Be Thou My Vision!
One of my favorite hymns is “Be Thou My Vision”. It has such a beautiful melody. Alison Krauss does a wonderful rendition of it that I’ve listened to countless times, and I’ve even led it at church myself. The music is just so lovely! As I was listening to it recently, though, I started really thinking about what the words really mean, and it made me love it all the more. The first verse goes like this: “Be thou my vision, oh, Lord of my heart. Naught be all else to me save that thou art. Thou my best thought by day or by night. Waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.” Listening to it got me thinking… Do I really make the Lord my vision? And what does that even mean?
What is your vision for your life? What are your dreams? I guess another way to ask that is what do you want to become? That’s the definition we’re going to be using for your vision here. For me, it’s being a teacher. That’s my vision for myself. I work toward it by going to school and taking the necessary steps to get into the program I need. I read books for classes. I do homework. I get practical experience in the field. You see, just having a vision isn’t enough. There has to be forward motion involved, too.
It’s great to have physical goals for your life, but we can’t forget that there has to be an overarching spiritual goal, as well. Whatever your practical, tangible vision for your life is, apply that to the Lord being your vision. We’ve defined your vision as what you want to become. In John 3:30, John the Baptist defines his vision very clearly: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (ESV). That should be our vision, too. Paul tells us that we should be imitators of Christ (Ephesians 5:1). Making Christ your vision means striving to become like him. It means seeing him as the pinnacle of everything we’re working to be. He is the goal, both in what we want our lives to be like and what we’ll reach when we eventually finish our races.
The second line of “Be Thou My Vision” says, “Naught be all else to me save that thou art.” Basically, that’s both a prayer and declaration: don’t let anything else be my everything besides you, God! That’s something we should be praying, too. It’s so easy to let other things get in the way of what’s truly important. Imagine you’re driving a car. What you see through the windshield is your vision. If a tarp flies out of the back of a truck in front of you and hits your windshield, it becomes all you can see. It’s dangerous. You can’t get to your destination because you can’t see where you’re going! You have to address the problem first before you can make progress toward your goal. How many times do we let “tarps” obstruct our vision and then carry on like nothing is wrong anyway? We are so easily distracted and sometimes don’t even see the tarp on our windshields before we’re crashed on the side of the road. Be on the lookout for tarps, whatever they may be. Secret sin, a friendship or relationship, a job… Anything, even things that aren’t “bad” in and of themselves, can be a tarp if it becomes more important to you than your relationship with God. Part of the Lord being your vision is that you have to be able to see him! Hebrews 12:2 tells us to fix our eyes on Jesus. Keep your windshield clear. Focus on him.
In order to be a teacher, I have to go to school. I do a lot of reading and homework. There are practical steps that I have to take in order to get there. In the same way, there are practical steps for us to take if we want to reach our vision of Jesus. Of course, we can’t do them alone… And thankfully, we’re not expected to. Just like I have teachers in school, we have a teacher and helper in God. So what are some steps we can take in reaching our vision of becoming like Jesus?
Bible reading. This is so fundamental. The Bible tells us more about God’s character. How can we become like someone if we don’t know what they’re like in the first place? In order to be imitators of God, we have to know what he’s like. We can’t neglect this one. 2 Timothy 3:16 lets us know that all scripture is God-breathed. The Bible is literally a message from God to us. He wants us to know him. This is a good place to start.
Prayer. Once we start learning who God is, we see what we need to be like, too. However, we simply can’t do it by ourselves. For example, God is holy. How can we imitate that? We can’t be holy on our own, but 1 Peter 1:16 tells us that we need to be holy, just like God is holy. The only way to bridge that gap is through prayer. God enables us to become the things that he wants us to be. He allows us to put on the robe of righteousness and calls us holy (Isaiah 61:10, 1 Peter 2:9). Isn’t that awesome?
Be specific. Let’s be honest, “be like Jesus” is a really broad thing. If that’s what we settle on, it’s easy to give up because there’s too much to cover. Goal-setting needs to be specific. Find one characteristic of God that you need to work on. Maybe you have a habit of lying. 2 Samuel 7:28 declares that all of God’s words are true; he is entirely honest. So instead of just saying, “This week, I’m going to be more like Jesus,” hone in on that one thing. Say instead, “This week, I’m going to pray about my habit of lying and make an effort not to do it anymore. I need God’s help to break this sinful habit, and I have to break it if I want to be more like him.” One thing at a time! One note though: don’t get discouraged if you mess up. We all blow it sometimes! Don’t let one mistake stop you entirely. Just keep at it. While we’re on the subject, don’t wait until you’re perfect at one characteristic before trying to work on another one because it will never happen! But it will get easier over time, and mistakes will happen less frequently. I promise!
Making Jesus our vision isn’t always easy. Sometimes it’s really hard! Things get in the way and obstruct our view. Sometimes doing the wrong thing and sinning would be much easier and more convenient than doing the right thing. But is working for your physical dreams always easy? No! If your dream is to be a teacher, you work hard at it. If your dream is to own your own business, you work hard at it. If your dream is to be a writer, you work hard at it. Just because these dreams require effort doesn’t mean that we should give up on them. Just because making Jesus your vision requires effort doesn’t mean you should give up on that. You have the Holy Spirit inside of you (Ephesians 4:30). Remember that you have the ultimate helper on your side who wants to see you succeed. He isn’t willing to give up on you, so don’t give up on your goal of being more like him, either. Alone, you could never achieve this goal. But with God, you can’t fail. Make him your vision!