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Enlarging Your Steps

June 6th, 2017

Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip. (Psalm 18:36 KJV)

Here is a promise for us that was an experience for David. Twice in the Holy Book he described his experience in these terms: God enlarging his steps. In his psalm recorded in 2 Samuel 22:37, and in Psalm 18 above.

The modern translations tend to say that this means, “You have broadened my path,” always trying to find the dynamic equivalent. Yet the original is clearly steps, and not path. God does straighten our paths (Prov. 3:5-6) and broaden them on many occasions. In His grace the rough places become smooth (Isaiah 40:3-4). That is stated in His Word. But David was describing something different here - not that the path became level but that he himself became stronger. His steps were enlarged so that he stepped over the rough spots.

Does not God do this for us? Is not this His plan as much as smoothing the path is? Children cry over the slightest of hurts, but a grown person knows these things are not worth crying over. Immature people fight to get their way, or erupt in fear over the slightest upsetting of their hopes, but mature people trust God in all things and know the difference between a major issue and a minor one.

Sometimes God does this through giving us a bigger problem. A few weeks ago I flew to Asia where we lived for twenty years. My knee was giving me such problems that I considered cancelling my trip - I am scheduled for knee replacement surgery next week. But I decided to go anyway, and while I was there I came down with shingles - a much more serious concern. Suddenly the knee pain seemed as though it was nothing, and God has often done things like this in my life.

The bigger problems seem sometimes to be easier for us to give to Him than the smaller ones, and perhaps that is why God allows us to have them. Cancer we will give to God, knowing we cannot handle it alone. But a sore toe we will nurse ourselves and complain and whine about. But all matters we can place in His hands and learn to stand in His grace and strength.

Our child’s studies may disturb us and cause us to worry if they will apply themselves, until they have a serious sickness. Then, in a matter of seconds, everything is put into a different perspective, and God has enlarged our steps to handle the harder matter. If we can step over a dangerous illness, then we also learn that the minor frustrations of life are really nothing at all to worry about.

Sometimes God does this by giving us a larger vision. We are often worried about how we can reach one person for Christ, when we ought to have entire cities and whole nations on our hearts. We trip over many stumbling stones in service and witness that are practically nothing at all. The Christian must learn to take great steps for God and not become disheartened over one little rejection.

Poet Sam Walter Foss, perhaps unknowingly, spoke of this spiritual enlargement in the hearts of Christians when he wrote:

Bring me men to match my mountains.
Bring me men to match my plains.
Men with empires in their purpose.
And new eras in their brains.

We need people who are not afraid to dream dreams with the Holy Spirit, to let the Spirit enlarge their hearts and enlarge their steps as well.

The vision of one single man from Macedonia got Paul and his companions to go there and begin work, but once he was there he realized a whole continent that needed Christ. Baker James Cauthen, speaking to newly appointed missionaries, spoke of this matter of a vision and the experience in living out the vision.

You have visualized the need, but in your place of service you will discover that the vision was smaller than the need really is. When you tackle the responsib.ility, the size, weight, and extend of it will make you feel your need of God that you may “be strong and of good courage.”

You will find that even though you have prayed about your mission task and carefully planned for it, the results you long for may not come as readily as you desire. You will need to be strong in your readiness to let God’s results come in God’s time - knowing that he will bring his word to fruition if you trust him. You have to be strong in your faith that when you share God’s word it will not come back empty.*

Our steps, if they are enlarged must also have the pace of God behind them, that we do not panic or become discouraged when things do not happen when we wanted them to. Large steps endure difficulty, maintain hope, see the mountains to which they are headed, do not stumble over the little pebbles in the way. They keep pace with the Spirit of God and trust Him in all things. This strength comes from God and we have no reason to boast in it on account of ourselves.

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*Baker James Cauthen, Beyond Call, Broadman Press, 1973, pp. 11-12.

Dealing with Difficulties, burnout, encouragement , , ,

The Patience of a Gardener

July 25th, 2016

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. (James 5:7-8)

The farmer tends to the crop, nurturing the growth process that God has woven into the fabric of nature. The farmer can only follow the natural laws that God has created. He is quite helpless to invent new ways himself. Patience is his virtue, coupled with tenderness and faith. He may learn efficiency, and even become an innovator through discovering new methods, but he can only uncover them, not create them himself.

In all things spiritual we are like farmers in the areas of patience, nurturing, and tenderness.

Our faith is revealed by our patience. Faith is to rest confidently in the promises of God and in the God who promises. Isaiah wrote:

Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion,
a stone, a tested stone,
a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation:
‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’ (Isaiah 28:16)

To be “in haste” means to be fretful and panicky, taking upon ourselves responsibilities that are not ours to be had - they belong to God. The gardener cannot by worry cause the plants to grow. He plants, he waters, he fertilizes, he protects them from disease and infestation, but other than these acts he is entirely helpless to make a plant do anything. He must rest in his own heart knowing that he has done what was his to do, and then in peace has left the remainder to God.

We read that the one who sows the Word of God in hearts is like the farmer - whether he sows it in the hearts of others or only allows God to plant the truth in his own heart. God promises a reward - for some the reward is salvation, for others the reward is a witness of judgment, but the Word will bear fruit. God said:

…my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11)

So we should be patient with the process of God - patient with others and patient with our selves.

Our transformed character is revealed by our nurturing. It is an easy thing to lose patience and to become irritable and judgmental. The old sinful nature will be quick to criticize others, to tear them down before others and even before their own eyes. It is sometimes believed that though it is wrong to gossip, so long as we give our criticism directly to someone then we are in the right. It may be less injurious to speak our criticism directly - it is certainly less cowardly to do so - but rarely is that the best way to nurture one another. And any critical spirit toward another shows a prideful, judgmental attitude - even if we speak it directly to the person.

The pruning process is to simply cut away the bad and nurture the good, and this is what we are to do toward one another. Criticism can be harsh and needless. It can do more damage than good. It can discourage rather than encourage. There is a time and place for godly rebuke - as 2 Timothy 4:2 says - but this is the exception. Our daily conversation we to obey the Scripture: “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Col. 4:6).

Our hope is characterized by our tenderness toward one another. The farmer treats plants tenderly because he believes in their potential. He believes in the process of growth as the Creator has made it to be. Spiritually we may also act tenderly toward one another to nurture and encourage because we also believe in the process of spiritual growth that our God has created. God has immeasurable potential in store for every believer because all of our potential for joy, life, and usefulness is dependent upon God. We hope in one another and in our selves because we hope and trust in God and in his grace toward us through Jesus Christ.

discipleship, encouragement , , ,