Be Thou My Vision
Around the year 386 AD, a boy named Patrick (or Padrig) was born in England to wealthy parents. When he was 16 years old, he was kidnapped by pirates and sold into slavery in Ireland. Years later, he escaped and returned home to his family in England. Eventually, Patrick went back to Ireland to share the love and message of Christ.
Patrick let his light shine even when the government resisted him. On Easter Sunday in the year 433, Patrick defied the orders of the local Irish king, who was a devout supporter of the Druid religion. During the Druid festival at Easter, this king showed his support of the Druids by prohibiting anyone from lighting a flame or candle.
To show his devotion to Christ, on Easter morning, Patrick climbed to the tallest hill in the area, called Slane hill. He lit a huge fire. As the locals woke up, they could all see Patrick's defiance of the king. Patrick was sending a message—God’s light shines in darkness, and He deserves praise.
Years later, an unknown composer wrote a melody to honor of Patrick's heroic act on that Easter day and hundreds of years later, lyrics were written by an Irish woman named Eleanor Hull. This became the song Be Thou My Vision. This song is one of the most-loved hymns of all time.
Patrick’s over-arching vision. When we look at the life of Patrick in general, it’s clear that he had a vision to honor Christ in all things. Loving and honoring Christ was his defining vision. The huge fire burning on top of Slane Hill powerfully represents Patrick’s vision of Christ.
The word “vision” is used in many ways in our times. Much of what I’ve done in my life has begun with visions of different kinds. I receive visions from the Lord in which I see things in my mind’s eye. Sometimes it’s a hazy vision and sometimes it’s very clear. The way the vision appears isn’t important. God can communicate visions to us through pictures, thoughts, and feelings.
Sometimes, visions predict the future. Sometimes, they are a more general description of a pathway God wants you to take. Sometimes, they are a warning of some difficulty in your future. That recently happened to me – I saw a picture of a stormy sea, and God said, “there are some rough waters up ahead.” I wondered what that meant. Not too long after that, a member of my family went through a very rough time in a key relationship.
Sometimes, visions are mysterious, and sometimes they are clear and straight forward.
I make a record of the different visions God gives me, and occasionally I look through my files to be reminded of all the things God has spoken. Sometimes it takes many years for visions to come to pass. I’m sure that some of the visions I’ve received may never come to pass, because my spiritual seeing is imperfect.
Another application of the word vision is the idea of your vision statement for your life. This is about your key values, which lead to setting priorities and specific goals.
Partly because I am a creative person, and mostly because I want to follow the Lord, visions play a big part in my life. Through many mistakes,
I‘ve learned some lessons about seeing, interpreting and walking out visions.
Sometimes I have IDEAS that I think are God’s vision for me, and they just turn out to be my idea. Creative people have many ideas and some of them are bad! I’ve had a lot of those! Making mistakes is how we learn. It’s part of the learning process. It’s one way that God refines our character.
When we attempt things that don’t work out, we’re in good company with many people in history – like Abe Lincoln who had a long string of political failures before being elected president of the United States.
WHAT I LOVE MOST ABOUT the song BE THOU MY VISION…
The VISION is not a plan of action or a goal in business or ministry…The VISION is a PERSON—the person of CHRIST. Sprinkled throughout this song are allusions to an INTIMATE friendship with the Lord.
Jesus modeled this for us. He had ONE OVER-ARCHING VISION. Stay close to his Father. Jesus only wanted to please his Father. Only spoke what he heard from his Father. It was all about his CONNECTION to his Father. He lived in COMMUNITY with the Father and Holy Spirit.
Jesus was always “SEEING” what his Father was doing. He listened closely. He spent time alone to listen to his Father.
He said, “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Jesus was watching and listening.
He also said, “I don’t speak on my own authority. The Father who sent me has commanded me what to say and how to say it.” Jn 12:49 “The words I speak are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does his work through me.” Jn 14:10
Paul had a very similar life. Above all, his supreme goal was to know Christ. This leads to love as the highest goal. Here is what he wrote to the church in Philippi:
7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. Phil 3:7-8
Paul worked very hard. His hard work flowed out of his continual praying and God’s super-human energy in him.
SOMETIMES WE LET THE SECONDARY VISIONS TAKE OVER
What happens when our vision is inspired and directed by a PROJECT instead of knowing and following the PERSON of Christ? Then, our SUCCESS is defined by our own set of goals. It’s good to set goals, but if we lose sight of the PERSON of CHRIST, things go sideways. WE STOP listening to and watching what the Father is doing. We get too wrapped up in our own activity.
We will constantly need to be RE-DIRECTED by our PRIMARY PERSON because we WILL get off track, guaranteed.
If we are so committed to accomplishing a certain vision that it becomes more important than our loyalty to God, we won’t be actively listening to God for his direction and wisdom. We will be cutting off the flow between us and him. Any “vision” that eclipses our view of God becomes an idol. Our idols always disappoint us!
The first question about vision is this: Is JESUS your vision? Our PREDOMINANT vision is of Jesus. In the hymn Be Thou My Vision, the DEFINING VISION IS THE DIVINE PERSON.
Verse 1 of Be Thou my vision
Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart Modernized: YOU, JESUS, be my vision
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best thought, by day or by night
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light
“Naught be all else to me save that thou art.” That’s old, archaic English which means - let nothing else matter to me except you, or Nothing else is anywhere near as important as you.
It’s a good idea to say to God, “If my vision is just all about me and my ideas, Lord, tell me!” “God, adjust my vision.” God will use a heart like that – constantly open to re-direction, and getting input from God and others. Do this, and God will speak to you.
A good prayer to pray: “Your will, not mine be done.”
Sometimes God lets us fail just so we can grow
How about Paul? Describing his challenges, he said “we felt like we were going to die…But the reason for it was so we could learn to trust God”
“We felt the sentence of death hanging over us”
(I think he felt a spirit of death hanging around - he was stoned a few times, remember, and left for dead; he was probably raised from the dead when his friends gathered around him).
This was the same kind of spiritual opposition that Patrick faced when he went to Ireland to share God’s love.
This song is a pursuit of Intimacy with God –
Meditating on the Lord and inviting his presence day and night…
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light. [You have access to the MIND of Christ]
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord; (I’m with you and you are with me; I am yours and you are mine, I dwell in you, you dwell in me)
Thou my great Father, I Thy true child; (intimacy between Father & son/daughter)
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one. (Christ in me—in union)
We all have battles to fight in life…some of Patrick’s were a literal fight for his life
Christ himself IS our armor….the sword of the spirit, the word of truth, the peace of the gospel…the faith OF Christ working in us—his empowering of our faith
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight–we experience dignity by receiving God’s love
God appreciates us. God lavishes his love on us. As we DELIGHT in HIM and GAZE on him, he BESTOWS a feeling of DIGNITY ON US. We know we are ADOPTED children of the HIGH KING. We EXPERIENCE his love, we know we are highly valued by him. THIS IS HOW YOU ENDURE SEASONS OF FEELING LIKE YOU’RE DYING.
THIS IS HOW we can stay strong in him, encouraged by him “Heart of my own heart, whatever may befall—whatever happens, Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.”
Verse 4: Riches I heed not, nor vain, empty praise
Two things that derail our vision are the pursuit of wealth and living for the praise of people, or fame. WE DON’T GET A GREAT REWARD FROM THOSE…
“Because I set you, Yahweh, always close to me, my confidence will never be weakened, for I experience your wraparound presence every moment.” Psalm 16:8 TPT
Ps 16:8. The Hebr word shava [English - set] carries the sense of being equal or similar. David was not saying he was equal to Yahweh, but that he thought the way God thought. David had made his heart and mind to be identical with the heart and mind of God. It was the heart and mind of God that had first place in David’s heart and thoughts.
To MAKE CHRIST YOUR VISION:
KNOW the person, be GAZING ON THE person. Be WAITING FOR HIM.
He doesn’t show up until we wait for him. Cultivate slowness in your soul. Slow down and enjoy him, be with him. Wait for him. LISTEN for him. Then you get the CONVERSATIONAL relationship with JESUS established. At that point, the PROJECTS can be discussed.
If you don’t get that FIRST question in the proper place of priority, everything else will go wrong. Here is the way to set goals: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.”
Dive into God with all your heart. Seek him diligently and he will show you whichever visions that he knows you need to hear. Don’t let the voices of naysayers belittle you. Be like Patrick. While Patrick was enslaved in Ireland as a teenager, he missed many valuable years of education. So, his academic studies were cut short. HE WAS embarrassed by his lack of education in Latin. But he didn’t let that stop him from moving back to that island to bring the love and message of Christ.