Greatest Showman: The Reality of Vision
Greatest Showman: The Reality of Vision
Ladies & Gents this is the chapter you’ve waited for.... Woah
oh oh oh ohhhhhhhhhh (hope that sticks in your head).
For the unaware, The Greatest Showman is the musical story
of PT Barnum of Barnum and the Bailey circus. PT was a man
whose vision revolutionized entertainment for generations. His
circus had crazy longevity, running from 1871-2017. This is the
story of a man who brought entertainment to the world for
147 years through a circus. Now, his story will continue to be
told in musical format for generations to come. This chapter is
primarily based on the film. It is not intended to be an actual
biography of Barnum’s life. Whether it is the gritty real-life
occurrence or the happy singing Hugh Jackman version, this
remains a great story of vision.
Like with every great change and renovation, the circus started
out as a vision before it became reality. He saw what could
become long before it ever took place. Vision means seeing
things as they could be and before they happen. One of the
often-quoted verses about vision is Proverbs 29:18 that says,
“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Other
translations of this say without revelation, without divine
guidance, or without prophetic vision, but they all tell the
same story. Without a direction, something to strive toward,
and forward motion, things unravel.
I bet you can attest to the fact that some of the best times in
your life have been in the process of moving forward.
Sometimes the journey is more rewarding than the
destination. Regardless, we need that vision. If I were to ask
you today what you are striving for or what vision is motivating
you, what would your answer be?
For Barnum it was the vision of being an entertainer.
“A million dreams are keeping me awake.
I think of what the world could be,
A vision of the one I see.
A million dreams is all it's gonna take.
A million dreams for the world we're gonna make.”
Recognize the Vision
Vision goes beyond just personal gain, future goals, or a
business plan. It is being able to see what could or should be in
the world you're in. While it may not be the most entertaining
story, a biblical leader had a grand vision as well. After a
troubling time in the history of the nation of Israel, Nehemiah,
the King’s Cupbearer, had vision.
“1 In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King
Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the
wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his
presence before, 2 so the king asked me, “Why does
your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be
nothing but sadness of heart.”
I was very much afraid, 3 but I said to the king, “May the
king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when
the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and
its gates have been destroyed by fire?”
4 The king said to me, “What is it you want?”
Then I prayed to the God of heaven, 5 and I answered
the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has
found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in
Judah where my ancestors are buried so that I can
6 Then the king, with the queen sitting beside him,
asked me, “How long will your journey take, and when
will you get back?” It pleased the king to send me; so I
set a time.
7 I also said to him, “If it pleases the king, may I have
letters to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, so that they
will provide me safe-conduct until I arrive in Judah?8
And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the royal
park, so he will give me timber to make beams for the
gates of the citadel by the temple and for the city wall
and for the residence I will occupy?” And because the
gracious hand of my God was on me, the king granted
my requests.” - Nehemiah 2:1-7
Nehemiah had the vision to see what could be. There was no
reason that a lowly cup-bearer should carry the weight,
responsibility, and leadership of rebuilding the structure and
glory of the city of Judah. However, that’s what was within
him, and that was what he reached for when he had the
Most of us throw out our vision because it seems unattainable
or too difficult, or we don’t understand how to actually make it
work. If you wait until you have all the answers and steps in
front of you to make any effort in the pursuit of your vision,
you will never move forward.
Cast the Vision
You not only have to believe in your vision, but you have to be
able to cast it for others so that they can not only understand
your goal, but join in.
When Barnum was ready to pursue his humble dream, he had
to put effort into helping people see the value in it. You can’t
cast your vision without moving forward or going places you
haven’t gone before. He set out across his city to find people
with whom to share his vision. He posted:
“Wanted! Sensational performers and curiosities.
Male or female. Young or old. Daring acts. Wonders of
the world. Curios performers of all ages are invited to
apply to P.T. Barnum’s Museum of Curiosities. Corner
of Broadway and Ann Street. We encourage the rare
and exotic types from around the world. Barnum’s
American Museum. Cor. Bradway and Ann St.,
Opposite St. Paul’s Church.”
He put the big bold words out to get attention, and in smaller
print showed a little deeper what he actually desired. As
Barnum cast his vision and recruited his team to make it
possible, he was obviously met with opposition, discomfort,
awkwardness, and doubt. Once he took those steps, his dream
began to move forward and succeed in ways he had never
imagined. The people he initially met weren’t the most
receptive, but they did help put him on the right direction. If
you don’t make the effort to share your vision, it can’t grow. As
he approached the bearded lady he stated, “You are so
talented and blessed. Extraordinary, unique, I would even say
beautiful. They don’t understand, but they will.” That’s having
vision, being able to see something and in the face of
uncertainty state “They don’t understand, but they will.”
For Nehemiah, the same was true.
Telling the king was the first step, but when you have a vision,
you need to cast it. Share it. Spread it. Find those who are
willing to join in with you. Not everyone will respect or
respond to it, but the only way to find those who will is to try.
“16 The officials did not know where I had gone or what
I was doing, because as yet I had said nothing to the
Jews or the priests or nobles or officials or any others
who would be doing the work.
17 Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in:
Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned
with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and
we will no longer be in disgrace.” 18 I also told them
about the gracious hand of my God on me and what the
king had said to me.
They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this
19 But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the
Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab heard about it,
they mocked and ridiculed us. “What is this you are
doing?” they asked. “Are you rebelling against the king?”
20 I answered them by saying, “The God of heaven will
give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but
as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim
or historic right to it.” Nehemiah 2
One of the things that we find, unfortunately, is that as your
vision become reality, distractions come. Things you weren’t
expecting rise up, and pull you away from the direction you
know you are meant to go. Sometimes those distractions are
temptations, discouragements, or unexpected setbacks that
steal your energy and focus.
Barnum created his circus to provide for his family, to make
reality his vision of the greatest show on earth, and in some
ways be a voice for the voiceless. His vision was gaining
ground. He was becoming wildly successful and the dream he
had as child had become reality. But when he meets a
beautiful female vocalist that he can cash in on, he becomes
distracted. He wasn’t satisfied with realizing the vision he had,
he wanted the acclaim, the praise, and for people of “value” to
say he was worthy.
“Helen: First it was buying a house on the same street as
my parents. Then meeting the queen. Then bringing
Jenny Lind, and my father the other night. When will it
ever be enough for you?
P.T.: I am doing this for Caroline and Helen.
Helen: Look around you. They have everything.
P.T.: You don't understand.
Helen: I do.
P.T.: No. You don't understand! How could you? My
father was treated like dirt. I was treated like dirt. My
children will not be.
Helen: You don't need everyone to love you, Phin. Just a
few good people.
P.T. I know that.”
He said he knew that as he walked out the door, leaving his
children crying out for him. His distractions were about to
cripple his vision. He took out a loan on his circus, abandoned
his performers, separated himself from his family, and put
himself in a compromising position in his marriage. His
distraction essentially cost him everything he had built so far.
Nehemiah faced distractions too. His were less temptation and
“6 So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reaches half its
height, for the people worked with all their heart.
7 But when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites
and the people of Ashdod heard that the repairs to
Jerusalem’s walls had gone ahead and that the gaps
were being closed, they were very angry. 8 They all
plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem
and stir up trouble against it. 9 But we prayed to our
God and posted a guard day and night to meet this
10 Meanwhile, the people in Judah said, “The strength
of the laborers is giving out, and there is so much rubble
that we cannot rebuild the wall.”
11 Also our enemies said, “Before they know it or see us,
we will be right there among them and will kill them and
put an end to the work.”
12 Then the Jews who lived near them came and told us
ten times over, “Wherever you turn, they will attack us.”
- Nehemiah 4
Nehemiah’s laborers were exhausted. The work was crushing
them, and they literally had people plotting to kill them as they
worked. It would have been so easy to let these distractions
weigh them down. How we respond to the distractions of our
vision shows how focused we truly are. Thankfully, Nehemiah
“13 Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the
lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting
them by families, with their swords, spears and bows.14
After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the
nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be
afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and
awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your
daughters, your wives and your homes.”
15 When our enemies heard that we were aware of
their plot and that God had frustrated it, we all returned
to the wall, each to our own work.
16 From that day on, half of my men did the work, while
the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows
and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all
the people of Judah 17 who were building the wall.
Those who carried materials did their work with one
hand and held a weapon in the other, 18 and each of the
builders wore his sword at his side as he worked. But the
man who sounded the trumpet stayed with me.” -
In doing things this way Nehemiah gave his men rest, and
As with P.T. Barnum and Nehemiah as well, every distraction
we face is an opportunity to grow stronger.
Keep True to Your Vision
With Barnum’s original vision to create the greatest show on
earth and provide for his family, he had to learn to balance
what that looked like. He had to learn to let go and delegate.
He had to actually make sure he took the time to enjoy his
family he fought so hard to provide for. Our vision means
nothing if we don’t know when to stop, when to rest, or when
we’ve actually arrived.
“I drank champagne with kings and queens, the
politicians praised my name. But those are someone
else's dreams, the pitfalls of the man I became.
For years and years, I chased their cheers, at the crazy
speed of always needing more.
But when I stop, and see you here, I remember who all
this was for.
And from now on, these eyes will not be blinded by the
lights. From now on, what's waited till tomorrow starts
tonight. It starts tonight. And let this promise in me
start, like an anthem in my heart. From now on...And we
will come back home, home again.”
Balancing your vision is essential. Like Barnum, make sure your
vision comes back home. When you realize you are going off
course, make the appropriate corrections, and get back on
track. His circus may be gone now, but it will live on in history,
and this musical is probably going to be sung for decades. It’s
really not even about the outcome though, it genuinely is
making sure that you are true to your vision, regardless of how
the world responds to it.
Nehemiah had set out to rebuild the wall and the city of Judah,
but it wasn’t just about rebuilding the geography of the
location it was about rebuilding what God had done in the
people. Reestablishing what God had done in their lives. When
their work was nearly done, they cried out to the lord. They
confessed the sins of not only their current people, but of
those that came before them and they made an agreement to
seek after God.
“1 On the twenty-fourth day of the same month, the
Israelites gathered together, fasting and wearing
sackcloth and putting dust on their heads. 2 Those of
Israelite descent had separated themselves from all
foreigners. They stood in their places and confessed
their sins and the sins of their ancestors. 3 They stood
where they were and read from the Book of the Law of
the Lord their God for a quarter of the day, and spent
another quarter in confession and in worshiping the
Lord their God.” - Nehemiah 9
They knew if they were going to see their vision become
reality, they would have to be obedient and integritous before
We can learn so much from these stories. What is the vision
you have for your life? Realistically though, we don’t have
visions for our whole lives, we have visions for seasons. What
you have a vision for right now might not be your vision in 6
months, or a year. It also might take you 10 years to make your
vision happen. Regardless of the time it takes, your vision can
only be executed when you take the steps to make it happen.
Recognize the vision.
Cast the vision.
Keep true to the vision.
A million dreams for the world we're gonna make....