Hope And Vision
March 31, 2003 • By Ed Wrather
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope. - 1 Timothy 1:1.
Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance. - Acts 26:18-20.
Retired military officers and planners have been stating over and over again that “hope is not a plan.” They say this in regard to the hope that large numbers of enemy forces would surrender, mutiny, or fade away into the desert. They also say the same thing about the “hope” that Iraqi civilians will rise up against the current Iraqi regime making an assault in the streets of Baghdad, and Basra unnecessary. The phrase “hope is not a plan” is apparently a favorite saying of military planners along with “Imagination is not a strategy.”
The apostle Paul prior to his encounter with the risen Christ was a rising star among the Pharisees. He was “circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless (Philippians 3:5-6).” Paul had the very best of training that was available as he says, “I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers' law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women (Acts 22:3-4).”
The Pharisees had a plan for ridding their world of the plague of Christianity. Their plan was to use their best man, Saul, to lead the attack against those of the “Way.” They would begin in Jerusalem and follow the tentacles of this belief wherever it might lead. Their strategy was to use their political power as cover for their ruthless and brutal attack, which would include putting even women and children into prison and executions of those who opposed them.
The plan and strategy of the Pharisees was working well. The Christians who were vocal in their beliefs had been dispersed from Jerusalem and had spread even to Damascus. Saul in carrying out the next step of the plan for eradication of Christianity proceeded with following the believers to Damascus. He fully intended to continue the Pharisee’s strategy of brutality to destroy all who believed in this Jesus called the Christ. There was only one thing wrong with their plan and strategy. The more they persecuted the Christians the further those of “the Way” spread.
For the Christian, “hope” is more than a plan - it is a way of life and “vision” is more than a strategy - it is a driving force. Saul who became the apostle Paul traded in his zeal of persecution and brutalization for hope and vision. Paul through his personal encounter with the risen Christ on the road to Damascus came to have “hope.” With Paul’s encounter of Jesus came the realization and understanding that this world is not all that there is and that Jesus represented the entire eternal world beyond the physical. Hope of what was to come became Paul’s way of life as he lived his life in view of what were the eternal realities. The “heavenly vision” became the driving force changing not only his life but the lives of countless others as Paul preached, taught, and lived the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
In order to truly live the Christian life we too must have “hope.” We must have our own encounter with the risen Christ (Romans 10:13; John 1:12; Revelation 3:20; John 5:24; John 14:6) and when we do we will understand with Paul that there is an eternal dimension to life. We will then understand that there is so much more to life than what we can see with our eyes. Our own “heavenly vision” will drive us forward in love and service to our Lord.