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Stretching for the Lord

What I would like you to do first is standup. This will be simple (after all, now that this is a transcription you are sitting at a computer and not driving). We are going to do one stretch—I really want you to do this. As I have been teaching this live, I have asked people to really participate in this. I promise you that the teaching will mean more to you because you will see that the parallels between the physical stretch that you are going to do now and stretching in faith are absolute. Put your feet about a foot apart. Your goal is to bend over as far as you can go. If you can put your elbows on the floor, that is wonderful, but maybe just your palms would be a good goal. Remember, just get up and do this, come on! It is not going to hurt you. I just want to make a point here. Do not start bouncing, but just move down slowly and try to place your palms on the floor. If you can do that, then go for the elbows. If you can do that, then go for the head. Oh yes, do this without bending your legs or knees. I forgot to say that. All I want you do to do is bend until you are uncomfortable. If six inches makes you uncomfortable, then get there. Just get to where you are uncomfortable and stay there for a second. Now see, you are not going to die. Now, just go a little farther—just push a little farther and stay there a second. Now, do one more little push.

Great, thank you!

As I ask you some questions here, I want you to think about what you just did. Who decided whether or not you just stretched? I am sure that you realized that you decided. Some have said that I decided, but no, I only asked you to stretch, then you chose to obey, or you chose not to obey. I am going to show you in about nine simple places in the Bible that God is going to ask you to stretch, and that often, when you stretch, you are uncomfortable. The key will be not to allow your discomfort to stop you from obeying God.

It is very important that God asks you to stretch because that will make your stretch a stretch of faith. We do not want to make up our own stretching exercises because we are liable to pull something. We only want to stretch as God asks us to stretch. What is the biblical definition of faith? Faith is simply trust, and it is trust in the Word of God. When God asks us to do something, we stretch our faith to respond.

Perhaps one of the simplest illustrations of this is when Peter was standing in the boat on Sea of Galilee. He saw Jesus walking on the water and he said, “Well, Lord if it is really you, then I want to walk,” and Jesus gave him a stretching exercise—did he not. He gave Peter a one word sentence. Jesus spoke and said, “Come.” Now, does Peter have the Word of the Lord? Absolutely he does. Now, it is up to Peter to decide whether or not to obey. Do you think Peter might have been uncomfortable? I think that it was possible that he was uncomfortable, but he obeyed. He stepped out of the boat. Was that a stretch of faith? Certainly it was. That is a very good example of what I am trying to say here.

Suppose Jesus had said, “Aw forget it; you cannot do it,” and Peter said, “I am not going to forget it.” Peter stepped out of the boat—like a rock, he would have gone down. No, Jesus gave him the word, “Come,” which means—you can do it. Peter stretched, and he is the only other man that ever, as far as it is recorded in Scripture, walked on water.

Let me ask you this question. What happens to a muscle when it is regularly stretched? Could we say that it becomes flexible, versatile, efficient, strong, and growing? Okay, I think that you are probably agreeing. Hey, think about those five adjectives—flexible, versatile, efficient, strong, and growing. Would you like those applied to your spiritual life? I would; especially, when I consider the antonyms—weak, brittle, and inflexible. One other antonym can be applied. What happens to a muscle when it is not regularly stretched? Does it stay the same? No, it atrophies, which means to shrink from disuse. I am very sad to say that I know literally thousands of people whose faith has atrophied because they had not been stretching their faith muscles in obedience to the written Word of God. Well, maybe this teaching will help some folks in that category to go to the gymnasium of God’s Word and start stretching their muscles.

Now, I have a great point for you. We will see this in the Bible; God will ask you to stretch. He will ask you to stretch as far as you can stretch, but He will never ask you to stretch farther than you can stretch.

When I was growing up my father would ask me to do things around the house. Many times I said, “I can’t!” Later I found out that I could. What that showed me was that my father knew my capacity better than I did. Once again, the parallel is absolute. Our heavenly Father is going to ask us to stretch. Hey, would God ask you to stretch farther than you can stretch? Would God ask you to do something that you cannot do? Of course not! Are you sure that you agree with what you just read? If you do, it could change your life. God will not ask you to do something that you cannot do, right? Okay, if you are agreeing, then think about this—if that is true, and I think that it is, what is the first thing that you and I should know whenever God asks us to do something? I can do it! That is it. Think about it because sometimes I bail out on that. I say, “I can’t,” just like I said to my earthly father. We are going to see later on that if you are a Christian, you have received the “one size fits all” holy spirit, and your capacity to stretch is a lot more than you may realize. God knows that capacity, and He is going to stretch you so that you become flexible, versatile, efficient, strong, and growing.

When I say that God is going to stretch you, I do not mean that you are human taffy. I mean that He is going to ask you to do something, and you will have to decide whether to stretch in faith. You will see it at every instance in the Bible that when you stretch, you will touch the hand of the God. Why? Because we know God’s posture, and we know the posture of His Son, Jesus.

John 3:16
“For God so loved the world that he gave—

As I said the word “gave” I was stretching out my hand toward the microphone. That is God’s posture. His hand is outstretched toward you every moment of your life. Everything that you need is in His outstretched hand, but He is not going to cram it down your throat or my throat. It is up to me, and it is up to you to stretch on our part and take what is in His hand.

Once again, the very reciprocal relationship between you and God is evident. We are not robots, we have free will. God forbid that you watch big time wrestling, but if you do, you probably have seen a tag-team match. What that means is that two wrestlers are on each team, but only one at a time is allowed to be inside the ring (inside the ropes). The other, the partner, stays on the outside of the ropes. The rule is that he cannot enter the ring unless his partner, who is in the ring, decides to stretch and touch his hand. This is exactly the way life is on a daily basis. Okay, I hope that you know that you as a Christian are not wrestling against God. You would not have a chance! No, a lot of Christians unfortunately think that they are wrestling against God; as if, they are tugging on something. “Give it to me!” we say. “No.” says God. “Yes,” we reply. “No,” says God. That would make praying hands look a little weird there. We know from Scripture that we are wrestling against the Devil (see Eph. 6:10 and following).

Now picture this. I am in the wrestling ring. The Devil has got me in a head lock, but I have him a small toe-hold. We are going back and forth there, but I have a tag team partner. My partner is outside the ropes, and he will be until I decide to stretch and touch him. My circumstances for stretching and touching him are not always favorable. I am in a head lock, and it is uncomfortable to stretch and touch him. Now, what is the proper posture for the partner, who is outside the ring, in a tag-team match? Does this partner have his back to the ring signing autographs? No, he does not. If he is a good partner, he is stretching; he is leaning into the ring. His hand is extended toward you as far as he can possibly stretch within the limitations of his jurisdiction, which is outside the ropes. Who is my tag-team partner? Guess what, it is the same tag-team partner that you have. He is the Lord Jesus Christ and he knows the ropes! He lived in them. He is a human being, the Son of God.

Remember, we only have one God and one mediator between God and men – the man Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 2:5). He is reaching into the ring saying, “John come on touch me, tag me, touch my hand. I want to get in that ring and ‘kick-butt’!” His involvement in my life is severely limited by my freedom of will. I must choose, sometimes amidst trying circumstances to stretch and touch his hand, but his hand will never be out of reach. He will never ask me to stretch farther than I can stretch. Is this not fabulous? Now I just need to remember and practice it on a daily basis.

Have you ever heard of a comfort zone? Well, I want you to think about your comfort zones as you are reading this transcription. I do not know about you, but I have a lot of comfort zones. First, I want you to think about what we might call your spiritual comfort zones; in other words, do you need to stretch in your prayer life, your speaking in tongues life, your interpretation of tongues life, your prophecy life, your ministering healing life, your witnessing life, or your financial giving life, and then I will close with two verses in 1 Peter that are all about stretching in love in your relationships with other people. That is where I really have comfort zones. In every relationship in my life, I have a comfort zone; some are bigger than others, but we have got to get out of our comfort zone, which means that we are going to be uncomfortable.

Let me ask you this. Were you uncomfortable the first time that you ever prayed out loud in front of someone? Chances are that you might have been, but are you uncomfortable now? If the answer is no, what happened? This happened because you kept stretching, and you got more flexible. Your comfort zone has now expanded. Were you uncomfortable the first time that you ever spoke in tongues? A lot of people were, but are you uncomfortable when you speak in tongues now? If you are not, your comfort zone has expanded. If you are still uncomfortable, then you are not stretching enough. If you stretch enough, your comfort zone will expand.

I have the worlds biggest “no fear” sticker on the back window of my minivan, and I have a growing collection of “no fear” t-shirts and other paraphernalia. My goal is not that I have no fear. My goal is that no fear stops me from obeying God. I have failed at that more than once. I hate fear. I hate that feeling. I hate what it does to me when I do not respond to it properly—at the end of this teaching, I will tell you a story about when I did respond to it properly. A couple of my t-shirts say things like “you miss a hundred percent of the shots that you do not take.” I have to love that one the most because I am from Indiana, and I was given a small basketball at birth. This is another one that is an awesome message: “If you are not living on the edge, you are taking up too much space.” I love that one. I was thinking, “The edge of what?” It is the edge of my comfort zone. I want to be pushing against the edge of my comfort zone. I want to live by stretching.

I was with some martial arts people once and they said, “We work out just enough to be sore all the time.” I sort of paralleled that to life as a believer in that God is always going to be asking us to keep stretching, stretching, stretching, and stretching, so that maybe more than one occasion will occur each week where I might be uncomfortable. As long as I do not allow my discomfort to keep me from obeying, I will touch the power of God.

Let us now go to the Bible to see if it is really true. Who would have ever thought that the little word stretch was even in the Bible, and if it is in there, that it could have so many wonderful truths contained in it. We are going to look at two Old Testament “stretchers.” The first one is Moses. Remember the record about Moses? He grew up in the home of Pharaoh and had a nice life; but then, he saw one of his Israeli brethren being afflicted, so he killed the Egyptian that was doing it. He then had to hide out, and ended up being a shepherd for 40 years guarding the sheep. One day God came to him and said, “Moses, thanks for taking care of the sheep, but now the big day has come. My people are in bondage in Egypt, and you are the man who I have chosen to go and lead my people out of bondage.” Moses says, “When do I leave?” No, that is not what Moses said. You may know the record. Moses said, “It is not possible. The sheep cannot get along without me. The Egyptians will never believe me. Who am I going to say sent me? Beside all that, I can hardly speak.” God looked at him and said, “Holy smoke, this man needs to be stretched. He is too brittle, inflexible, weak, etc…”

How many of you know that when you stretch, you should warm up? God knows that too, so He gives Moses a warm up stretch on the spot long before Moses is ever standing in front of Pharaoh. Moses is standing there talking to God, and of course Moses is a shepherd, and he has his shepherd rod in his hand. God said, “What do you have in your hand there?” Moses said, “That is my shepherd’s rod.” God said, “Throw that on the ground?” Moses threw it on the ground, and do you know what happened? Uh! It turned into a snake! It says that Moses fled. Well, that left God there with a snake. Moses eventually came back because in the next verse God said to Moses, “Put forth [stretch out your hand] and take the snake by the tail.” That is not how you pick up a snake. If you must pick one up, you get it right behind the head. God said, “Moses, stretch out your hand and pick up this snake by the tail.” Do you think that Moses might have been uncomfortable? I do, but did he allow his discomfort to stop him from obeying God? No, he did not, and what happened? The second that Moses’ hand touched the snake’s tail, it instantly turned back into the rod. Wow! I told you that when you stretch despite your discomfort, you touch the power of God because He will never ask you to stretch farther than you can stretch.

Well, suppose Moses allowed his discomfort to stop him from obeying God? Number one, Moses never would have seen the power of God. Number two, he would have been herding sheep with a snake.

In Exodus 7, Moses finds himself next to the Nile River. He has his side-kick Aaron with him. They are standing before Pharaoh. As far as my limited knowledge of history tells me, I think that Pharaoh is the most powerful person on the planet at that time. This would then be a challenging situation here. Look at what they are going to do. They are standing in front of Pharaoh:

Exodus 7:19
The LORD said to Moses, “Tell Aaron,‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt– over the streams and canals, over the ponds and all the reservoirs’—and they will turn to blood. Blood will be everywhere in Egypt, even in the wooden buckets and stone jars.”

Now, does Moses have a stretching exercise or is he just going to make one up? No, God prescribed the exercise. Once again, it is not a hard physical act, but it is a stretch of faith in response to the Word of God. You and I have the written Word, and then we have Words that come by revelation by the spirit of God in us. This is somewhat dramatic. Moses could have said, “What if it does not work?” Well, look what the next verse says. I would to God that this could be written about me on a daily basis.

Exodus 7:20
Moses and Aaron did just as the LORD had commanded.

He raised his staff; he stretched and instantly the entire Nile River and every drop of water in Egypt immediately turned to blood. If you read the next three chapters, you will see that God gave Moses five more stretching exercises, and the Egyptians got locust, hail, lice, frogs, and darkness. Moses is now getting pretty limber and flexible. In chapter 14, God is warming Moses up. I call this the Egyptian’s splits.

You know what happened in the record of Moses. They got out of Egypt. They took all the gold, money, and so forth, and then Pharaoh realized, “Yikes, what have I done?” So he starts chasing Moses with his whole army. Moses gets the people to the edge of the Sea, and they are trapped between Pharaoh and the Sea. That is a pretty uncomfortable situation in itself. Moses is responsible for two million or so Israelites—how much space would that amount of people need? It is a big group!

Exodus 14:15 and 16
(15) Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.
(16) Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground.

Is that not a stretch? Do you think that Moses may have been uncomfortable? I think that he may have been uncomfortable. Once again, he did not allow his discomfort to stop him from obeying the Word of God. Moses may have been sweating from every pore of his body, but he stretched in faith and touched the power of God. How much noise do you think that the Sea made when it parted? I did not just go “phthp” and a two foot part with the Israelites sideling across one at a time! No, it did not. It was more like “brrrrrrrrwwll” with tons of water beginning to move and go out of sight in either direction. Two million people were there to get across and they cannot go single file. After the Israelites got across, the Egyptian’s said, “Well, we are going across too.” They got out in the middle of the Sea, and God said, “Now Moses, I got one more stretching that I would like you to do. Stretch out one more time and the water will cover the Egyptians.” Personally, I think that Moses did a behind the back stretch here. I think that he was so limber—beside that he had gravity working for him. Moses stretched, and the Egyptians found out that chariots do not float!

In 1 Kings 17:17 we are going to see the same principle. This is about the man named Elijah a prophet who moonlighted as a weatherman. One night, he was giving the weather forecast to King Ahab (who was not a nice guy). Elijah said, “Look, it ain’t gonna rain no more no more until I say so!” Now I doubt if Ahab freaked out at that moment and tried to grab Elijah. He just probably thought Elijah was a nut, but some months later, not a drop of rain had fallen. A severe famine gripped the land, and Ahab was looking for Elijah; in fact, he had an “All Points Bulletin” out on Elijah. Elijah was hiding out at a place called Zerephath with a widow woman. A terrible tragedy took place there.

1 Kings 17:17
Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing.

Now, God forbid that you even know anyone who loses a child, but think about this; do not just let this be words on a page. Look carefully at verse 18 because I am going to assert that from my experience, most Christians cannot accurately explain this verse. Look what she said to Elijah:

1 Kings 17:18
She said to Elijah, “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?”

Think about this. Elijah has been staying there. She has been feeding him from the little food that she has. Now, she says, “Nice, I feed you, and you kill my kid.” Why did the widow woman attribute the death of her son to God? We are going to see in a couple of verses later that Elijah also attributes the death of the boy to God. Please, read our book titled Don’t Blame God! Chapter four of the book is called Old Testament or New: Which one is true? If I was you and I had read the book, I would read it again. I need to read it again, and I am even one of the authors. Two years of labor went into that book. This is a big issue and a deep subject. I hope that you are blessed by how we handled it. The answer to the question above is in that book. The answer basically is that in the Old Testament no revelation was given about Satan, the false god, the kingdom of evil and evil spirits, and the two kingdoms warring with one another behind the scenes of the five senses, which Jesus exposed in the New Testament. God in the Old Testament took the rap for both good and evil. That is the basic answer to that question. No one had the gift of holy spirit born in him before Pentecost, so in the Old Testament, God took the rap for both. [For further study on this critical subject, please see the articles we have posted under the topics Don’t Blame God and Don’t Blame God 2.]

1 Kings 17:19 and 20
(19) “Give me your son,” Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed.
(20) Then he cried out to the LORD, “O LORD my God, have you brought tragedy also upon this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?”

This is amazing. He said, “God, I do not understand. Why did you kill this boy?” I cannot put myself into Elijah’s shoes mentally because I know about the Devil, and I cannot just divorce myself of that knowledge. It is like he said, “Well, I do not know why you killed him, but I know that you can raise him. I am asking that You raise this boy from the dead.” I believe that God responded to Elijah’s request by giving him revelation. I believe that in verse 21 Elijah does what he does because the Word of the LORD said to do it.

1 Kings 17:21 and 22
(21) Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried to the LORD, “O LORD my God, let this boy’s life return to him!”
(22) The LORD heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived.

What I do not know from reading the verse is whether or not God told him to stretch three times, or whether God just told him to stretch himself out on the boy, and it took three times before it worked. I do know that the first time that Elijah stretched himself out on the boy nothing happened. Would you say that possibly Elijah may have been uncomfortable? He stretched himself again and nothing happened. Would you say that possibly Elijah may have been more uncomfortable? I think that he was. This is the next question: What if he had allowed his discomfort to stop him from stretching the third time? They would have had a funeral instead of party, but despite his discomfort, Elijah stretched himself one more time on the boy, and the child’s life came into him. Think about what happened in Elijah’s heart. Elijah said, “Wow!” He then took the boy down and said, “Hey momma check this out, dah-dah!” When you stretch in response to the Word of God, you will touch the hand of God.

Let us see if Jesus had to stretch. Now remember, Jesus began as a seed in the womb of Mary, then nine months later was born and was a baby. The Bible says that he had to grow in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and men (Luke 2:52). He certainly did. Hebrews 5:7 tells us that throughout the course of his life he learned obedience by the things that he endured and so forth. Let us see if God stretched Jesus so-to-speak or asked him to stretch; of course, the answer is yes. It is yes because Jesus came to do the biggest stretch that any human being has ever been asked to do. This stretch was laid out for Jesus in the Old Testament (you can see some of this in the Golden Thread), and at one point in his life as he realized who he was; he also realized his destiny on earth. That destiny was the Cross. That is quite a stretching exercise, quite a stretch of faith. Remember faith is trust in the Word of God. The Old Testament showed Jesus that as the Messiah, he had to die on the cross. Obviously, God knew that since Jesus was going to do the biggest stretch anyone has ever done, then Jesus needed to warm-up. In Mark 1:38, we have Jesus very early in his ministry.

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