Seeing the Sublime x

One modern philosopher states that life’s three basic ingredients are: learning, earning and yearning. To a certain extent, we can agree with this. But life is more, much more. One author, a Russian novelist named Dostoevski, captures this concept when he writes: "Neither man nor nation can exist without a sublime idea."

We must realize that, although life revolves around what we sometimes call the daily grind, it involves much more! We are here to serve and glorify God. And the only way to do this is to yield our lives to the Lord, letting Him direct our lives. As jet streams provide steering currents for massive weather systems, the will of God should determine the course of our lives.

In Philippians 2:5-8 we are told that the mind of Christ determined the course of His life and sealed His destiny. If you think about it, you see this at every milestone in His life: at age 12, Luke 2:40; at age 30, Luke 4:1-13; and at age 33, John 17:3.

The up’s and down’s of life sometimes distract us and rob us of a clear vision for the future; but if we take growing towards Christlikeness seriously, we will embrace His vision for our lives. His will must be the “steering current” which determines the direction of our lives. This seems to be what Jesus had in mind when He stated: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). So, let’s spend a few minutes thinking about the sublime idea that God has for our lives, so that we can let this be the steering current for our lives and ministries.

Where Have All the Visionaries Gone?

Can you name more than a handful of visionaries in our fellowship today? Some of us even wonder what it means to be “a visionary”.

I once read that a visionary is someone who describes tomorrow’s possibilities as clearly as yesterday’s sunset. Unfortunately, because of the resistance many have faced they have either given up or have moved on to other pursuits. Unfortunately, the closest thing to a saint who sees the sublime that many of us have ever encountered is one who is living out someone else's vision.

In far too many instances, we have mistakenly adopted a philosophy that resists being part of anything that we cannot control or explain. We cannot conceive of a God who is able to do more than we can conceive. Thus, we are limiting God’s operation in our lives to that which we can, by mere human insight, comprehend.

Following this line of reasoning, many people conclude that anyone who challenges us to see the sublime is foolishly over zealous and will soon learn better. If I’m correct in these observations, and I believe that I am, many in our day would hold Christ’s greatest visionary disciple in contempt for writing such things as we read in Ephesians 3:20-21

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

If we refuse to be stirred by a sublime vision, that which Paul emphasizes in his prayer becomes a casualty. We must not permit the subterfuge of the sublime; instead, we should promote two types of visionary thinking described in these verses:

(1) Prayerful Thinking… If we believe that God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ASK, we will be doing the ASKING! It’s interesting to note that the root word in the original language for “ask” is aiteo, which means “to call for, crave, or desire.” This speaks of exercising our faith! Several passages underscore the important of ASKING…

Matthew 7:7-8, “7Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; those who seek find; and to those who knock, the door will be opened.”

James 4:2, “You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.”

(2) Possibility Thinking… God is able to do immeasurably more than all we IMAGINE. Wow, imagine that! God is bigger than our ability to conceive Him! In this instance, the word translated as “imagine” derives from the root word noieo, which means to exercise the mind. To hear some people tell it, we’ve got to park our brains to be followers of Christ. That’s just not the case. God wants us to exercise our minds. In fact, His ability to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we can think is, in itself, an invitation to let our imaginations run.

What Is Christ’s will for His kingdom people?

God wants us to be able to see the sublime. He wants us to be visionary children! Because some of us have known so few visionary leaders, some are left to ask: “How does one act?” To be sure, a visionary is a PATIENT OVERCOMER (a conqueror, is one who prevails, gets the victory). This is, in fact, how all who trust in Jesus should see themselves, according to 1 John 5:4b-5, “This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God."

Visionaries are nicked by thorns but still smell roses. Visionaries get sand in their shoes but still hear the ocean’s surf. Visionaries are soaked by rain but still anticipate rainbows. —Dale, Keeping the Dream Alive, p. 14.

A visionary Christ-follower is a PASSIONATE PURSUER, a dream chaser. Our lives are to be characterized with the same intensity as Christ’s. It’s more than a positive mental attitude? It’s being positive about doing the things that God wants us to do! It was Oliver Wendell Holmes that once stated that men either act on their passionate vision or risk never living at all! Some people look at the way things are and ask, “Why?” Those who are able to see the sublime look at the way things ought to be and ask, “Why not?”

How do we surrender to God’s steering current for our lives and ministries?

(1) Believe that our God is a “Can Do” God! Remember the observation of James: You have not, because you ask not! Therefore we must exercise our faith! Our prayers should consist of more than vague generalities. Is your personal prayer life getting flabby do to lack of exercise? Exercising our faith involves more than prayer! See: Philemon 6. Here we are told that we exercise our faith by sharing our faith! Does your activity in sharing your faith reflect a belief that God is able to do immeasurably more than all that you ask? Do you pray, “Lord, give me open doors…” and then refuse enter? Do you pray for God to give you wisdom and courage to speak out, only to clam up?

(2) Imagine what God can do, according to His power that is at work within us! Therefore we must exercise our minds! We’ve spent too much time dwelling on why we can’t do too many things for too long. If God wants us to do it at this place at this time, He will provide the means! God never calls us to do anything that He will not enable us to do! There are many biblical examples of such thinking:

— Noah, Genesis 6-9;
— Gideon, Judges 7-8;
— Paul, Acts 9:15; 26:17b,18; cf: 2 Corinthians 9:8!

If God places a burden on your heart for a particular ministry or labor of love, don’t fret over the things that might not work out. It’s amazing how many good ideas come to those who dwell on the positive rather than the negative. And there is nothing in the entire world more positive than knowing that God is working in our lives!

(3) Get on board! The train’s leaving the station! The plane’s about to take off! If you think that God can work in and through your life and ask God to work in your life; then expect God to work in and through you life!

Did you notice the acrostic? When you put these three things together, you’ve got something

B.I.G.!

The bottom line: God has a sublime idea for our lives. If we will surrender to Him, He will steer us in the direction that we need to go. Sometimes we just have a hard time doing this, though.

Perhaps this is because we’re trying to be too rational about things. If the imagination is gone from our lives, it will be very hard to see the sublime.

A lesson from a child might help us to grasp this idea. More than twenty years ago I started telling our children bedtime stories. I love to make up fanciful stories about far away places. Sometimes the characters do some really incredible things. Or, wear absurdly funny clothes. They sometimes do things that just don’t square with the reality. All four of our children have at one time or another looked over at me with an incredulous grin and said, “DAD?! That’s not real!”

My response has always been, “Sure it is in the wonderful world of make-believe.”

They usually nod acceptingly and we pick up the story from where we left off. Sometimes they will say, “This is just too silly to believe.”

What really gives you pleasure is when your children start taking you on journeys to the wonderful land of imagination. It warms your heart to see the beautiful flower of imagination blooming in your children’s hearts. Some time ago, when my story ended too soon, my youngest child did just that. As I knelt beside her bed smiling, I listened to her fill in important details pertaining to the beautiful princess that I had been telling her about. I couldn’t help but think that it must give our heavenly Father the same kind of pleasure when He sees His children let their imaginations run free!

There’s a heaven full of possibilities for those who see the sublime—those willing to take God at His Word and let their imaginations run free. God has given those who love and serve Him a free pass into the wonderful world of imagination and said to us all: “If you can think it, I can do it, and more. And, I will do it for you, if you’ll just ask!”

© Bill Williams
July 18, 2007

About a fellow sojourner

a sojourner in life, trying to follow in the steps of Jesus.
This entry was posted in Christian Living, Christianity, Church, Following Jesus, Leadership, Life, Preaching Notes. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Seeing the Sublime x

  1. Laymond says:

    “Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.”

    The saddest thing I have ever seen was a child with no hope, emagination, vision.

  2. Niki Nowell says:

    Excellent post Bill! Very inspirational! You should meet my husband – he is a visionary. Unfortuantely I am the one who pulls him back to earth a little too often. I’m working on that.

    I have often found that true visionaries gain great opposition. The fear you mentioned takes over when we are faced with unknowns and things we can’t explain and control. At what point did we become afraid to dream outrageously? Ask hopefully? Expect outlandishly from God?

    I want to see the sublime. I want to live abundantly. I want what God has for me because I am His woman.

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