DOE: Back to Basics
What do you do when life is peeled back to the core? Go back to basics! Enlarge, strengthen and lengthen!
In preparing for this year’s Watchnight Message, I sought the Lord for a specific direction in this second year of the decade. One night as I was falling asleep, I was jerked awake by an inner voice so loud that it sounded like the audible voice of God.
“Back to basics!” it shouted.
Immediately, I was led to read Isaiah 54:2 – God’s word for us this year.
This year, God wants to take us through a season of enlarging, stretching, lengthening, and strengthening. To do all these, you and I must come back to the basics of faith, foundation, and formation.
The Primary Key to Expansion
“Sing, 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.” - Isaiah 54:1
In Isaiah 54:1, the barren woman was asked to sing and shout in anticipation of a child, to enlarge her tent in preparation for a growing family. These actions represent faith that the promises of God will come to pass.
Similarly, if you and I are to move into the expansion plans of God, we must reach a point where we put our entire weight – our trust and our lives – into His hands.
We must have a disposition of faith for faith is the master key that will unlock the door for expansion in our lives.
This year, God will call us to do things that we have never done before.
We will be challenged to move into unknown territories, to step out even when we don’t know where the final destination is.
It is in these moments that we must exercise faith in God – assured of His nature, promises, and faithfulness.
Theological Concepts in Expansion
While faith is the master key to expansion, it must be based on a strong foundation. That means you and I must reinforce our theological understanding. Without it, we will move forward blindly and in the wrong spirit.
Proverbs 29:18 warns us that, “Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint”
This revelation is much more than a vision from God.
Revelation is also rooted in a strong understanding of His Word. Without it, we lose the guidepost that navigates us forward.
Let’s uncover the importance of strong theological foundations for expansion in the context of Isaiah 54:2.
Enlarge the Place of Your Tent
In Hebrew, the word enlarge is rahab ( בחר ) – “to expand or widen.”
Each of us has been entrusted with a place – spheres of influence and arenas of authority. When it comes to expansion, it’s important for us to understand that we are called to enlarge these places.
When the Israelites set about enlarging their physical tents, they would do so by sewing one leather piece at a time. Not so with God for where humanity adds, God multiplies. He’s in the business of exponential growth! Just look at the miracles of Jesus.
In Matthew 14:13-21, five loaves of bread and two fish didn’t feed a handful of people – it fed thousands! It wasn’t a miracle of addition, it was a miracle of multiplication.
As we endeavor to enlarge, know that we will come across resistance from existing strongholds.
As the strongholds fight to retain their ground, press on!
Profess faith in God’s nature, promises, and faithfulness.
Hold fast to the God that brings about enlargement by multiplication. Do not be satisfied with the normal additions. See with eyes of faith and believe in exponential enlargement that happens through God.
Stretch Your Tent Curtains Wide, Do Not Hold Back
In Hebrew, the word stretch ( הטנ – natah) is “to pull.”
While a physical tent may be made of many pieces of leather stitched together, the tent needs to be pulled tight in order to be an effective shelter. In order to “enlarge the place of [our] tent,” we must thrust out our tent.
Of the four verbs, stretch is the only one with a command: do not hold back ( ךשׁח – chasak).
The reason is very simple. If we don’t stretch, we can’t take new ground. If we don’t stretch, we can’t expand. If we don’t stretch, we can even shrivel and shrink.
To illustrate the need for stretching, consider fishing by net.
For a net to be effective, it must be thrust out into the sea – stretched to cover as much surface area as possible. If a fisherman doesn’t exert great force when throwing out the net, he won’t catch any fish.
Similarly, if you and I want to experience expansion, we must be willing to go all the way.
We must be willing to be stretched, pulled, and thrust beyond our limits so that God can do great things.
Many of us want to experience the supernatural but never do. It's because we hold back, just in case He doesn’t show up.
When we hold back, we lose the opportunity to see God do the miraculous.
That is why the Christian life is a “total life” – we must totally trust God and cast our entire lives into God’s hands.
We give our all or give nothing at all.
Lengthen Your Cords
When we look at lengthen (ךרא – aϽrak) – “to endure or prolong, to make long by being taut” – it demonstrates a posture of endurance.
Having tension in a tent is important because it prevents the structure from collapsing in the wind – there is strength to stand upright even in challenging situations.
Without a posture of endurance, you and I will also collapse when the storms of life come.
When we allow slack to develop in our cord by taking our walk with God for granted, we will be caught off guard. We will slip into apathy and even sin.
If we are going to build a strong and large tent for God, we need to keep our cords taut – to be on our guard and be strong. Moreover, the more we lengthen our cords, the greater the influence we can exert. The more we lengthen our cords, the greater our influence becomes, thus enlarging our spheres of influence and arenas of authority.
Strengthen Your Stakes
Finally, to strengthen ( קזח – chazaq) is “to grow firm” or “to grow powerful by establishing.”
By growing, it means that you and I are continually engaging with God, constantly reinforcing our spiritual life so that we are grounded in the Truth.
To be strengthened is to be established, to make a stand, and to live with a conviction that will not be easily toppled by views around us.
That is why we can never come to a place in our faith where we feel that we’ve “made it.”
We must keep strengthening our stakes so that we are not burned out from the enlarging, stretching, and lengthening that God has planned for us.
Chazaq applies to our everyday life in a variety of ways.
To find out how, click here for the article, “Strengthening the stakes”, 01/2018, Trinitarian Magazine, pg 32)
Spiritual Formation for Expansion
While faith is the key, and while it is important for us to understand the foundations God has given us in this Decade of Expansion, we also need to grow in our spiritual formation.
Just as a vehicle needs to undergo regular maintenance to keep it at peak performance, God requires us to regularly maintain and strengthen the formation of our inner being.
Expansion will always add stress to our lives because it involves being in a constant state of enlargement, stretching, and lengthening. That is why Isaiah 54:2 tells us that we must strengthen our stakes. That has to do with having a strong spiritual life.
In order to have a strong spiritual life, we need to strengthen to lengthen and engage in strategic withdrawal.
Strengthen to Lengthen
When we think of the prophet Elijah, we believe that he was supernatural because of the many signs, wonders, and miracles he performed during his lifetime. Yet, James 5:17-18 tells us that, “Elijah was a human being, even as we are.”
Elijah was ordinary but became extraordinary. What set him apart was his strong prayer life (“He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.”)
Through a strong prayer life, Elijah heard from God, engaged with Him, and acted according to His will.
When you and I have a strong prayer life, we will go from ordinary to extraordinary, from the natural to the supernatural, because the Lord will enable us.
More than intercessory prayers or petition prayers, the prayer life I’m referring to is one of close intimacy with God. If prayer is a conversation with God, it cannot be limited to prayer requests. Imagine what would happen to our relationships if every conversation with other people was just a laundry list of needs!
If we are to grow in our intimacy with God, it will require us to take our prayer lives to another level to seek His heart and dwell in His presence.
This year, let’s go back to the basics by strengthening our prayer life.
(Find out how to grow your prayer life here.)
In John 15:7, Jesus promised us this:
“If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
Sometimes, our prayers are not answered because the Word does not abide in us; we know it in our minds but the Truths have not permeated into our hearts.
We need to allow the Word to saturate and invade our lives – to take a hold of us. We need to respond to the Word and allow it to transform us from the inside-out.
God’s Word cannot remain as knowledge, it must be one that is a lamp upon our paths.
Many people search for a kairos (special) Word, but we need to understand that it only comes when we have internalized the logos (general) Word.
A 2012 study done by Christianity Today shows how often regular churchgoers read the Bible.
A few times per week 26%
Once a week 14%
Once a month 22%
When we see these percentages, it’s no wonder American churches have weakened their stand on controversial issues! Without a strong foundation in the Word, we become Christians who build their houses upon the sand, ready to collapse when we encounter the rains, floods, and winds of life.
Be enriched in the Word so that we will know how to navigate through life’s challenges. Start by engaging in the Word and live according to its principles and parameters.
In Greek, the words used for “drunk” (methýsko) and “filled” (pleróo) are similar but not the same – “to become intoxicated” versus “to make full or to fill up.”
This demonstrates how you and I are called to be intoxicated with the Holy Spirit, so consumed and deliberately filled that we no longer live according to our own desires.
Rather, we live according to the desires of God, influenced by the leading of the Spirit.
That’s why Scripture tells us to build ourselves up by praying in the Spirit (Jude 1:20) so that we become men and women marked by the Spirit of God.
The world we live in requires us to be discerning.
Otherwise, we will be tossed to and fro, from viewpoint to viewpoint.
When the 12 spies were sent to scout out the Promise Land, it was a place flowing with milk and honey. Yet, 10 spies focused on the giants of the land.
Only Joshua and Caleb saw the land for what it was – their inheritance from God.
What are we sensitized by?
Do we make decisions based upon the reports of the world or do we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us?
We need to grow in hungering and being consumed by the Holy Spirit.
We need to recognize His voice and leading so that we can align and yield to Him and step out with His empowerment.
(Read more about growing your spirit life here.)
“When Jesus heard what had happened [the beheading of John the Baptist], He withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place...” – Matthew 14:13
One of the strengths of Trinity is that we are a church of action. That strength can turn into a weakness if we do not take time to withdraw to seek the Lord.
When we look at the ministry of Jesus, we find Him frequently withdrawing from the crowds, the hustle and bustle of life, in order to pray. He also interrupted his “normal schedule” in order to reflect, renew, and recalibrate.
Let’s consider another analogy.
All sports involving balls need a backswing, a withdrawal of the limbs, in order for the ball to go far.
The backswing is not a retreat or a backing down; it is needed for generating a potential to launch the ball forward.
Similarly, you and I need that spiritual backswing, taking time to withdraw from the hustle and bustle of life.
Through strategic withdrawal, our prayers become times when we seek the Lord’s heart, will, wisdom, and strategies. When we know exactly what He wants us to do.
When we become charged up in the Spirit, we gain confidence and strength to launch forward into greater expansion.
As we go forward in expansion, we need to go back to the basics: faith, foundation, and formation. We all need faith for “without faith, it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6).
To have faith in God we must have strong foundations in His Word.
To stand strong in God, we must strengthen our stakes so that enlargement, stretching, and lengthening do not break us. That requires spiritual formation so that the blessings of expansion do not corrupt or burn us out.
Be renewed and re-calibrated so that expansion can happen in and through us!
This article first appeared in Issue 01/2018, Trinitarian Magazine
Reflect & Respond
How has strategic withdrawal been crucial on your journey? How can you take this opportunity of staying home to strategically withdraw to seek God?
Has God indicated a specific area in your spiritual formation that He wants to enlarge, stretch, lengthen, and strengthen (prayer life, Word life, spirit life)?