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We all face the temptation to pursue our dreams, call it a vision, and then ask God to bless it. God’s vision for our lives should be the heartbeat that pumps through everything we do. But how do we separate God’s vision from our own?

Discovering who God created you to be and what God is shaping you to do is not a one-time event. God reveals his vision to us over time. And we usually only see part of the vision at first. As you respond to what God shows you and begin to live into God’s preferred future, the vision becomes more vivid and real.

Vision vs. Purpose

Vision builds on purpose, but there are differences between the two:

  • Purpose clarifies; vision motivates.
  • Purpose is the reason you live; vision is the song your heart sings.
  • Purpose gives meaning; vision prompts action.
  • Purpose uses your own words to capture God’s common purposes for all disciples; vision is specific and unique to you.
  • Purpose anchors you; vision evokes awe and releases imagination.
  • Your motivating vision is a picture of God’s preferred future. Pictures have power because of the way they focus us. The picture needs to be clear, and it must capture what God wants to create through you and be focused on the outcome rather than the process.

To discern God’s vision for your future, sometimes the best place to look for guidance is in your past.

Reflect on God's shaping work in your life

Discerning your vision requires time for reflection and processing, as well as the faith to embrace it. It grows from your past and all God has done to shape you. Vision is revealed as you let your life speak. As you “listen” to your life and what God is saying to you through it, the Holy Spirit will show you what you need to see and understand.

Here is one way to think about past, present, and future when it comes to motivating vision:

Learn from your past, envision your future, so you can live your vision in the present.

Consider how you would complete these sentences and answer these questions:

  • The people and circumstances that have most shaped my life and ministry are…
  • The qualities of character I most admire and desire for God to shape in my life are…
  • People who know me well believe I am most used by God when I…
  • As I reflect on my life, things I have done, experienced, or accomplished that were satisfying and energizing are…
  • When I think about ministry in the future, the area of ministry I would love to focus on is…
  • Though I have always dismissed the thought, at times I have really felt I should be doing…
  • Ask others to answer the question, “What do you see in me?”
  • Based on how God has shaped you, if you knew you could not fail, what would you do in your lifetime for God’s glory?

Create a timeline of your life

Because God’s vision for your future is anticipated in your past, it can be helpful to create a timeline of key moments in your life thus far. Note the faith challenges, divine contacts, destiny revelations, and/or negative preparation God used.

As you reflect on your life, you will probably start to see some common threads or patterns, ways God has shaped you for your unique purpose.

Prayerfully reflect on and respond to these questions about God’s work in your life so far:

  • What are some of the common themes?
  • What do they tell you about God’s work in your life?
  • What do they say about the future God has been shaping for you?

Articulating God's vision for your life

Try to write out what you believe God’s vision for your life is right now. In the vision, do your best to respond to these questions:

  • Who is God shaping me to be?
  • What does God want to accomplish through me?
  • What is God’s vision for my life?

Remember, this vision represents your best understanding to date of God’s motivating vision for your life. It isn’t the final understanding. You may find a better way to state the vision at a later date. The vision will become clearer as you obey and answer God’s call. However, this is the vision God has given you to date. Begin to live it now, and trust God to show you more as you are faithful.

Test your vision with these questions:

  • Is it anticipated in my past?
  • Can I visualize it?
  • Is it clear?
  • Is it focused on the outcome?
  • Does it engage my passion?
  • Do I need God’s help to achieve it?

Example vision statements

Reading these examples of vision statements may help you refine what you have written.

“My vision is that people whose lives are limited by poverty, lack of education, or deficient training will experience the love of Jesus through me as I give them employment, encourage their education, and offer them training so they feel successful and are able to support a family.”

“I know God desires to use me to offer our children the spiritual, emotional, relational, experiential, and financial resources they need to become disciples, grow in faith, answer God’s call, and make their own unique contributions as adults.”

“I know God has placed me as a public school teacher so I can be a source of light to others and I can offer my students a chance at a better life.”

“God has given me a vision for a family that loves God and models a genuine, believable faith in our neighborhood and community. My role is to help my wife discover her own unique calling and grow in her effectiveness and to build up and empower my children to make their faith their own.”

“God has given me a vision to build a congregation passionately committed to the goal of reproduction of disciples, leaders, groups, ministries, and sites. My role is to model reproduction and make it the highest possible priority in my ministry.”

This article was adapted from Purposeful Living, a structured and biblically grounded process for finding and fulfilling God’s call for your life.

Learn more about Purposeful Living and get the free handbook.

About the author

Purposeful Living

This article was adapted from Purposeful Living, a structured and biblically grounded process designed to help you find your calling from God.