Stretch to success in the next in our series on success in 2019, I want to talk about stretching, which is always painful, never comfortable but always productive and useful unless you overstretch. If you grab a rubber band and place it around, say, some pens, if it is loose it is not effectively holding them together. A rubber band is only useful when stretched, and so are Christians... we stretch to success.
James 1:2-4 (ESV Strong's)
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
But can we really experience joy in trials, in tests when we stretch to success?
THE BORN IDENTITY
Leonard Ravenhill relates that a group of tourists were in a village in Europe, and one of them asked an elderly villager, “Have any great men been born in this village?” The old man replied, “Nope, only babies.”
We are all born the same… as babies… Different opportunities, Different personalities, different hopes and dreams, Different potentials… But every person who has ever achieved anything in life has had to stretch to success.
Success is due to our stretching to the challenges life throws at us. Failure comes when we shrink from them. There’s no such thing as a man who was born great. We were all once babies, but God sees His unlimited potential within you. He sees what you could be if you obey Him. When Jeremiah was a child God said this…
Jeremiah 1:5 (ESV Strong's)
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
WHY DON’T WE WANT TO STRETCH TO SUCCESS?
If stretching is going to make us great, why do we resist it when we stretch to success? What stops us from stepping out and stretching towards greatness. Here’s the top 4 reasons why people, perhaps even you, don’t stretch (Other than the pain).
The biggest deterrent is without doubt fear. We don’t know the end result, and fear of the unknown is what often stops us when we stretch to success towards greatness.
Isaiah 41:10 (ESV Strong's)
fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Sometimes we are just too satisfied with life. Too comfortable, too complacent, too attached to what we see and experience around us. Stretching is painful, so we wouldn’t want that! Yet trust me, if you think you’re satisfied now, then you ain’t seen nothing yet, because the Bible says…
Psalms 107:9 (ESV Strong's)
For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.
Don’t be satisfied with less than what God has for your life... stretch to success!
Sometimes we know we should stretch, but we just cannot be bothered. Me in the gym.
The man told his doctor that he wasn't able to do all the things around the house that he used to do. When the examination was complete, he said: "Now, Doc, I can take it. Tell me in plain English what is wrong with me." "Well, in plain English," the doctor replied, "you're just lazy."
"Okay," said the man. "Now give me the medical term so I can tell my wife.”
Proverbs 13:4 (ESV Strong's)
The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.
4. LOW SELF WORTH
Some people just think they are not worthy enough to attempt or stretch towards greatness. They say, “I’m no good, useless, I can’t do anything.” But David writes,
Psalms 139:13-14 (ESV Strong's)
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
5. NOT WANTING TO BE DIFFERENT
Conformity is such a part of our modern world, many are afraid to stretch and be different! If you stretch, you’re no longer ordinary, if you stand up for what you believe, you are out of sync with many of your friends and associates. Your destiny is not to conform to their pattern (Romans 12:2)! You’re not ordinary, you can stretch to success, because God says,
1 Peter 2:9 (ESV Strong's)
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
These are many of the reasons we resist time when we stretch to success, but if we truly want to serve the Lord, if we really want to become someone great for Him, we cannot stay as we are! It’s time to stretch to success church!
THAT’S A BIT OF A STRETCH
Stretching is always painful, so here are 3 common areas of pain you might encounter when you stretch.
Every one of us has stretched in the past, and have discovered that this position leaves you open to attack and criticism. So, you stop stretching and start withdrawing to a position of safety. Every person soon realises that stretching equates with pain, and so before too long many stop stretching. Those who continue to stretch will find themselves vulnerable to criticism. About Jesus Peter said…
1 Peter 2:23 (ESV Strong's)
When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.
When stretching you will be criticised, sometimes by people close to you whom you love. But don’t stop stretching to answer critics, but rather, as they say in football, answer your critics on the pitch. The best reply to their criticism is to play great, keep going and produce fruit, good fruit and lots of it!
Often people whose own motives might be wrong will feel threatened by us if we are stretching to be our best or become greater. They react by questioning the validity of our motives, accusing us of doing our best for some impure purpose. Listen, don’t let the dissenters be the deciders!
Proverbs 16:2 (ESV Strong's)
All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit.
I recently faced this, being accused of impure motives by a leader outside our church. I knew it wasn’t true, and perhaps it said more about him than me, but when your motives are pure it still hurts! I had to believe that my team here and God know my motives for serving you as the pastor of Ignite. They can think what they like, I know what motivates me when stretch to success!
3. FAILURE AND DISCOURAGEMENT
The reason we often refuse to step out and stretch for the Lord is the fear of failure. We all have it. I’m worried half the church will leave because we are changing the times and doubling services. But if we don’t stretch, we won’t grow, and I am committed to growth in this church.
Don’t ever let failure become final. Be aware that discouragement is failure’s partner. The best way to pull yourself out of discouragement is to surround yourself by people who are encouragers. That’s what this church is about… building up and encouraging you to greatness…
Proverbs 24:16 (ESV Strong's)
for the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.
Failure is never permanent until you make it so. So lock in here at Ignite and keep getting up and stretch to success!
WHEN TO STRETCH AND WHEN TO REST
Athletes will tell you that you cannot stretch all the time, lest you cause injury. You stretch, you strive, and then you rest. Trouble is, most of us stretch a little and rest a lot, because the stretch hurts and the rest doesn’t!
Rest is needed to recover, and get ready for the next stretch to success. But why do so many people stretch, then rest, but decide to stay in the rest position for years? Here’s four reasons.
1. SURROUNDED BY TURKEYS
It’s often said, how can I fly with the eagles when I’m surrounded by turkeys? If you surround yourself with boring people who never stretch, you go like the company you keep…
1 Corinthians 15:33 (ESV Strong's)
Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”
This is why many elderly people decline when they enter care, because no one and nothing stimulates them. If you want to stretch towards greatness, surround yourself with exciting, vibrant and lively people, because they will keep challenging you to stretch to success (church should be this).
2. STUCK IN A RUT
We can get stuck in a rut, which is only a grave with the sides knocked out. We all face boring tasks, but for some people, their whole life is boring and mundane, and they go through life on autopilot, unmotivated and disengaged. That’s why we always need new goals, new visions, or new dreams.
For many people church is a mindless thing they attend each week, because that’s what they do. I’m a pastor that needs to stretch, and if you attend here I’m going to stretch you too, but in the long run you will grow into all that God intends for you. Life in general and the Christian life in particular should never be boring, because there is always more in Christ to learn, to do, to grow into…
Philippians 3:14 (ESV Strong's)
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
3. WE TAKE SHORT CUTS TO SECOND BEST
So many stop trying to stretch to success because they have decided to take short cuts, even though they know the result is second best! They get use to settling for their lot in life, and the short cuts they take to achieve it. Short cuts can suck the desire to stretch out of you and ruin your potential.
Colossians 3:23-24 (ESV Strong's)
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.
I want to stretch to success in everything God has for me, not get lost down some blind alley I thought was a shortcut. Ever taken a wrong turn and got lost?
Many people pursue get rich quick schemes thinking they will be rich in a few months, but find they do their doe. Lotteries are built around the quick path to success, but most lose their money, and for the few who win, they generally are broke again within 2 years. Some parents take the short cut easy road when it comes to disciplining their children, but they pay the price when their kids become teens.
Many times we under prepare then wing it. I could deliver a sermon where I quote one verse then wing it, but you’d probably detect this shortcut. God has challenged me to prepare not only my heart but also to spend hours preparing the message, saturating it with scripture. I don’t want shortcuts in God’s Word, and neither do you! I want to make everything I do 100% devoted to serving Christ and stretch to success!
4. WE THNK WE’VE ARRIVED
I noted recently that when people move from volunteer to paid employee their performance usually goes down! Why? Because they have achieved their goal and cease stretching.
1 Corinthians 10:31 (ESV Strong's)
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
Marriage is like that. You go out of your way to look good and show your partner love, until you get married, and because you’ve arrived, you get slack! I heard about a couple in counselling and the wife said, “He never tells me he loves me.” The man replied, “I told her I loved her when I married her, and if I ever change my mind she’ll be the first to know.”
When you serve Jesus, you’ve never arrived, you need to keep stretching towards greatness!
THE GREAT HOPE IN THE STRETCH TO SUCCESS?
Many people pursue happiness as their ultimate goal, but what really makes you happy? Being comfortable, being safe, being complacent might feel like happiness, but the happiest people I know are those who stretch towards greatness, those making something of their lives! The stretch to success actually brings great hope. It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey, and however uncomfortable, however stretching, the journey should be what brings you joy.
Romans 5:3-5 (ESV Strong's)
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Some hope in people… if I could just find the right husband, the right wife, the right boss, then I’ll be happy. Some hope in the past, the good old days, when everything was rosy and no one ever suffered. They look back with rose coloured glasses, and forget all the wonders we now have. They remember the simplicity, they remember the good things but conveniently forget the bad. We now have internet, cell phones, colour TV, Airconditioner’s and toilets inside. The good old days weren’t that good.
Some long for a problem free life, then they’d be happy. This also is a false hope… it’s the problems and the conquering of them that makes you happy, not their absence! There’s tremendous joy and satisfaction is stretching and overcoming difficulties in life.
BURN YOUR SHIPS
I was recording a song last week for a new album, one I have always loved. The words say… I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.
On April 21st, in the year 1519, the Spanish explorer Hernando Cortez sailed into the harbor of Vera Cruz, Mexico. He brought with him only 600 men, a tiny force to conquer a nation. Over the next two years his vastly outnumbered forces were able to defeat Montezuma and all the Aztec warriors and conquer Mexico for Spain. How was this incredible feat accomplished, when two prior expeditions had failed to establish a colony on Mexican soil? Here’s the secret.
Cortez knew that he and his men faced incredible odds. He knew that the road before them would be dangerous and difficult. He knew that his men would be tempted to abandon their quest and return to Spain.
So, as soon as Cortez and his men had come ashore and unloaded their provisions, he ordered their entire fleet of eleven ships destroyed. His men stood on the shore and watched as their only possibility of retreat burned and sank. From that point on, they knew there was no return, no turning back. Nothing lay behind them but empty ocean. Their only option was to go forward, to conquer or die.
For this church, going to 2 services is a stretch, for me and many of you. Yes we are trialling this for a few months, but whether 2 services, or relocating, or anything else, I have decided to follow Jesus into our destiny, no turning back!
Matthew 16:24 (ESV Strong's)
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
The greatest commitment you can make right now, for your church, for your family, for your life, is to take up your cross and decide to stretch and keep stretching, no matter what, no turning back! Let's stretch to success together.
I know many of you have made that kind of commitment to the Lord, as have I. However, some of you are fearful of God stretching you. You are fearful of the stretch to success and the pain involved, but today you need to lift your eyes to see the New Horizon God has given you. He is calling you to greatness, and today I want to pray for those who see this call to stretch and want to say to God, “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back!”