Where there is no vision the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. (Proverbs 29:18).
That is one of the most powerful scriptures in the Bible. The Amplified Bible Translation adds another degree of clarity: “Where there is no vision [no redemptive revelation of God] the people perish…” The Berkeley Modern English Translation says it this way: “Where there is no vision, the people run wild…”
Years ago, in the early stages of our ministry in the Chicago area, I took on a project of teaching young teenage inner-city males about business and entrepreneurship. After randomly selecting about 20 young men from the local high schools on Chicago’s West Side to participate in this program, we got started. The plan was to bring them to our ministry facility once a week, on Saturday, and teach them business and entrepreneurship.
We first brought in their parents and described the program to them. By parents I mean the mothers: None of the students, except one, had a male parent living in the house. We shared the plan with the parents and they were excited. That first Saturday, we had drivers pick up the students and bring them to the church, where we had our first session, from 8:30 a.m. until noon.
During that first day of orientation, I asked each of them what they wanted to be and, to my recollection, everyone wanted to be an NBA professional basketball player or something of that sort. We also took them on field trips, such as the Stock Exchange and O’Hare Airport. Some of them had never been outside of their West Side community.
For six months, we taught these students the principles of business, along with the Bible, as part of their curriculum. At the end of the six months, I asked them again, “What do you want to be?” Their answers were completely different. They wanted to be owners of large hotels, brokers, businesses and a diversity of other professions.
Don’t misunderstand me. There is nothing wrong with aspiring to be an NBA star, but I felt somehow they were limited in their answers because of what they had been exposed to and they grabbed hold of basketball as a way out. Now that they were exposed to new possibilities, they were making new choices.
After just one trip to the Stock Exchange, they knew most of the traders’ hand signals. We were amazed. During the class lectures, they learned sales strategies and how to buy and distribute eggs (which was what they selected as their business and the product to sell to retailers and neighbors in their communities). Soon they made enough money to open their own personal savings accounts at the local bank. Now they were eager to come and learn every Saturday. Sometimes they didn’t even want our sessions to end.
What happened? They began to catch the vision.
One man said, “The greatest gift God ever gave man, other than Jesus and the Holy Ghost, was not sight but vision.” God just doesn’t want leadership. He wants visionary leadership. Visionary leaders are men and women who can see beyond what is to what could be.
Moses was called by God and given a vision to lead the children of Israel out of Egyptian slavery to freedom, into the Promised Land. One definition of vision is a strong mental image of one’s destiny. God told Moses, “…I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt…And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians…” (Exodus 3:7-8). Notice, God was communicating to Moses the vision which He was to communicate to the children of Israel, a mental picture of their destiny, something beyond their current circumstances.
When the vision of our future is clear, we are willing to let go of the past and take hold of tomorrow and start living for the benefit of others. When there is no vision, however, you take no risks, it’s all about “self” and all you talk about are the “good old days.”
During slavery, a vigilante mob, complete with bloodhounds and a hangman’s noose, was in hot pursuit of Harriet Tubman, an ex-slave. A $5,000 bounty was placed on her head for transporting hundreds of slaves to freedom; she would return time and time again to free more slaves.
This woman of vision once said this, “…Let there be no mistake, for this I will not equivocate. I will not excuse nor will I retreat a single inch until the last slave breathes free,” quoted in an article in Liberator newspaper. How could she be so fearless, so resolute, and prevail time and time again?
Vision. They nicknamed her “Black Moses.”
Someone said, “The poorest person is not one without money or material wealth. The poorest person in the world is one without a dream, without a vision.” For, “without a vision, the people perish.”
The young teenage boys, who were from the West Side, are men now. They’ve gone into the world with big dreams and great expectations. Every now and then I hear from some of their mothers with a report on how well they are doing. How did all this happen or how could all this happen? One word: vision.
Daniel had vision. Esther had vision. Peter and Paul had vision. The Wright Brothers had vision. Booker T. Washington had vision. In his famous speech, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “I have a dream…I’ve been to the mountain top…I’ve seen the Promised Land.” He had a vision that changed the course of history for an entire race of people. We all have a vision; not one of us is born without one, a picture of our destiny, something God plans for us to do and be.
Joseph’s father, Jacob, asked him an important question “…What is this dream that thou has dreamed?” (Genesis 37:10). My question to you is the same: “What is this dream that you have dreamed?” What is it that you dreamed about when you were younger that keeps tugging at you even today? What is the vision God has placed in your heart? Whatever it is, I encourage you to rekindle that vision and start dreaming again. I tell you, it’s not too late. Millions are waiting for you.
The Rev. Dr. Bill Winston is pastor of the 19,000-member Living Word Christian Center in Forest Park, Ill., and founder and president of the Joseph Business School which has a branch in Miami.