When Solomon, the wisest man in the world, is giving his end-of-life advice in the book of Ecclesiastes he says in 8:15, “I commend joy, for man has nothing better under the sun but to eat and drink and be joyful, for this will go with him in his toil through the days of his life that God has given him under the sun.” The book of Philippians is Paul’s commendation of joy to us also. James Boice introduces his study of the book by saying, “The letter to the Philippians is one of the most joyous books in the Bible. All the way through the letter Paul speaks of inner joy, of inner happiness—sixteen times in four brief chapters. And he does it in such an artless way we know that the one who advised the Philippians to ‘rejoice in the Lord always’ had himself found the true source of joy. He had not only learned in whatever state he was to be content; he had learned to rejoice in whatever state he was. He overflowed with rejoicing.”[1] We can too!

It was a dream in which Paul had a vision that moved him to travel to Philippi. On his 2nd missionary journey, he found himself back in Asia Minor looking for a destination to the east. But he didn’t feel at peace about any of his choices. He never even considered going west into Macedonia. That would take him to Europe! He didn’t want to go to Europe! But God wanted him to! In the vision Paul saw a man crying out to him for help, pleading with him to come to Europe. Acts 16:10 says, “And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.” It’s interesting to me that in Acts 10 it took three visions from God to motivate Peter to answer the call for help from a gentile outside his comfort Zone. Paul seemed to grasp the significance right away. He became the New Testament’s greatest visionary. He had the vision to reach people in Rome and as far west as Spain.

Paul knew his mission well: to preach the Gospel! Paul had a divinely appointed mission, but no divinely inspired vision. That’s why he was frustrated on his 2nd missionary journey until God gave him the vision to go west into Europe. Nothing ever happens if there is no vision fueled by the conviction that this is what God wants “us” to do. Each Christian has a divinely appointed mission; to contribute their time, energy, and resources to the overall mission Jesus gave the church to “make disciples.” It is vision that energizes the fulfillment of a mission. Vision is strategic. It gives us direction! It clears the confusion. It informs us on how we as individuals can uniquely fulfill our mission. Vision enables us to understand how we as individuals are distinct from other Christians. It informs us of where our life is taking us. It is a vision that inspires and energizes us. It also makes life meaningful and fills us with joy! That’s why Paul said, “…immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia.” With a clear vision of what God wants us to do with our lives, joy will, “go with us in our toil through the days of our life that God has given us under the sun.”

[1] Boice, James Montgomery. 2000. Philippians: An Expositional Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.