rebelling against low expectations

The One Kind of Vision Christian Teens Need in 2021


I have last year’s goals spread out before me.

Some practical: Work out two days a week. Get to bed by 10:30 each night.

Some ministry and work related: Write book two. Redesign website.

Some spiritual: Study the Bible in a deeper way. Be consistent with my prayer time each day.

If the beginning of a year is anything, it’s a time for casting vision. Dreaming. Planning. Making new goals and reinforcing good habits. It’s the reset and check-up we all need each year to get us back on track.

But if I were to be completely honest, right now, my vision is dried up. 2020 wasn’t anything like I was expecting. Too many painful circumstances knocked me upside the head, punched the breath from my lungs, and stole so much of my vision. I’m tired right now. Lately, taking it one day at a time has been all I’ve been able to do. Looking into the future scares me more than it excites me. Considering the possibility of another year like this one makes me want to curl up in a ball and try not to hyperventilate, instead of pull out my shiny new planner and make goals I don’t know if I’ll be able to complete.

Where there is no vision, the people perish . . . (Proverbs 29:18)

Hope deferred makes the heart sick . . . (Proverbs 13:12)

I get it now. Life without vision, hope deferred—it wears a person down. Heart sick. Perishing. Yep, sounds about right.

Are you starting this year more exhausted than excited? Are you tiptoeing into 2021 more fearful than hopeful?

If so, I understand. You’re not the only one.

But as hard as it is to catch hold of when life hurts or dreams die, we need vision. We need to embrace the beauty of a fresh start and the possibilities that are before us.

But where we often go wrong is thinking that all we need is our vision. In reality, we need Kingdom vision.

The Difference Between Personal Vision and Kingdom Vision

Personal vision is our New Year’s resolutions. Personal vision is all about “I want . . .” “I hope . . .” “I plan . . .” Do this. Do that. Make this happen. Make that happen.

Kingdom vision is grasping hold of a vision God already laid out before us. It’s taking our eyes off ourselves and asking God, “What do you want to come next?”

There’s nothing wrong with personal vision. In fact, it’s a great thing to make goals and dream big dreams. If we didn’t have personal vision, we’d never finish school, get a job, get married, or do anything at all with our lives. Personal vision is a necessary part of growing and maturing.

But if personal vision is all we have, we’re fueling the dreams of our lives with water from a well that’s already dry. There’s nothing to sustain personal vision when all our plans come crashing down and life suddenly looks nothing like we planned. There’s no bigger picture if a plan fails or a dream dies. Why keep on going?

That’s why we need Kingdom vision. That’s why every plan we make and goal we set needs to be backed up by a bigger goal and a bigger story.

God’s story.

God’s goals.

God’s kingdom vision is the full story of Scripture and the gospel spread out before us.

In the words of the great commission, we’re given vision: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” (Mark 16:15)

In the words of Jesus, we’re given vision: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

Again, vision: “A new commandment I give to you that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (John 13:34)

In our hope for the end of the age, we see vision: “And the Spirit and the bride say ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” (Revelation 22:17)

And finally, we see the vision our hurting hearts crave to see in a broken world: “’And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away’ Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new . . .’” (Revelation 21:4, 5)

This is just a glimpse of God’s greater vision. It’s a picture of redemption for all humanity and forgiveness for the lost. Of love that goes beyond anything we can imagine and of an invitation into life everlasting.

The amazing part is that God invites us to catch hold of this vision and let these goals and purposes drive our lives and become our goals and purposes. Inviting the lost to be found. Denying our own desires to follow Christ. Loving with unconditional love.

Embracing God’s Kingdom vision in our lives doesn’t mean we all write, “Become a missionary” “Go overseas” or “Share the gospel every single day” on our New Year’s resolutions. It could mean that, but God leads us each to different places and callings and embracing His greater vision doesn’t mean we’ll all live it out exactly the same way.

What embracing Kingdom vision does mean is living with a heart turned toward our King. Emptying ourselves of our own plans and surrendering our lives before Him, letting Him lead us. Letting the greater plan define our daily plan.

No Reserves, No Retreats, No Regrets

In my book Love Riot, I share the story of a young missionary who lived this out with passion and purpose. His name was William Borden and while he died at the age of 25 before reaching his mission field, he lived with his eyes fixed on greater things. While traveling the world at the age of 16, God lit William’s heart with a passion to make Christ’s vision his own. On that trip, he wrote two words in his Bible.

No reserves.

For the next few years, he lived as a missionary on his college campus, leading a revival among the students as he lived out the great commission right where he was. During this time, he wrote in his journal, “Say no to self and yes to Jesus every time.” After graduating, two more words were added to his Bible.

No retreats.

Finally, at the age of 25, while in Egypt learning the Arabic language to prepare for life as a missionary to Muslims, he contracted spinal meningitis and died less than a month later. After he died, two last words were found written in his Bible.

No regrets.

No regrets. How, I wonder, could he say that? When his life was cut so short and he never even fulfilled the desire of his heart to be a missionary in a foreign country?

He could die with no regrets because he first lived with no reserves and no retreats. He lived, not with his own vision, but God’s. On his deathbed, he could know that while his own plans were thwarted, he had poured out his life in completing God’s plans.

Could we say the same?

You see, embracing God’s vision and making it our own isn’t just about surrendering our own plans, but about gaining true purpose and unending hope.

Right now, my vision is dried up. But I know God’s isn’t. He’s still at work, He’s still calling souls to Himself, He’s still breathing new life into dead hearts. Our hope of “All things new” still holds fast, even if everything around us looks old.

That’s why, this year, I’m casting a different kind of vision. I’m coming back to His plans and emptying my own at His feet. I don’t know what this year holds, but by His grace and power, I want to live without any reserves or retreats so I can look back on 2021 without any regrets.

Will you do the same? Will you offer your plans to Jesus this year? Will you ask Him to fill your heart with Kingdom vision? Will you pray for grace to live with no reserves, no retreats, and no regrets?

As we enter into this New Year, I encourage you—prioritize Kingdom vision. By all means, make your plans. Set your goals. Write down your resolutions. But live each day this year with your heart turned toward Jesus. Let Him breathe new life, purpose, and yes, vision, into your soul. 

Check out the first two articles in this series on growing closer to God during 2021: Looking Back to Move Forward—Learning and Growing from 2020 and 5 Practical Ways to Grow Closer to God in 2021. 

Editor’s Note: Hey, Rebelutionary! Want to grow closer to God in 2021? We’re kicking off the New Year with this three part series from our lead editor Sara Barratt about looking back, growing stronger, and casting vision for 2021. This series is inspired by content from Sara’s new book Love Riot: A Teenage Call to Live With Relentless Abandon for Christ. Brett Harris named Love Riot as his pick for Christian Teen Book of the Year for 2020. Pick up a copy of Love Riot to start off the New Year with a focus on drawing closer to Jesus. Find out more and purchase your copy here.

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  • Wow, just wow. This one hit deep. Thank you so much for sharing this, it’s exactly what I needed right now.

By Sara Starkey
rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →