When You''re Not Sure Where This Is Going

“Sing, barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,” says the Lord. “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities” (Isa. 54:1-3).

We are children of the promise. God is the God of the promise, and He has never failed.

The question is not about God’s ability, desire, or plan to fulfill His promises; it is about our attitudes toward them.

Imagine a barren woman celebrating her descendants’ possessions while she doesn’t even have descendants! From a human perspective, this doesn’t make much sense . . . but God is the God of the promise, and He has never failed!

While we are humanly inclined to question, analyze, and make sense of God’s promises, God’s expectation for us is that we act—through faith—as if the promise is fact. So, as believers, as families, as congregations, as a denomination, how do we faithfully face God’s promises for us?

Embrace the Promise

I was recently reminded of the attitude of humans toward forecasted natural disasters. Some people heard news of an upcoming catastrophe but did not heed it. “We have heard that before, but it never happened,” they said. Many of them suffered the consequences of not heeding the warnings. Others decided that they were experienced enough to face the disaster. Unfortunately, the event was beyond anything they had ever faced before. They, too, paid the price for their pride. Finally, many of them (most of them) heard the news and proactively responded. Their lives were spared, and normalcy was restored over time.

The same is true with God’s promise of revival for the Church. His promise has a geographic dimension (“you will spread out to the right and to the left”). This means that His promise is for your community, for your land, and for your country. His promise has a generational dimension (“your children”). This means that His promise is for our generation and that we will get to see it. And His promise has a hopeful purpose (“they will settle in desolate cities”). This means that His promise is to bring a hope and a future.

However, as much as we have heard God’s promise for healing, renewal, and revival, the Church often exhibits the same three attitudes of humans in the face of announced catastrophes: Some say, “We have heard that before . . . it is not going to happen.” So, when healing and revival do happen, they simply miss it. Others maintain the proud attitude of having experienced revival long ago and think that they can deal with the freshness of God’s present presence. Unfortunately, when God’s renewal hits the shores of their spiritual dryness, they are not ready for it, and they, too, miss it.

And then there are those who are sensitive and willing. As soon as they hear God’s promise they embrace it, enjoy it, and become expectant. It is there where revival occurs!

Prepare for the Promise

Preparation is essential for the fulfillment of God’s promise because it is a sign of expectation.

There are two essential elements in preparing for God’s promise in our lives. The first has to do with making room by “enlarging the place of our tent.” For some, this means to expand our mindset. For others, this may mean to literally build new rooms, plant new churches, evangelize new communities, etc. God expects us to make room in anticipation of His promise being fulfilled.

The complement to making room is the deepening of the stakes. A large tent without deep and strong stakes is not a tent—it is a blanket. Preparing for the promise requires that we dwell deeper in God’s word, presence, people, and His essential doctrines. The church needs to proactively focus on the essential tenets of doctrine, discipleship, nurturing, and transforming lives. A large tent with deep stakes is ready to receive the broad and profound promise filled with hope for our communities in our generation.

Celebrate the promise!

Gustavo A. Crocker is general superintendent in the Church of the Nazarene

Holiness Today, Jul/Aug 2018.