JESUS was standing beside Jacob's well in Samaria. From His vantage point the Saviour could look out over the fields of waving grain about Him. As the golden sunlight touched the tender green stalks Jesus knew that it was but a few weeks until harvest-time.
Here was an opportunity for the Master to bring to His disciples an important lesson. Looking upon the people coming to the well for water, Christ discerned another harvest ready for reaping.
"Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest?" the Saviour declared to His followers. "Behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest" (John 4:35).
"Lift up your eyes." Jesus was speaking of a spiritual harvest. One looks down and around to see a temporal harvest. The Master desired His followers to look up. "Raise your eyes" (Goodspeed).* "Raise your sights!" He might well have said, "Behold the great potential of your ministry!"
Jesus discerned what His disciples failed to see. He saw candidates for the kingdom all about Him. Were there obstacles? Were there problems? Jesus' vision reached beyond the obstacles, beyond the problems that beset His infant cause. Of course there were difficulties ahead. The Saviour knew a great deal about prejudice and opposition to His cause of truth. In His day Jesus faced many of the same problems that confront us now. People did not readily accept His gospel. They were preoccupied. They were steeped in nationalism and racialism just as they are in our day.
In the face of obstacles and opposition, pride and prejudice, wine and worldliness, Christ's message to His followers was Lift up your eyes! Get a new vision! The field is white for the harvest. The Saviour's words were a mes sage of challenge and courage. His was a message to challenge His workers' vision and to test their courage in the face of a difficult assignment.
A Message for Today
What a message for workers and church leaders in the cause of God today! Lift up your eyes! Raise your sights! Roll back the horizons of your vision! Nineteen hundred years later God's messenger to the remnant church echoed the words of her Lord: "Oh, how I seem to hear the voice day and night, 'Go forward; add new territory; . . . give the last message of warning to the world. There is no time to be lost." 1
I must not be far wrong when I say that next to his relationship with God a leader's value to the cause of present truth is deter mined by the limit of his vision. The man who thinks a task cannot be done is defeated before he undertakes it. The one who sees unscalable mountains of difficulty before him will doubtless perish in the valley of mediocrity. He who doubts has lost the struggle already. Conversely, the man of faith and perseverance will fight through the obstacles, turn the tide of defeat, transform the cold water of doubting colleagues into steam and use it to power his vehicle of victory. To see, to believe, is half the battle won.
The church of God needs church officers and workers as well as ministers whose vision is bright and whose courage is strong. There is much in the world today that might well dim the vision and dent the courage of workers and church officers who have not yet caught the gleam of mission, nor the sense of urgency that must characterize disciples of Christ in these closing, thrilling days of earth's history.
"Where there is no vision, the people perish," Solomon wrote (Prov. 29:18). While it is true the wise man was speaking of the prophetic vision, it is equally true that God's church today needs inspired leaders men and women who have caught the vision of a finished work in this generation. Where no such vision challenges them the people must perish short of the kingdom. The remnant church needs leaders with lifted eyes.
Vision, according to Webster, is "unusual discernment or fore sight." A leader with vision sees souls in now-dark counties. He sees church buildings where now there are only vacant lots. To the church leader with vision there are no Alps, no Rockies, no Everests. The impediments into dark counties, unentered lands, and unworked cities are breached by valiant, unfettered faith. Evangelistic efforts, schools, hospitals, clinics, church buildings, spring up under the magic of the Master's touch when men and women of faith and vision accept the promises and the challenges of the Omnipotent God.
Of course there are problems. Of course there are obstacles! But men of hallowed vision are not turned from their purpose by hardships and obstacles. In God's strength they move forward to achievement in spite of impediments that would discourage the less intrepid soul. The messenger of the Lord makes it clear that circumstances must not deter the person of vision and faith.
Here is a statement from the pen of inspiration that I have kept in the front of my Bible for many years. I read it frequently while attacking the Gibraltar of heathen ism in Southern Asia.
Man can shape circumstances, but circumstances should not be allowed to shape the man. We should seize upon circumstances as instruments by which to work. We are to master them, but should not permit them to master us.
Men of power are those who have been opposed, baffled, and thwarted. By calling their energies into action, the obstacles they meet prove to them positive blessings. They gain self-reliance. Conflict and perplexity call for the exercise of trust in Cod and for that firmness which develops power.2
Vision has been spoken of as divine discontent. It is a holy thing God plants deep in the heart of man that keeps him from becoming satisfied with achievements of the past. He is impelled, compelled ever to move forward in heaven's strength, attempting and accomplishing greater things for God. Vision never allows a man to stop short of his projected goal. Somehow by going around or over or under the obstacles he fights through to victory.
I once heard W. R. Beach say, "Vision separates the men who do from those who do not." What a fine definition of vision!
"Raise your sights!" God speaks to every worker in His last-day movement, and to every church officer, and every member in every church. You are all workers. Lift up your eyes! Raise your sights! Only leaders with clear vision and raised sights can see a finished work in a world riven with turmoil and strife. Only leaders with lifted eyes can discern the great harvest God desires His church to garner despite the trials and the troubles of the last days!
"The leaders in God's cause, as wise generals, are to lay plans for advance moves all along the line." 3 Only men with lifted eyes can lay such plans.
"We are altogether too narrow in our plans. . . . We must get away from our smallness and make larger plans. There must be a wider reaching forth to work for those who are nigh and those who are afar off." 4 Only men with vision and courage can break the bonds of petty planning and small achievements and roll back the horizons of the work.
One challenging truth should burn its way into the thinking of everyone of us as workers in the cause of God--an organization seldom achieves more than its leaders believe it can. Only in frequently does a local church surpass the vision of its pastor or its church officers. A conference or a mission field rarely exceeds the measure of faith manifested by its leaders. With one leader the work moves forward. With another the work in the same field stagnates. The determining factor may well be the measure of the leader's consecrated vision!
The Spirit of the Leader
A church, a conference, a mission field, reflects the spirit of its leader. I have seen situations fraught with dissatisfaction and unrest. An unwise or incapable leader had created divisions and tensions among the working staff. Relationships with other organizations were coldly strained. Church members and workers alike were restless, almost apprehensive. Morale was at a low ebb. Spiritual fitness suffered as the result of tensions. Goals were unreached. There was no evidence of dynamic faith or consecrated sense of achievement.
Then I have seen a new leader step in and with God's help trans form such a situation almost overnight. The spiritual tide turned. . Dissatisfaction disappeared. Division gave way to unity. A spirit of hallowed zeal possessed workers and church members alike. Souls were baptized. Goals were surpassed. Dynamic faith and consecrated joy of accomplishment took over. The work of God moved forward on every front.
What was the difference? It was difference in the spirit and the vision of the leader! So much depends upon the leader.
"The need of the present hour is for men of vision," I read in a Review and Herald editorial. How true! The cause of God needs men and women who can dream dreams and then make those dreams come true! Gazing out the window is not always a waste of time. Church leaders, whether ministers or laymen, need to spend some time gazing out of windows. But we must not limit our accomplishments to gazing other wise we become visionaries rather than persons of vision. If souls and churches and clinics and schools and progress do not follow our dreaming, our gazing is vain. We have but wasted our time. And living as we do in earth's last hour, you and I have no time to waste!
And while we are lifting our eyes let us be certain that it is our spiritual sights we are adjusting. What is true of achievement is much more true of spiritual experience. "The church will rarely take a higher stand than is taken by her ministers." 5 We ministers and church officers cannot lead our church members into a latter-rain experience unless we have felt the mercy drops watering our own souls. If we achieve progress without sanctification, goals with out holiness, our eyes have been lifted in the wrong direction. If our eyes seek for the approbation of man rather than the smile of God's approval, there is yet a work of grace to be done in our hearts.
God give us vision! Give us lifted eyes, raised sights! So much depends upon ministers and church officers whose eyes are raised heavenward above the barren hills of ordinary experience and achievement. What an hour! What a task challenges us! What an awesome day of opportunity and challenge!
A friend recently called my attention to a challenging statement by Dr. Frank Laubach:
Heaven trembles lest we may prove too small, our deeds too small and too late, lest we be bound by our weak habits when Cod summons us to great deeds. . . . I'm afraid of some . . . who have neither fire nor vision . . . who begin to see why this might be hard or unprecedented, or premature if not properly surveyed, or too in formal, or too big. The put-on-the-brakes type, the go-slow type . . . can ruin Cod's program. O ye of little faith, keep your foot off the brake. . . . Who ever heard of God holding us back? He is impatient. He weeps over us as He did over Jerusalem. We have nothing to fear but fear; we shall not fail when Cod is pushing us. I tell you what we need to fear, fear the way we are now, for we aren't good enough, hot enough, high enough, daring enough, far-visioned enough, for this splendid hour. 6
It was Bishop William Scarlett who wrote this prayer that every Adventist minister and church officer, yea every church member in the Adventist Church might well pray each morning as he be gins his day with the Lord: "O God, who hast so curiously made us that from whatever heights we climb we see loftier heights before, and forever being thus dissatisfied, behold that we ought to be outreaching what we are: strengthen in us this divine discontent."
These stirring words send a tingling sensation up and down my spine. They were not written by a Seventh-day Adventist, but they have a message and a challenge for every member of God's remnant church. Living as we do in the final fleeting moments of this world's history, with a world falling apart at the seams around us, with the greatest mission ever entrusted to men as our challenge, Dr. Laubach's words and Bishop Scarlett's prayer should stir us to our very depths!
Let us pause for a moment and ask ourselves, How is my vision?
1. Evangelism, p. 61.
2. The Ministry of Healing, p. 500.
3. Gospel Workers, p. 351.
4. Evangelism, p. 46.
5. Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 227.
6. Quoted by R. A. Anderson in The Shepherd-Evangelist, pp. 652, 653.
* From: Smith and Coodspeed, The Complete Bible: An American Translation. Copyright 1939 by the University of Chicago.