It’s the day that I know we’ve all been waiting for with great eagerness and anticipation; Vision Sunday!
Last week, I shared God’s challenge to us to live by faith and not by sight. Though it may seem a bit contradictory, this challenge to live by faith and not by sight still holds true with vision. We don’t live by what we see happening around us, we live by what we see from God’s perspective.
In Jerusalem near one of the temple gates, there was a pool of water called Bethesda. Occasionally, an angel would stir up the waters and the very first one who got into the pool afterwards would be healed of any disease that they had. For that reason, a whole bunch of disabled people would lie there in anticipation, eager for their healing.
One of them was a man who had been disabled for 38 years. He had no one to help him and every time that the angel visited the pool, he was passed up by others.
Have you ever felt that way? Pushed down and oppressed in life with no one left to help you? Helpless on your own to change your circumstances? Waiting on God to move?
This man’s entire hope was placed in Bethesda; that pool of water. His focus was on that water in hopes that he could somehow, someway be the first one in. It never happened, though.
Then one day, on a Sabbath day during a Jewish festival, a guy walks up to him and says, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” How cruel can you be? Are you making fun of him? How can some stranger just stand there and tell a paralyzed man to get up and walk?
Well, this guy was Jesus. He commanded the man to get up and walk not as a cruel joke, but as an opportunity for this man to shift his focus and to place his hope in something better than Bethesda and even better than the angel. As soon as this man shifted his focus and hope onto Jesus and responded to His word, he was cured and was able to do what Jesus’ words commanded.
The best part was that this man had no idea who Jesus was!
We don’t have to have everything all figured out to receive the fulfillment of God’s word. We just have to place our faith in it! This man literally walked by faith and not by sight. This man is an example of one whom Jesus sought out and went to as a response to last week’s challenge. This paralyzed man chose to get up and walk despite the fact that it was impossible by the faith that he had in Jesus’ command. Faith expressed through radical obedience!
This same thing happened in Acts 3 as Peter healed a man lame from birth. It happened for Paul as well!
8 In Lystra there sat a man who was lame. He had been that way from birth and had never walked. 9 He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed 10 and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.
They didn’t pray and request and essentially beg that God would heal these men. Jesus and Peter and Paul commanded the disabled person to get up and walk. Somehow, someway, they were able to see that the person had the faith for healing and saw that the Father doing it. They cooperated with the Father operating through their own faith and saw the miraculous happen as God’s word come to pass.
Consider this in your own personal prayer life. What a challenge of our own faith!
When Jesus was challenged for healing on the Sabbath day, He said that He only did what He saw His Father doing. Jesus saw the fact that this man had been paralyzed for decades, but also saw the Heavenly Father healing him. Walking by faith and not by sight. Faith is acting by what we see from a heavenly perspective and not based on what we see from a worldly perspective.
There are so, so many scriptures about this type of faith. It is written of Moses that:
By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible.
Now faith isn’t God’s vision for us as a church family, but His vision for us requires faith. Faith that sees not only the facts happening around us, but also sees from a Heavenly perspective and trusts in God’s power to trump the worldly facts with Heavenly truth!
We see so many disturbing facts around us already this year. It’s a US election year and with all of the wars and rumors of wars and earthquakes and volcano eruptions and storms and legal battles that are happening, it’s sure to be a year of turbulence and significance! We see this, so how are we to respond to it all?
God’s vision for us this year is to dwell. Not to dwell on the past. Not to dwell on our sin. Not to dwell on the problems of the world. Not to dwell on our difficult circumstances. We’re being called to dwell in God! Called to shift and to fix our focus on what is happening in the heavenly realm and what God has spoken and placing our faith fully in that and not on what is factually happening around us.
Dwell in the Lord!
Psalm 91 (AMP)
1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
Will remain secure and rest in the shadow of the Almighty [whose power no enemy can withstand].
To dwell (Hebrew yāšaḇ) means to abide, to inhabit, to remain, to tarry, to endure, to establish.
A shelter (Hebrew sēṯer) is a covering, a secret hiding place, a protection
Take note throughout this Psalm of the horrific facts happening in the world and the only safety found throughout it being one who simply chooses to dwell in the shelter of the Lord.
2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
My God, in whom I trust [with great confidence, and on whom I rely]!”
3 For He will save you from the trap of the fowler,
And from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you and completely protect you with His feathers (pinions),
And under His wings you will find refuge;
His faithfulness is a shield and a wall.
5 You will not be afraid of the terror of night,
Nor of the arrow that flies by day,
6 Nor of the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
Nor of the destruction (sudden death) that lays waste at noon.
7 A thousand may fall at your side
And ten thousand at your right hand,
But danger will not come near you.
8 You will only [be a spectator as you] look on with your eyes
And witness the [divine] repayment of the wicked [as you watch safely from the shelter of the Most High].
9 Because you have made the Lord, [who is] my refuge,
Even the Most High, your dwelling place,
10 No evil will befall you,
Nor will any plague come near your tent.
11 For He will command His angels in regard to you,
To protect and defend and guard you in all your ways [of obedience and service].
12 They will lift you up in their hands,
So that you do not [even] strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread upon the lion and cobra;
The young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.
14 “Because he set his love on Me, therefore I will save him;
I will set him [securely] on high, because he knows My name [he confidently trusts and relies on Me, knowing I will never abandon him, no, never].
15 “He will call upon Me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
16 “With a long life I will satisfy him
And I will let him see My salvation.”
This is the psalm that the devil quoted to Jesus to tempt Him in Matthew 4. As Jesus responded, this does not mean that we do something stupid like jumping off of a building with the expectation that God will save us from our stupidity. It means that when we choose to stand with the Lord and on His word in the midst of opposition, that He will honor and protect us.
A great example of this was Daniel and his buddies who refused to bow down and worship anyone or anything other than the Lord. As a result, they were cast into a furnace that was so fierce and intense that it killed the three soldiers who threw them in.
24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?”
They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.”
25 He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”
26 Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!”
So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, 27 and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.
This is what it looks like to dwell in the shelter of the Lord Almighty! God’s Presence doesn’t take us out of the troubling circumstances of life, it protects us through them.
We can liken it to a park pavilion during a severe thunderstorm. Though all around us there is such a downpour that it causes flooding, we stand in the middle of it dry as can be. We see and hear and even feel the severe storm all around us, but we are safe within it because of the shelter that the pavilion provides.
If I choose to take even just a single step outside of that shelter, I’ll be soaked. However, if I choose to dwell in the shelter, I will remain dry and be kept safe. So it is with the Lord.
So how do we dwell in the shelter of the Most High?
Well, none of us just accidentally stumbled into our homes, the physical place that we dwell, right? You weren’t just walking down the street, walked into a house, and then it was your dwelling place, right?
Of course not!
Buying or renting a home requires a huge commitment from us. It is a process that takes time. It requires faith through relationship with the current owner of the property and usually a bank as well. There are statements made in good faith and contracts and agreements and cooperation.
When we finally secure the property, then we move our belongings in and customize it and make that house our home. It’s not just a one-time event, either. A dwelling requires constant maintenance and attention and an ongoing commitment from us.
However, when we take care of our dwelling, our dwelling takes care of us. It provides a place where we can experience the abundance of life in safety and security separated from the rest of the world. It becomes a sanctuary and a place where some of our greatest memories of life are forged with friends and family.
How do we dwell in the shelter of the Most High?
1 Thessalonians 5:17
Pray continually, unceasingly, persistently, all of the time no matter what happens. Make your life a prayer.
Communication and mutual understanding are critical aspects of any relationship. It is no different when it comes to our relationship with God. We are to pray continually. This is not only sharing what is on our hearts and minds with God, but also paying attention and listening and looking for what is on His heart and mind for us.
To dwell in the Lord requires us to keep in step with Him. When Israel left Egypt, it was via a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night. He directed people through angelic visitation, dreams, visions, an audible voice, a burning bush, nature, and our Creative God can and will speak to us in countless other ways as we seek after Him through prayer.
Ask, seek, and knock continuously through prayer and keep constant watch as He responds.
1 Peter 2:9
you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
My tongue will proclaim your praises all day long.
we your people will praise you forever; from generation to generation we will proclaim your praise.
While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
Nothing puts our problems and the troubles of this world in proper perspective like worship! Exalting the Lord through worship invites His manifest Presence into our lives and keeps our focus on Him throughout our day. We even find throughout the scriptures where praise to God resulted in Him resolving their problems, too!
Worship is bowing down our lives so that God might be exalted through them. It is setting ourselves apart for God’s plans and purposes. It is more than a song, it is a lifestyle!
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship.
Whether by song or any other of the countless expressions of worship, fill your soul with praise to God! That will allow no room for worry, doubt, fear, or anxiety!
Regardless of what comes our way, we choose to stand firmly upon and to proclaim God’s truth! The scriptures are full of times when the Lord tells His people to proclaim His word and His deeds!
He told Jeremiah:
Announce and proclaim among the nations, lift up a banner and proclaim it; hold nothing back
What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs.
go and proclaim the kingdom of God.
The early church:
Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.
In fact, the very communion that we just shared together is a proclamation!
1 Corinthians 11:26
For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
There is power when we speak in agreement with what God has declared! Prophecy is not only foretelling what is yet to come, but also forthtelling God’s word into our current circumstances.
A great example of this is Ezekiel in the valley of dry bones. Ezekiel spoke a prophetic word of the Lord into that valley as the Lord instructed him to do. Those dry bones came together, the breath of life entered back into them, and they became a vast army!
Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.
When we speak in agreement with God, nothing will be impossible for us because nothing is impossible for Him!
This year, let’s intentionally and continually pray, praise, and proclaim. We’ll dwell in the shelter of our Lord God Almighty! Although it is likely going to be turbulent out there in the world, we’ll be safe from it all dwelling there in His shelter!