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How Big Is Your Tent?balloons

By Kimberly Reisman

 

 

I'm a yoga drop out. It's not that I don't like it - I do - and for a long time I did it regularly. But these days, well, not so much. And now I find that I'm not nearly as flexible as I used to be.

 

 

That reality hit me this morning when I came across Isaiah 54:2: "Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes."

 

Really God - stretch? Do I have to?

 

If I've learned anything during this first year leading World Methodist Evangelism it's that God's answer is YES. God needs me to stretch (and not just in the physical sense).

 


I think that's the way it is with most of us as we seek to follow Christ. God wants to do a bigger work in our lives. God has a larger purpose than what we may envision, but for that to take place we have to enlarge our capacity for God. We've got to expand our tent.

 


The number one reason God created us was so that we could know God in an intimate way. The second reason was so others could know God thru us. And that is where stretching enters the picture. Living into both of those created purposes isn't about our ability. It's about God's ability and our expand-ability - our availability and willingness to be stretched for God's purpose.

 


Ephesians 3:16-21 has always been a favorite section of Scripture for me; but God's stretching action is tinkering with my perspective. Verse 19 says, "May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God."

 


We have the potential to be filled, not with some of God, but with all of the fullness of God.

 


Verse 20 finishes the thought off nicely. "Now glory be to God! By his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope."

 


More than we can even imagine! More than we can ever imagine by the power that is at work within us. It is not based on our ability. It is the Spirit that dwells in us; all of the fullness of God that God wants to unleash through our lives.

 


It isn't our ability; it's our expand-ability. God needs expandable tents. It is not our size but our willingness to stretch in response to what God is doing in our lives.

 


When my kids were little, I remember watching an educational program with them on TV. They showed a water bottle and a deflated balloon and asked, which one is bigger? Of course my kids shouted, the water bottle! Then they asked, which one will hold more?

 


Spoiler alert: it's the balloon. Do you know why?

 


The water bottle can't expand. The balloon can hold more because it can stretch and expand. That's why Jesus warned us about putting new wine into old wineskins. Old wineskins dry up and lose their elasticity; their ability to stretch, grow, change and expand in God capacity.

 


These days it seems God needs me to stretch and expand; but that scares me to death because I tend to focus on the scarcity of my own resources rather than on the unlimited resources of God.

 


I'm like the widow in II Kings 4. Her husband had died and creditors were after her, wanting to take her sons and make them slaves. When she comes to Elisha for help, his first question is, "What do you have in your house?" and her response is to focus on her limitations. "I don't have anything except a flask of olive oil."

 


But Elisha isn't focused on this woman's limitations; instead, he tells her to borrow as many empty jars from her neighbors and friends as she can, take them to her house with her sons, and pour the olive oil from her flask into all the jars, setting each one aside as they're filled. That's what she does, and as long as she kept pouring, God kept filling.

 


My tendency is to tell God I only have a little oil; but when I do, God almost always says, take the oil that you have.

 


God doesn't ask us to take something we don't have. God asks us to take what we already have and begin to pour. As long as the woman kept bringing, God kept giving. As long as the woman kept pouring, God kept filling.

 


As this stretching season continues in my life of faith, I'm doing as much as I can to enlarge my tent - to enlarge my capacity for God. What can I do to lengthen my cords and strengthen my stakes? How can I stretch my tent curtains wide and not hold back?

 


Good questions for all of us. As I search for answers, I'm reminding myself to focus less on the oil and more on the pouring - to just keep putting out those jars so that God can fill them.

 

This article was originally posted on Seedbed.

 

 

 

kimberly

About the Author 

 

Kimberly Reisman is an author, pastor, teacher and theologian serving as Executive Director of World Methodist Evangelism of the World Methodist Council. She is a frequent speaker, focusing on evangelism, spiritual formation, women's ministries, leadership development and the intersection between faith and culture. Kim is an elder in the United Methodist Church and has written numerous books, most recently, The Christ-Centered Woman: Finding Balance in a World of Extremes (2013, Abingdon Press).

 

 

A Word From James

 

Just when I think my tent (base, lifestyle, ministry, controlled environment) are in a good place, God may come calling. At the end of the day, the main barrier to greater involvement of God’s church in God’s mission is not finances or education. It is our satisfaction, security and comfort with where we are. I hope that you will join me in wrestling with Kim’s questions about stretching and faithfulness.   Is there some way FollowOne can help you, your children and your church use the blessings of God to serve lost and hurting people in the love of Jesus?

 

 

 

 

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