Reading: Matthew 17:14-23
[*] Rev. Martin Luther King, said, "I HAVE A DREAM!" AND HE
WENT ON TO SHARE THAT DREAM WITH OTHERS - A DREAM OF AN
AMERICA OF EQUALITY AND CHRISTIAN PRINCIPLES FOR ALL MEN, AND
HOW THE BLACKS ESPECIALLY WOULD BE TREATED! AT THAT TIME, IT
SEEMED AN IMPOSSIBILITY! BUT IN FAITH'S VISION, HE SAW IT!
[*] Do you ever dream about 'what could be?'
In Sept 1991, shortly after coming to the corps, I spoke
about faith like a grain of mustard seed
(a) I held in my hand - A MUSTARD SEED!
I said, "You can see how small it is! Yet Jesus says, this
can grow into a tree large enough for the birds to come
and build their nests and lodge there."
(b) In other words, as far as our faith is concerned, it is
not the present size which matters, but, under the nurture of
God, what it can become!
[c] I also reminded them, any seed has got to be planted in
the right soil - rather like the parable of the sower
which Jesus told.
[d] I said, if there is a problem with the soil of our
heart, not being in the right condition, then the seed will
not grow! For example if the soil of our heart is
contaminated by sin.
(e) People have said to me on occasions, about a whole
variety of things, "I can't do it - I haven't got the
(d) Many great works of faith, have started from a very small
seed, and have ended up growing out of all expectations!!
[a] One thing that is necessary is visionary faith - to see,
under the hand of God, what can be!
[*] David Wilkerson, author of The Cross and the Switchblade,
was very happy ministering in his little church, until the
Lord spoke to his heart, and showed him that He wanted him to
work, in great danger, amongst the teenage gangs of New York,
who would kill you without a thought - just for fun!
But he believed in the vision of what God could accomplish in
their lives, and went forward in faith! One of the converts
of those days, the gang leader, Nicky Cruiz, has become known
worldwide as he has travelled, giving his life story.
[b] But the vision can be much closer to home! If we have a
troublesome child in the Sunday School, it can be difficult
to look beyond the present misbehaviour and problems, to what
he or she can become!
[c] So often, I have heard officers, local officers and
others, thank God for the workers who, with spiritual vision,
looked beyond the difficult child - who was them, and
pictured, with God's help, what they could become, rather
than what they were at that time!
[*] George Bernard Shaw said, "You see things as they are,
and ask 'why?' But I dream things that never were, and ask
'why not?'" That is the essence of spiritual vision.
[a] We are being asked, by the General, the Territorial
Commander and those in other positions of central leadership
in our Army, to look forward into 1996, with VISIONARY FAITH!
[b] Let's not focus on the problems, and difficulties in our
own or other people's spiritual lives, or that of the corps,
but let us with spiritual vision, look beyond all that, to
what God can do - if we believe!
[c] Some of you may have heard me mention Mother Angelica,
who is a Nun in America, and through nothing more than faith
and prayer, she has built up a Christian satellite television
network, literally from nothing.
[d] She said, in a televised documentary of her work, "God
is looking for people to do the ridiculous, so that He can
do the miraculous!"
[e] For her those just wasn't empty words. She had proved
them in action! They were in the process of having a
garage built when the vision of faith came to her, and
she went out and told the builder, "Build it bigger, it's
going to be a television studio!"
[f] Have we got the visionary faith to look at our lives and
say to the Lord, build my spiritual life and witness, bigger
better for You! Amen
[a] In every corps and church, you will find those who whilst
listening to the spiritual vision of others, in their hearts
say, "What a lot of nonsense! Just wait and see!" And
inevitably, when it doesn't come to pass, it's a case of them
saying, with satisfaction, "I knew it wouldn't happen!"
[*] They don't realise that they're a big part of the reason
it didn't! And to gain pleasure from something not happening
for the Kingdom of God, is no less than rejoicing in the
[b] Often we say that "familiarity breeds contempt." And
nowhere is that seen more clearly than in Matthew 13, when
Jesus is in His own home town, and it says, that even the
Lord Himself couldn't perform many miracles there, because of
the unbelief! (Matthew 13:58)
[c] The lack of faith's vision prevents the Lord from working
out His will.
[*] DARE WE suggest that the spiritual vision of the Saviour
Himself was wanting? Of course not! BUT WE MUST REALISE THAT
UNBELIEF KILLS THE WORK OF GOD!
[d] Can we look at ourselves with spiritual vision, and see
what God can make us?
[*] Even the disciples were rebuked by Jesus, in Mark 16:14
for their lack of faith, so let's not feel insulted by the
suggestion that it could apply to us!
[a] Maybe you can look at me, and see what the Lord needs to
make me? That's okay, I've got a long way to go before I'll
be perfect! I should maybe wear one of those tea-shirts that
says, "BE PATIENT WITH ME - THE LORD HASN'T FINISHED WITH ME
[b] Now all of that is fine, but let's not spend so much time
putting other people right, that we miss the point that only
we, can do something about ourselves - and THAT is our number
[c] It's a little bit like the illustration Jesus used in
Matthew 7, when He spoke of the man trying to take the tiny
piece of wood out of someone's eye, not realising that he had
the equivalent of a plank in his own!
[d] We have at times been in corps where it has become an
unhealthy obsession to put other people right, and the whole
vision of what God could do has been lost, and turned into
blinkered vision - seeing little, and accomplishing even
[e] A very sincere brother in the Lord had got himself into
quite a state, because, with the best possible motives, he
was trying to force other folk to do the things he felt right
for them. But eventually, he realised, that was the Lord's
job, and he was just going to worry himself into an early
[f] God entrusts us to sort out the spiritual priorities in
our own lives, and only then are we in the position to make a
difference in the lives of others.
[g] And that can only happen through our faithful prayers,
and even tears! Not through gossip, nagging, fault-finding
complaining or badgering!
[h] Because none of that can bring about a spiritual change
in the life of someone else - for that is God's work -
and that is what must happen!
In fact any signs of frustration on our part, could well
hinder the real spiritual work from being done in someone's
[a] There is not one of us, who is perfect or worthy enough
to pick holes in the life of anyone else!
[b] As a minister, down through the years, so often I have
had the unpopular job of ministering on thorny topics, and
endeavouring to apply the Word of God, to different
situations. That's the ministers job!
[c] As the man said, "It's a rotten job, but somebody has to
do it!" Often the easiest way is to brush it under the
carpet, but that's not God's way.
[d] We don't find the Old Testament Prophets getting awards
for popularity! On the contrary, they were often running for
their lives, because the message was so unpopular.
[e] God's message is not usually a popular one!
[*] If it has lost it's cutting edge - if it has turned into
words of cotton wool that people like to hear - the preacher
is failing in their job, and the spiritual needs of the
people are not being addressed.
[f] Many of the preachers most used by God in days gone by,
were the most outspoken and abrasive that you could meet!
[g] Rev. W.P Nicholson, an Ulster Presbyterian minister, was
one of the most effective evangelists there in recent years -
but some of the things he preached were looked on as
[h] He suggested on one occasion, that the road to hell was
paved with the skulls of Presbyterian ministers!!
[i] Perhaps he had learned the art of overstating a fact in
order to get a reaction - for if people react, even badly,
then it shows that they have actually listened, and taken
note of what has been said!
[j] In other words, the seed has gone in, and it's up to the
Lord to make it germinate, grow and bear fruit.