The Three Stages of Vision (2)
By Titus Chu
So many Christians claim to be servants of God, but not many can say that they are serving according to God’s operation, and that they do things according to God’s work. Not many can say with full assurance that they are God’s partners and that their partner is God. Amazingly, God works with unworthy people like us and causes us to love Him and serve Him. Such a life does not come cheaply.
Just before he was martyred, Steven gave a message in which he mentioned three periods of forty years in Moses’ life (Acts 7:23, 30, 36). He was the first to have the light that Moses passed through three stages of growth. It was only toward the end of his life, after all three stages, that Moses could say, “I have a partner. My partner is God himself.” God could also point to Moses saying, “Moses indeed was faithful in all his house as a servant” (Heb. 3:5).
The First Stage
In the first stage, Moses was educated by his two mothers. His biological mother taught him about the things of God and his adoptive mother taught him about the things of Egypt. Through his biological mother he learned he was one of God’s people, and through his adoptive mother he learned he was a prince of Egypt. History tells us that his adoptive mother eventually became the queen of Egypt and therefore he possibly could have become the next Pharaoh. God gave Moses all this because his first need was to be educated.
If we are hungry as Christians, we will take advantage of every opportunity to get an education. We will study the Bible, read spiritual books, and attend church conferences as much as we can. Don’t say these things have no value. If we do not read spiritual books or go to conferences, we may not learn what we should. However, once we have some learning, we may become religious and think we are somebody special, like Moses did when he killed the Egyptian (Exo. 2:11-12). At this point Moses could be considered very religious. He had knowledge of God mixed with knowledge of the world. Everything was outward and nothing was inward. When he killed the Egyptian, he was trying to perform something for God yet without God.
Living a Consecrated Life
We need not only to be educated, but also to live a consecrated life according to our education. Even though it could be argued that Moses made a mistake, when he killed the Egyptian he was acting according to what he had learned. God honored this so much that he sent Moses to the wilderness to experience the second stage. It was not because Moses was forty years old that God took him on. It was because he had received an education and lived according to it.
Those first years of learning really count. We need the first stage to be brought into the second. Do not think the first stage must take forty years just because it did for Moses. The number forty in the Bible simply means a time of testing or trial. The actual time may be long or short. It depends at least in part on what we learn and how we live. Watchman Nee wrote the three volume book The Spiritual Man at the young age of twenty-six. I doubt that many can even understand this book today because it is so experiential and deep. I would recommend everything of Watchman Nee, but this book must be read with companions, not by yourself. Watchman Nee had passed through many trials before he wrote this book, but still he was only twenty-six, not forty.
The first forty years were spent in Egypt where Moses only knew God outwardly. The second 40 years were spent in the wilderness where what he knew was tested. In the third forty years, he was embraced by God and walked leaning on God’s shoulder. At this point everything seemed perfect. But in the end Moses made a serious mistake. God told him to speak to the rock to get water for the people, but instead he struck the rock twice. Because of this, God did not allow him to enter the Good Land (Num. 20:7-12). If it had been me, I might have blamed God for not stopping me, but Moses did not do this. By this time he was truly a spiritual man.
Every spiritual thing we gain becomes a trial to us. We shouldn’t ever think we have something just because we see it. What we see always becomes a trial to us. The blessing comes only if we know how to handle it. If we don’t know how to handle it, it will hurt us. This is true in the first stage, the second stage, and even the third stage.
In the second stage Moses was exiled to Midian, seemingly abandoned by God. This didn’t hurt him only because he was hurt so much already. He once lived in a great palace, now in a very small, dirty, smelly house. Once he was in line to be the next Pharaoh, now his days were spent tending sheep. Once he dreamed of being used by God, now he was seemingly put aside. There was really nothing more to hurt.
Don’t despise the first stage. We should get ourselves trained as much as we can. Go to the conferences, attend the trainings, receive as much as you can and learn as much as you can. Just remember that no matter how much we know, that’s not really it. Even when we experience the third stage, where everything is so heavenly, if we come to our flesh or our self-life even a little bit, we’re going to make a serious mistake. May the Lord have mercy.
The Need for the Second Stage
At the end of the first stage Moses felt God wanted him to lead the children of Israel out of bondage, but it didn’t work. They rejected him. However forty years later it did work and they all followed him out of Egypt. In the first stage everything was wrong—the time had not yet come, Moses was not properly constituted, and his realization of what God wanted had not yet come. Moses still had to go through another stage before he could come to his proper operation.
In the initial stage, we gain vision by being taught. This causes us to love the Lord. If we haven’t been trained, we don’t even know how to love the Lord or be zealous for the things of the Lord. After attending a conference, we are seemingly willing to live and even die for what we have seen, but this doesn’t last. When the conference is over, we have to go back to our real situation, but what we have seen begins to generate a genuine love for the Lord.
No Natural Life
While in the initial stage, Moses still lived in his natural life and used his natural ability. He lived in the royal palace, and came out as a prince with a lot of guards and servants. As he rode his horse and looked at all the Israelites, within him it seemed very clear. God had promised Abraham, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years.” The time was set by God, and no doubt Moses had calculated that the time was very close. He must also have realized that God had put him in a unique position to do the job. All this led him to formulate a very good plan, but he didn’t realize that all divine things must be done by God himself. If the children of Israel were to be led out of Egypt, God would have to be the one to lead them. It may be through Moses, but still it must be God who does it. It cannot be done by Moses’ natural man. This is one of the hardest things to learn.
To live in our natural life and use our natural ability is to plan out God’s work ourselves. The Lord can lead us to do everything, but we must be careful. We might easily plan everything out in our natural man. Even if our plans bear fruit, the fruit will not grow properly because it is against the principle of divine growth. Like Moses, we may not realize when we are living in our natural life and using our natural ability.
But be encouraged. Paul wrote, “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). Even when we mess things up, God in His love sends us to the wilderness. Here we begin to ask why we can do so little, and why is the church not blessed more? It is all because God loves us. Why is the church life so hard, and why doesn’t anything work? Because God loves us. If everything went our way, why would we need God?
God loves us so much that He sends us into the wilderness of the second stage to substantiate the vision we saw in the first stage. Though everything here seems hard, this is where we learn to be faithful as was Moses. All things work together. Sometimes we are very bothered by our inability and lack of success, but then remember how much the Lord loves us. The more we see the Lord, the more we will love Him and try to be zealous for Him. The more zealous we are, the more wilderness experience He will give us.
Because the Lord wants to expose our natural life, He brings us through all kinds of experiences. Don’t think it’s a small thing when we lose our job, when our spouse has a big fight with us, or our kids get mad at us. God loves us so much that He cause all things to work together for our good. Sometimes he may give us a bonus. Other times He may take something away. He both blesses us and restricts us, all to bring us into the third stage. When we eventually experience the third stage, we see God.
The Third Stage
Once we enter the third stage we begin to walk with God Himself. God is the one who initially dispensed vision into us. Now this vision has become our reality, enabling us to walk with God—a co-walking in the depths of his wisdom and knowledge. This is the stage for those who are relatively mature.
Our growth in life follows this cycle over and over. Now we’re getting educated; now we’re in the wilderness; now we’re operating. Then we get more education; we have more wilderness experience; we operate more. We go through this again and again our entire Christian life. We shouldn’t ask which stage we are in. We’re in all three. Its not that clear cut. We want to say, “First its the time to be trained. Then its the time to cry. Now its time to be joyful and operative.” No, they are all together. It’s just a matter of emphasis. Sometimes, the emphasis is on training. Sometimes the emphasis is on being abandoned by the Lord. Sometimes the emphasis is on our walk with God for His operation. Just when we feel so prevailing, the Lord gives us more training. This will lead to more advanced experiences of the desert. Then we will have an even higher walk with God.
Students in school move from one grade to the next. They start in primary school, move on to junior high, then to high school. After twelve years they graduate and move on to college. God doesn’t do that. He puts college, senior high, junior high, and primary school all together and just keeps us cycling through it. That’s why the Christian life is so romantic. One minute we think we are so learned. The next minute it seems we don’t know a thing. One minute we sense how the Lord has blessed us, and the next minute it seems He has deserted us. We’re always being surprised by the Lord. What a marvelous life we lead. We’re not blessed with a private jet. We don’t have millions of dollars. But for some reason our life is so rich. We must say, “Lord, I am so thankful.”
Making God Ours
When we are in the first stage, enjoying someone’s teaching, we know God, but it is our teacher’s God, and objective to us. We enjoy what is ministered to us, but it is the minister’s experience, not ours. But one day, having passed through so many experiences of the second stage, we’ll be able to say it’s not just what someone else has. We also have God and enjoy Him. God has become so real to us. We see and walk with God Himself in the depths of His wisdom and knowledge. The vision we were taught has now become our reality. This is the experience of the third stage for those who are relatively mature.
Due to the Japanese invasion of China during World War II, thousands became refugees and a great famine followed. Although I was only a child, I saw something at that time I was never able to forget. A little boy about four or five years old had somehow obtained some food and was trying to feed his two year old baby sister. The parents were nowhere to be seen, so these two were likely orphans. The baby was crying and the little boy was dancing and doing all kinds of things to make her happy and to get her to eat.
This sight effected my life when I remembered it years later. I began to realize no Christian is too young to serve others. We can always care for some who are younger than we are. We can always care for some who have a greater need than we have. To these, we are relatively mature, even though we are still quite young. How mature we are is relative. We can always give them the God that is ours.
Always Deeper and Higher
The process of realizing the vision always progresses deeper and higher, and it causes us to operate according to what we see. It’s not that the vision motivates us, it’s that the vision brings us into a heavenly, spiritual reality. The Christ we see is ever more profound. We see Him as the suffering Christ, the resurrected Christ, and the reigning Christ. Then we begin to see Him as the Christ who is head over all things to the church, which is His body, the Christ who reigns in life, the Christ who executes His economy in life both individually and with the church, and the Christ who accomplishes God’s eternal will in His economy through the church. This vision continually expands as we see more and more of who He is, what He has done, and what He desires to accomplish. It is full of Christ and the church. The more we see, the more we desire to give ourselves to Him.