I recently began another pilgrimage through the Gospel of John, and I was intrigued by the structure the author incorporated into the first chapter. He begins with broad, universal truths, explaining that the Word was not only pre-existent as part of the Triune Community, but that He actually assisted with creation itself. Then, in His love and devotion to us — desiring to share with us the divine relationship He knew in that Trinity — the Word became part of that creation.
Suddenly, the author seemingly switches topics, leaving the glorious realms of heaven in order to describe an itinerant, colorful man named John (the Baptist) who apparently saw himself as a critical piece in the Word's puzzle. I was struck by what must have been a core part of John's message (since it found its way into Scripture): I am not the Christ (Jn 1:20). I am the voice of one calling in the desert (Jn 1:23). John the Baptist had a clear vision and understanding of who he was, how he fit into God's plan, and how he fit into the world. He knew who and what he wasn't (the Christ), and he knew who and what he was (the voice).
That's not true of many of us. Most of us wander through life without much of a vision. Most of us spend our lives trying to make ends meet, occasionally seeking our place in the world, in history, in God's plan. In his book, The Second Coming of the Church, George Barna notes that "less than one out of 10 senior pastors can articulate what he believes is God's vision for the church he is leading." That's frightening.
Sometimes, we lack a vision because we are too contented with where we are and what we are about. We don't want to move. We don't like the uncertainty that comes with change. We're comfortable. We aren't listening for God's voice anymore because a call to move would be disconcerting and unwelcome.
At other times, we are too discontented with our current situation to have a vision for it and find ourselves hoping and praying God won't ask us to stay put. We anxiously cry out for change. We seek escape. Or we search for advancement, fame or some other ambitious prize that we fear may not be in God's plan for us.
Unlike John the Baptist, we don't clearly know who we are not or who we are. And while we stumble along, day after day, we lose opportunities for ministry and, all too often, leave those we might serve for Jesus laying beside our roads to self-discovery. "Where there is no vision, the people perish" (Prov. 29:18, KJV).
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