A person's character capacity is measured by what ruffles or overwhelms them. If you're being stretched, God is entrusting you with a greater role in His mission. All good leaders are "stretched" leaders. All great leaders are greatly stretched leaders. Whom God stretches God strengthens...
2Cor. 9:8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.
This has been a stretching year so far for me. I know that many of you have also been stretched this year as well. Stretching means two immediate things: change and sacrifice.
CHANGE FROM STRETCHING
Stretching necessarily changes the shape of its host. But once strtched, its almost impossiblefor the one stretched to return to its original shape. What I do these days, I could not do ten years ago. Some people occasionally note that I have more on my plate than many, and ask how I fit it all in. I rarely confess my nagging sense of inadequacy, or my doggard burden of guilt at not being able to do better at any one of the things I do. And almost never do I do confess my pathetically (in the archaic sense, not the modern sense) repititious prayer for God's help to be able to do what I have to do.
Being stretched has taught me -
1. The necessitity of making To-Do lists.2. The need to prioritize by distinguishing between the urgent and the important. (Don't let the urgent override the important.)3. Work from rest, rather than rest from work.4. Make time to do enjoyable things (I really enjoy playing tennis, riding my motorbike and reading).2Cor. 12:9 But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Because stretching involves changing, it will always be uncomfortable. My most natural response to change is nostalgia - a longing for way things were. The best way I have found to maximise the blessing of change in my life is to embrace it. Of course this was very difficult at first especially since much of the change I was dealing with was the result of my own mistakes and failures! As my theology grew to integrate my freely chosen mistakes with God's fore-ordained sovereign will I have been able to see that God is the Driver of change in my life. Today, I read a very insightful comment from Bishop N.T. Wright about this relationship between my freely chosen mistakes and the work of God's Spirit in my life. He observed that the more the Holy Spirit sanctifies us and empowers us to life holy lives for God, the more freedom we have not to! That is, what makes the power of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives all the more amazing is that as we grow by the power of the Holy Spirit we also seem to have to make more careful choices and take more intentional steps to respond obediently to God.
SACRIFICING FOR STRETCHING
"How do you get so much done?" I could be blunt in responding to this oft asked question, but I know it would sound rude and perhaps even arrogant. So I won't say this to anyone who asks: There is a lot I don't do. What I mean by this is, there are many other things I would rather be doing sometimes than fulfilling my responsibilities, but I understand that I must make certain sacrifices in carrying these responsibilities. Every caring parent understands this because the entire first stage of parenting involves constant sacrifice. But as parents know, sacrifice is often a season and it is alwasys a season of sowing.
Psa. 126:5 Those who sow in tears
shall reap with shouts of joy!
So if you are being stretched at the moment you'll readily identify with what I have written. Stretching brings change which is always uncomfortable - that is, it takes us out of our comfort-zone and takes us on an uncharted trail called: faith. Stretching also requiressacrifice. But the stretching process invokes God's grace. This means that as we stretch God helps us to cope. But, as N.T. Wright points out, it's going to feel like we are the ones exerting the effort. And, stretching involves sacrifice. You have to sacrifice idleness, T.V., sleeping in (or just sleep generally), privacy, and whims. But the "up" side of being stretched, and it's a huge (read: humungous) up side: you will be a larger blessing to many more people than you would in your unstretched state. Potentially this could mean that precious souls are found by Christ who might never have come to know the Eternal Lover of their soul. And, it will also have an eternal bearing on how we are rewarded in Eternity. So, stretching, while uncomfortable, is actually glorious both for God and in the end for us.
Father, help us to stretch. Help us to keep going even when it's uncomfortable and even when it hurts. Help us to work from rest so that we live a lifestyle of being continually refreshed in Your presence, Your grace, and Your strength. Give us the ability to balance our responsibilities with those things that we enjoy and refuel our emotional well-being. Grant it, oh God, that we can willingly sacrifice for Your glory. And Father, we pray, that in all we do we might be privileged to see people come to Christ as their Saviour, in Jesus' Name, Amen.Eph. 3:21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.