The greatest Christian that ever lived was called an idiot, a moron, and a king told Paul he was insane, touched in the head! The reason for it was that he was a dream-driven follower of Jesus Christ. He was so different that he openly admitted, “I am a fool for Christ’s sake.”
When he stood before Agrippa in his court, he explained his life, “I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven” (Acts 26:19, NIV). Because of this vision he was always thinking of the regions beyond where the gospel had not been preached. I suppose you could explain Paul and all Christians who have a God-given dream with this verse, “They looked to him and were enlightened” (Psalm 34:5).
And there are a select few like Elisha, who can see what others do not, a mountain range “full of horses and chariots of fire” (II Kings 6:17). They see the regions beyond and the action of God and His readiness to do a great work. Paul did! So when he wrote to the people of Rome, he mentioned, “I will come to see you on my way to Spain” (Romans 15:28), which means Paul had a vision of taking the gospel all the way to the Atlantic coast of Europe! What a vision he had, he saw the regions beyond, so he was not about to settle down to be an honored apostle in a major church he founded.
Vision, someone said, is the ability to see the invisible. This God-given vision of Paul’s not only made him spiritually bold and willing, it also made him physically involved to see that it happened.
So, having mentioned the vision was from God, let’s be reminded of the human side of it. It is expressed in a determination which faces all the roadblocks and setbacks, delays and difficulties with uncanny innovation and courage to go around, under, over, or through them. Such a person sees the goal accomplished. Nehemiah saw the wall built and Paul saw Spain reached. The dream becoming a reality.
And now for a moment be most personal. What is the dream God has given you? Define it in the clearest terms. What is the goal you want accomplished? It becomes your challenge to focus on it heart, mind, and soul, to grab hold of it and to pursue it with a passion.
I love the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, I have quoted them with variations many times, but here they are as spoken: “A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.” What do you see?
Oh, for the ability to see it! In any person’s life there is a need to see regions beyond and to say as Paul did, “I’m headed there!”—for people with vision see possibilities and it is possibilities that grow into probabilities! What would be in each of us, the regions beyond? For you and for me, what would that be? Let me suggest three.
I. TO THE REGIONS BEYOND IN YOUR INTERCESSION TO CHRIST
We think of the time we waste on things that do not matter, that could have been committed to prayer. Yet, I am not speaking only of just time but praying about important things that have never been a part of your intercession. For example, praying for persecuted Christians—some in prison suffering; frankly, the Bible has a lot to say about that: “Remember the Lord’s people who are in jail and be concerned for them … imagine that you are there with them.” (Hebrews 13:3, CEV)
Before Billy Graham came to Christ, in his hometown there was a group of men, most common laborers: a dairyman, a plumber, a handyman, plus about twenty others who met to pray that from their part of America God would raise up people to impact the world for Christ. They also prayed for a citywide crusade to be arranged and a glorious revival. They even met on a large, vacant lot in the city to pray that this would be the site of an evangelistic tabernacle. Can anyone doubt that prayer was answered? These men without college educations, who came in overalls and work clothes, prayed regularly.
When was the last time you expanded your intercession, praying for great cities, that a spiritual awakening would come? Praying for countries where governments hostile to Christ would be brought down or changed? Wrestling earnestly in prayer—pleading with God!
And a region beyond in intercession would be, name by name, to pray for your senator, congressmen, for the governor of your state and key people in county and city government. But getting their names and praying for each, something more than rushing past the subject and praying “God bless America.” Unfelt prayers are unheard prayers.
And honestly, when did you pray name by name for those who work in your church, from the pastor to the custodian? And how many deacons have you prayed for by name, and missionaries and denominational leaders? When did you pray for an evangelist? — Or name, please, one seminary president you have prayed for as they train the next generation of Christian full-time servants.
How do we learn to pray? — One way, we learn by praying and giving time to it. Praying is learned by praying. And ask for more pray-ers, people God raises up with a passion for prayer—when did you ever pray about that? It’s a region beyond! Matthew Henry wrote, “When God intends great mercy for His people, the first thing He does is set them praying.” God can be asked, “Lord, teach and train me to pray better.” A Puritan pastor said, “Prayer is the natural breath of faith.” So I challenge us to learn the discipline of turning our thoughts into prayer. That’s how we pray continually.
And let us remember, all the storehouses of God are open to the voice of faith in fervent prayer. Ask and ask again. Pray boldly. Never ask without believing that large asking and greater expectations from our hearts honor God. God loves bold prayers, He loves to hear great prayer requests. Ask!
II. TO THE REGIONS BEYOND IN YOUR INVOLVEMENT WITH CHRIST
You may have heard me say that I read two books that recently greatly impacted my life. The first is very small entitled Risk Is Right, by Piper, and the second, by the same author, Don’t Waste Your Life. Please read them. Both say, get involved with Jesus!
Before us all is the challenge to dare to do something in living and giving that you have never had the audacity to before; a region beyond! Most Christians play the game of following Christ safely—no faith required and no sacrifice demanded. Too many believers in Jesus spend themselves getting more stuff and being entertained. Because of our culture we are all invited to a life of comfort zone Christianity. Dr. J. I. Packer termed it “hot-tub Christianity,” a cozy conformity to our semi-Christian culture which is a far cry from risk, daring, and adventure. After all, when was the last time you did anything that was on the cutting edge, requiring radical obedience? When was the last time we pushed ourselves to the limit of fearlessness? When did you last claim a promise and dare to step out on it into the unknown?
What it means is we are actively missing a faith-filled life and one that is seriously rewarding. What could be better, after all, than an abandonment that was totally Jesus dependent? Which one of us now is fearless in facing a risk? I plead with you with God’s help to break out and do it! Dare to do it—obey!
It has been said in various ways, “You never test the resources you have in Christ until you do something that demands a miracle.” Let us be honest, some of us are as swift-footed as an antelope when it’s religious fun and games, but we are chicken-hearted when something is Christian that demands courage. J. B. Phillips, a British pastor, once said, “Some people deliberately avoid anything that may lead them to the divine encounter.” Is he talking about us?
C. T. Studd openly pushed out into the world to do what others feared. He admitted that he could not tolerate those that made “God the Lord of mediocrity.” And we have heard it said that courage is not the absence of fear, rather it is the mastery of it. John Wayne is credited with, although he is not the first to say it, “Courage is fear that has said its prayers.” The difference between someone God can use for His glory and one disqualified is one step to the side—just one step!
An ancient philosopher, a non-Christian, once said a great truth to treasure: “It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare,” said Seneca, “it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.” Yet, every day God gives us an opportunity to obey with courage and to realize today’s opportunities are given to us to erase yesterday’s failures caused by timidity.
III. TO REGIONS BEYOND IN YOUR INTIMACY WITH CHRIST
It all has to do with our personal holiness and practical godliness. When was the last time you set aside time to pursue the presence of God? Just to deepen your relationship with Him? Here are verses: “Having therefore … boldness to enter into the holy place by the blood of Jesus … a new and living way, through the veil … let us draw near with a true heart in fullness of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience …” (Hebrews 10:19-20, 22)
You already realize that access to God’s presence and intimate fellowship with Him has been fully provided for us in Christ. Therefore, superficial Christianity is tragic. Instead, let us draw near, let us linger in His presence, “enter into the holy place.” And what is meant is to come out of a life of a shallow relationship and come to know His favor and blessing. Yes, it is a call to all lukewarm, half-hearted followers of Jesus to no longer remain in the outer court. Heartfelt intimacy!
The passage speaks of a veil. It hung in the tabernacle to separate the holy place from the Holy of Holies. Now we are invited to go through the veil into full fellowship with the living God and His love. So this is a call to enter in through the veil which was mysteriously ripped open from top to bottom by the death of Jesus on the cross. His blood bought us the right and privilege to enter that place. Let us enter in, for He has opened the way into the holiest place. This is the result of His blood opening the way for us. Jesus has made it possible for us to live in the intimate presence of God through His cross.
Now, stop for a moment and realize for fifteen centuries this place was closed to the average person of the nation of Israel. Only once a year did the great high priest enter to make an offering for forgiveness. They all understood—the warning was clearly sounded—no admittance! Enter not! Any who did, did so under the pain of death.
But now, welcome, enter in! The veil is rent open, we may freely go into the holy place. And it is here, in that sacred place that we know greater love and profound worship and we learn adoration and praise.
James S. Stewart touched on this saying:
“The deep, intimate, sacred dealing of God with the soul cannot be proclaimed from the housetops. It is only by direct permission from the Spirit Himself that we may be free to relate to others these experiences, and that for the glory of God alone.”
No soul that enters into the holy place will boast of it!
Here our soul in God’s presence grows into entire conformity to Christ’s likeness. It is here in unceasing adoration we express our hearts and know bold and powerful intercession, and in this holy place, we sense the outpouring of the Spirit and are overwhelmed and left in awe. And in this place our souls mount up on wings of eagles and we are renewed and suddenly we sense His blessings flow like anointing oil from heaven. Consider these words, “One thing have I desired of the Lord; that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in His temple.” (Psalm 27:4)
John Calvin spoke of a divine nobility conferred on us producing a desire for great holiness and heart purity. Isaiah indicated that God has two places to dwell and a holy heart is surely one of them. And it starts with this, according to J. C. Ryle: “I am convinced that the first step toward attaining a high standard of holiness is to realize more fully the amazing sinfulness of sin.” Is that a region beyond our experience, to humbly recognize the work that still needs to be done in our own lives?
It is open, “Having therefore boldness … to enter into the Holiest by the blood of Jesus … let us draw near” (Hebrews 10:19, 22).
Dr. J. I. Packer spoke about our part. “Holiness is no more by faith without effort than it is by effort without faith.” It must begin with each of us secretly saying that we desire more Christ-likeness for our lives and to passionately pursue it with wholeheartedness.
So then, are these not regions beyond? Do we need to expand our world beyond its present limited standing to regions far beyond and waiting for our coming without delay?