ANIMAL PLANET SERMON SERIES
Fly Like An Eagle
May 30, 1999
Did you know an eagle has eight times more visual cells per cubic centimeter than we do? Did you know this bird flying at 600 feet can see an animal the size of a dime moving through six inches of grass? The eagle can also see a three-inch fish leaping in a lake five miles away. Unbelievable. Incredible. What vision.
When God looks at our lives, He sees potential eagles, strong, powerful visionaries. Yet somewhere along life’s journey our culture sort of clips our wings, ties our talons, grounds us and cages us. Instead of using our wings for flying, many of us use them for fluttering. Instead of using our talons from grasping, we end up using them for standing. Instead of using our eyes for seeking, we use them for sleeping. We say to ourselves, I don’t have vision. God can’t do anything incredible through me. Visionary people are those mutations, those composers, those builders, those entrepreneurs, not me. When God looks at our lives, he sees potential eagles because your body and my body is a potential venue for God’s agenda and His vision in so many different aspects of our existence.
I have some good news today and believe me we need some good news. The prophet Isaiah in the Old Testament discussed this whole concept of vision. In fact, he told us how this vision stuff begins and how it plays out in our lives as well. Read along with me as I read Isaiah 40:31. As I read this, you will see three words that are highlighted and these words are the key to establishing an incredible vision for your life. “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint.” Right up front Isaiah says that we have got to hope in the Lord. That is where vision starts, in the Lord. We have got to hope in the Lord. And the word “hope” here is not, “I just hope you have a vision for my marriage, I just hope you have a vision for my career, for my future. I just hope.” No. No. No. It is a strong word. It is a word of anticipation, an aggressive word. We hope in the Lord. You want a vision for your marriage? It is found in the Lord. You want a vision for your career? It is in the Lord. You want a vision for money management? It is in the Lord. You want a vision for different relationships? It is in the Lord. Everything starts in the Lord. We hope in the Lord.
God gives us His vision, we receive His vision, we make it a part of our lives, and then we discover what it is like to fly like an eagle. The problem is, too many of us are trying to get our visions in different places. We are seeking the wrong sources. We go from this motivational speaker, to this glassy-eyed guru and we let them set the agenda. We let them set the vision and we wonder why are lives aren’t working. We wonder why the wheels are coming off. It is because we have not gone back and hoped in the Lord. Have you ever said, God, give me Your vision. I want to start with You. Everything in our lives transcends from hope in the Lord.
And notice what Isaiah said after hope. Right on the heel of hope is that word “renew.” I love that word “renew.” If we hope in the Lord, if we get our vision from God, what is going to happen? We will have a renewal of strength, a readjustment of our priorities. And how many times do we get our priorities all mixed up. We put what should be on the top on the bottom. We put what should be on the bottom on the top and we get all fouled up. Yet if we hope in the Lord, God has a way of centering us. And that is why the local church is so critical, ladies and gentlemen. We all need this weekly centering, this time when we come together in a large format and hear God’s word through different mediums and then we receive His vision. And once we receive His vision again and again and again, then our strength and our vitality is renewed. And I can see it on your faces. I can feel it in my life every single weekend.
When we begin to forgo the church, when we begin to push back from God’s house, because we have purchased a boat or a second home or spend time going to a golf tournament here or an exciting event there, we slowly start to drift away from God’s vision. Then one day we wonder what is wrong with our family, what is wrong with our career, what is wrong with our values and morals? It is because we are trying to do life on our own strength, on our own power, instead of hoping in the Lord and weekly being renewed and refreshed concerning our priorities. The church allows us to put first things first. We all need it. Do you feel worn out today? Do you feel a little tired today? Do you feel like you have been doing life at a Concord-type pace? Allow God, allow His precious Holy Spirit to renew and replenish and recalibrate your priorities.
After renewal, Isaiah says, we are going to soar on wings like an eagle. Isn’t that a cool concept? We will have ultimate vision. We will take off. And I define vision as this. Making out what others miss. That is vision. It is the God-given ability to make out what others miss. And when we soar above the rest, empowered by God Himself, we have that eagle-like vision, that discernment, that wisdom to make those critical calls, those decisive decisions that will take us above the rest and then put us in line with God’s purpose.
But this vision stuff, this soaring stuff is not easy, is it? Soaring takes determination, courage, commitment. It is not just smooth sailing. It is not just the friendly skies. No. No. No. No. No. Sometimes we are going to hit bad weather. Sometimes people will throw rocks at us. Sometimes we will feel turbulence. It is going to be difficult. That is why we have got to rely on God.
Would you like to hear an unedited example of some people who really lived this vision stuff out? I would. I want to bring up several gentlemen who hoped in the Lord, who had their strength renewed by God and who soared. But these guys had some difficult moments. They hit some turbulence. People threw rocks at them. But I will guarantee you something. They are going to show us how to formulate this vision so we can fly like eagles.
Numbers 13 is a great, great passage in the Old Testament. Let me set the stage for you. Moses, God’s point man, had led the children of Israel out of Egyptian slavery and he had brought them to the brink of the Promised Land. Moses was at the Title Company, closing the ultimate Promised Land deal for the entire nation. Everyone was so excited because this stretch of real estate was the land promised to them by God Himself. It was the land flowing with milk and honey. Everybody was really with Moses. They were getting ready to take the land, which God had told them time and time again was theirs. He said that yes, they would have to fight but that the victory was secure. Talk about sweet odds!
Right before the Israelites jumped into the land, God called a quick time out. Have you ever been watching a hockey game or baseball game or basketball game when they take those commercial breaks, those TV time outs? Oh, no. I am sure the children of Israel were thinking that. They were just getting ready to enter the Promised Land and God called a time out. God begins to deal with Moses. God tells him in no uncertain terms to pick twelve heavy hitters from the twelve tribes of Israel. He instructed Moses to have them do a secret reconnaissance mission on the land. Then they were to report back so an intelligent military plan could be formulated. God told them to bring back a report, just a report. So that is what happened. The twelve spies went out to perform this secret agent reconnaissance mission. They were gone for forty days and forty nights. Just for a second, can’t you just put yourself in the sandals and Doc Martens of the Israelites? I know they were waiting expectantly to hear this report. After forty days and forty nights the twelve tribes saw their leaders coming forth and they were carrying fruit and lots of great stuff that their land had produced. Maybe the Israelite band was playing. I don’t know. But they were high-fiving and going crazy.
Then they gathered around the twelve spies and ten of the twelve spies began to talk, not all twelve, ten. They said, look at this fruit. Yes, the land is productive. Yes, it does flow with milk and honey. But suddenly something happened. Suddenly these ten spies caught a bad case of the vision virus. They began to mess up. They began to forget about God. They began to give their own opinions, not just a report. Numbers 13:28. “But the people who lived there are powerful.” Verse 31, “We can’t attack those people. They are stronger than we are.” Talk about a doggy downer. Numbers 13:32. “They spread among the Israelites a bad report.” As I was reading this text over the last several days, I wanted to say, who asked you for your opinion, Israelites? God said just to report on what you saw. He didn’t say to give some dissertation or some opinion on the deal. What is up? They had a case, a bad case of the vision virus.
Numbers 14:2, it continues. “All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron and the whole assembly said to them, if only we had died in Egypt.” They wanted to do the backtrack thing. If only we had died in Egypt. The Numbers 14:4, “And they said to each other, we should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” Let’s form a committee. That will do it. Doesn’t that sound familiar? People with the vision virus are everywhere. They are coming against your vision that God has given you and my vision that God has given me. Any time that you live out God’s vision, you are going to go against the majority. You are going to have people with the vision virus saying, but you can’t. They will begin to spread stuff and then they will grumble. Then they will want to go back to where they were. Try to start a company. Oh, you can’t do that. Have you thought about the obstacles? No way. Come on. You can’t do that. Oh, you’re trying to do the blended family thing God’s way. Oh, that won’t work. You are going to get a divorce again. The kids will be going nuts. That’s not going to work. You feel it? You experience it? The vision virus.
I remember nine years ago, people saying a church, the Fellowship Church, Preston Mitchell, what are you doing involving yourself in the Fellowship Church? Owen Goff, Ed Young, Doris Scoggins, what in the world. You can’t do that. Do you realize how many churches there are in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area? It is the belt buckle of the Bible belt.
Any time you see people with the vision virus, the vision virus always attacks the mind. It makes us sick and it twists us and enables us to exaggerate the size and the scope of the obstacles out there. Whoa, that is a powerful force. Whoa, that is a sizable situation. Whoa, that hurdle, no way to clear that one. And it slowly begins to choke out God’s anointing and God’s agenda and God’s blessing and we focus on the external instead of the internal. Then we blow it.
It is easy to catch the vision virus. I had it a couple of months ago. I had a bad case of it. Three of my four children walked out in my backyard and saw a tree. They had a vision for this tree. They said, “Build us a tree house, Dad. You are the man, Dad. Build us a tree house.” I had the vision virus. I have been in Home Depot one time in my life. It was with my wife. It is a stretch for me just to hammer a nail. I said, “Oh Laurie, Landra and EJ, I can’t build a tree house. See the tree is not arranged well. We have got to get somebody who can really build stuff well, like Owen Goff, to come over. I can’t do it.” This went on for weeks. I said, “The limbs are so high and you might fall down. I don’t really have the time.” One day, though, I decided to go for it. I got some lumber and took out my wife’s chain saw. True! I cut some wood and built them a tree house, Jack. And it is pretty good. It is not great. It is just a floor and some little rungs to climb on. Now, of course, they want a roof and some carpet and an HVAC system along with a Nintendo.
So you are looking at somebody who has had the vision virus before. It is easy, isn’t it? Then the Israelites began to get into this funk, having the vision virus as they did. But I hope that you didn’t miss what I said. I have only addressed 10 of the 12 spies. When I began this account from Numbers 13 and 14, I said we would talk about some eagle type people. Well Joshua and Caleb, 2 of the 12 spies, they were eagle like people, soaring, powerful visionaries. Even though the Israelites were trying to clip their wings, tie their talons, cage them and ground them, they said no. “We are going to fly. We are going to grasp. We are going to seek.” And they stood before the nation and said, and I will paraphrase, “We can take this land. God has already given it to us. Yes, we are going to have to fight. But don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid.” It is a moving speech if you read it word for word. Now you would think after all of this, as the Israelites looked in the rearview mirror and remembered how God had parted the Red Sea and fed them and taken them through the wilderness to this point, that they would have agreed with Joshua and Caleb. “We messed up. Let’s get ready to rumble. Let’s take them on now.”
Don’t hold your breath. Do you know what they began to do? They took out the scissors to clip their wings, took out the rope to tie the talons and began to cage them and ground them. The Bible says that they wanted to stone them. I am not talking about drugs here. I am talking about kill them with rocks, a horrible, torturous death. And because the nation of Israel had a collective case of the vision virus, here is what happened. They wandered in the wilderness for four more decades outside the Promised Land. Now check this out. Can you imagine doing the KOA thing for 40 years? Sleeping on the ground. Get up and you have rack head every day. Tired of those weenie roasts. Oh, Man. Well, God allowed the vision virus people to die off. If you read the book of Joshua, years later he led the new Pepsi generation Israelite crowd into the Promised Land and claimed the land. Joshua and Caleb, men of vision, eagles. They made out what most miss.
Now this has been a pretty interesting study of ancient history. We have to get a read on ancient history but that is not the only reason we are here. We are here for life change. And the beautiful thing about the scripture is that we can learn from the past and it can change our present and our future. So what do we need to do because of this? What do we need to do to become eagle-like people? How can we make out what most people miss?
First, we need to incorporate God’s vision into our lives. In other words, God has a tract of land that He wants you to claim and me to claim. We are standing on the edge of it, looking at it flowing with milk and honey. However, it is going to take determination, courage and commitment to really soar. God wants to incorporate His vision into our lives but it is our choice. First of all, God wants us to make a trust pact with His Son, Jesus Christ. Speak of incorporating a vision, God’s number one vision for everyone breathing is to know Christ personally. Have you made that pact? Have you made that trust decision? Have you made that faith step? Have you? Because it all starts from there. It is receiving what God through Christ has done for you. Jesus secured your salvation on the cross 2,000 years ago by spilling His blood, by experiencing the guilt and the pain and the separation and the alienation that our sins caused. He rose again. Have you appropriated that into your life? That is God’s vision, a trust pact with His Son.
Another vision that God wants you to incorporate is His vision for you within the context of the local church. Take out your bulletin, your worship guide. Just thumb through it for a second. See all those programs? See all of those studies? They are vision studies. We simply teach you about God’s vision, about His vision concerning marriage, concerning marketplace endeavors, about His vision regarding what you should put in your bodies and how you should treat this temple. We want to help you see and understand and articulate and live out God’s vision. We don’t have to do a lot of guesswork. We don’t need a lot of discussion. It is here. Have you incorporated that vision into your life? Also God wants us to incorporate His relational vision. If you missed last weekend, please pick up the tape because I said this. Many people here are just one prayer away from eternity, just one prayer away from knowing Christ personally. Let me put an addition to that statement. Many here are just one handshake away from incredible community-driven relationships.
This past Thursday I was in New Mexico speaking to a group of pastors on leadership. At the end of my hour-long talk, I had a little Q and A session. One lady asked me what my biggest challenge is, what keeps me up at night, that causes me to worry about the local church. That was a no-brainer for me. I said there was one thing that really gets me. I see every weekend thousands and thousands and thousands of people who attend the Fellowship Church. And many of them I know just cruise in for a little happy meal from God’s word and then cruise out. They never do life deeply. They are never assimilated. They never become a fully devoted follower of Christ. For many reasons they don’t do it. That is what keeps me up at night.
I think about my dog, Brut. I have a couple of bullmastiffs. By the way, if you missed Pet-A-Palooza last weekend, you really missed something. We had over 1,000 animals out there in the north field. It was a sight. We survived the weekend pretty well, although we did have one snakebite, rat bite and tick bite, but they were minor. Anyway, my bullmastiff weighs about 140 and is still growing. He has the biggest tongue of any dog I have ever seen. He is a finicky eater, though. People ask how much he eats, but he doesn’t eat a lot, not as much as you think. Sometimes I will pour his puppy chow into a bowl and throw in a couple of egg yokes. Sometimes I find myself dragging Brut by the collar, saying, “Come on, eat Brut.” I will drag him to the bowl but he will just sit there over the bowl with his tongue hanging out. I say, “Brut, eat. Apollo is going to steal your food.” He is the big 160-pounder. I figured out something. I can’t force Brut to eat. I can drag him. I can coax him. I can sweeten the deal but he has to do it. We have so many things here for you in this church. Our small group ministry is called Home Teams. We have Connection Classes, parenting classes, single parent home teams, single home teams. And we can drag you to the food. Now I am not saying that you are dogs. That is just an illustration. We can bring you to the bowl and say, “OK, here is God’s word, feed on it. OK, grow. OK, here is God’s vision for you.” But you have got to eat. Got to eat. That is what keeps me up at night.
And I am so thrilled to see what God is doing in this church and how many, many people are getting serious about this commitment. Many are serious about God’s vision and are taking advantage of the various venues we have here to discover God’s vision, to commit their lives to Christ, and to build new relationships. But many of you are just one handshake away from this vision.
We have to do something else, though, we have to quarantine the vision virus people. If we are really going to have this agenda from God, we have got to quarantine the vision virus people. I don’t like to get sick. I hate it. I haven’t been sick in a long, long time. We have a rule here on our staff, if you have got fever, go home. We don’t want anybody working who is sick, who has a temperature. We say that you have got to be fever-free before you set foot on this campus. I love that rule. It is a great thing to live by. So when someone gets sick, we quarantine the person with the virus. That is what I challenge you to do. Quarantine those with the vision virus, those who throw rocks, who diss us, who mumble and grumble and say that it won’t work, won’t happen, that we will not find our vision.
I think about my man, Nehemiah, another Old Testament figure. Nehemiah was doing what everybody said could not be done. Nehemiah was rebuilding the city walls around God’s city, Jerusalem. Everybody said that he couldn’t do that. But Nehemiah had a bunch of teams around him, he empowered people with God’s vision. He gave them the ball of leadership and they began to build this wall. Well a bunch of sidewalk supervisors, a bunch of people with vision virus appeared and they began to namecall Nehemiah. You know that Nehemiah did? Did he jump down off the wall and say, “OK, let’s go for it. Put them up.”? No. He stayed up on the wall. He literally took the higher ground.
You are going to go against the majority. You are going to come up against people with the vision virus. Take the higher ground. Rub shoulders with people who share a similar vision. And again, that is why I bring up the local church, that is why relationships are so important.
Talk about a powerful verse. Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Let’s play fill in the blank. Were there is no vision, the marriage will perish. Where there is no vision, the company will perish. Where there is no vision, the church will perish. Where there is no vision, the nation will perish. Vision from God is the ability to make out what others miss. And once we begin to incorporate vision, once God gives us an infusion of determination and commitment and courage to live it out, then and only then will we fly like an eagle.