“Enlarge the place of your tent;
Stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, spare not;
Lengthen your cords
And strengthen your pegs.
“For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left.
And your descendants will possess nations
And will resettle the desolate cities.
(Isaiah 54:2,3 NASB)
(This is part 2 of a post about Isaiah 54, which I originally posted in July 2013 on my Tools for Godly Living blog. I was a single mom at the time. So much has happened since then, but this still totally applies to me … and I’ll bet it applies to you, as well. Tell me what you think.)
In my worries about my physical house — a toilet that wasn’t working, light switches that needed changing, rain gutters that were falling off, and numerous other problems I didn’t have the ability to take care of — and in the midst of my concerns about the emotional and spiritual home I needed to provide for my children — God was telling me to enlarge my territory. Not to tighten my belt, so to speak, not to focus on just the little I had, but rather to expand and to look out beyond where we resided. The promise that my descendants would resettle the desolate cities was especially meaningful to me. It’s a promise that my children and their children, both physical and spiritual, will bring life to places that are lacking in life. I love seeing how this is already happening. It doesn’t really have to do with me; definitely isn’t my doing. But it’s the fulfillment of God’s promise to me.
However, this isn’t just a promise that will happen on its own. I have an active role. He doesn’t say that He will enlarge my tent; He tells me to “enlarge the place of my tent” (press out into other regions, go places that I might be afraid to go … again, literally and figuratively … the things about which I say, “I don’t want to go there”).
Interestingly, soon after this, God moved us 1000 miles from our home. It has not been easy at all, but I feel Him expanding us, networking us, helping us to understand another culture within our own, preparing us for bigger changes perhaps. (And since then, in 2014, Bill and I got married and I moved to yet another new place: Maryland’s Eastern Shore!)
Another way that He’s been doing this in me is through something He challenged me with 2 years ago: Whatever I realize I’m afraid of, He’s challenged me to walk into it. It’s like Peter getting out of the boat and walking on the waves. I need to step into my fears and keep my eyes on Him. Sometimes, I can see directly how overcoming a particular fear can serve Him … like stepping out in public again, writing this blog. But other things, like trying to conquer my fear of heights … um, I’m not sure that will be used directly in ministry, but it’s the discipline of not giving in to my fears, of getting myself to the place where I won’t hesitate to follow Him, so that I can obey His call without stalling in fear. Taking this challenge — to walk into my fears, to do what I’m afraid of, as long as it’s not immoral, illegal, or foolish — has helped me to grow a lot in the last couple years, and it’s definitely strengthened my trust in Him. (By the way, I am horribly afraid of heights. I’m afraid to stand on a chair to change a light bulb, though I’ve been working on that. My ultimate goal is to go ziplining.)
He says to “stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, spare not.” That exhortation to spare not means that I’m not to be cheap or selfish or moderate in stretching. I’m not to hold back because I’m afraid He won’t provide. I’m to grow where He tells me/us to grow and not hold back, but trust Him for His resources, financial, emotional, spiritual, etc. (As I read through this in 2017 … Okay, yeah, Bill and I are definitely doing this!)
“Lengthen your cords.” In order to make your tent bigger, you have to have longer cords. These are what define the outer boundaries of your tent, your territory. God doesn’t just expand our boundaries for us; we have to provide the longer cord for Him to do that. Stretching out from the tent pole, these cords are what hold the tent up. I have to become stronger in His Word and in my relationship with Him. I need to become completely responsible financially, sacrificing when necessary in order to remain solvent and steady. I need to build my emotional stability, and I need to take care of my physical body. All these things have to be strong enough to be stretched farther and farther.
“And strengthen your pegs.” The cords, when stretched out, have to have something strong to hold them in place. God can draw those cords way out and give me vaster and vaster territory in every area of my life, but those cords will just pop back and the tent will collapse if the tent pegs aren’t strong enough to withstand the tension. Those pegs have to be driven hard into the Rock. My Rock. My Redeemer. And what’s more, those pegs have to be leaning outward … out toward more territory, out toward others, not inward toward myself. Again, if those pegs lean inward, no matter how strong they are, no matter how deeply they are driven into the Rock, the cords will slip off and the tent will collapse. And just as tent pegs occasionally have to be checked and hammered back into the ground, so I need to be watching for any signs that I’m getting pulled away from the center of the Rock, and allow Him to drive me farther into Himself.
“You will spread abroad,” He says, “to the right and the left.” An amazing thing about this is that He’s not just expanding our fruitful, productive territory in one direction. He’s spreading us out in every direction! And little by little, I see this happening. I have a little influence in California. I have friends to encourage in Tennessee. And my influence is reaching in very small ways into India and Africa. (Now, I’m in Maryland, and there are people in various countries reading my books. More of my study guides — not a lot, but more — have been bought in the UK than here in the US.) Who knows where else? Not in big ways, no. Nor does it have to be big. But the fact is that He expands our influence in many different directions when we’re open to that.
Little things can make a big impact. A fearful Sunday School teacher witnessed to Dwight L. Moody and won him to the Lord. Besides being a successful evangelist, Moody’s ministry (and thus, that Sunday School teacher’s ministry) can be traced all the way to Billy Graham’s conversion. My little, inconsequential influence, where God has expanded my tent, has reached someone else who is doing great things for God! I didn’t set out to expand my influence. God did this! I lengthened my cords and strengthened my pegs … or if truth really be told, I allowed Him to do it, and followed His leading (and often not perfectly, but the best I could). If we give Him that, He does the rest.
Isaiah Cadre Discussion Questions (you can also use these for journaling):
1. Where and how is God enlarging your territory? Do you see the possibility of your influence expanding to other places, beyond that of your home? This may not be geographic expansion. Maybe He’s expanding you into new venues or taking you different places for your work. Maybe He’s giving you more opportunities right where you are. Those are things that expand your territory, your sphere of influence. Remember that if you’ve given your life to Him, every time you walk into a place, you’re bringing the Holy Spirit with you.
2. What areas of your life need more strengthening and stability? These are the cords that you need to make stronger so that your tent can be stretched. Do you need to be more disciplined, spiritually? More responsible financially? Do you need to work on integrity? Are you struggling morally? Ask the Lord how to become stronger in these areas so that your tent cords can be stretched out.
3. Are your tent pegs strong? Do you have a strong relationship with the King of Kings who wants to expand your tent? He’s the Rock, the foundation that you need to drive your tent pegs into, and you need to drive them in hard. They need to be inspected regularly to be certain you aren’t pulling out of the Rock and weakening your tent. What specifically do you need to do, to press into Him? Are you spending time in His Word? Are you praying … and not only talking, but listening? Are you surrounding yourself with biblical, wise influence through teaching and friendships? Are you spending time in Worship of the Lord of the Universe?
4. Are your tent pegs positioned so they’re leaning out toward others? Remember that if you point them toward yourself, leaning inward selfishly, your tent will collapse. Direct your attention outward toward others. What specifically can you do to align yourself better in this way? How can you use your gifts to serve others? How can you be “Jesus with skin on”?
You can find part 1 at My Ever Fruitful Womb (Isaiah 54, part 1).