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Obedience web

  1. 1. Obedience to the Heavenly Vision A manual to help children’s workers(and other Christians) to understand God’s plan for their lives and service BY SAM DOHERTY
  2. 2. 2 The Problems of a Children’s Worker and God’s Solution A series of devotional manuals for children’s workers “The Problems of a Children’s Worker - and God’s Solution” “Obedience to the Heavenly Vision” “Smooth Sailing in Personal Relationships and Leadership” “50 Years and Still Learning” “Salvation by Faith Alone” “Truths for Teachers” “God’s Word for God’s Workers Vol 1” “God’s Word for God’s Workers Vol 2” Published by CEF Specialized Book Ministry, Assisting Children’s Evangelists Worldwide PO Box 308, Lisburn, BT28 2YS, N Ireland, UK © October 1997 All Rights Reserved
  3. 3. Introduction 3 Table of ContentsForeword ............................................................................................... 1Introduction .......................................................................................... 2Chapter 1: Oh, God Give Me Vision ................................................. 5 Vision Is What We See ..................................................................... 5 Paul’s Heavenly Vision .................................................................... 6 A Prayer to Pray ................................................................................ 7Chapter 2: Be Thou My Vision ........................................................... 8 A Vision of God ................................................................................ 8 Isaiah’s Vision of God ....................................................................... 9 Our Vision of God .......................................................................... 10 God Is Sovereign ............................................................................. 11 God Is Wise ..................................................................................... 13 God Is Our Loving Heavenly Father ............................................. 13 Paul’s Vision of Jesus Christ ........................................................... 14 A Prayer to Pray .............................................................................. 15Chapter 3: Oh God, Help Me to See the Children—As You See Them ................................................................................ 16 A Vision of the Children and Their Needs .................................... 16 Paul’s Vision of the Gentiles .......................................................... 17 An Understanding of What the Word of God Says about Children ............................................................................ 18 An Understanding of What the World Is Doing to Children ................................................................................... 19 The Vision of a Polish Leader ........................................................ 20 A Prayer to Pray .............................................................................. 21Chapter 4: I Feel So Inadequate ....................................................... 22 A Vision of the Gospel and Its Power ........................................... 22 Paul’s Vision of the Gospel ............................................................ 23 Children Need the Gospel ............................................................. 24 God Blesses His Word ................................................................... 25 A Prayer to Pray .............................................................................. 26Chapter 5: Lord, Here Am I, Send Me ............................................. 27 A Vision of Our Responsibility ...................................................... 27 Paul’s Vision of His Ministry .......................................................... 27 All Ministry Starts with Vision ....................................................... 28 Some Personal Illustrations ............................................................ 29 God Wants to Give Us Vision ....................................................... 32 A Prayer to Pray .............................................................................. 33
  4. 4. Chapter 6: Ready, a Children’s Worker and God’s Solution 4 The Problems of Steady, GO! ......................................................... 34 God Wants Us to Obey .................................................................. 34 Paul’s Obedience to the Heavenly Vision .................................... 34 Vision Becomes Venture ................................................................ 35 All Christians Need to Obey the Heavenly Vision ...................... 38 Two Personal Illustrations .............................................................. 38 A Prayer to Pray .............................................................................. 42Chapter 7: What Has Gone Wrong? ................................................ 43 The Next Step .................................................................................. 43 Paul’s Valley .................................................................................... 44 Many of God’s Servants Have Valley Experiences ...................... 44 What Is a Valley? ............................................................................ 45 How Do We Get into a Valley? ..................................................... 45 A Prayer to Pray .............................................................................. 47Chapter 8: Help! I’m in a Valley ...................................................... 48 What We Should Not Do in a Valley ............................................ 48 Remember God’s Call .................................................................... 49 Reflect on God’s Character ............................................................ 51 Rely on God’s Promises ................................................................. 53 A Prayer to Pray .............................................................................. 54Chapter 9: There Is Victory for Me! ................................................ 55 V Is for Victory ................................................................................ 55 Some Personal Illustrations ............................................................ 56 Victory in the Valley ....................................................................... 58 Perseverance = Victory ................................................................. 58 Peace = Victory .............................................................................. 59 Faith = Victory ............................................................................... 60 A Prayer to Pray .............................................................................. 61Chapter 10: God’s Grace Is Enough ................................................ 62 The Privilege Paul Enjoyed ............................................................ 62 The Problem Paul Faced ................................................................ 62 The Prayer Paul Prayed .................................................................. 64 The Second Problem Paul Faced ................................................... 64 The Promise Paul Received ........................................................... 64 The Principles Paul Learned .......................................................... 65 The Perseverance Paul Displayed ................................................. 67 A Prayer to Pray .............................................................................. 68Chapter 11: The Witness of Experience .......................................... 70 The Vision ....................................................................................... 71 The Venture ..................................................................................... 71 The Valley ....................................................................................... 72 The Victory ...................................................................................... 73Books Recommended for Further Reading ...................................... 77
  5. 5. Obedience to the Heavenly Vision 1 FOREWORD I have a friend, a minister of the Gospel, who has been used ofGod for many years and, although aged and almost blind, he stillexercises an effective ministry. Recently someone said to his son,himself a famous preacher, “I hear your father has lost his vision.”The son laughed and replied, “He has lost his sight but his visionNO!—that still burns brightly.” As I read this book I had to ask myself if my vision was waning.Have the years taken the edge of my zeal? Experience is a great teacherbut also brings with it great dangers. As we become more professionaland “good at our job” we can easily become more complacent andless zealous for God’s glory. I am sure that as you read this book you will, like myself, becompelled to have a fresh look at what you are doing. How muchventure is involved? The author points out that this depends upon howmuch vision we have. Perhaps you have ventured and had a certainmeasure of success but you ran into a valley and things are not as youanticipated, or as people told you they would be in the service of theLord. Read this book prayerfully and carefully and you will see thatGod is preparing you, through these experiences, for wider servicefor His glory. Learn how He can give you the victory in the valleyand, in this way, make you more mature personally and enrich yourservice for him. To those of us who know the author personally, the message ofthe book is even more potent. Sam’s life and ministry are the“incarnation”—the living illustration—of all he seeks to teach us here. May God’s richest blessing be upon the author, the book andupon all who shall read it. Fred Orr Amazonas, Brazil
  6. 6. 2 Introduction Foreword INTRODUCTION This book is being written primarily for children’s workers whoare younger and more inexperienced, and especially for those whoare in the early days of their ministry to boys and girls. It will, I trust,help you to see what God has planned for you and what He expectsfrom you. I pray that it will also help you to be prepared for theproblems and difficulties which will surely come, and show you howto handle them. But, at the same time, I believe that this book will also be anencouragement to those of you who have been in the work for sometime. I find that it is so easy for us to become dry, formal andprofessional in our ministry, and even to lose some of that earliervision and enthusiasm we once had. We are all in need of renewaland encouragement, and I trust that this book will be a help andblessing to you also. We know that we have been saved to serve. There is no questionin our minds about that. If God had just saved us so that we would behappy He would have taken us immediately to Heaven where wecould have been much happier. If God had just saved us so that wewould sing and praise Him He could have taken us immediately toHeaven where we would sing and praise Him much better than we dohere. If God had just saved us to have fellowship with other ChristiansHe could have taken us immediately to Heaven where we could havehad much deeper, better and longer fellowship than is possible hereon earth. These things are all good and necessary. But they do notexplain the main reason why God saved us and wanted us to continueto live here. HE SAVED US TO SERVE HIM, TO WITNESS FORHIM AND TO WIN SOULS FOR JESUS CHRIST. That is the onething we cannot do in Heaven. It can only be done here on earth. Thatis why it is so important for us to know God’s plans and purposes forour service. I believe that we can see in the Bible a pattern or plan accordingto which God leads, guides and directs those who wish to serve Him.It can be of great help to us to know what that pattern or plan is, sothat we can see it and follow it in our own lives and service. This plan is outlined in the Bible in two ways:
  7. 7. Obedience to the Heavenly Vision 3 By clear and simple teaching whereby God’s plan is outlined and applied. Many verses and passages give us the directions and help we need so that we can better understand His plan and, consequently, better serve Him. By illustrating this plan in the lives and ministries of many of God’s servants, both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. There is a wonderful similarity in how God leads all of His servants, and we have every right to believe that He will lead us in a somewhat similar way. We can also see this same pattern or plan unfold in the lives and ministries of many of God’s great servants down through church history. The list includes men and women like Amy Carmichael, Hudson Taylor, Jim Elliot, C.T. Studd, Mary Slessor, Martin Luther, William Carey and Eric Liddell. One of the very first steps which every Christian should take,after our conversion, is to ask God to show us what He wants us todo, and where He wants us to serve Him. In response to that prayerGod always begins to unfold His plan to us: We hear God’s call—as He speaks to us through His Word We experience God’s leading—as He guides us in different ways We see God’s vision—as He opens our eyes There are, of course, many variations in God’s pattern and planfrom one individual to another. He does not lead all of us in exactlythe same way. But I believe that there is a basic plan or pattern for allof us, and if we study and understand that basic pattern we will begreatly helped, encouraged and guided. The purpose of this book is to outline that pattern. We will seethat there are four basic steps in God’s plan for Christian service, andthat these can be summarized in the following words: VISION VENTURE VALLEY VICTORY
  8. 8. 4 Introduction Foreword The chapters which follow will explain these four words and thesefour steps in much more detail. I am very thankful that my spiritual father, Fred Orr, has writtenthe foreword to this book. I also appreciate Fred’s willingness toshare his testimony with us in the last chapter of the book. Histestimony is a very vivid and moving illustration of the principlesoutlined throughout the book; and it provides, I feel, a fitting climaxand conclusion to the ten preceding chapters. Fred, and his wife Ina, were the first to witness to my wife andmyself concerning the Lord Jesus Christ and our need for salvation.And they continued to do so, faithfully and lovingly, over a period ofseveral months. My wife Sadie trusted Jesus Christ as her Saviour intheir home; and then I trusted Him two weeks later in that samehome. Also, as you will read in this book, it was Fred who introduced usto the ministry of Child Evangelism Fellowship. Soon after we trusted Christ, Fred and Ina went as missionariesto one of the more remote areas of Brazil. But down through theyears Fred has been a great source of inspiration and encouragementto me. It has been difficult—even impossible—for me to write this bookwithout including many personal illustrations. I have included thesefor two reasons: To clarify and help explain what I am writing. I have therefore used such illustrations to show the reality of the plan I have outlined, in my own life and ministry. However, I would like to emphasize right at the outset, that I am still endeavouring to understand more clearly and to put into practice more diligently, the principles explained in this book. I would encourage you to do the same. To glorify God and to praise Him for all that He has done. I trust and pray that what I have written will bring glory to Him, and HIM ALONE. May God bless you, help you and stimulate you as you prayerfullyread this book, and may the end result be the salvation of men, women,boys and girls. Paul said, “I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision”(Acts 26 v19). May this also be true of all of us.
  9. 9. Obedience to the Heavenly Vision 5 Chapter 1: Oh, God Give Me VisionC hristian service does not start with activity. It is easy for some people to be activists and to go ahead and DO things. But theBible makes it clear that the first step in serving God is to SEE andUNDERSTAND what He wants us to do. Vision must precede ventureand action. That is why we, as God’s servants, need to pray, first ofall—“Dear God open my eyes and help me to see.” We all need vision, and we all need to pray that God will grant usthat vision. Some of us need new vision, and we will see things we have never seen before. Some of us need renewed vision, when God brings back to our mind that which He has already shown us. One of the greatest tragedies possible is for a person or a mission to lose their vision. A mission which loses its vision becomes a machine and, before long, that machine becomes a monument. Some of us need clearer vision, when God shows us more clearly, and in more detail, what we should do. Our “spiritual spectacles” sometimes become rather clouded and need “cleaning.” Some of us need deeper vision—as God leads us on into deeper depths of understanding concerning His will and plan for us. But we all need vision and we all need to pray, “Oh, God give mevision.” This prayer is not just for full-time workers and missionaries.Those who teach Good News Clubs, Sunday school classes, thosewho help in a weekly openair meeting for children, and those whogive and pray so that children may be reached with the Gospel allneed vision. God wants to give vision to all His people. Vision Is What We See Vision is the ability to see. The dictionary defines vision as “theact or faculty of seeing or sight.” However, when I refer to vision inthis book I am not thinking of that which we see with our physical
  10. 10. 6 Chapter 1eyes. God does not, I believe, grant us such visions today in the wayHe sometimes did in Bible times. We have His completed Word today,and do not, I believe, need visions of that kind. “Vision” in thisbook means that which we see with our minds, in our hearts and withour understanding. It means “the eyes of the heart” rather than ourphysical eyes. It means that God illuminates our understanding ratherthan He speaks to us through literal visions and dreams. I believe that it is unwise and unbiblical for us to serve Godwithout having received any understanding or guidance from Him.We need to have vision, first of all, and then after that we serve.Vision must precede venture. God wants to open the eyes of ourunderstanding so that we can see before we start, so that we canunderstand before we can undertake, so that we can hear His Callbefore we obey it. Vision is the ability to see what is not there. Vision often seeswhat others may not or cannot see. The vision which God gives mayseem impossible to us and even more impossible to others. Vision isa growing certainty of God’s Will, and an increasing awareness andknowledge of God’s call: The source of this vision is God Himself. It is heavenly vision. The content of this vision is the Will of God for your life and service. The direction of this vision is the future and what God wants you to do then. The nature of this vision is very personal. It is God speaking to you. The purpose of this vision is to show you God’s plan for your life and ministry, as part of His plan for a lost world. The importance of this vision lies in the fact that God will realise it and bring it to pass in His time. Your reaction to this vision must be one of complete obedience. Paul’s Heavenly Vision Paul speaks about the heavenly vision in Acts 26 v19. This visionwas to change his whole life. He saw something he had never seennor understood before. When he acted upon it and was obedient to it,
  11. 11. Obedience to the Heavenly Vision 7his whole life was changed, and the lives of many many more withwhom he was to come into contact. His service, like that of everyservant of Jesus Christ, started with vision. Paul had this heavenly vision on the road to Damascus: He saw the Lord. He had a vision of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. “But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee” (Acts 26 v16). He heard a call to ministry, and he understood what God wanted him to do. He had a vision of his future service. “Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee” (Acts 26 v17). God wants to speak to you; He wants to open your eyes, and togive you understanding. He reveals Himself to you as you read andstudy the Word of God. He wants you to see, through that Word, theLord Jesus Christ who is the image of God, and what He wants you todo. THAT IS VISION. In Acts 2 v17 Peter prophesied “Your young men shall see visionsand your old men shall dream dreams.” This prophecy was literallyfulfilled at Pentecost and during the days which followed. But thereis a need in the Church today for young men and women, and oldmen, to see visions (with their understanding). It is so easy to settle down and become complacent in our workand in our ministry. We can become professional in our approach andvery formal in all that we do. We need more and more to see visions,and to dream dreams. May God help us to do so. A Prayer to Pray Could I suggest that we stop reading just now and pray like this: “Oh God give me vision, I pray. Please open the eyes of myunderstanding and help me to see what You want me to see.”
  12. 12. 8 Chapter 2 Chapter 2: Be Thou My Vision . . .T he first step in Christian service is to see, to understand—TO HAVE VISION. “What does God want us to see and to understand?” There are four answers to that question and we are going to lookat these four answers in their logical order in this chapter and the threechapters which follow. God wants us to see Himself and His sovereignty. God wants us to see the children and their needs. God wants us to see the Gospel and its power. God wants us to see ourselves and our responsibility. God wants us, first of all, to see Himself. The first vision we need isa vision of God. A Vision of God One of our old Irish hymns expresses this very well: Be Thou My vision, O Lord of my heart; Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art, Thou my best thought, by day or by night, Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light. Be Thou my vision, Thou my true Word; I ever with Thee, Thou with me, Lord; Thou my great Father, I Thy true son; Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one. Be Thou my battle-shield, sword for the fight; Be Thou my dignity, Thou my delight, Thou my soul’s shelter, Thou my high tower: Raise Thou me heaven-ward, O Power of my power. Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise, Thou mine inheritance, now and always: Thou and Thou only, first in my heart, High King of Heaven, my treasure Thou art.
  13. 13. Obedience to the Heavenly Vision 9 High King of Heaven, after victory won, May I reach heaven’s joys, O bright heav’n’s Sun! Heart of my own heart, whatever befall, Still be my vision, O Ruler of all. Isaiah’s Vision of God Isaiah was a young man whom God was about to call into His serviceas a prophet. That call is recorded in Isaiah chapter 6 verses 8 and 9. “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send,and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I: send me. And he said,Go, and tell this people, hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see yeindeed, but perceive not.” But before God called Isaiah He wanted him to have a vision ofHimself. The first step in God’s plan for Isaiah was that he should seeHim and understand more about Him. Without that vision he wouldnot have been ready for his ministry. A vision of God must come first.How can we serve God if we don’t really know what He is like. Thisvision of God and Isaiah’s resulting knowledge of God were going tostand him in good stead when problems came in his ministry. Some ofthese problems are outlined in Isaiah 6 v9–13: God’s first step for Isaiah was—TO SEE Him. “In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord” (Isaiah 6 v1).Whom did he see? The Lord—or more specifically the Lord Jesus Christ (John 12 v41).What did he see? He saw the position of the Lord— “sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up and His train filled the temple” (verse 1). He saw and began to understand the great truth that God is sovereign and in complete control. He saw the purity of the Lord— “Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain He covered His face, and with twain He covered His feet,
  14. 14. 10 Chapter 2 and with twain He did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory” (Isaiah 6 v2, 3). He saw and began to understand the great truth that God is holy. He saw the power of the Lord “And the posts of the door moved at the voice of Him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke” (Isaiah 6 v4). He saw and began to understand the great truth that God was powerful and could do anything. Isaiah never forgot what he saw. This vision of God was to “keephim in perfect peace” (Isaiah 26 v3) when the problems came. Our Vision of God I trust that you have received and read my first book The Problemsof a Children’s Worker—and God’s Solution. If not, please write to meat the address given on the first page of this book ,and I will send you acopy of it. In that book I outlined the clear Bible teaching that the answerto all our problems is to see God as He is portrayed and described in theBible, to know Him more and more, and then to focus at all times onthe One we have seen and come to know—especially when problemscome. What we are, what we do, how we pray, how we serve and howwe evangelize, depend upon how we see God, and upon our vision ofGod. A.W Pink writes “An unknown God can neither be trusted nor .served nor worshipped.” That is why a vision of God is so important, and that is why this isthe very first step in God’s plan and pattern for our service. God revealsHimself in His Word, the Bible. Therefore it is absolutely essential forevery Christian to read and study the Bible. His purpose in doing so isnot just to find promises, commands and warnings. His primarypurpose is to find out, more and more, what God is really like. Eachtime we read the Bible we should ask ourselves the question: “Whatdoes this verse (passage) teach me about God?” There are three great truths about God which will become moreand more apparent as we really see Him in the pages of His Word.These three truths will provide a sound basis and a good foundationfor all of our service.
  15. 15. Obedience to the Heavenly Vision 11 God Is Sovereign To see, understand and believe the great truth of the sovereignty ofGod is sure to be a turning point in the life of a Christian. I will neverforget that time in my life, over 20 years ago, when I began to seeclearly, and for the first time, that God was truly and absolutelysovereign. I have outlined how this happened on pages 19 and 20 ofmy first book “The Problems of a Children’s Worker—and God’sSolution.” I had been a Christian and a full-time Christian worker and leaderfor many years, but I had never really seen, believed and understoodthis great truth. I had, in many ways, believed it theoretically, but notpractically and absolutely. It was at that time that God began to giveme a new vision of Himself and His sovereignty. This was to be a turningpoint in my life and to make a great difference in my service. It was, ofcourse, only the beginning of a process which still continues as Iendeavour, more and more, to see and understand God as He really is. Iconfess that I have not made the progress I would like to make. But I dopraise God for what He has enabled me to see concerning Himself.Down through the years, a number of students at our European CEFLeadership Training Institute have told me that the greatest and mostvaluable lesson they had learned during their three months atKilchzimmer was the importance of seeing and knowing God as Hereally is. When we see and we really believe that God is sovereign and thatHe is in complete control of all circumstances then, even in the midst ofany problems, we can enjoy His peace. Why worry when God is on theThrone? God, from time to time, grants us special insights into His sovereigntywhich greatly encourage us in our evangelism of the children. Soon after my wife Sadie and I had started our ministry with CEFin Ireland I read in the Child Evangelism magazine about open-air childevangelism and 5 Day Clubs. I felt I should do something. So verynervously I decided to start a 5 Day Club in a housing estatein a nearby town. I arrived on Monday morning (on my bicycle andwith my flannelgraph board), selected a grassy area in the middle of theestate, set up my board, spread my canvas sheet and invited the childrento come. About 20–25 came and the numbers increased every morning
  16. 16. 12 Chapter 2of that week. Each morning I taught choruses, and a memory verse—and I gavean evangelistic Bible lesson challenging children to trust Jesus Christ astheir Saviour. I also made myself available to children who wantedcounselling. The children listened well, but there was no obviousresponse. When the week ended I was sad and disappointed. I had beenconvinced that God had led me and that He would save children. Butnothing had happened. One Sunday morning, about 10 years later, I was speaking in achurch in that same town. After the service I was invited for lunch tothe home of one of the elders. When I arrived at his home I discoveredthat it was in the housing estate where I had conducted my first 5 DayClub all those years previously. But I said nothing. During lunch he told me of something sad which had happened inthe estate just that week. A young lady, 18 or 19 years old, had died. Shehad suffered for years from, I believe, leukaemia. I asked him if shewas a Christian and he said that she was a very fine Christian. He wenton to tell me that she was converted in a very unusual way. A numberof years previously someone had come to the estate and conductedopen-air meetings for the children. She was too sick to attend them.But she asked her mother to open the window so she could listen. Onemorning that week, he informed me, lying on her bed, she had trustedthe Lord Jesus Christ as her Saviour, and had grown spiritually eversince. “Isn’t that an interesting story?” he observed. “My dear brother,” I replied, “You have no idea how interesting it is.I was that evangelist; and I thought that nothing had happened duringthat week. Now I realise that God did work—and that He did save.” For a young children’s evangelist it was so good and so helpful torealise, in a new way, that GOD IS SOVEREIGN; and that as weevangelize the children we can trust Him for the results. God Is Wise The wisdom of God is linked closely to the sovereignty of God. Godis wise and has a plan for my life, and He is working to accomplish thatplan. God knows what He is doing.
  17. 17. Obedience to the Heavenly Vision 13 When we link these twin truths of God’s sovereignty and God’swisdom together we can come to the wonderful conclusion thateverything that happens in our lives has one of two reasons: God sent it. There are times when God in His wisdom sends difficulties, as He did in the life of Paul (2 Corinthians 12 v7–10). But these difficulties are part of His plan and are controlled by His wisdom. God allowed it. There are circumstances and difficulties in our lives which are the result of sin, which are caused by other people, or which are caused by Satan. But God allows them to happen, although He does not send them. This is what happened in the life of Job as recorded in the first chapter of that book. But these difficulties are controlled by God’s sovereignty and God’s wisdom. If He allows them to happen they must be under His control. There is no third alternative. If there was, God would not besovereign nor would He be wise. Understanding the truth of God’s wisdom and having full confidencethat He knows what He is doing (even if we don’t) gives us peace,assurance and joy—in all circumstances. God Is Our Loving Heavenly Father It is essential to be balanced in our thinking and in our vision ofGod. We can see a good example of this balance in Psalm 86. As he praysDavid reflects and meditates on the wonderful truth of God’s greatness: “For Thou art great and doest wondrous things” (verse 10).But elsewhere in his prayer he also meditates upon the “balancing truth”of God’s goodness, love and care. “For Thou Lord art good and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon Thee” (verse 5). “But Thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, gracious, long suffering and plenteous in mercy and truth” (verse 15) How terrible it would be to have a God Who was great, but Whowas not good! Or to have a God Who was good but not great!
  18. 18. 14 Chapter 2 In Matthew chapter 6 the Lord Jesus commanded His disciples notto worry about what they would eat and drink (verses 25 and 31),what they would wear (verses 25 and 31), about their height or thelength of their lives (verse 27) or about the future (verse 34). But thisfreedom from worry would come, He explained, if they could have aclear vision and understanding of God as their heavenly Father. He isthe One Who knows (verse 32) and the One Who cares (verse 26). Our God is a God of love and, while He is sovereign and He is wise,He exercises both of these attributes in love. He is our Heavenly Fatherand He cares for us and He loves us much, much more than any earthlyfather could. He would never do anything to harm us. The first vision God wants us to have is a vision of Himself. That isthe first step, and the most important step of all. It is the basis of all thesteps which follow. Everything will fit together if we have a clear visionof our sovereign, wise and loving God. Without that vision any latervision will be useless. Paul’s Vision of Jesus Christ The Apostle Paul was converted on the road to Damascus. He givesus an account of his conversion in Acts chapter 26 verses 12–23. Paulalso records that on that same day he received what he calls “the heavenlyvision” (verse 19). This vision had several aspects (as we will see later).But the first one, and the most important one, was that he had a visionof the Lord Jesus Christ. In verse 16 we read the words of the Lord Jesus to Paul “But riseand stand upon thy feet; for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose tomake thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thouhast seen and of the things in the which I will appear unto thee.” The first step in Paul’s conversion, and in his call, was a vision ofthe Lord Jesus Christ. This was a literal physical vision of Jesus Christ.It was therefore a different kind of vision from what we are writingabout in this book. But the principle remains the same. The first step,and the first vision, we all need to see and understand is a vision of GodHimself as revealed in the Bible and in the Person of His Son, the LordJesus Christ. We need always to remember that this is not a physical experience
  19. 19. Obedience to the Heavenly Vision 15which enables us to see God with our eyes. We see God and come tounderstand Him in and through His Word. That is why He has givenus the Bible! As we read it we need to continually to ask ourselves thequestion “What do I learn here about God?” We need to pray and ask God to show us Himself, more and more,through His Word. Why not start today? Read Isaiah chapter 40 andfind out from that chapter, more and more, about what God is like.Then continue reading in the chapters of Isaiah which follow. Also we need to remember that we are speaking in this book abouta gradual process, and not one special climactic experience. God, theHoly Spirit, usually opens our eyes and understanding little by little, andstep by step as we read His Word. There may be times when what wesee and understand overwhelms us and really touches our heart. ButGod’s vision of Himself is for us today a process, rather than a crisis orsome very special experience. The important truth is that we shouldstart to see Him now! Today! A well known chorus outlines this simple truth: To know Christ and then to make Him known His blessed will obey To know Christ and then to make Him known Today and every day A Prayer to Pray “Oh God open my eyes and help me more and more to see andunderstand, from Your Word, You as You really are.”
  20. 20. 16 Chapter 3 Chapter 3: Oh God, Help Me to See the Children— As You See ThemW e can only see and understand the needs of the children if we, first of all, see and understand, and have a vision of God. The first vision which God wants us to have is a vision of Himselfand His sovereignty. The second vision is a vision of the children andtheir needs. We read in Proverbs 29 verse 18 “Where there is no vision thepeople perish” (King James Translation). The New American StandardTranslation says “Where there is no vision the people areunrestrained.” The NIV translates this verse “Where there is norevelation the people cast off restraint.” The Hebrew word used heremeans “to be naked.” But whatever the exact translation is, this versecertainly teaches that if there is no vision the people suffer in someserious way. This verse could refer to the ungodly and to the fact that if theyhave no vision or revelation of God they cast off restraint. But Ibelieve that it refers to us as believers. If we don’t have vision it isthe people who bear the consequences. I am sure that this is also trueof the little people—the boys and girls. If we don’t have vision theyare the ones to suffer. A Vision of the Children and Their Needs How can we help the children if we don’t see and understandwhat their needs are? There are many who teach and work with childrenwho have not really seen their great spiritual need. Consequentlythey, themselves, need vision—a vision of the needs of the boys andgirls. A vision is the ability to see or understand something we have notseen or understood before, and which others perhaps still do not seeor understand. “When He (the Lord Jesus) saw the multitudes He was movedwith compassion on them because they fainted and were scatteredabroad—as sheep having no shepherd” (Matthew 9 v36). He had a vision of the needs of the people around Him.
  21. 21. Obedience to the Heavenly Vision 17 We must see the needs of the children around us. We are notspeaking about their physical needs, their mental or educational needs.We are not speaking about their social needs or even their psychologicalneeds even though some of these needs do exist and should be met.We are speaking about more serious needs—their spiritual needs.These are needs which can only be met in, and through, the Personand Work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Children don’t just need strengthand help in a sinful world; they don’t just need security and purposeof life in a confused world; they don’t just need peace in a troubledworld. They need, above all else, salvation in, and from, a lost world. Paul’s Vision of the Gentiles We have already seen that when Paul trusted Jesus Christ as HisLord and Saviour on the road to Damascus, and when God, that day,called him into His service, he had a vision of the Lord Jesus Christ(Acts 26 v16a). But, at the same time, God gave him a vision of theneeds of those to whom he was going to minister. “To open their eyes and to turn them from darkness to lightand from the power of Satan unto God that they may receiveforgiveness of sins and inheritance among them which aresanctified by faith that is in me” (verse 18). Paul saw the needs and the darkness of the Gentiles. He saw thatthey were under the power of Satan, and that they were condemnedbecause of their sin. We need to have a vision like that of the great spiritual needs ofthe children. They need to be saved. They need to know that JesusChrist came to save them. Then when we see these needs we willwant to do something about it. “Without vision the (little) people perish” (Proverbs 29 v18). All the great ministries which God has blessed and used in thisworld have commenced with vision—a vision of God Himself andthen a vision of those to whom God was sending His servants. HudsonTaylor saw the needs of the Chinese. William Carey saw the needs ofIndia. Jim Elliott saw the needs of the Auca Indians. Charles Spurgeonsaw the needs of 19th century London. Amy Carmichael saw theneeds of children in India. John Wesley saw the needs of England’sunsaved millions. J. Irvin Overholtzer saw the needs of the world’s
  22. 22. 18 Chapter 3children and it was through him and the vision which God gave himthat the work of Child Evangelism Fellowship was founded. We ourselves can have this vision of the needs of the children intwo ways: An Understanding of What the Word of God Says about Children The Bible clearly outlines the spiritual needs of children: They are spiritually dead and need spiritual life (Ephesians 2 v1, 5). They have a sinful nature (Psalm 51 v5; Ephesians 2 v3) and need to be changed (2 Corinthians 5 v17). They are outside God’s kingdom (Matthew 18 v3) and need to be born again (John 3 v3, 5, and 7). They are lost as far as their position is concerned (Matthew 18 v11–13). If they are old enough to know they have sinned, to know that Jesus Christ died for them and then to reject what God is saying to them, the Bible teaches that, if they die, they will be lost eternally (John 3 v36). These are not easy truths for anyone to believe and accept. Sooften we think of children as being rather innocent, and as all beingalready in God’s kingdom. To think of them as dead, outside God’skingdom, sinful and lost is quite foreign and difficult for many of us.Indeed some may be violently opposed to such teaching. But this iswhat the Word of God clearly teaches, and we need to see these truthsto have a true biblical vision of the children’s needs. If we do, we arein a position to give them the help that they need. So often our eyes are closed and we need to pray “Oh, God, helpme to see the need, the deep spiritual need, of the children and thepossibility of them being lost forever.” As we have this vision of thechildren and their needs, our hearts will, like that of the Saviour, bemoved with compassion, and we will want to reach them with theGospel. Without that vision the (little) people will perish (Proverbs 29v18).
  23. 23. Obedience to the Heavenly Vision 19 One of the early leaders of Child Evangelism Fellowship used topray “Oh God give us tears for the children of the world.” And Ibelieve that the greatest contribution that the founder of ChildEvangelism Fellowship, Mr J. Overholtzer, made to the Church ofJesus Christ was his tears. He saw the spiritual needs of the children,was burdened by their needs and wept for them. The Lord Jesus said in Matthew 18 v14 “It is not the will of yourFather which is in Heaven that one of these little ones shouldperish”; and it should not be our will or desire either. The Lord Jesussaid in Matthew 18 v11 that He is “come to save that which waslost.” In verses 12 and 13 he told the story of a Shepherd (the LordJesus) seeking the sheep which had gone astray (the child). As Hisunder shepherds we should understand their needs and be seeking forthem, so that their spiritual needs can be met by the Great and GoodShepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ. An Understanding of What the World Is Doing to Children We need to see and understand that the world in which today’schild is living is very different from the world into which you and Iwere born and in which we grew up. Today’s children face pressuresand temptations about which we knew nothing. It would seem to methat the devil is attacking and trying to destroy our children today ina way which would have seemed impossible years ago. Today’s child is subjected, and exposed, to so many frighteningthings—drugs, crime, violence, pornography, false teaching,occultism, alcoholism and video nasties. The only solution to thesepressures, and the only defence against them, is Jesus Christ and Hissalvation. He can save and strengthen the children and enable them tolive for Him and resist the temptations and evil of this world. But, first of all, they must trust Him as their Lord and Saviour.How can they do that if they don’t know about Him: “How shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed?And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall theypreach, except they be sent?” (Romans 10 v14, 15). However, no one will go with the “glad tidings of good things”
  24. 24. 20 Chapter 3(Romans 10 v15) without being conscious of the needs of those towhom they are being sent. That is why you and I need to have a clear vision of the children’sneeds: What the Word of God says about them. What the world is doing to them. When we have that vision we are ready to do something to helpthem. The Vision of a Polish Leader In 1967 I had my first opportunity to minister in Poland. At thattime, and for many years which followed, Poland was a Communistcountry. God had laid a burden on my heart for Poland (which I stillhave 30 years later). I felt that I needed to go there and visit some ofthe small evangelical churches to challenge them concerning the needsof children, and to train and help them in their outreach to the boysand girls of their own land. I travelled all over Poland and spoke in many of their smallchurches about the needs of the children. My interpreter was a mancalled Josef Prower. He was the godliest man I have ever known. Aconverted Jew, he was a professor of music, a preacher, poet, hymnwriter, author, elder in a church, and a friend and counsellor of manyfellow Poles. He spoke three languages fluently in addition to Polish,and his English was probably better than mine! He travelled with meto these meetings and translated for me as I preached to adults or as Ispoke to the children. I really felt privileged that my translator wasone of the most outstanding Christian leaders in Poland, a man ofmany gifts and abilities, and a man whose services were in muchdemand. At the end of that series of meetings we spent our last eveningtogether in Josef’s home in Bielsko Biala. Josef suggested to me thatwe should have a time of prayer. We both got on our knees in Josef’sliving room. Josef started to pray “Dear God we want to pray for thechildren of Poland. They need you so much. . . .” After a few suchwords Josef started to weep. His heart was so touched by the needs ofPoland’s children that he couldn’t say anything else. What a “strange”
  25. 25. Obedience to the Heavenly Vision 21prayer meeting it became. Two men on their knees, both weeping forthe needs of the children of Poland. I have no idea how long that prayer meeting lasted. But eventuallyJosef got to his feet and said to me “Sam, I am ready to do what I canto reach the children of my country with the Gospel.” He had seenthe need of the children. God had spoken to him about it. Now hewanted to do something to help Reaching the children of his country with the Gospel was to becomethe main goal of the remainder of Josef’s life. God blessed him andused him in a special way all over Poland to reach children, to challengeand train others to reach them, and also to produce the literaturewhich was greatly needed for that ministry. A Prayer to Pray May we pray just now: “Oh God, help me to see the needs—the great spiritual needs ofthe children; and then enable me to do something to help meet thoseneeds.”
  26. 26. 22 Chapter 4 Chapter 4: I Feel So InadequateT he first step in Christian service is—VISION. We ask God to open our eyes and to help us see Himself and His sovereignty.Then we ask Him to help us to see the children and their great spiritualneed. As we see the need of the children God will often speak to ourhearts and show us that He wants us to do something to meet thatneed. But our first reaction is usually one of inadequacy. “What can I do to reach the children of my country, my city ormy area for Jesus Christ? I am only one person; I have no training,little experience and very little ability. Can God really use someonelike me?” A Vision of the Gospel and Its Power At a time like this we need to have a third vision—a vision of theGospel and its power. We need to see and understand that God hasprovided us with a message which, when taught and explained tochildren, has, through the Holy Spirit, real life changing POWER. The power is not in us. It does not depend primarily upon ourexperience, training or ability. The power is in the message weproclaim. The Holy Spirit uses that message to speak to the children’shearts, to convict them of sin, to give them a desire to turn from theirsin, and to regenerate them as they trust Jesus Christ. Therefore wedo not need to feel inadequate or discouraged. The message of theGospel is adequate. The Lord Jesus told His disciples in Mark 16 v15 that they wereto “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.”How inadequate they must have felt! They were a group of men withoutBible school or seminary training. By profession they were mostlyfishermen or tax collectors, and certainly not pastors or preachers.They had all kinds of personal doubts and problems. But they didwhat they were told. They had no gimmicks or special techniques.They just obeyed their Master and PREACHED THE GOSPELeverywhere they had the opportunity. What happened? On-lookers
  27. 27. Obedience to the Heavenly Vision 23said that they “have turned the world upside down” (Acts 17 v6),and that they had “filled Jerusalem with their doctrine” (Acts 5 v28).Thousands of people were converted; churches sprang up all over theknown world; lives, cities and even nations were transformed, andChristianity grew and spread until it eventually became what it istoday. And this was all because of a handful of unlearned, inexperienced,doubting, hesitant men, who preached the Gospel as simply and asclearly as they could. Paul describes the Gospel of Christ as “the power of God untosalvation to everyone that believeth—to the Jew first, and also to theGreek” (Romans 1 v16). He writes again in 1 Corinthians 1 v18 “Thepreaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness, but untous which are saved it is the power of God.” The Gospel is a messagewith power. Consequently, as these men preached the simple straight forwardmessage of the Atoning Death of Jesus Christ and His Resurrection;as they explained that the risen and exalted Jesus Christ could forgiveall their sins and change their lives, and as they challenged theirhearers to respond in repentance and faith—GOD THE HOLY SPIRITWORKED. He used this MESSAGE to save many, and to change thewhole history of the world. As God lays the need of children upon your heart and you knowthat you need to do something, do not be afraid or hesitate. Do notfeel inadequate. Do not say to yourself “This is impossible. It cannotbe done.” IT CAN BE DONE. But not in your power. It can only bedone in the power of the Holy Spirit as He uses the Gospel messageyou proclaim to the children (Acts 1 v8). TRUST HIM AND THEGOSPEL. Paul’s Vision of the Gospel The Lord Jesus Christ revealed Himself to Paul on the road toDamascus, and then He showed him the need of the Gentiles, But Healso wanted him to see that there was a message for him to preach.He was to be “a minister and witness both of these things whichthou hast seen and of those things in the which I will appear ontothee” (Acts 26 v16). He was told that it would be through these “things”
  28. 28. 24 Chapter 4that God would “open their eyes and turn them from darkness tolight” (Acts 26 v18). He rephrases this statement in Galatians 1 v15and 16 to read “When it pleased God . . . to reveal His Son in methat I might preach Him among the heathen.” The message whichthe Lord gave Paul to preach to the Gentiles can be seen more clearlylater in the 26th chapter of Acts. “That Christ should suffer, and that He should be the first thatshould rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people,and to the Gentiles” (Acts 26 v23). The Bible teaches that the power in evangelism is in the Gospeland in the message which the evangelist proclaims. It is not in theevangelist himself. The disciples and Paul proved this in their ownexperience and so have multitudes of other evangelists down throughchurch history. God blessed the evangelistic ministry of men likeJohn Wesley, George Whitfield, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeonand many others both in the past and present, because they preachedthe Gospel faithfully. God, the Holy Spirit, used their message toopen the eyes of many, to turn them from darkness to light and fromthe power of Satan unto God. It should be emphasized, however, that our understanding of, andfaith in, the Gospel and its power should not result in carelessness ineither our preparation or presentation. We always need to preparefaithfully and conscientiously; and we need to present our message aseffectively and attractively as we possibly can. Trusting the HolySpirit to work through our message must never eliminate, or evenlessen, our own responsibility to be our best, and to follow and abideby the principles of teaching. Children Need the Gospel We who evangelize children need to have a new and a deepervision of the Gospel and its power. When Paul was discouraged inCorinth and felt like giving up God granted him a new vision of thepower which was in the message he preached. He assured him that,through that message, He would accomplish His purposes in thatcity (Acts 18 v9 and 10). Many Christians who work with children today are substitutingother alternatives for the Gospel, or are seeking to add to the Gospel
  29. 29. Obedience to the Heavenly Vision 25in some way. Some introduce gimmicks and techniques to their“evangelism” which tend to make their ministry more and more likeentertainment and less and less like evangelism. I am so glad thatGod called us in our Mission to be evangelists. We are the ChildEvangelism Fellowship and not the Child Entertainment Fellowship.We praise God that He has kept CEF true to its ministry of Biblebased evangelism down through the years. As I have travelled from place to place I have, at times, witnessedthe attempts of children’s workers to “update” and “modernize” theirapproach to children. This has often resulted in more and moreemphasis being placed on activities such as miming, puppetry anddrama supplemented by different kinds of handwork and activity.The result has been that less and less emphasis has been placed on theclear simple exposition and teaching of God’s Word and the Gospel.We must never forget that “faith cometh by hearing, and hearingby the Word of God” (Romans 10 v17). I am not saying that all theactivities I have mentioned are wrong (although I would not besympathetic to several of them). There is, for example, a place forhandwork and activity if time allows it. But the danger comes whenthese things begin more and more to replace the simple teaching ofthe Gospel. It is that which God uses. I read recently in a book written by a children’s worker in England: “To be relevant we may have to be radical. Sunday school styleflannelgraph and choruses may now have to give way to a more relevantapproach. Humour, contemporary music and fast moving fun are muchmore likely to communicate. A move away from video and soundstripsto a ‘live’ presentation where those leading are the visual aid is likelyto be more effective.” This is perhaps an extreme example. But I feel that this type ofapproach is, more and more, creeping into much Christian work amongchildren. So many are trying to “put on a show,” and to find newways of attracting children and the simple presentation of the Gospelis becoming more and more of a rarity. God Blesses His Word I remember the time, many years ago, when I was young and arelatively inexperienced child evangelist. I had a number of what I
  30. 30. 26 Chapter 4felt were good and attractive visual presentations. The Gospel was ofcourse contained in them. But the Gospel message was surrounded byso many stories and illustrations that the emphasis was really on theillustrations and stories and most of the time was spent on them. Mymotives were good. I wanted to make my presentation attractive tothe children, and I felt that the more illustrations and stories I coulduse the more they would be attracted and the better they would listen.One day God convicted me about what I was doing; and I began tosee that my emphasis should be on the Word of God itself and on theGospel message. I saw that it was that which should and could attractthe children. This is what the Bible teaches “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shallnot return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please,and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Isaiah 55 v11). God blesses His Word. God blesses the Gospel message. Godwill attract children to that message. We do, of course, have aresponsibility to present this message as attractively as we can althoughwithout entering into the area of entertainment. Also illustrations shouldplay an important part in our presentation provided they remainillustrations. But God has called us to preach the Gospel, and He haspromised to bless that message. Do you not agree that we who work with children need to have anew or a deeper, or a clearer, or a renewed vision of the Gospel, andits power? Will this not help us and encourage us to teach that Gospelto our children in the power of the Holy Spirit? A Prayer to Pray Should we not therefore pray: “Dear God, help me to see and understand that You have givenme a message to bring to the children, and please help me to do so—as well as I can—trusting the Holy Spirit to use that message to thesalvation and blessing of many boys and girls.”
  31. 31. Obedience to the Heavenly Vision 27 Chapter 5: Lord, Here Am I, Send MeO h God please open my eyes and help me to see, and understand: Yourself and Your sovereignty The children and their need The Gospel and its power Oh God I need vision—new vision, renewed vision, deeper vision,clearer vision. Please give me that vision because without vision thelittle people will perish. The first step in Christian service is VISION and I trust that Godwill help us to see and understand more about Himself, more aboutthe children and more about the message He has given us to bring tothem. A Vision of Our Responsibility But that is not enough! God has a fourth vision for us, and thisvision is absolutely necessary. We need to have a vision of ourselvesand our responsibility. We need to know what God wants us TO DO,in the light of the three visions we have already examined. We have looked at God’s visions in the right chronological order.God wants us to see Himself first of all. That is where it all starts.Then, in the light of that, He wants us to see the needs of the children.Now we are ready to understand God’s solution to their needs throughthe Gospel. The next logical step is to see what God wants us to do. God wants us to serve Him. God has a ministry and a place for us in His service. God wants to show us what that ministry is and where that place is. God wants us to ask Him for vision, understanding and guidance. Paul’s Vision of His Ministry One the road to Damascus Paul saw the Lord Jesus Christ. Thenhe saw the spiritual need of the Gentiles. He understood that God was
  32. 32. 28 Chapter 5going to use what he preached to “open their eyes.” Then came thefourth vision. God showed him clearly that his ministry was to be tothe Gentiles, and that He was now calling him into that ministry. “Delivering thee from the people and from the Gentiles untowhom I now send thee” (Acts 26 v17). That was God’s vision and God’s call as far as Paul’s ministry,service and responsibility were concerned. God was opening his eyes,and was showing him that his ministry was to the Gentiles. This wasrevolutionary! No one had ever done this before. Paul was “a Hebrewof the Hebrews.” Yet he was being sent to evangelize those withwhom the Jews had no dealings. But this was God’s vision, and Paulmust obey. God sometimes leads His servants in ways which arecompletely unexpected and even revolutionary! All Christian service must commence with such vision. God showsus what to do, and then we do it. Service without vision is drudgery.Service without vision can be a waste of time. That is why it is sonecessary for Christians, and especially for young Christians, to realisethat it is God who decides what we should do, where we should go,and how we should serve Him, and not we ourselves. That is whywe, first of all, need to ask God for understanding, for guidance, andfor vision, before taking any step in His service. All Ministry Starts with Vision The biblical accounts of the lives and ministries of God’s servantsall show that their activities and ministries started with vision. In Genesis 12 v1 God showed Abraham that he should leave his homeland and go to a new land. That was vision. In Exodus 3 v10 God told Moses that he should go to Egypt to lead the children of Israel out of that land. That was vision. In Nehemiah 1 v11 as Nehemiah was praying for Jerusalem God laid it upon his heart that he should go there and build the walls. That was vision. In Acts 16 v9 God showed Paul that the next step in his ministry was to go to Macedonia in Europe. That was vision.
  33. 33. Obedience to the Heavenly Vision 29 God did not want His servants to move or to act without previousguidance or vision from Himself. Isaiah saw (6 v1) and heard (6 v8).Ezekiel saw (1 v1) and heard (1 v28). Paul saw (Acts 26 v16) andheard (Acts 26 v17). God gave his servants vision and understandingbefore they commenced their ministry. This should also be true of us. The same principle can be found over and over again in the historyof the Church and in the history of Missions. God showed Hudson Taylor that he should go to China. That was vision. God laid it upon William Carey’s heart to go to India. That was vision. God burdened Jim Elliott for the Auca Indians in Ecuador. That was vision. God showed John Wesley that he should reach the unreached multitudes in 18th century England with the Gospel. That was vision. God called Charles Spurgeon to be the pastor of a church in London which was at that time quite small. That was vision. Many of “the visions” which God gave to His servants in theBible and in Church history seemed absolutely impossible. But Godseems to delight in setting the impossible before His servants, so thatHe will get all the Glory when the vision is realized. Such vision is not only for missionaries, for pastors and for full-time Christian workers. All who serve Jesus Christ need vision sothat they will know what to do for Him and where. The older personwho teaches a Sunday school class or Good News Club, the youngerperson who serves as an openair summer missionary to the children,the person who prays, the person who gives, all need vision. We allneed to know what God wants us to do and where. Some Personal Illustrations My wife and I trusted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour in late1949 when we were 22 and 21 years old respectively. We had bothgrown up in a liberal Protestant church and had no Gospel background
  34. 34. 30 Chapter 5and little understanding of the Bible. We were led to Christ by Fredand Ina Orr a young couple who were preparing to go to the missionfield and who took a personal interest in us. Fred, our spiritual father,told us when we were saved “Now that you are saved God has a workfor you to do, and you need to ask Him to show you what that workis.” I was a rugby football player and a member of one of the bestteams in the country. I could visualize myself evangelizing otherfootball players and athletes. But that was not God’s vision. As weprayed about it God began, in the early part of 1950, to show us,little by little, step by step, and in different ways, that our work wasto be with children, and that we were to evangelize them. It was thelast ministry I would have chosen. But it was God’s choice. And,looking back on it, it was, of course, the best choice. This was God’svision for us. We were young Christians and we had only been saved for a fewmonths. So we wrote to Fred and Ina who were now at Bible Schoolin Scotland, and we told them that God was calling us to evangelizechildren. We asked some questions: “What does that mean?” “How do we evangelize children?” “Where do we start?” We were very inexperienced, and young in our faith.Consequently, we had no idea whatsoever what we should do. But wewere going to learn that when God calls, and when He gives vision,He also, at the same time, commits Himself to provide us with all wewill need to accomplish that vision. The day after Fred received my letter, a missionary from ChildEvangelism Fellowship came to speak at his Bible school. He foundhimself sitting beside Fred at the lunch table afterwards. When helearned that Fred was from Ireland he told him that God had laid aburden upon his heart for the children of Ireland and that he woulddearly like to see the work of Child Evangelism Fellowship started inthat land. He asked Fred if he knew of anyone in Ireland who wouldbe interested in a ministry of child evangelism! And Fred showedhim our letter. Several weeks later he came to visit us, and started to explain
  35. 35. Obedience to the Heavenly Vision 31about the ministry of Child Evangelism Fellowship. As he spoke tous we both knew that this was what God wanted us to do. So weimmediately told him that we were ready to start working with CEFin Ireland, and to initiate its ministry there. We were just saved a few months, and we knew very little aboutthe Bible. We had never been to Bible school nor had we ever attendeda teacher training class. We knew few Bible verses and very fewGospel choruses. But we did know that God wanted us to evangelizechildren, and we believed that He wanted us to start the work of CEFin Ireland. We knew that this was God’s vision and that we were toserve Him among children for the rest of our lives. So we were appointed National Directors of CEF of Ireland! Thatwas the beginning of 14 happy and blessed years during which weendeavoured to establish and build up this work all over Ireland. Godblessed the work during those years—even though we made so manymistakes (especially in the early days). Today, many years later, CEFof Ireland is one of the strongest CEF works in the world. In 1964 we were invited to become Regional Directors of ChildEvangelism Fellowship for the continent of Europe. We were to bethe first overseas Regional Directors of CEF. After much hesitationand with much fear and trembling we accepted this invitation. Wewere sure as we read the Word of God (especially Joshua chapter 1v12–16) that this was the next step in God’s vision for us. We handedover the responsibility of the work in Ireland to our successors andGod gave great blessing and expansion under their leadership. During the 29 years which followed God blessed the work ofCEF in Europe in a special way: The number of full-time workers grew from 45 to 375. A 3 month Leadership Training Institute was started and developed. A Headquarters was purchased and developed at Kilchzimmer in Switzerland. The printing of literature was commenced and developed. A printing facility was purchased. The outreach of CEF into Communist Europe was started and developed into a major ministry. Many children was reached and saved.
  36. 36. 32 Chapter 5 We give all the glory to God. We were learning the lesson thatwhen He gives vision, He supplies all that is needed for that vision tobe fulfilled and realized. In 1993 we felt that, at the age of 66, the time had come to handover the leadership and responsibility of European CEF to youngerleaders. After a year of preparation, the transition in leadership wascompleted. And we are thankful that the work of CEF in Europecontinues to grow under the new leadership! At that time we prayed that God would again give us vision forthe remaining years of our ministry. We were sure that we shouldstay in full-time CEF work, but we were not completely sure whatwe should do. God graciously, and for the third time, granted visionand we understood that we should spend these remaining years of ourministry writing, printing and distributing a series of books free ofcharge to many children’s workers around the world, to help them intheir lives and their ministries. God has graciously blessed this new ministry, He has supplied allthe financial needs involved and has helped us in many ways. Inaddition, we have been greatly encouraged by letters of appreciationfrom many recipients in a good number of the 110 countries to whichthe books have been sent. It is wonderful to know that we can be of service to the Christiansand children in many countries to which we will never, and indeedcould never, go. A children’s worker in Nepal, for example, has already translatedand printed our first two books and they are being distributed to thosewho work with children throughout the country. He plans to print allour books. God Wants to Give Us Vision How thankful we are that God does not leave us to find our ownway. He wants to show us His way and His direction. He wants togive us His vision as far as our ministry and service are concerned.He wants us to see what we should do in response to our other threevisions:
  37. 37. Obedience to the Heavenly Vision 33 what we should do to glorify God. what we should do to meet the children’s needs. what we should do with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. My dear reader, don’t go through life aimlessly with no fixedgoal and purpose. Don’t live with your eyes on the ground and not onwhat God wants you to do. When God gives you vision everything isdifferent. Now you have a goal and a purpose in which you can reallyget involved and find fulfillment. And if God has given you vision you must never forget it, turnfrom it or lose it. My dear friend and CEF co-worker David McQuilkenwent to be with the Lord last year. He and his wife had becomeNational Directors of Child Evangelism Fellowship of Ireland in 1964when we became European CEF Regional Directors and he led thework in Ireland during the 30 years which followed. Just before hedied David had a special message for all his CEF co-workers, and hissuccessors, in Irish CEF. He said to them “No matter what happensdon’t lose your vision.” I trust that you and I will never lose ourvision. That would be a tragedy—for us and for the children. A Prayer to Pray Why not stop reading just now and pray: “Dear God, please open my eyes and help me to see exactly whatYou want me to do—and where. And then, dear God, please help meto do it.” And that is the subject of our next chapter.
  38. 38. 34 Chapter 6 Chapter 6: Ready, Steady, GO!H ow important it is to have VISION. A vision of God and His sovereignty A vision of the children and their needs A vision of the Gospel and its power A vision of ourselves and our responsibility God Wants Us to Obey Vision is the first step—but it is only the beginning. First of allwe need to know what God wants us to do, but then we must do it. VISION needs to be followed by VENTURE. We are not just tosit, to think, to dream, and to make plans. We are do something. Weare to get busy. According to the dictionary the word “venture” means “a stepforward with an element of risk.” It means action and movementwhich often includes a trace of nervousness as we step forward intothe unknown and seek to obey the vision which God has given to us. Paul’s Obedience to the Heavenly Vision In Acts 26 v17 the Lord Jesus Christ speaks to Paul on the road toDamascus and says “Delivering thee from the people and from theGentiles unto whom I now send thee.” The Lord Jesus had nowshown Paul what he was to do. He had received a vision of what hisresponsibility was. He was to go to the Gentiles. He was to becomeGod’s evangelist to multitudes outside, and not belonging to the Jewishnation. THIS was his vision. What was Paul’s reaction going to be? We read in Acts 26 v19and 20 “Whereupon, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient tothe heavenly vision. But showed first unto them of Damascus,and at Jerusalem, and throughout all Judea and then to theGentiles that they should repent and turn to God and do worksmeet for repentance.” He obeyed what God had shown him to do. He acted and he
  39. 39. Obedience to the Heavenly Vision 35moved in response to his vision. That is VENTURE. I am sure thateven as he did so there was a feeling of nervousness on his part. Whatwill happen? Will they listen? What will my fellow Jews say? Butnevertheless he VENTURED. Some people have vision, but they do nothing about it. Such peopleare visionaries and not missionaries. Vision should always lead toventure. You and I have two feet. When we walk we put one foot forward,and then the second foot. Then the first one again and then the secondone again. In this way we progress and move forward. In Christianservice vision is the first foot. That is when God shows us what to do.But if we only have vision and we do not do anything we are likepeople standing hopping on one foot. We never get anywhere or doanything. But we must use both feet. The second foot is venture andit must follow vision. There are two dangers. Firstly there are those who in their heartsknow what God wants them to do, but they don’t do it. They havevision but are afraid to venture. Then secondly there are those whoventure without any real vision or understanding from God as to whatthey should do. Their venture and their plans are of their own making;and then they wonder why their plans fail or why the finance neededfor them does not materialize. VISION—VENTURE—VISION—VENTURE. That is how weprogress and that is how the work of God moves forward. Vision Becomes Venture Abraham had a vision or understanding in Genesis 12 v1 of whatGod wanted him to do and where God wanted him to go. In verse 4“Abraham departed as the Lord had spoken unto him.” Abraham’s vision had become venture. In Exodus 3 v10 God gave Moses the vision or understandingconcerning what he was to do. He said, “Come now therefore and Iwill send thee unto Pharaoh that thou mayest bring forth my peoplethe children of Israel out of Egypt.” Eventually, and despite, at first,raising many objections “he returned to the land of Egypt” (Exodus4 v20). Moses’ vision had become venture.
  40. 40. 36 Chapter 6 As Nehemiah prayed for the city of Jerusalem, for its walls, andfor its inhabitants God laid it upon his heart in chapter 1 verse 11 thathe should go and build the walls. He was very nervous about such astep, especially because of his position in the king’s court and whatmight happen to him if he ventured. But God opened the door andovercame the problems involved, and he “came to Jerusalem”(Nehemiah 2 v11). Nehemiah’s vision had become venture. As Paul pondered the closed doors to Asia (Acts 16 v6) andBithynia (Acts 16 v7) God gave him the vision “to come over toMacedonia and help us” (Acts 16 v9). Paul could have made manyexcuses and could, I am sure, have given many good reasons why heshould not go. But he obeyed the vision. “And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavouredto go into Macedonia assuredly gathering that the Lord had calledus to preach the Gospel unto them” (Acts 16 v10). His obedience to God’s vision was: Immediate. He never hesitated. He did not arrive immediately but he started immediately, and that is what counts. The first step is often the most difficult. Imparted. He himself had the vision but he was so able to share it with his co-workers so that they all went. “He” saw the vision but “we” went. Important. Through Paul’s obedience the Gospel came to Europe. God knew that Europe (and not Asia) was to be the key to the evangelisation of the world; and that it would give rise to the Reformation, the modern missionary movement, and the great emigration to North America. This latter continent would, in turn. be the birth place of much of today’s missionary work. Paul’s vision had become venture. In all four of these examples, and in countless others, the obedientresponse to the vision received was not easy. They all knew theproblems which would be involved if they obeyed. But, despite theseproblems and despite their nervousness, they were obedient to the“heavenly vision” and they ventured. Abraham found it difficult to leave Ur. Moses found it difficult
  41. 41. Obedience to the Heavenly Vision 37to lead so many unstable people. Nehemiah found it difficult to labourin a building project for the first time. Paul found it difficult to launchout into a completely new project in a completely new continent.BUT THEY DID. We can see these same two steps in all the great missionarymovements and Christian ministries throughout church history. William Carey had a vision of India’s need—and he ventured Hudson Taylor had a vision of China’s multitudes—and he ventured Amy Carmichael had a vision for India’s children—and she ventured Jim Elliott had a vision for the Auca Indians—and he ventured Dr. Barnardo had a vision of needy people in London—and he ventured Patrick had a vision of the spiritual needs of Ireland—and he ventured. George Muller had a vision for orphans in South Western England—and he ventured. Brother Andrew had a vision of the need for Bibles in Communist Europe—and he ventured. Fred and Ina Orr had a vision of the spiritual needs of the people in Amazonas in Brazil—and they ventured. David Brainard had a vision for the American Indians—and he ventured The list is endless. J. Irvin Overholtzer was a pastor in California in the early 1920s.God gave him a vision for the world’s children: that they needed Jesus Christ that they could be saved that he should do something to reach them He hesitated to respond. It all seemed so impossible. But thisvision had come from God. This was what God wanted Mr Overholtzer
  42. 42. 38 Chapter 6to do. So he left his pastorate and started to evangelize children.Vision became venture. As he obeyed his vision, and as he shared itwith others, God brought him into contact with people who had thesame vision. Eventually Child Evangelism Fellowship came intoexistence. Today it is the largest Mission in the world working withchildren. There are in 1997 almost 2,000 full-time workers in 130countries worldwide, and well over 2 million children are beingreached with the Gospel each year, most of them previously unreached. It all started with one man to whom God had given vision, andwho was willing and ready to venture, and then to share this visionwith others. All Christians Need to Obey the Heavenly Vision But what about you dear reader? Do you know what God wantsyou to do? Have you received this vision or understanding from Him?Are you ready to venture? I know you are nervous about it. Ventureis, you will remember, a step forward with an element of risk. Butyou must not be disobedient to the heavenly vision. You must move.You must venture. And you never know what the results will be.Paul little realised, when he said “yes” to God’s vision in Acts 16v10, that this was going to mean the opening of a whole continentand, later, the whole world to the Gospel. Someone might feel that all that has been written thus far is onlyabout missionaries and full-time Christian workers. This is not so.All Christians need a vision or understanding of what God wantsthem to do, because they also are saved to serve. Every Christianwho knows what God wants him to do should be “obedient to theheavenly vision.” This could be to teach a Sunday school class or aGood News clubs, to witness to work mates, to give out tracts, totake on a position of responsibility in the church, to spend more timein prayer or to give more generously to the Lord’s work. But everyChristian needs to have vision and then needs to venture on the basisof that vision. Two Personal Illustrations I hesitate, as ever, to give personal examples. But I trust it ishelpful to know how God gives vision to very simple and ordinary
  43. 43. Obedience to the Heavenly Vision 39people like ourselves, and how He gives grace and strength to venture.I would like to give two illustrations, which are quite different fromeach other in many ways, and yet similar with regard to the principleswe are outlining. When my wife, Sadie, and I became European Directors of ChildEvangelism Fellowship in August 1964 we felt very nervous. Wewere overawed by the great responsibility involved and veryapprehensive about the future. We were the “new kids on the block”who had been appointed as leaders of 45 seasoned and experiencedmissionaries. But we knew that we were doing what God wanted usto do. As European Directors we felt we should set up a Headquarterssomewhere! We felt that this was a leading and a vision from God.But we didn’t know how or where. But we decided to move and toventure. We looked at the map of Europe to see where the best andmost central place would be to begin our ministry. We felt thatSwitzerland would be the ideal location. So we moved there and foundan apartment. One of the bedrooms in that apartment became theEuropean CEF Headquarters! However, we knew that this was onlytemporary, and that God’s vision was to have a place which would beadequate for all the needs of the work, and from which the workcould easily grow. We knew that we needed offices, facilities forproducing literature and a location for our twice yearly 3 monthLeadership Training Institutes. That vision was before us for 3 years. We looked everywhere—Austria, France, Germany, the Channel Islands. After visiting 14different buildings (castles, mansions, and hotels) we found the idealproperty in Switzerland itself. It was located 3,000 feet high in theJura mountains in North Western Switzerland, and consisted of 5buildings with over 60 rooms. The main building was over 400 yearsold! This property was called Kilchzimmer. When my wife and I, and my secretary, saw it we knew—THISIS IT. This was the place that God was going to give us for aHeadquarters. Many problems lay ahead and for me it was perhaps the mostfrightening experience of my life:
  44. 44. 40 Chapter 6 Where could we find $150,000 to buy it, when we had very little money? Where could we find the 1½ million dollars which we would later need to make it into a proper and God glorifying Headquarters? How could we repair and modernize the buildings which were in such a bad state of disrepair? Who would do all the renovation and building work? (which would eventually last 8 years). How could we get official permission to set up a Trust which would own the property? How could we find the staff which would be needed for the operation of the Headquarters? The answers to these questions will probably appear in later books.I just want to say now that God gave the answer to every question andthe solution to every problem. The vision became a reality. Godsupplied all the workers to do the building and renovations, all thestaff for the continuing work of the Headquarters, and also all thefinance which was needed. We never borrowed money or went intodebt. It was wonderful to see how God worked and how He suppliedall that was required. But I believe that this is always the result whenGod gives the vision. He then assumes the responsibility for makingthat vision become a reality, and we can trust Him for everything thatis needed. But, at the same time, after God gives the vision He expectsus to venture, to move and to be active. We might feel nervous. Iknow we did when we began the Kilchzimmer project. But HE ISABLE. My second example comes from my “earlier years” when I wasstill a High school teacher as well as National Director of Irish ChildEvangelism Fellowship. This example illustrates the fact that youdon’t need to be a missionary or a full-time worker to receive visionand understanding from God—and to be expected to obey “the heavenlyvision.” Each morning I travelled to the school where I taught on publictransport. One morning as I looked out of the window of the bus Isaw a gypsy encampment quite close to the road. At that momentGod laid a burden on my heart for the children in that encampment.
  45. 45. Obedience to the Heavenly Vision 41This was I believe—VISION. I knew in my heart that God wanted meto go to that encampment and share the Gospel with the childrenthere. But in my heart I said “No.” I was disobedient to the heavenlyvision. I did not bluntly say “No” to God. Rather, I made excusesand gave reasons why I, a respectable high school teacher, could notgo to a gypsy camp with so many dirty children, and face the possibilityof rejection and opposition from the leaders. But really I was saying“No” to God and to the heavenly vision no matter how polite andreasonable I was trying to be. Every morning as I passed that camp it was as if God spoke to meagain and again. I tried sitting on the opposite side of the bus. I triedreading the morning newspaper. But with no success. I became moreand more miserable and unhappy because I knew that I was disobeyingGod. One morning I was so burdened about this situation that I said“Yes” to God and, as a result, I planned to go to the gypsy camp thenext afternoon. At last I had decided to VENTURE—to move forwardwith an element of risk. I did so very nervously. I did not knowwhat would happen. I took with me some clothes and food because Ifelt that this would help give me an entrance to the camp. I approachedthe leader of the gypsy camp, gave him the clothes and food, told himwho I was and that I would like to speak to the children about theLord Jesus. Immediately, and with a loud voice, he called all thechildren together and told them to sit down and listen to me. What ajoy it was to share the Gospel with those precious children; and whata special joy to know that, at last, I had been “obedient to the heavenlyvision” and that that vision had become venture. The next morning I did not move to the other side of the bus nordid I read the newspaper. With much joy in my heart, and for the firsttime, I was looking forward to seeing the gypsy camp from the bus.But as I watched expectantly I discovered that the gypsy camp wasnot there any more. They had all moved, as gypsies often do, toanother part of the country, the previous evening. How thankful Iwas that I had obeyed God’s vision. Unknown to me it had been mylast opportunity to do so! Months later and in another part of the country several gypsychildren came up to me. They recognized me and, as I spoke with
  46. 46. 42 Chapter 6them, they were able to tell me that they remembered that “the dearLord Jesus had died on the Cross for them.” How blessed it is to obey God’s vision and to venture. “To obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Samuel 15 v22). Has God given you vision? Has He shown you something Hewants you to do? Don’t bury it. Keep it in front of you. Pursue it. Itwill keep you going when things are hard. Are you willing today to venture and like Paul to be “notdisobedient to the heavenly vision?” (Acts 26 v19). If you do Godwill bless and help you, and will honour the step of obedience thatyou take. A Prayer to Pray “Dear Heavenly Father, I want to obey You and I want to obeywhat You have been telling me to do. But I am so nervous and Ihesitate to do it. Please strengthen me and help me, today, to beobedient to Your vision. Amen.”
  47. 47. Obedience to the Heavenly Vision 43 Chapter 7: What Has Gone Wrong?G od gave to Abraham a vision of a land to be occupied—and he ventured. God gave to Moses a vision of a people to be delivered—and he ventured. God gave to Nehemiah a vision of walls to be built—and he ventured. God gave to Paul (in Acts 16) a vision of a continent to be evangelized and he ventured. The Next Step What were the results? What happened next? The obvious answer is—SUCCESS! Everything should go rightfrom then on. Once they obeyed God everything would fit togetherand they would enjoy one blessing after another. But is that so? Abraham went to the Promised Land and when he arrived therethe first thing he experienced was FAMINE (Genesis 12 v10) andthere was nothing to eat. Moses went to Egypt to lead the children of Israel out of that landand, before long, he encountered CRITICISM (Exodus 5 v21) andthe people would not listen to him (Exodus 6 v9). Later on moreserious problems developed. Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem and immediately facedOPPOSITION (Nehemiah 2 v10, 19). Paul came to Macedonia to help, and to evangelize and, beforelong, found himself in PRISON with a bleeding back (Acts 16 v23,24). In each of these cases, and in many more throughout the Bibleand throughout Church history, venture was followed by difficultiesand problems. Those who ventured found themselves facing aVALLEY experience. We all know what a valley is. The dictionarydefines it as “a low place enclosed by hills” or “a depression.”
  48. 48. 44 Chapter 7 Each of these men whose lives and ministries we have beenstudying had now experienced three steps: VISION VENTURE VALLEY Paul’s Valley The same progression can be seen in the passage which we havebeen studying in Acts 26 concerning Paul’s original call to service: Verses 16–18 show the vision he received Verses 19 and 20 outline his venture and his obedience to the heavenly vision Verse 21 describes the immediate reaction of the Jews to Paul’s vision and venture “For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple and went about to kill me.” What a reaction! What a shock! What a valley! Many of God’s Servants Have Valley Experiences This same principle has been evident in the ministry of many ofGod’s servants throughout Church history, and on the mission field.Their obedience to God’s vision has often been followed bydisappointments, difficulties and problems. I am sure that the same will also be true of you, dear reader. Weoften expect (and it is normal to do so) that when God shows us whatHe wants us to do and we obey Him, that everything will go well,that the results will be success and good health, that all financialneeds will be met and that there will be great growth and expansion inour ministry. But the opposite is often true. This is the time when theproblems often start. It is even possible, to have more problems afterwe obey than we had before! Are you in a valley today? If not, it is almost certain that you willbe in one—especially if you have ventured out on the basis of thevision God has given you. This is the reality to which many of us cansubscribe and for which we all need to be ready.

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