Jul 19, 2014
Revelation 4:1, 2
John was in the spirit as he received the apocalypse on the island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea. From that vantage point he was given visions containing messages to write and send to the seven churches in Asia. As the drama of the revelation unfolded, John was shown a door opened in heaven and heard a voice with the clarity of a trumpet inviting him to “come up here and I will show you things which must be hereafter” (Rev. 4:1). In those words John was commanded to change his position.
John is not only told to change his position. He is told to “come up”! In other words he is to get a better position; a better vantage point. Changing one’s position is not necessarily good unless it is for a better one. John’s upward movement would better facilitate the divine objective in bringing comfort to the persecuted Christians of his day. From the things John would see through the opened door in heaven they would learn that martyrdom was not defeat but sure sign of victory with Christ.
The stated purpose for which John is commanded to change his position is so he could be shown things. The implication is that his upward move was both necessary and a prerequisite to seeing the additional things that the angel was told to show him. His previous place had now become inadequate for the things still to be seen. In other words John had to come up through the opened door in heaven to be able to see the new things because he simply could not see them from where he was.
John’s experience illustrates a number of truths about the importance of positioning that are applicable to us, even though we do not live in the first century on the desert island of Patmos. Whether we are playing a sport, hammering a nail or wielding the spiritual sword, how we are positioned is essential to the execution of our objective.
Positioning is essential on many fronts and descriptive of many states. It can speak of our physical placement in space and time such as sitting, lying, stooping, standing or reclining. Depending on what we are aiming to do, one of these postures will better expedite that objective than others. Positioning can also be emotional. The emotion of anger may not be the place from which I want to go to my brother who has offended me, especially since James argues that the wrath of man tends not to produce the righteousness of God (James 1:20). Psychological positioning is also important. Positive thoughts about me are a more advantageous psychological place from which to launch a self- improvement project than doubtful ones. Even for those of us who are in the great spiritual place called in Christ, God may still need to tweak our position. What Paul said to the church in Corinth can sometimes be said of us. “And I brethren could not speak unto you as unto spiritual but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ” (I Cor. 3:1).
As John was told in vision to “come up hither”, God also says the same to His people. This may not be a call to move to Minnesota but to modify our mindset. One of the great tragedies I believe is for God’s people to get stuck in a rut; bound by old thinking, and shackled by status quo vision. In many instances when God says “you have dwelt long enough in this mountain, turn and take your journey” (Deut. 1: 6, 7), His people respond by singing “I shall not be moved”.
In moving however, let us make sure we are moving for a better position. A better position is one that brings us closer to God’s will. For example, being in Christ is a better position than out of Christ because God’s objective is that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. (I Tim 2: 4) Again, doctrinal stability is a better place than being tossed to and fro, since God wants us rooted and grounded in love and established in the faith (Eph. 3: 17; Col 2: 7). Contentment with little progress, as long as it is achieved legally and morally, is better than having a lot, with the law looking for you. Solomon said; “better a little with the fear of the Lord, than great treasure with turmoil” (Prov. 15: 16).
Like John, we are invited higher to see new things. This implies that we cannot see them from where we are. Jesus implied that His disciples were in a better time position than even prophets and wise men that lived in previous ages. He told them, “For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see and did not see it and to hear what you hear and did not hear it” (Matt. 13: 17). Still He was frustrated with the slow rate of their progress toward spiritual maturity, which hindered His disclosure of more of God’s plan to them. Hear Him. “I have many more things to say to you but you cannot bear them now” (John 16: 12). Their spiritual position and vision were intertwined. Hope was not lost for them however. With the passage of time would come new insights from new positions. Though Peter could see no sense in having Jesus wash his feet, Jesus promised that enlightenment would come to him later. He told him. “What I do, you do not realize now, but you shall understand hereafter” (John 13: 7).
So what does your position allow you to see? Can you see your vitality to the development of the body of Christ? Can you visualize an area of ministry in which you employ your God-given talents for the edifying of the church of Christ? Paul said that the body is compacted by that which every joint supplies (Eph. 4:16). Can you see yourself wise enough to share the gospel in a way that brings others to Christ? Solomon thinks it is a great idea. He said, “The fruit of righteousness is a tree of life and he who is wise wins souls” (Prov. 11:30). Do you see yourself as being competent to counsel, allowing God to use your experience in life to help others get through their challenges? We are exhorted to “bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal 6:2). The things that we do not see are not beyond our ability to see, nor are they outside the purview of God’s will. To see them however, requires a new position. The quality of life we experience is directly related to the quality of vision we have. No matter where we may be positioned or how long we have been there, God still says “Come up hither!”