Friday, July 28, 2017
Don’t Be Afraid of Extending Yourself
Isaiah 54:2 Enlarge the site of your tent,
and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out;
do not hold back; lengthen your cords
and strengthen your stakes.
Following the great chapter on the suffering servant we come to this 54th chapter of Isaiah. Many presume that this is a commentary on the church which will come as a result of the work of the suffering servant. Because of Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension, the church was birthed. All throughout history we must remember that this is Christ’s church, and not ours. It is Jesus who says, “I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18) — not, go and and build a church for me! If that is the case, then these are words of instructions for those who are participating in kingdom work through the church.
The tent of the church is to be just that — a flexible and portable way in which to reach the world. There is an expectation that the tent will be enlarged, inviting more and more to come into the shelter which is provided. We are to be stretched and extended, being willing to lengthen our cords, adding to our structure so that we can accommodate the growth. The church becomes a living tent, one which fills the whole world with houses of prayer.
Maybe I was struck by this passage this morning because I just finished attending District Assembly last night. My mind is thinking about churches, and about the church (whether a denominational tribe — or all of Christianity). There is something incredibly profound to understand from the prophet Isaiah. These chapters are in a particular order for a reason. It is because of the life of Jesus, the suffering servant, that there will be a church. There is also an expectation that if Christ is the center of the church, that there will be spiritual life and growth. There is an expectation that we will continue to enlarge and expand our tents and our territory because of what Christ has done for us!
I was challenged by these words today because we are not seeing much growth in the church in many parts of the world. There are many reasons for this, and many a discouraged pastor. Yet, somehow I see this as a promise from the Lord and a hope which depends upon our attitude and participation in God’s work. Remember — all of this is only possible because of the work of Christ! Because of Christ’s death on the cross, we are to be willing to extend ourselves. We are to step out in faith and plan to enlarge our tent. We are to create flexible structures so that we can accommodate what God just might want to do in our midst. Rigidity will only obstruct the movement of God’s Holy Spirit.
What if we are being challenged to prepare for spiritual growth in the life of the church? Instead of being afraid of the days in which we live, we are to enlarge our tent! Stretch out our curtains and invite in all of those people who don’t look like they belong in church. Lengthen the cords and graciously welcome the strangers among us. Don’t hold back, but create space to fellowship with those who speak a different language.
All the while, strengthen YOUR stakes. Take the time to grow spiritually and become more and more grounded through study of the word and prayer. Allow the suffering servant to be reflected in all that you say and do, and never be afraid to extend yourself. When we do, we may be stunned by what God wants to accomplish.
Lord, thank you for this promise. Please, help me not to live in fear, but to extend myself as I journey with you. Amen.