Most of us have a vision that’s too narrow. We find it difficult to look beyond the possibilities of the here and now and we end up settling for something that’s ok, rather than the best. That’s true of our relationships – especially in our families and our marriages – and also of our relationship with God. It’s also true too of how we view our workplaces, our studies, our churches and communities. As we look around at how life is, it’s difficult to believe that something even better, wider and more influential is possible – and that God could do that kind of thing through us. But that’s how great things normally happen as ordinary people get gripped by an alternative picture of the future, that sparks fresh passion, persistent prayer and focussed action.
That was Jesus’ perspective. So one day he’s in the Galilean town of Capernaum teaching and healing. Exciting but probably tiring. And yet the very next day (Luke 4:42) he’s up early praying to his Father, pressing on and undergirding everything he does with prayer. His work is going well and the locals want him to stay. But despite popularity Jesus moves on. Why? Jesus is gives a very clear reason: ‘I must proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent’ (v.43). Clearly Jesus feels a sense of responsibility not just for that locality but for his region. His vision is broad. His horizons are wide. And that’s something I’ve been emphasising at The Belfrey – to have a real sense of responsibility for our locality: the City of York, but also to feel an increasing responsibility for our region: the North.
We need to have a strategic eye for what the Lord is doing in our region. To pray for key cities and churches. To see where there may be gaps in provision. To train people. To send people. To plant churches. To be a resource church for our region. When I spoke about being a resource church at end of our Refresh weekend a couple of weeks ago I ended up saying that the people of The Belfrey are not called to change the world. That’s the job of whole church. We are called (like every local church) to change our locality, which for us is York. But – unusually for most local churches – we’re also called to play our part in changing our region: the North of England. For many of us to see that requires an expanding of horizons.
I am a parent and I want my kids to have a broad understanding of life. I don’t want them to think too small, or narrow. I want them to appreciate God’s great world with its breadth of cultures; diversity of people; range of music styles and multiplicity of food tastes and flavours. And one of the best way for them to grasp that is through travel. So our second son Joel is going for 4 weeks to Borneo this summer, and Luke, our third son is going to Kenya for 12 days too. They’ve been saving and making plans. And it should be great. Travel will broaden their horizons.
Mark Twain, the American author who died around 100 yrs ago, said this about travel:
‘Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.’
Do you travel? Do you seize opportunities to see new places and meet new people? If you can, go. Go to places like Borneo, or Kenya – but don’t forget that there’s also benefit in going to less exotic places, like Newcastle, Otley, Hull, Selby, Thirsk, Chester or Bradford. As you visit places like that, there’s also much to learn and many people to meet. In those places the Holy Spirit can expand your horizons of what he is doing and still wants to do in our region.
Last Friday there was an important gathering in our region of the 24/7 Prayer Partners. It was held at the new YWAM base in the Leeman Road area of York. Roger Ellis from Revelation Fellowship in Chichester was there and he stayed overnight with us. One of my brothers, William, was there as were other key 24/7 Prayer leaders, and some of us from The Belfrey. As I heard stories of what God was doing in terms of prayer on a wider canvas, I sensed vision stirring within as my horizons were expanding.
Roger Ellis gave me a copy of his new book, Essence (which includes a section written by Luke Smith) and in it he quotes a lovely prayer of Sir Francis Drake. Drake was one of the great travellers of old. He knew that travel expanded one’s horizons. He was the son of Edmund Drake, a man of deep Puritan faith. When Francis was a child Edmund moved the family to Kent, where Edmund became a Church of England minister. His son Francis went on to become a famous sea captain and politician during the reign of Elizabeth I and was the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe.
Sir Francis Drake was not perfect, but he was man of prayer and of great vision. And his prayer is a prayer I’ve been praying on a number of occasions this week – for myself, for us at The Belfrey, for our Diocese and for the people of our region. You might want to pray it for yourself and those around you.
Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves, when our dreams have come true because we have dreamed too little, when we arrived safely because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when with the abundance of things we possess we have lost our thirst for the waters of life; having fallen in love with life, we have ceased to dream of eternity. And in our efforts to build a new earth, we have allowed our vision of the new heaven to dim.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly, to venture on wider seas where storms will show your mastery; where losing sight of the land, we shall find the stars.
We ask you to push back the horizons of our hopes; and to push into the future in strength, courage, hope and love.
This we ask in the name of our Captain, who is Jesus Christ. Amen.