Dream Big July 8th/9th
Scripture: Numbers 11
Last week we began an exciting new sermon series called The Circle Maker, which is a series that I believe will deepen your prayer life and lead to a faith that is bold and courageous. This week we’re going to talk about “dreaming big, which will both challenge you and inspire you!”
When we first started this series, we kicked off with the bold prayer of an old Jewish sage named Honi. Honi was famous for praying for rain, and his prayers came in handy during an extremely dry season in Jerusalem. Drawing a circle in sand, Honi cried out to God, “Lord of the Universe, I swear before your great name that I will not move from this circle until you have shown mercy upon your children.” Now that’s a big dream! Amidst the suffering of the land, Honi boldly asks God to move in ways only God can. And when I hear the confidence of that prayer, I’m convicted. I want to pray like that. I want that type of faith to define me! But that type of faith doesn’t happen without risk. Honi was taking a big risk by stepping out and asking God for what seemed to be impossible. He was risking his credibility; he was risking whatever schedule he worked around; and mostly, he was risking his reputation. But if you don’t take the risk, you forfeit the miracle.
Financial advisors will tell you that the riskier your investment strategy, the better opportunity you have to make a whole lot of money. But you’ve got to take the risk! And the same could be said of faith. Big God adventures begin with risk, because they count on God doing what only God could do. Noah had to learn to take a risk when God told him to build the ark. There were those who poked fun at Noah day in and day out, but he ignored them. What would’ve happened if Noah had listened to them instead of building the ark? David had to step on to the battlefield if Goliath was to be defeated. What if he had listened to the others who were trying to convince him that he was too young, too small and didn’t have the right equipment? If you don’t take the risk, you forfeit the miracle.
In 1925, Elizabeth Dabney and her husband began a ministry in the troubled streets of Philadelphia. As she surveyed the horrible situations that made ministry so difficult, she asked God for a spiritual victory and promised to covenant with Him in prayer. The next day she walked down to the Schuylkill River and prayed this prayer: Lord, if You will bless my husband in the place You sent him to establish Your name, if You will break the bonds and destroy the middle wall of partition, if You will give him a church and congregation—a credit to Your people and all Christendom—I will walk with You for three years in prayer, both day and night. I will meet You every morning at 9 AM sharp; You will never have to wait for me; I will be there to greet You. I will stay there all day; I will devote all of my time to You. Furthermore, if You will listen to the voice of my supplication and break through in that wicked neighborhood and bless my husband, I will fast 72 hours each week for two years. While I am going through the fast, I will not go home to sleep in my bed. I will stay in church, and if I get sleepy, I’ll rest on newspapers and carpet. Now that’s risky, isn’t it? At some level it even sounds a bit absurd. But soon the mission outgrew their space and a nearby 25 year old business intentionally closed up shop so that Mother Dabney and her husband’s ministry could go on. Praying boldly and dreaming big requires risk! And part of that risk is offering God what we have to give.
After 400 years of slavery, God delivered the Israelite people out of bondage. It was easy to get them out of Egypt, but it was much harder to get Egypt out of them. You would think that freedom would bring praise and gratitude, but yet the Israelite people were filled with grumbling and complaining. God was providing daily miracles (the ones we are so prone to miss, by the way), but all they could think about was the way things used to be. When we stop dreaming of what God is going to do, we start yearning for yesterday and as we do, somehow we conveniently forget about all the chains and challenges that once defined us. Somehow the daily source of manna could not compare to the genocide of Egypt, but that’s what happens when we forget what God can do!
In the midst of their complaining, God calls us out to Moses says that he will give them meat to eat; not just for a day, but for a whole month. Over six hundred thousand people, in the middle of the desert, and God says he’s going to feed them for an entire month! And Moses isn’t quite sure how God’s going to do it. “Here I am among six hundred thousand men on foot and you say, ‘I will give you meat to eat for a whole month!’ Would they have enough if flocks and herds were slaughtered for them? Would they have enough if all the fish in the sea were caught for them?” The math wasn’t making any sense. We’ve been in that desert before. You’ve had that little nudge from the Spirit of God and you have no idea how God could conceivably make that dream come true. You have no idea how God’s going to deliver you from that addiction, or open the door to a new job, or give you the resources to adopt a child or even reach out to your friend to tell her about Jesus. It just doesn’t add up. One of the stories I love to recount is the story of one of Hopewell’s own, Jeff Smith, and his call to ministry. Jeff had planned to make a career out of the military (he was almost 10 years in!), but one day God called him to leave and start an innovative drama ministry. On his own. Without a plan. Without any guarantee of income. As he sat and delivered the news that he was resigning his commission, he had very little clue as to how God would make this dream happen. But he took the risk and offered what he had. It didn’t add up. And if you ask Jeff today, it STILL doesn’t add up. But God finds ways to multiply when we can’t even add- and there are many people in the Kingdom of God today because Jeff said “I don’t know how you’re going to do it, God, but my answer is Yes!”
There’s another food miracle in the Bible where the math didn’t add up. Jesus was teaching on a hillside to a crowd of thousands when the day grew long. And when the disciples realized it was too late for the crowd to go home and eat, they found themselves in quite the predicament. There were no Mcdonald’s or Sheetz around, but a small boy brought to them a few loaves of bread and a few small fish. It was all he had to offer. And Andrew spoke aloud what everyone else was thinking, “This is ridiculous. This isn’t going to feed many at all!” But before their very eyes, God took what little they had to offer and began to multiply. When you take a risk and give God what you can, He will multiply the blessing! Whatever you have, and it might not seem like much, is enough for God to start a movement. What is the step of faith God is calling you to take? Where is God asking you to risk it all?
As it turns out, the miracles we pray for are only miracles in our eyes. To God, they are easy. But we need to remember that God is far bigger than our problems and our dreams. God is going to answer the Moses request in a profound way. Soon, the entire Israelite camp will be knee deep in quail- a meat lover’s dream! But not until God asks Moses a question. Remember the question Jesus asked Bartimaeus? What is it you want me to do for you? Well, God has another question he calls us to wrestle with. Here it is: Is there any limit to my power? Is there any limit to my power?
The answer you give will change the way you pray. It will either help you pray prayers that are so big that they sound absurd (like Honi) or it will keep your faith right where it is. Is your God bigger than the problem you face? Or do you pray as if God can’t even begin to do anything about it? Is your God bigger than your grandest dream? Or is your dream so big that you don’t think God can accomplish it? What you believe about God will determine how you pray. If you think God is powerful, you will pray for God to unleash his power. If you think God is distant, then you will pray prayers that really don’t matter if they get answered or not. A.W. Tozer, who wrote the famous devotional book “The Pursuit of God,” says that a low view of God is the cause of a hundred lesser evils, but a high view of God is the solution to ten thousand temporal problems. Out in that hot desert, with a grumbling people, that’s the question Moses was invited to answer. Was God bigger than those grumbles? Was God bigger than that hot sun? Was God bigger than a request to feed a hungry community of thousands of people? You better believe it, and God was ready to prove it!
We need to give God a chance to show off a little. Too many of us stick our toes in the spiritual waters but we don’t jump it. Too many us pray for a little, then we allow those dreams to fizzle out. Too many of us say, “that’s a great idea,” be don’t do anything about it! We need to give God a chance to be God! We need to pray such bold prayers that when they are answered, no doubt is left as to who is in control. We need to pray with such large visions of God’s grandeur and God’s hope that we are left knee deep in so many blessings that we don’t know what to do with them except to turn them into shouts of praise and gratitude. Anything less will proclaim that our God is too small!
So what dream is God calling you to dream? What step of faith is God calling you to take? What risk is God asking you to make? Dream it. Take the step. Take the risk. If God has planted a vision within you, He will bring it to fruition. This is His world, after all. He owns it all. He has more resources than our minds can comprehend, and He wants nothing more than to grow his Kingdom IN you and to grow His kingdom THROUGH you.