“Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes.” Isaiah 54:2
This verse speaks loudly to me and since returning from Africa I continue to wonder and pray about what “enlarging our tent” means for me and for my family. I found the following sermon very helpful today. It is worth the read and I have provided a link below if you would like to read the entire sermon.
William Carey is recognized by church historians as the founder of the modern missions movement. In 1792, he preached a sermon from this text in Isaiah 54 that God used to change the course of history for Christian missions in the world. William Carey was a cobbler by trade and a bivocational Baptist pastor in Moulton, England. So great was the burden that God had given William Carey for lost people around the world that he made a world globe out of leather in his shoe shope, and hung it up as a prayer reminder. Whenever he looked at it, he saw a dark world that could only be lit up by Jesus Christ.
As he worked on shoes and prayed over his homemade globe, God gave William Carey a dream of taking the light of Christ to the faraway country of India. He had no money or means to go, and there would be no one there in India to meet him or assist him. Yet it became increasingly clear that it was indeed God’s will for him to undertake this extraordinary challenge. Against incredible odds, and despite the admonitions of many friends and even fellow ministers to “forget all about it,” William Carey went before the annual Baptist pastor’s conference and appealed for their support in missions to India. He read the same text from Isaiah 54 that we just read: “Enlarge the site of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; do not hold back … For you will spread out to the right and to the left, and your descendants will possess the nations…” The theme of that message was: “Expect great things from God … Attempt great things for God.”
When William Carey preached, “Expect great things from God,” he told of his dream of “breaking forth on the right hand and on the left,” as the Scripture reads, and of thousands being saved and added to the kingdom of God. This was a dream of God being able to honor our willing efforts by bringing forth a harvest of new, redeemed souls into his kingdom, and by transforming human lives in an unparalleled way with the all-surpassing love of Jesus Christ.
And then, when Carey preached, “Attempt great things for God,” he shared his own willingness to take seriously the words of Isaiah, to “enlarge the place of his tent,” to refuse to “just sit there” and instead to go beyond the confines of his comfortable, familiar surroundings. He knew that a move to India would cost lots of money and stretch his resources and abilities to their limits, yet he insisted that “we must spare not” in our response to the Gospel call. He demonstrated what God meant when he spoke through Isaiah to the people to “enlarge the site of their tent” by enlarging the boundaries of “his world” and realizing that he had a responsibility to stand up, step outside of the familiar, and reach the unsaved people of India. He pleaded with the pastors and the churches in this way: “There’s a gold mine in India … I will go down into the mine, if you will hold the ropes.”
At first, the pastors opposed William Carey’s goals and rejected his plans. They seemed satisfied to do “church as usual.” But soon God changed their hearts. They and their churches eventually began to support the Careys until the conditions were right for them to set sail for India. Since then, literally thousands of missionaries have been sent around the world by churches being willing to “enlarge the site of their tent,” to look beyond their own backyards, their own familiar surroundings, and see the multitudes of lost people who need Jesus Christ’s light in their lives.
That dark leather globe which William Carey set up in his shoe shop is a fitting image for our world today as well. The world today is still very dark. Yet God still calls us today to “enlarge the site of our tent,” to “not hold back,” to claim God’s promise of “spreading us out to the right and to the left.” Just as God spoke to William Carey, leading him to expect great things and attempt great things, so also does He speak to us. He speaks to church leaders; He speaks to Sunday School classes; and, of course, He speaks to individual believers, regardless of age, gender, or social standing. God leads all of us to expect great things from Him, and to attempt great things for Him. We cannot “just sit there” while all the opportunities in the world to reach people with the Gospel flutter all around us.
If anything’s holding you back, it’s probably not laziness. It’s probably not a genuine lack of knowledge of any opportunities to reach out to people. If anything’s holding you back, it’s probably the fear of failure. The fear of taking a wrong step, making an ill-advised decision at some point, and looking foolish. You might be saying, “Larry Walters sure made a mess of things when he stepped out on a limb and tried to fly; and I just know that if I stop ‘just sitting here,’ and step out and do something new, something risky, I’ll also make a mess of things somehow.” Well, of course you will! At some point, all of us will. That’s the whole point of taking risks! It’s a very real possibility that, whenever we stand up and step out and reach out in a new way, we’ll overlook some detail or underestimate some obstacle and end up looking a bit silly. That can be scary. But Larry Walters decided that it was even scarier to think about the possibility of going all the way through his entire life without ever seeing his dream become a reality.
What scares you most? Does it scare you more to think about the possibility of taking a risk, reaching out in a new way with Christ’s love, and looking a bit foolish or awkward? Or, does it scare you more to think about the possibility of getting all the way to the other end of your life and realizing too late that you’ve literally passed up “all the opportunities in the world” God does grant dreams and visions to His people; chances are that you have some dream or some vision in your own mind about what you’d like to do for the Lord using your own gifts and your own situation. Does it scare you to think of the possibility of going all the way through your life without ever pursuing that dream?
Fear can paralyze us, if we’re not careful. Black Bart was a professional thief whose very name struck fear as he terrorized the Wells Fargo stage line. From San Francisco to new York, his name became synonymous with the danger of the frontier. Between 1875 and 1883 he robbed 29 different stagecoach crews. Amazingly, Bart did it all without firing a shot. Because a hood hid his face, no victim ever saw his face. He never took a hostage and was never trailed by a sheriff. Instead, Black Bart used fear to paralyze his victims. His sinister presence was enough to overwhelm the toughest stagecoach guard. The presence of fear can overwhelm us, too, if we’re not careful. It can hold us back from pursuing the dreams which God has given to us. Yet we must realize that plunging forward, while scary, is never as scary as the alternative, “just sitting there.”
Two explorers were on a jungle safari when suddenly a ferocious lion jumped in front of them. “Keep calm” the first explorer whispered. “Remember what we read in that book on wild animals? If you stand perfectly still and look the lion in the eye, he will turn and run.” “Sure,” replied and his companion. “You’ve read the book, and I’veread the book. But has the lion read the book?” We, too, can convince ourselves that the way to deal with fear is to “just stand there,” or “just sit there.” What scares you most? Never messing up … or never trying?
There’s one dream that God has given to every single one of his children. It’s the dream Jesus presents to us in Matthew 28:19-20: “Go … into all the world and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them … teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you.” It’s the dream of personally bringing other men and women to a personal knowledge of Jesus Christ through your personal witness. Is fear holding you back from pursuing that dream today? Is there some other dream that God has tailor-made specifically for you which you’re also holding back from, out of fear, today? Will you decide today that you cannot, must not, “just sit there” any longer while the opportunity to “enlarge your tent,” spread your wings, “light your world,” lies before you today?
If you wish to read the sermon in its entirety go to: http://www.e-steeple.com/wp/531/sermons/you-cant-just-sit-there/
Peace and Love 🙂