(Summary of Sunday Sermon, 19 July 2015)
Last week, we saw that often when we reach new levels there are newer challenges, critics and devils to take on. These are the three external forces which God uses to take us from glory to glory.
Today, let’s look at three things that God does in and through our hearts as we walk to the next level.
POSTURE OF OUR HEART
Once, a man went climbing the Mount Everest along with his friends. Somewhere along the way, he got separated from his group. When dusk fell, he wandered around aimlessly trying to get to the camp site. Suddenly, he slipped and fell over the cliff. On his way down, he managed to clutch on to a tree branch. He screamed for help.
Just then, he heard a voice saying, ‘I am here’.
He asked, ‘Who are you?’
The Voice replied, ‘I am your Lord. Do you trust me?’
He said, ‘Yes I do. Please help me.’
The Lord said, ‘Then, leave your hands. Let go of the branch’.
There was silence.
The next morning his friends found him clutched on to the tree branch. He had frozen to death.
And guess what? The ground was just a few feet below him!
Often God gives us guidance. But like that man, we find it hard to let go. At every new level, God is looking for people who will respond to His call.
Let’s examine our hearts to see what the three things are that God wants to do in our hearts as we take on new levels.
Same is my name
Enlarge the place of your tent
The most common mistake that we all make is to revel and thrive in our glorious past. Well, we can’t really run too long on our past experiences and victories. We will soon run out of steam. It’s like how a student topper of the 9th grade can’t tackle his 10th grade exams based on his previous year.
Often, we settle down to the routines of life. We get up from the same bed, wear the same clothes, drive the same car, go to the same office, watch the same TV show, eat at the same table and go back to sleep on the same bed. SAME is the middle name of our existence. But is that all that there is to life? Is that the abundant life that God has given us?
Once, two hunters hired a plane and went deep into the jungle deer hunting. They shot six huge deer. At the end of the day, the pilot came to pick them up. But he told them that the plane’s capacity could only take four deer. The hunters refused to see reason. They bickered, argued and badgered the poor pilot to let them take all the six on board. They even reminded the pilot that in the previous year, he’d let them carry more game! Finally, annoyed by the whole deal, the pilot took them all in. The plane took off. But a little while later, it couldn’t go further with the load and it crashed in the wilderness. They picked themselves out of the wreckage and looked about. The first hunter remarked to the second one, ‘This place looks familiar. Where are we?’ The second hunter replied, ‘This is the same place that we crashed last year’.
If we keep doing the same thing, we will keep getting the same result.
Prayer of Jabez
And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” So God granted him what he requested.
1 Chronicles 4:10
The first four chapters of this book tell of the Israelite genealogy. Pretty boring, right? Then in verse 10, the Bible describes one simple, ordinary man. His name is Jabez. What’s in a name, one may ask? Well, it means a lot when the name means pain or sorrow because his mother bore him in pain. Imagine growing up and being constantly addressed as ‘Hey, Pain!’ That’s enough to spiral one into lifelong depression!
But here we see Jabez with a completely different spirit. He doesn’t settle down for a routine and miserable existence. He turns to the God of Israel! He asks God to enlarge his territory and keep him from causing pain. The Lord granted his request!
The Lord is looking for people with a Jabez attitude. He doesn’t want us to settle for the little. He is yearning to increase our capacity. How can we do that? We must get rid of the smallness of our minds. We must be willing to let God enlarge our tents. Let us ditch our petty issues and walk out of our pity ponds. Let us step out of the boat and walk on water.
From Director to Pastor
My husband and I got married about 14 years ago. Before our marriage, I was working as a director at YWAM. I regularly interacted with people from all walks of life, most of whom were fluent in English. After our wedding, my interactions were limited to the simple folk of Chennai who hardly spoke English.
I felt that I was floundering. My identity suddenly came into question. What was my role? What was my calling in life?
Around that time, one Sunday morning, we met as a church for our regular service. My husband was the one man army in the church. He’d set up the chairs, lead worship and preach the Word. As he energetically walked around leading us in worship, I stood silently bemoaning my life and its woes. Suddenly, my husband shouted at me, ‘Anjali, can’t you worship the Lord?’ Imagine my shock! I was mortified! I was his new bride and here he was shouting at me in front of the whole church. Hurt, I started crying.
But, you know what? God used that as a propeller. He broke the walls that I had built up. Hitherto, I had been unwilling to move out of my comfort zone. I was resisting God from being the person He was calling me to be. He was leading me to be a Shepherd and a Pastor. But I was stuck in my old memories of YWAM. That was the first day of a long journey of finding my calling and position in God’s body of believers.
Stretch out the curtains of your dwellings
14 Elisha had become sick with the illness of which he would die. Then Joash the king of Israel came down to him, and wept over his face, and said, “O my father, my father, the chariots of Israel and their horsemen!”
15 And Elisha said to him, “Take a bow and some arrows.” So he took himself a bow and some arrows. 16 Then he said to the king of Israel, “Put your hand on the bow.” So he put his hand on it, and Elisha put his hands on the king’s hands. 17 And he said, “Open the east window”; and he opened it. Then Elisha said, “Shoot”; and he shot. And he said, “The arrow of the Lord’s deliverance and the arrow of deliverance from Syria; for you must strike the Syrians at Aphek till you have destroyed them.” 18 Then he said, “Take the arrows”; so he took them. And he said to the king of Israel, “Strike the ground”; so he struck three times, and stopped. 19 And the man of God was angry with him, and said, “You should have struck five or six times; then you would have struck Syria till you had destroyed it! But now you will strike Syria only three times.”
2 Kings 13:14-19
At this point in history, Israel was in a terrible situation. The enemies were getting stronger and pressing in from all sides. King Joash made a visit to Elisha the prophet. Elisha instructed him to open the window and shoot arrows over the enemy’s land. Joash did it thrice. Elisha got upset and told him that because he had stopped after the third time, he wouldn’t be able to defeat his enemy for too long!
King Joash had the opportunity of a lifetime. He could have defeated his enemy. But his half-heartedness and his unwillingness to stretch out cost him big time. It’s like having a rubber band in our hand. Unless, we stretch the band, its purpose isn’t fulfilled. Yes, it is the most vulnerable when it is stretched. That’s true for us too. But, unless we are stretched, we can’t accomplish anything great!
Stretching is uncomfortable. God is not looking at our ability but at our expandability. Let us be willing to expand, no matter what the cost, and see the new things that he does in our lives.
Lengthen your cords,
And strengthen your stakes.
Stakes are long pegs that are used to tie down the cords. Putting down stakes imply that there are some absolutes which we must live by. These could be principles of integrity, Bible reading, faithfulness and prayer. These are stakes that must be put down now and not when the storm blows up.
Let me remind you of a story of someone whose cords and stakes were loose. During the dark and troubled days of Israel history, God sent a judge called Samson. His name meant sunshine. He was a Nazarene who wasn’t allowed to cut his hair or drink wine. God had bestowed great power on him. In fact, once he singlehandedly killed 1000 soldiers! Yet, his life became a tragedy. The Spirit of the Lord was on him, but Samson lived in the flesh. His loose principles led him to compromise. He drank wine, loved women and lived a careless, merry life. He soon forgot his purpose and calling. He was a hero for sure, on the outside; but he was slowly turning into a big zero on the inside! Within no time, he was destroyed by the enemies!
The bigger we become, the deeper our stakes must go. We are called to be a flourishing tree. But if the roots aren’t growing deeper, the tree will tumble down!
We know of so many great men and women who reach great pinnacles but come crashing down. That’s because there was no real change or substance inside. We must grow in our anointing every day. Let’s co-operate with God in the enlargement and stretching that He is doing in our lives. Also, let’s not allow the worries of our lives to suffocate the absolutes of our lives.
Please feel free to share your thoughts on this message in the comments section below.