Stomach for Vision
Restoration of Judah
But the Lord will have compassion on Jacob and will again choose Israel, and will set them in their own land; and aliens will join them and attach themselves to the house of Jacob. And the nations will take them and bring them to their place, and the house of Israel will possess the nations as male and female slaves in the Lord’s land; they will take captive those who were their captors, and rule over those who oppressed them.
Acknowledgment of the Philippians’ Gift
I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned for me, but had no opportunity to show it. Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. In any case, it was kind of you to share my distress.
You Philippians indeed know that in the early days of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you alone.
Have you ever had the problem of your eyes being bigger than your stomach when you were ordering food at a restaurant? Perhaps when filling your plate at a buffet or church potluck? I have for more years than I can remember. Grasping the concept of portions has always been one of my biggest problems… knowing how much was enough and when to quit. I know I’m not alone either. Some studies show that just over 2/3rds of all people in the US are overweight, many suffering from the same problem of eyes larger than their stomachs. Alongside the hundreds, if not thousands of diets you can buy books on, their are support groups such as EDA which help those who want support in taking back their life from the obsession of food.
We suffer from the same problem of overextending ourselves in more areas than just eating. We do it spiritually as well, and especially some of us who serve in significant ministries. It has to do with a different kind of vision though.
Oftentimes we catch a vision from God, or at least we think we do, of a grand new ministry idea, and after we have talked it up with a few fellow friends, it grows, not unlike a fish story. Often, the more people we get interested in it, the bigger it gets, and we keep raising the bar higher, in the name of Jesus, can i get an Amen? Have you been there?
Then comes the first planning meeting and by God’s grace, someone is there who is a details person and they, again by God’s grace, start shooting holes in this thing, because it really has grown beyond what God originally gave us and what we are actually able to do. However, not wanting to let God down, and certainly not wanting to let all our friends down, we fight to keep it big and bold.
A month later, it begins to crash and burn, and if we are lucky, we are able to salvage the core of the vision that God actually gave us and begin there, in a much smaller place. Oftentimes though, it is too late and the opportunity has been lost due to us trying to make it bigger than God intended.
I wonder if this is how Israel read this prophecy of Isaiah. Payback. All those mega-nations around us were going to be their slaves, making up for all the years Israel was picked on and looked down upon. Right there, in the scriptures, by the prophet Isaiah. Something to look forward to, I bet.
I wonder though if anyone ever asked what they would do differently from the pagans when they ruled the nations? Would they treat the people any different than Babylon or Assyria? Or would they basically be the same kind of rulers under a different name? Were they, like their wicked neighbors, simply out to conquer the world and reap as much reward as they could from those around them?
Paul, on the other hand, did conquer those nations, in a way. He saw those nations come to the aid of Israel and serve her king. It was not through military might or economic maneuvering. It was by sharing the love of Christ and adopting any into the Kingdom of God that would come. What did he receive for his work? Persecution and eventually death, largely from Israel’s own leaders. He learned the secret of achieving those great visions of God though: Being content.
God works through us in steps, and if we don’t work the steps, we won’t end up with the result we are seeking. There are no shortcuts in serving God. In fact, the most important part of the vision may be how God is working in and changing us ourselves through the work, more than any specific outward result. They go hand in hand. If we skip the inward work, we will not be ready for the outward results. The secret to keeping our vision the size that we can actually accomplish with God, is not about being pessimistic or doubting God, it is about learning to be content with whatever results God helps bring in response to our faithfulness. Being content pleasing God rather than impressing our friends… and we know we don’t have to impress God. He already loves us more than we can know. We just need to be obedient to His direction.
What vision has God given you?
How are you struggling with that vision?
What does simple, humble, faithfulness to that vision look like?
How can you find contentment in the work in process?