Thursday, December 01, 2011
Today’s Topic: Vision
Today’s Text: Isaiah 54:1-3 “Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,” says the LORD. “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities.
On September 16, 2003, I was in a meeting of the Chippewa Valley Evangelical Ministerial Association being held at the WWIB Radio studios in Hallie. As the meeting began, one of the most precious women I have ever met led us in devotions. Mabel Louise Steward had been the wife of the founder of the radio station until he went home to glory with Jesus. Her work for the Lord continues as she ministers God’s grace to countless numbers of people.
As she talked, I opened my Bible and it fell open to Isaiah 54. I have written notes in the margin as a reminder of what God spoke to me. I began reading – sorry Mabel Louise, but God was speaking to me and using you to help. I read about Abraham’s wife Sarah, the barren woman who was promised a son. I read of the faith she was challenged to put into practice by enlarging her tent and not holding back in preparation for the day the son would be born. Even though she had nothing more than God’s word to go on, she was told to act as if it had already happened.
At that time God had started to plant a vision in the hearts of the people of our church that it was time to start thinking about a bigger building to meet the ministry demands of a growing congregation. I recognized God’s hand moving us, but the challenge to act had not yet come. We were standing still and waiting, which was wise at that time.
Then three things happened nearly simultaneously. It was almost more than my mind could handle all at once. First, God spoke as plainly as I have ever heard Him and said, “That’s what Calvary is supposed to do. Enlarge your outreach by not holding back. Spread out to the right and the left, and settle in a desolate place.”
Second, as God spoke to my heart, Mabel Louise said to the group, “We serve a big God who can do more than we can imagine.”
Almost as she was saying it, a retired missionary named John Schone, who was sitting next to me at the meeting and who attends Calvary, leaned over to me and said, “We should buy that abandoned grocery store for our church.”
God gave a clear vision that day. I was pumped. The church leadership and congregation understood the vision. We proceeded to do what God had said. We organized a building team at went to look at the store. It was perfect. Plenty of parking. Plenty of room. It was exactly what God had for us. We asked the realtor to find out if the building could be purchased. Within a week the realtor came back to us with the news that the building could be purchased – for 2.1 million dollars. Our hearts sank. We hadn’t even started fund raising yet, and there was no way we could afford that. HUGE MISTAKE! God had not asked us to afford it; He told us to buy it. I praise God that He has continued to be faithful to our church, but I must humbly admit that since that day my faith has been hindered by a fleshly spirit of practicality.
Sarah would be in her nineties when her first child would finally be born. Practicality could have and should have conquered her faith, but it didn’t. She began doing what God had said. She accepted God’s promise and received God’s provision. Until we make that choice, I don’t think we will ever be able to afford a building, because we are letting practicality rule our faith, and that keeps us from experiencing the miracle of God’s provision.
I am sorry, Lord, for not having more faith. I am sorry for that first crash in the waves of worldly vision that sank me into the waters you wanted me to walk on. I am sorry for all the times since then that you have offered another plan and I have succumbed to the practical wisdom of the world that said it couldn’t be done. Never again! Speak clearly again, and I will follow, no matter the opposition. It is time to enlarge, stretch out, and not hold back. Let us go and settle in a desolate place. Your humble and obedient servant, John.