‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.’ Acts 2:17
Have we vision?
In Scripture, having vision is at the heart of the life of God’s people. Proverbs 29:18 says, ‘Where there is no vision, the people perish’. If people have no idea what they are about or what they are working towards, then they tend to give up and things fall apart. Why would anyone stay involved with an organisation that was unsure of its purpose and which had no idea of what its future would be?
Saint Peter stands in the street at nine o’clock in the morning on that first day of Pentecost and announces that what has taken place is a fulfilment of the prophecy of Joel. Joel looked forward to a day when vision returned to the life of the people. Peter declares that the moment anticipated by Joel has come. From the day of Pentecost onwards, the followers of Jesus were to be people inspired by the Holy Spirit and filled with a vision of what God wanted.
If we were true to Jesus’ calling we would want to be close to the church as it was in the Acts of the Apostles. But when we look at Joel’s vision of the future and look at a typical church we have to admit that there is a bit of a gap between the vision and reality.
Can we put our hands on our heart and say that our own church is a place where there is a sense that the Holy Spirit has been sent to all people and should guide and direct our every thought and our every decision and our every action? Can we say that the whole life of our church is as dynamic, as filled with God’s power as it was on that first day of Pentecost?
If someone came in on a Sunday morning to find out what goes on here, would we be able to point to things in the life of our church, and in our own personal lives, that would persuade them that God is present? Would we be able to persuade them that we are a people of dreams and vision?
Joel lived around about the Fourth Century BC in very uncertain times. The hopes of two centuries previously, of a new and strong country, had not been fulfilled. The country had been through economic and environmental disaster with drought and locusts. People were turning away from God, no longer trusting him. Joel knew what it was like to see people giving up on their faith.
I think Joel would have understood our own times. Faith in Joel’s time was no easy matter, those who held on to their beliefs would have wondered what the future might hold. Would the generations to come continue in the faith of their fathers? Even in Old Testament times younger people went off and followed their own choices and preferences. Even in Joel’s time there were people who thought that God was no longer relevant to their lives. Joel would have stood in church today and said to us that the times we live in now are nothing new.
Joel’s answer to us is would be that the Day of the Lord, the day to which he had so looked forward had come on the day of Pentecost, and what had we made of the gifts that God has given us?
Read the Acts of the Apostles, Joel would say, read about the gifts given to the Church, these are gifts for your church. Don’t complain about the church not growing or younger generations not being interested, if you don’t use the gifts that God has given you.
Joel would say to us that the opportunities are there for us to take. If we don’t take them, then don’t be surprised if God says he has had enough of us and gives his blessing elsewhere.
Dreams and visions, Joel would ask, what are your dreams and visions? If we were honest we would say that, when it comes to the church, we don’t have dreams or visions. We keep the place going, we hope something will turn up, maybe we would even prefer to move back into the past. If Joel came to a church meeting, what would he make of it, where’s the vision? If we have no vision, is it then surprising if we go nowhere?
‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams’
We need to pray for the Spirit. We need to pray for vision.