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Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Vision Thing (26): Seeking and Seeing

In a previous post I claimed that a person doesn't attain true vision by merely looking harder at the world around them. No matter how hard one looks, God's supernatural revelation is required. This comes entirely from him by his sheer grace.

Nevertheless, that does not mean that vision and attention are totally unrelated. What we're looking at—and more importantly, what we're looking for—goes a long way toward determining what we see.

Consider Jesus' teaching. Jesus proposed a truly novel solution to individual poverty. "So then, don't worry saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear?' . . . But above all pursue [God's] kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (Matt. 6:31, 33). In other words, look for, anticipate God's just government that's coming over everything—even let it come early into your own life by obeying him above all other demands and desires—even pray for its arrival before you ask for your own needs—and before the day is done you will see God providing for your needs when you need them. If you look for God's reign, you will see your needs met, but ironically if you look to meet your needs you may fail to see it happen.

If we look for God's reign, it's because we consider it to be supremely valuable. Jesus instructed not to be about accumulating earthly valuables, because they are inherently insecure. By contrast, what is valuable in heaven—that is, what is valuable to God—is inherently secure; it is eternal and can never be lost. Jesus points out that "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (v. 24). Our minds are on our money and our money is on our minds. But if what is most valuable to us is God's reign, then that will be on our minds all the time. Then suddenly having enough money becomes no problem, both because we have a revised standard of what constitutes "enough" and because God fully supplies it.

Where things get really interesting is when what we are looking for affects what other people see. There are people around us who have trouble seeing God's coming-and-already-here reign. Sometimes we think we see what the obstacle is that is obscuring their vision. But if, because we are looking for what blinds other people, we fail to see what is blinding us (which may be much larger!), then we are of no help to the other person. "You hypocrite!" Jesus says. "First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye" (7:5).

As I've maintained repeatedly through this series, if we seek a vision of God and for all obstacles to that vision to be taken away, we will not only see God but everything else besides. Indeed, our vision may allow others to see him too. But if we seek a vision of anything less than him, we will remain blind—and since we compare ourselves favorably to other people, we will not know that we cannot see.

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