One of my favorite comedy movies was Mr. Magoo. Mr. Quincy Magoo is an eccentric millionaire with very bad eyesight who refuses to use eyeglasses and therefore always gets into trouble. During a museum robbery he accidentally gets a priceless gem called the Star of Kuristan, and begins to trace the way for the arch-criminals whose idea was to steal the gem, while two federal agents lead the manhunt for Mr. Magoo himself.1
The problem in trying to relate this movie to real life is that it’s delusional . . . people with bad vision just don’t come out on top in life like Mr. Magoo did. It’s absolutely essential that a person has good eyesight, and just as importantly, that they have a good vision of their future.
What is vision? Books abound on the subject but here are two ideas on what vision is:  seeing what others do not see  having a plan of where you want to go. Chuck Swindoll said, “When I think of vision, I have in mind the ability to see above and beyond the majority.”2 I also think of what George Barna said, “Vision is a picture held in your mind’s eye of the way things could or should be in the days ahead.”3
Proverbs 29:18 (KJV) tells us “Where there is no vision, the people perish . . .” Other translations make it clear that this is referring to a person or people who see something because of having received some kind of communication from God, i.e. “revelation” (NKJV), “guidance” (CEV), “prophetic vision” (ESV). This helps us to conclude that God did not intend for us to have a vision of our future apart from His guidance, revelation, or prophetic insight.
Habakkuk 2:2-3 tells us to write the vision so that we know where we are going. Why? Because the vision will not all happen right away (it will tarry or delay in its coming). Writing down the vision helps us to stay in faith about what God has spoken to us to do.
If you ask people what they want to do in life, many have no answer. When you ask people what their purpose is in life, most cannot tell you. This seems true of Christians as much as it is of those who are not. Most people do not have a one year plan in mind, let alone have it written down. Because of operating this way they have no anchor, and drift along in life on whatever streams of circumstances that they find themselves in.
Many people don’t realize that God has a plan for their life, ministry or church—they’re just trying to survive. Others don’t feel like they can follow God’s plan. Some don’t realize the value of having a vision. Others simply don’t care enough to develop a vision for their life, ministry, and church. Consequently, many individuals, ministers, or churches are not able to step into the future God had planned for them.
As we look at the necessity of having a vision, let me mention five misconceptions that people have:
1. Having a vision is all you need to be successful. Seldom is having one thing all you need to be successful. It’s like looking at an iceberg . . . there’s a whole lot more to a person’s success than what you can readily see. Usually, the visible part of what a person does to have success is a small part of all they really do. So, having a vision is necessary and vital, but realize it is only one of many ingredients you need to be successful.
2. Having a vision means I don’t have to do things other people have to do. Having a vision is no substitute for things like financial management, people skills, Biblical knowledge, or just plain hard work. Some people look at having a vision as being a spiritual experience that eliminates the need for anything else. These type of people should remember the words of Vance Havner, “The vision must be followed by the venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps – we must step up the stairs.”4 We should realize that having a vision often positions a person for the next thing they need to do.
3. Having vision makes you a competent leader. A competent leader will have a vision, but his level of competency is determined by a number of things, especially how he can influence others with the vision he has. A competent leader is able to influence other people to go with him on the same journey to accomplish the desired task. Remember “he who thinketh he leadeth and hath no one following him is only taking a walk.” (John C. Maxwell)5
4. Having vision will solve all your problems. In the world of medicine, no one medication will take care of all the things that people have wrong in their body. It’s that way with the rest of the world—there is no cure-all for every problem you encounter. Actually, while implementing a vision, you may encounter problems you didn’t have before!
5. Having vision will automatically cause you to reach new levels in life and ministry. However, in actuality nothing is automatic in life. Having vision will set you up for the next thing you have to do, whether it’s to pray accurately, raise funds, connect with the right people, be at the right place at the right time, or simply what to do next.
The above-mentioned misconceptions are simply that . . . wrong ideas people have about what vision will do for them. Having pointed out these misconceptions, let me now say that without a vision of what you plan to do, you probably won’t be very successful, be a competent leader, solve all your problems, or reach new levels of life and ministry.
It is a proven fact that people with a vision that they have written out accomplish more than people who do not. Having no vision is like being in a boat with no motor or anchor—simply drifting along with no specific direction in mind. Peter Marshall once said, “Give to us clear vision that we may know where to stand and what to stand for – because unless we stand for something, we shall fall for anything.”6 So, we should realize that having a vision will help you focus on the specific direction you want or need to go.
I can think of five reasons why having a vision on an individual level, a minister level, and a church level is absolutely essential:
1. Vision will help you not be controlled by opinions, obstacles, opposition, or opportunities. This is the challenge that every individual and organization faces—to be who God called them to be and do, regardless of what others think or say. Here I want to be clear about something—I am not advocating that disregarding opinions of others to focus on the vision does away with the need for accountability and submission, and dialogue with others we hold in high esteem is not necessary. Needs arise, and crises come to everyone, but having a vision will guide us through the maze. Everyone has to make choices because of what confronts them; however, every situation should be evaluated in the light of what God has shown for us to be and do. In the midst of many voices and opinions, your vision will point you in the right direction.
2. Vision will strengthen you in your journey. A person with a vision will be empowered to do what others cannot do! Having a picture within or on paper of a desired future will fuel a person’s determination and energize them to keep going when others are ready to quit. People who gaze steadfastly at their God-given vision will also experience a God-given strength to accomplish the assignment. Often there is lots of excitement when a vision is received. However, often there is a significant period of time between the receiving and fulfillment of the vision, and strength is needed every step of the way. The Israelites spent forty years journeying to the Promised Land. It was many years between the time David was anointed to be king of Israel to the time he actually was the king. Paul said in Acts 26:19, “I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision.” Paul’s Christian journey was not easy nor comfortable, but Paul declared that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:13, NKJV). How was he strengthened in Christ? In part by the visionary, revelational words God spoke to him on the Damascus Road that guided him the rest of his life!
3. Vision will help you do the right things along the way. Every journey is made up of many steps, and every great venture has many tasks. Too often Christians are waiting on God to do something, when in fact, God is waiting for them to identify the next step so they can arrive at the right place and do the right things. So the challenge everyone faces is to know you’re taking the right steps or doing the right thing at the right time in the middle of the journey. One uncorrected step taken in the wrong direction will lead you away from your goal rather than to it. In the middle of the journey, it is easy to lose sight of the intended goal. Each step in the journey is important and necessary. A student must face each test so that he will graduate. A sculptor must make many taps in the right places with the hammer and chisel to bring forth a statue. A writer has to type the right words in order to write a book. A carpenter nails many boards together in the right way to build a house. A farmer plows each furrow properly so the seed can be sown because he wants a harvest. Aubrey Malphurs stated that vision paints “a portrait of what God intends for the ministry to accomplish so all can see it.”7 A successful journey requires a constant and continued looking at the vision to ensure that at any given point they are on the correct route leading to the desired destination.
4. Vision will help you recognize your destination. Someone once said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, anywhere will do.” Recognizing your destination is not difficult when a person has repeatedly seen it in their mind’s eye before they actually get there. Reaching your desired destination is no accident. One does not become a doctor, attorney, chemist, or national politician without a plan. People who achieve great things in ministry do so because they have the desired result in mind long before they get there. They have received communication from God, written an action plan, identified steps in the desired direction, and ended up where God had spoken to them to go. Abraham did not end up at his destination by accident. Moses did not wake up one day at the edge of the Promised Land and wonder how they got there. David’s victory over Goliath was not a fluke—he had taken previous steps in fighting a bear and a lion. Jesus did not appear on earth two thousand years ago because He accidently fell off His seat in heaven and landed on planet Earth. He knew where He came from, why He was here, and where His destination was. God had a vision before the foundations of the world existed to redeem mankind through the shed blood of Christ on Calvary. Jesus never faltered one step, and never lost focus of His desired destination—to be seated at the right hand of God the Father, ever interceding for us!
5. Vision will enable you to please the Lord. Perhaps this is one of the least considered factors in determining what to do with our lives and ministries. All too often ministers and ministries are simply trying to survive the day, stay on the map another year, and pray that Jesus would come quickly. Yet Jesus, in depicting how the kingdom of God would work, told of the nobleman who instructed his servants, “Occupy until I come.” (Luke 19:12-13, KJV). Other translations say “trade” (RV), “do business” (NKJV), or “engage” (ESV). In other words, these servants were to follow the instructions of their master to accomplish specific tasks to reach a desired result. Notice the instructions the nobleman gave to them provided vision for them. In the end each one of them clearly knew whether they had reached the desired goal or not, and consequently, pleased their master. We should all desire to hear the words the nobleman spoke when he returned to his servants, “Well done!” (Luke 19:17, NKJV).
We should all go through this earthly journey with one ultimate goal—to reach a place called heaven. God help us not to lose sight of our future in heaven and just focus on earthly enjoyment or fleshly desires. George Barna stated that “the essence of vision for you, as a Christian, is radical obedience to God’s special calling upon your life.”8 Having a vision—revelation, prophetic insight, guidance from God—is absolutely essential so that we can see what others cannot yet see, and make plans for a future we have not yet experienced.
1 Mr. Magoo movie review, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mr._Magoo_
2 Chuck Swindoll, http://christian-quotes.ochristian.com/Vision-Quotes/
3 George Barna, The Power Of Vision (Ventura: Regal Books, 1992) 29
4 VanceHavner, http://www.famouspoetsandpoems.com/thematic_quotes/vision_quotes.html
5 John C. Maxwell, Developing the Leader Within You (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1993) 1
6 Peter Marshall, http://christian-quotes.ochristian.com/Vision-Quotes/
7 Aubrey Malphurs, Developing a Vision for Ministry in the 21st Century (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999) 22
8 George Barna, Turning Vision Into Action (Ventura: Regal Books, 1996) 49