People like visionary leaders. We don’t need government funded studies to prove it. Given the choice between two coaches, one declaring “We’ll crush the other team!’ while the other says “We’ll do our best and see how it turns out…”, who do you want to play for? There is, however, something I’ll call blind vision, and I think it’s often the substitute for hearing from God.
I’ve been rolling this thought around in my head after seeing a lot of young leaders write about how to deal with critics. The common denominator in most of their advice is this – ‘You’re the leader. Your critics are doing nothing. Dismiss them. If they could do what you’re doing, they wouldn’t be a critic.’ Admittedly, this is sometimes true, but it’s also too easy of an answer that has lead more than one leader down a path of narcissism to abusing his powers, believing that he’s the man God put here and all others can stick a sock in it.
True visionaries are not blind to criticism or circumstances, but rather they see long term potential, calculate the cost of getting there, and pay the price.
I’m thinking of Jeremiah, who told King Zedekiah that his overthrow at the hand of King Nebuchadnezzer was immanent. Zedekiah was King of Judah, a kingdom who had been under seige to Nebuchadnezzer’s Babylonian army for months. Zedekiah was not impressed with Jeremiah. In fact, he was so irked with him, he had imprisoned him in a courtyard, sort of a prophet’s house arrest. It kept Jeremiah’s prophesy from spreading too far beyond palace walls, but it still haunted Zedekiah so much that he could quote the prophecy back to Jeremiah (32:3-5).
The King of Judah, a man of blind vision, could not allow himself to imagine that the prophet was right. The potential was too costly…the what-if’s were too awful. If they were to be overthrown by the Babylonians, what did that mean for their nation? Was it the death of his own dream of a strong Judah?
Jeremiah, on the other hand, completely believed the word of the Lord, and yet showed tremendous proactive vision of his own. In the verses that follow his criticism and warning to Zedekiah, he is directed by the Lord to buy land. Knowing that they’re going into exile – that most of the population of Judah will be shipped to camps in Babylon – he does the unthinkable. He purchases real estate, believing ‘this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Houses, fields and vineyards will again be bought in this land.”
God told Jeremiah to buy into the land of Judah because even though trouble was coming, He wasn’t done with that land. They would return and posses it once again – and when they did, that which had been purchased or bought into early would be of great value.
People of great vision don’t ignore criticism or coming trouble. They endure it, consider God’s hand in the middle of it, and buy in for the long haul.
It’s said that just prior to Hannibal’s occupation of Rome in the year 487, his armies were were encamped on a hillside on the outskirts of town. The people of Rome knew that their invasion and overthrow were at hand. There was no real sense that Hannibal’s military force could be slowed down, much less turned back…yet at that very time, the hillside the army was camped on was purchased for it’s normal value, sold from one Roman citizen to another.
Were these people delusional? No, they were visionaries. They knew what they invested in today would be of great value years down the road. That’s the sort of vision I want. Not one that ignores trials, but one that endures them, having bought into that which will be priceless on the other side.
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