God has for us when circumstances are draining our focus and passion.

A few years ago, I developed a personal mission statement that I could hang on the wall as a reminder when the going gets tough.  Needless to say, I reread it A LOT to keep me committed to what matters most.

Maybe it will inspire you to prayerfully write one.  What do you think?

I commit to always strive to grow in The Lord until the end of my days here on earth.  I commit to cultivating intimacy with God, communicating to Him through sincere prayer, passionate worship, and acts of service to Him and His people.  I will not give begrudgingly or sparingly, but I will give all of myself in relationship to Him because He worthy of this and far more.  I will read, listen, and run hard after Him with all of my soul, mind, and strength.

I commit to loving my wife with undying faithfulness, unrelenting commitment, and tender affection.  I will strive to treat her with great understanding knowing that she is my equal partner and God’s gift of new life according to 1st Peter 3:7.  I will raise my children in the way they should go and teach them to choose the right path according to Proverbs 22:6.  I will love them, protect them, care for their needs, and be a godly father to them.  I will be patient, gentle, nurturing, and honoring to my family.  I will refuse to allow work, hobbies, relationships, ministry, or the cares of this world to come between my family and me.

I commit to God’s calling on my life to creatively communicate His love and hope, to invest and lead those He gives me the privilege to do so with, and to be a blessing to those around me and abroad.  I will not forsake my calling because my calling will not forsake me according to Romans 11:29.  I promise to give, love, pray, sing, build, work, serve, and go beyond my limits for the sake of the call because His love compels me and my love for Him is beyond words!

Always and Forever,
Lee


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A Well Worn Book

This is a picture of my copy of My Utmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers.  This poor little book in a mess.  I’ve been reading this very copy daily for over 20 years!  The cover falls off and large chunks of the book slide out of I don’t hold it just right.  I love this book and I’ve wrung so much out of it!

I know it sounds strange, but this beat up old book really inspires me.  I look at it and think, “I want to be like this book.”

Let me explain:

This book gets read. It doesn’t just sit on the shelf looking pretty.  It has a message and that message is heard and makes an impact.  You’ve heard the saying, “You may be the only Bible the some people will ever read.”  Well, I want to be a book that God’s message can be communicated through.

I catch something new every time I read through it. Chambers is deep and that’s one of the things that keeps me coming back to this book.  One of my greatest fears is becoming stale and irrelevant.  I long to be a deep well that others can draw from.

It’s old but powerful. This one is much like the second one.  I know I’m not really old, but I’m at the halfway point in my life and I think often about how aging will effect the impact I’m able to make on the world around me.  I long to hold onto my zeal for Jesus and to keep my vision strong.

It’s spent. Seriously, look at that thing.  I really don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to go without buying a new one.  I’ve brought it everywhere with me for the last 20+ years.  I’ve read it over and over.  I don’t want to reach the end of my life wishing I’d been spent more for the cause of Christ.  I want God to wring every last bit out of me for His glory.

I love how Paul puts it in 2nd Corinthians 12:15, “I will gladly spend myself and all I have for you.”

Lord, spend me to the last ounce of all I have and am.  Amen.

 

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The Toxic Trio

Let’s face it, if you’re doing effective ministry, the devil hates it.  In fact, he hates YOU.  Leaders have a whole gang of enemies they must face in order to keep moving forward.  It’s not an easy job and there are perils around every corner.

If the enemy can’t get you to throw in the towel, he’ll find ways of rendering you fruitless.  Oftentimes leaders aren’t even aware of their impotence until it’s too late.  It’s a subtle, crafty tactic for sure but highly effective.  I wrote in an earlier post about The Deadly Duo of pride and insecurity.  Today I’d like to expose a few more of these nasties.  I call them the Toxic Trio.

Self Preservation – The enemy of vision.  When times seem lean, the temptation is to program to keep people comfortable and coming back.  Instead of taking risks, and dreaming big, we filter our decisions to keep the money happy. Afraid of losing people (and finances and favor), we start thinking inward instead of reaching outward.  This is downright deadly because we forfeit the future when we stop having faith.

Routine – The enemy of innovation.  Don’t get me wrong.  Some routine is good.  The problem arises when we elevate our routine to a place that robs us of opportunity.  For example, we skip a great training opportunity because it falls on sermon prep day or during the time when we normally do hospital visitation.

We also have a tendency to lather, rinse, and repeat our programming long past the expiration dateListen to those around you when they start suggesting new ideas.  It usually means your program is losing it’s impact, even if it is still fun for you to do.

Control – The enemy of empowering leadership.  This one is huge and really deserves its own post.  We really like to be in control and some leaders like to make sure everyone knows they’re in control.  They ignore suggestions, hold on to roles they should have let go of a long time ago, and obsess over certain tasks for fear they won’t get done right.

Controlling leaders may get what they want, but before long they’re getting it alone.  This demoralizing style of leadership usually drives away a lot of quality team members.

Have you ever seen yourself tackling one of these toxic traits?  I know I have, many times.  What’s a leader to do?  Well, rather than giving you the old 1, 2, 3 bullet points, I just have one word for you, “TRUST“.

It’s important that we learn to trust God when times are tough.  Keep dreaming, don’t sink inward.  Believe that where God guides, He provides.  Trust that He’ll help to redeem the time when we step out of the routine to grow and try new things.  You were made to grow, not simply maintain.  Trust your team to do their best when they take a project.  If God put you together, He really did know what He was doing.  Trusting those serving with you empowers them and helps them to grow.  That’s worth the risk of a job not getting done right any day!

Just trust!

“those who trust in the Lord will lack no good thing.” – Psalm 34:10b

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Old Toys

I remember Christmas as a kid.  Each unwrapped box held the potential to make all my wildest dreams come true.  I would tear into each one with unchecked enthusiasm and ferocity until the toy was extracted that would change my life forever.  Or at least that’s what it felt like at the time.  I wasn’t one for just leaving my new loot under the tree either.  I’d take it up to my room, display it neatly, and play with my favorites for hours on end.  Every once in a while, I’d receive a toy that was particularly dear to me.  When I six years old, it was Stretch Armstrong.  Stretch was a body builder who could be stretched a long way without breaking.  It was a real workout playing with him, especially if I let his stretchable limbs get too cold.  I was so proud of my stretch Armstrong that, when company came over, I’d nonchalantly bring him out and start playing with him in a subtle display of show and tell.

Eventually my birthday came along, and another Christmas and old Stretch didn’t get played with as much.  I’d moved on to the the sound effects gadget and electronic football.  It had been months and I hadn’t played with my former favorite toy at all.  One day, my older brother found Stretch up in my closet and decided he wanted a good look at the jelly inside of him that made him so stretchy.  He plunged a knife into the neck of my toy and a red gooey substance came out. I was so upset!  My favorite Stretch Armstrong was ruined!  Realistically, if he would have done that behind the garage and tossed the toy in the trash, I never would have noticed.

Lately I’ve been doing A LOT of praying about what’s next for my life.  “What do you want me to do next, Lord?” The ministry I was working for had to make financial cutbacks and I was part of those cutbacks.  It was tough because I loved what I was doing so much.  I’ve begged, pleaded, and begged some more for God to show me what to do next. You know what I’ve hear in response to all my praying?  Nothing.  Crickets chirping (on a good day).  No unction, no whisper, no holy gut-feeling,  not even a throat clearing!  How unbelievably disturbing it is to be walking in revelation and intimacy and suddenly be cut off.  Or so it seems…

I remembered all the times God DID speak to me.  The visions and dreams.  The things that were so heavy on my heart to accomplish for His glory.  How many God-ideas are written in my prayer journal that I have yet to do anything with? How many burdens has God placed on my heart that just seemed to slip off the radar?  There they are like last year’s Christmas toys waiting to be played with!  Just because they don’t have that “shiny new toy” appeal any more doesn’t mean that God has forgotten about them.  They still need to be done and time doesn’t change the fact that God has entrusted them with me.

James chapter two tells us that our actions make our faith complete.  It’s not enough to just treasure the dreams God gives us. We have to be faithful to obey what He’s told us to do.  They’re ALL important.  Even the ones that are small, distant, or inconvenient.  He gave them to us for a reason.

My kids are like most kids.  They want stuff.  They start making their list for Christmas somewhere around July.  Oftentimes, when my wife and I sit down to look at their wish lists, we have the same response that I believe God has when He reads ours.  “But they don’t play with the ones they have.”  So here’s my plan: start doing all the things I believe God has already spoken to me to do.  Once I’ve done them all, then maybe beg and plead some more.  Chances are though, I won’t have to.