On Being Stretched
Some years ago, my husband and I felt led to check out an inner-city ministry. Hope City KC was big on bringing prayer to the heart of the city and dedicated to reaching the lost with the message of the gospel. Their targets—the addict, the ex-con, the prostitute, the poor, the homeless. Their goal—giving others the opportunity to succeed. Their commitment—they’d moved in and they intended to stay. It was serious business. Kingdom business. We were drawn.
After a few months of dipping our toes in the water, we decided to wade in ankle deep. Not bad. A bit more challenging to an older couple accustomed to attending sundry church functions and walking away blessed. But it was nice. Refreshingly nice. We participated in a few activities. Served a little here and there, but in calculated doses.
Then, something shifted. You know how God sometimes gives you a word and you know it’s Him? That word was Isaiah 54:2. Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations; spare not, lengthen thy cords and strengthen thy stakes. We knew God spoke. The issue was settled. He wanted us to really connect. We were elated, overjoyed at the prospect of the Lord speaking so clearly to our hearts.
But as we sloshed in deeper, we felt the current begin to lift us from our safe footing close to shore and sweep us into deeper waters, faster waters. Suddenly, the Let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations took on a different meaning. What exactly did He mean by Let them? Surely, God with His divine wisdom and uncanny insight, meant ‘let Him’ enlarge our territory. After all, He knows how to work these increases in us. His gentleness has made me great and all that (2 Samuel 22:36). Right?
He surely didn’t mean for us to let a body of believers ask of us things we weren’t accustomed to giving. Why, that would be stretching. So unpredictable. So not comfy.
Lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes . . . Was that the same as batten down the hatches and get ready for the ride of your life? Scary. We’d grown a little lax over the decades in the area of giving ourselves to the body of Christ. A little less generous. Our attitude had been, let the younger ones do it. They have the energy.
Yet, He said, spare not. Don’t hold back. We’re talking becoming team players here. Lives abandoned to the cause, lives dependent upon one another to make this thing work. It takes the whole crew to move the ship. Old and young. No more hanging out on deck while others manned the oars.
If we went with this thing no holds barred, Isaiah 54:3 says we would . . . break forth on the right hand and on the left; and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited.
So, we gulped down the lump in our throats and took the plunge. We decided to trust God to use this body of Christ to take us places we couldn’t go on our own. And you know, we found the challenges invigorating to our spirits. Stretching? Oh, yes. Life changing? Yes. Fulfilling? Absolutely. But our goal was, and still is, to function with the body of Christ instead of just keeping the deck chairs warm.
I tell you that story to say that I feel there’s another shift coming. What the enemy meant for bad with Covid and social distancing, God used to strengthen us. Like Jesus, God hid us (for a season) in the shadow of His hand. He made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in His quiver (Isaiah 49:2). It’s been a time of individual repentance, equipping, and strengthening.
That season is ending.
God is once again calling for His ship’s crew—the whole crew, young and old—to man their stations against the swells of resistance coming against the truth of the Gospel. Enlarge the place of thy tent. God is about to make His move and He needs all hands on deck. Make ready for Him to steer us into deeper, faster waters of revival.
Let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations. Let’s get plugged back into the body of Christ. Earnestly contend for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints [of old] (Jude2). Hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end (Hebrews 3:6).
Spare not, lengthen thy cords and strengthen thy stakes. God wants to stretch our boundaries. For that to happen, we must live lives dependent upon Christ and upon one another—lives abandoned to the cause. What part of His body needs your time, your prayers, your energies, your particular giftings? What oars can each of us man so this ship called the Church moves smoothly through turbulent waters?
Gulp down the lump in your throat. Let’s take the plunge and trust God to take us—together as Christ’s body—to places we can’t go alone.
I suspect it’ll be the ride of our lives, so could someone please pass me my floaty?