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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

rebuild it.”

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

good work.

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

Manage Distraction

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

more opposition.

“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

was focused.

“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.” -

Nehemiah 4

In doing things this way Nehemiah gave his men rest, and

provided protection.

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.

Manage distraction.

Keep true to the vision.

A million dreams for the world we're gonna make....


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