Renewing Your Vision

A renewal of your heart

by Chip Ingram

Collectively, evangelical leaders represent a powerful force in the world. As leaders, we have been given visions for the work God has entrusted to us. Yet, it is so easy to fall just slightly off track from God’s vision. If we are aiming at the wrong target, reaching the bull’s eye is worthless. We need to protect and renew our God-given vision.

Anatomy of a vision lost. In 1 Samuel 15, Saul—a man given leadership, vision and the opportunity to transform a culture—turned out only half-hearted toward God. Samuel told Saul, “I’m the one that the Lord sent to anoint you King over his people, Israel. So listen now to the message from the Lord.”  Saul was instructed to attack the Amalekites and put all of them to death. “Totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare anything.” In response, Saul attacked the Amalekites, but spared their king and “everything that was good” among the spoils. Step one to losing your vision is selective obedience—choosing what you like from God’s instructions, but otherwise choosing your own way.

When the Lord expressed his grief over Saul’s disobedience, Samuel was “troubled and cried out to the Lord all that night.” Samuel got up early to meet Saul, only to learn he had gone to Carmel and “set up a monument in his own honor. . . .” And this reveals step two toward a lost vision: pride. It began with the call of God, but now it’s all about Saul’s success.

Saul says to Samuel, “Oh, Lord, bless you!  I’ve carried out the Lord’s instructions.” Samuel replies, “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?” Step three? Deception.

Once you begin to selectively obey, and once pride creeps in (so very softly and imperceptibly), you get deceived. All of us can name someone whose walk with the Lord inspired and influenced us, who then hit the skids. I don’t think they got up one day and said, “You know, we have a great ministry with a tremendous outreach. Thursday at 2:00, I think I’ll go do something stupid and immoral.” No. It happens with the accumulation of little tiny compromises. Before long, we are hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

Selective obedience, pride, and deception lead to hypocrisy. Saul says he’s obeyed the Lord, but clearly there’s a data recognition problem. The Lord said, "Destroy everything,” but Samuel still hears sheep and cattle. When pressed, Saul blames his soldiers and attempts to justify what was done by saying the spared animals were meant for sacrifice to the Lord.

What does God say when we disobey in order to fulfill another plan, blame others, and become deceived and hypocritical? The same thing he said to Saul through Samuel. He reminds us He loves us and that He has a plan. Remember when He birthed the vision? Remember when God saw something in you that you couldn’t see? Remember you didn’t think you had it in you and He chose you? There was a vision to be realized in obedience. When Saul compromised, Samuel asked, “Why did you not obey the Lord? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord?”  

The next step is denial. “But I did obey the Lord.”  Saul recites his deeds and actually believes that he has been doing God’s will! He doesn’t even see the paradox in his assertions. “I’ve destroyed everything and brought the King back!”

Not one of us is immune to a loss of vision. That is why God says to watch over our hearts with all diligence. That is where you are going to get attacked. Your vision, your passion, your focus always begins in your heart—and reflects your relationship with God.

Time for renewal. Renewing our vision has to start with our own hearts. The Christian community has a tendency to take potshots at people “out there” in the world.  “Holly­wood did this, TV did that, and MTV did the other.” But we need to start by humbling ourselves and walking humbly before God. But instead, we often end up in denial. Saul said he obeyed the Lord. And Samuel gave this classic response: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings (Translation: ministry size, long hours, lots of work, what people think . . .) as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice.”   

He doesn’t stop there, and neither should we. “For rebellion is like the sin of divination and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.” We think a little compromise here, a little selective obedience there won’t hurt anybody. Maybe God brings a little something onto our radar screen, but we see others in ministry doing it, so we conclude it must not be that bad. God calls it rebellion and arrogance.

In Acts 13, consider how God testified concerning David: “I found David, the son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.” David was whole-hearted and served or fulfilled God’s purposes in his generation. That’s what God wants from us. You don’t have to be famous, write a book, or be on the radio or TV. You don’t have to be a big shot . . . you have to serve Christ with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. If we will all do that, Christ will be exalted and the church will move forward.

In my desire to be like David rather than Saul, I’m asking myself four questions:  

  1. “Am I mission driven or market driven?” Networking and politics are two different things. Genuine relationships with a ministry mindset and manipulation are two different things. Sharing honestly what God is doing versus posturing are two different things. Honestly assess what drives you.
  2. “Am I growing in success with people or am I growing in success with God?” Saul finally admitted he sinned. He never repented, but said he was “afraid of the people.” You are never much good to God until you care only what He thinks.
  3. “Am I living under pressure or priorities?” It begins in the private areas of life . . . you begin skipping your time with God . . . then you start making unwise decisions and become market-driven versus mission-driven. Pretty soon it’s all about what people think and you’re in a vicious cycle.
  4. “Am I doing what is right or just what works?” We need to heed those checks in our spirit and make things right, even when it seems just a little thing. Recently my ministry sent a letter of apology to supporters for a direct mail piece that violated my conscience and my heart. There wasn’t a specific thing wrong. It’s just that it didn’t reflect the spirit in which I do ministry. The appeal had “worked,” but God gives integrity and obedience checks in the smallest areas, and ultimately it hadn’t been “right.”

If you want to move from being half-hearted to whole-hearted, the journey will take you through broken-heartedness. In Psalm 51, David acknowledges his sin against God, genuinely owning it without blame, justification, or denial. He grasped God’s love for a broken and contrite spirit. It’s not about burnt offerings, being religious, or even making it right. It’s about heart. Get honest with God. Repent. Come clean and God’s blessings will be upon you. And your vision will be renewed in your heart.

 

 


This text is provided with the understanding that ECFA is not rendering legal, accounting, or other professional advice or service. Professional advice on specific issues should be sought from an accountant, lawyer, or other professional.

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