For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.
Salvation is a gift from the heavenly Father to us. It cost him everything — the death of his beloved only Son. It costs us nothing. Hard work cannot earn it; neither can good behavior or sterling character. The only way we can enjoy a relationship with God is by coming to Jesus Christ, our hands outstretched and empty, and saying, "Lord, I want to follow you. Please take me into your family, scrub me, give me new clothes and make me like you." And Jesus will do exactly that. He will take us as we are and assure us that we are his forever. Then — slowly at first, but surely — he will mold us and shape us until we resemble him.
APPLY: Are you confident that you have a relationship with God through the grace of Jesus Christ? If so, thank him for loving you enough to accept you in spite of your sin. If you have never accepted Christ, decide now to do whatever it takes to earnestly seek him and come into relationship with him.
I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.
JOHN 15:5 NRSV
How can we abide in Christ, and bear spiritual fruit? Reading God's Word and spending time in prayer are good first steps. Prayer is a way to maintain constant communion with God the Father and God the Son through God the Holy Spirit. It is the means of living out the intense relationship Jesus described.
We're called to abide in him, but God also promises that he will abide in us! Awareness of God's presence comes as the result of taking time to speak and listen to him. When you practice being aware of God's presence, you pick up his signals all throughout the day. At work, at home, in your car or wherever you are, you begin to dialogue with the Lord. It has nothing to do with being in a church building or on your knees. It has to do with God's presence in and around you — "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27).
APPLY: Do you experience the presence of God in your daily life? Promise yourself that you will use this book to more deeply abide in God's presence.
Moses said to the Lord, "O Lord, I have never been eloquent.... I am slow of speech and tongue." The Lord said to him, "Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say."
Vision is the God-given ability to catch a glimpse of what God wants to do through your life if you dedicate yourself to him.
In the story above, Moses had no vision of how God could use him. I have to admit that I share Moses' problem. My life is not earmarked for greatness. There is no aura of drama about it. I feel plenty ordinary most of the time, and I often wonder if I matter at all.
But every once in a while when I'm in tune with the Lord, the Holy Spirit seems to whisper to me, "Hybels, take your blinders off. Where's your vision? You're not much, but God is. And you matter to him. Why don't you believe what you preach?" God's challenges to me give me the courage to keep following him.
PRAY: Pray a listening prayer. What is God whispering to you about his plan for your life? Let go of the objections that fear or lack of vision cause you to raise.
Where there is no vision, the people perish.
PROVERBS 29:18 KJV
The story is told of two prisoners in one small cell with no light except what came through a tiny window three feet above eye level. Both prisoners spent a great deal of time looking at that window, of course. One of them saw the bars — obvious, ugly, metallic reminders of reality. From day to day he grew increasingly discouraged, bitter, angry and hopeless. By contrast, the other prisoner looked through the window to the stars beyond. Hope welled up in that prisoner as he began to think of the possibility of starting a new life in freedom.
The prisoners were looking at the same window, but one saw bars while the other saw stars. And the difference in their vision made a huge difference in their lives. Likewise, our vision will affect our whole life.
APPLY: Are you focusing on the bars in your life, or looking to the stars? Do you have a vision for what God wants to do in your life? Have you considered that you and the people around you will be given life through your vision?
Simon and his brother Andrew [were] casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." At once they left their nets and followed him.
At some time in your life you must have sensed God saying to you, "It's time to start going in a new direction. I want you to change vocations (go back to school, start a ministry, strike up a friendship, get a job, go to the mission field), because you matter to me. I have great plans for you, and I'm going to work in your life. If you'll just take those blinders off, I'll use you." Just for a moment you felt a flutter in your heart, and you thought, "Maybe that was God's voice." But then instead of looking at stars, you focused on bars.
I cannot ask you to do something that I am not willing to do. I want to be more willing to say, "God, here I am. Use me. Lead me. If you have something significant planned for my life, count me in. I'll follow you the best I know how — trembling, but trusting. I want to see stars, not bars. I want to grow in vision."
APPLY: Do you sense God leading you in a new direction? Are you willing to grow in vision and follow him?
My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only he will release my feet from the snare.
Vision is on my endangered character quality list, along with courage and discipline. The reason is simple: it takes too much work to be a visionary. It's much easier just to go with the flow and do what's expected. It takes courage to break out of conventional thought patterns. It takes confidence and daring to risk failure with a new idea or a new approach. Visionaries tend to fail many times before they ever succeed, and most people would rather be safe and secure.
It also takes a lot of old-fashioned perspiration to be a visionary. It takes discipline to sit down with a pencil and paper and vow not to get up from your desk until you come up with five new ways to do something. It takes endurance to get on your knees and stay there until God supernaturally ignites a fresh thought in your mind. It takes hard work to plan for what could happen in five years in your business, family, marriage or ministry. But developing vision deepens and strengthens our faith.
APPLY: What prevents you from keeping your eyes on God and following him? Where do you need a new, visionary approach? Ask God for a vision and the courage to carry it out.