Jack Graham - Deep and Wide
Take your Bibles now and turn with me to Isaiah chapter 54. I want to speak to you today about our future. I want to talk to you about your future, and mine, and the future of this wonderful church. And the title of the message is "Deep and Wide". Maybe you remember the little childhood song we sang in Sunday school: "Deep and wide, deep and wide; There's a fountain flowing deep and wide". Then "Wide and deep, wide and deep". I want to talk to you about going wide and growing deep. That's what Isaiah 54 is about. Look at it with me, beginning in verses 1, 2 and 3: "'Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her who is married,' says the Lord. 'Enlarge the place of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out" say, stretched out, do not hold back. Say, do not hold back; "lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes". Say, lengthen and strengthen. Again, lengthen and strengthen your stakes. "For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left, and your offspring will possess the nations and will people the desolate cities".
Here's what God is saying in this unique passage. Right on the heels of one of the most important passages in all of the Bible, Isaiah 53, when Messiah-Jesus is promised, who would come and bear the sins of the world, take our iniquities away, take our sins away. Right on the heels of that, right next to that great passage are these words about barren Israel, broken lives in Israel, people crying out to God. In the ancient world in the days of these prophets, if you were unable to bear children, it was a reproach. And many women who could not bear children would be in deep sadness and heaviness, and cry out to God and pray for a child. We ought to always remember among our friends and in this fellowship the women and men who are crying out and praying that God would give them children. It's important prayer. But in that day the women were desperate to have children and they would cry out in their barrenness, that God would give them a child.
Rachel was such a woman who cried out. She did not have a son. She cried out for a son, saying, Genesis 30:1, "God, God, give me a child or I will die"! Now in that context Israel was barren, and God gave them a promise, "You who are barren, you who are without child! Israel, you're going to flourish! You're going to spread out to the nations"! And did God keep that promise? He certainly did. God has blessed Israel and to the nations, and, of course, has established His land in Jerusalem once again. In 1948 Israel became a nation once again, and God is gathering His people. And in these Last Days we know that the Jewish people play a vital role in the future of the world, and so much of what we see and the turmoil of the Middle East, of course, is related to Israel and Jerusalem! God says, "My people are always going to be here and they're going to flourish"! And those who bless Israel, God will bless! And God chose to bless Israel and He gave them children and more children.
Now that's the primary application. But there's a personal application for us today. Those of us who are in His church, those of us who are spiritual Israel, if you will, that God has called us to create a family, to bear children into the world, spiritual children! Because the church is not an organization to join, it is family to share. We are God's forever family! And therefore, we are to bring forth children. God wants to expand His family. Thus, you have those words that we paused and looked at for just a moment. We repeated it. If you're going to expand your family, if you're going to have more and more and more children, then you need to enlarge your house, you need to enlarge your tent. They lived in tents. Many of these were Bedouin shepherds, and so he said lengthen those cords. Get wider cords because you're going to add rooms on to your tent, onto your house. And while you're lengthening those cords, and don't spare; he said make it big cause children are coming. And then drive those stakes deeper into the ground, because if you're going to expand the house and go wider, than you're going have to go deeper as well, lest a wind or a storm come and blow it all away.
So God is saying to His people, to His church, "I'm going to keep giving you children; you're going to be fruitful; you're going to be blessed beyond measure, and there will be incredible joy in bearing spiritual children". Paul spoke of being a spiritual father. He said in First Corinthians 4:15, "I became your father in Christ Jesus through the Gospel". He was talking to Christians at Corinth, and he said, "I became your father through the Gospel of Jesus Christ". Are you a spiritual father to anyone? Are you a spiritual mother? Bringing children into the world and expanding and enlarging God's house? Oh, it's a tragedy if someone is physically, maternally barren, but it is a greater tragedy if we are spiritually barren! If we don't have children, our own children, our own families, our friends, our neighbors to bring into the kingdom of God!
Like Rachel who prayed, "Give me children or I die", there was a Scottish preacher years ago who had a burden and a brokenness for his homeland Scotland and he cried out, "Oh God", his name was John Knox. "Oh God, give me Scotland or I will die"! It's that kind of passion. And oh, how we ought to cry out because there's nothing more wonderful, nothing more joyous in life than bringing a spiritual child into the family of God; being a part of that process, that delivery system where we bring people to Jesus. In one sense I would say my own life is certainly the greatest joy since my salvation. And you know, salvation in some way, when I was converted as a child, I didn't understand a lot about my salvation, but now that I know quite a bit about salvation, the Bible and the Gospel, it's even greater in some sense when I see people saved, when I see people unwrap, I'm like a boy at Christmas when you're unwrapping a gift. When I give a gift now and see somebody unwrap it, there's greater joy in that than receiving a gift yourself. There's joy when God adds to the family! Jesus has that joy. He speaks of that joy in Hebrews 10 of bringing many sons to glory.
Now God wants children in His family, and if you're a Christian, you are responsible to bring as many people into the family of God as possible. If you're not a Christian, if you're not saved, you're welcome into the family of God. Our prayer is that you would know Him and meet Him this very day; that you would believe in the one who died for you and rose again so that you could have eternal life, to fill that big old hole in your heart, to give you a brand new life, to forgive all your sins. The one you've been looking for, what you've been looking for your entire life is a relationship with God. John 1:12, "As many as received Him (Jesus), to them gave He the right to be called the children of God, even to them who believe on His name". You can become a child of God today! But just as God said to Israel, "Tear the walls down, expand the place of your habitation, lengthen those cords, expand and do no spare", so are we to think this way! We're to think more people for Christ, more people into the family of God. Greater things will God do!
You may be thinking, "Well, Jack, are you just talking about more numbers, because we already have lots of numbers"? Some of you may think this church is already too big, or that numbers really don't matter. Of course, numbers are important! There's even a book in the Bible named Numbers. Every number represents a person for whom Jesus died. There are six billion numbers of people plus that live in the world! When I was in China most recently last year, just to see the massive number, millions of people, most of them who do not know Jesus! We're going to India to preach the Gospel this Spring, and to think of the masses of people around the world, so many people who are lost, so many people who are unreached, and all around us, I don't know about your neighborhood, but in my neighborhood there's a lot of people packing it in on Sundays.
There are not a lot of people going to church around us, and I'm praying for our neighborhoods, and we're asking God to expand our witness and the influence of our church because numbers, more people-expanding what God is doing, that means more people coming to Jesus, and I'm all in on that! You have family members and friends and neighbors and co-workers and others in your life, fellow students, team mates, class mates, who don't know Jesus. Are you bringing forth fruit? Are you bearing children? Can you say, can you sing, "Thank you, Lord, for the children that you're giving me". Jesus said it clearly before He ascended to heaven from the Mount of Olives. He said, Acts 1:8, "You shall receive power after the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you shall be My witness to the ends of the earth": starting right where you are and to the ends of the earth. And then He ascended and the angel said, "He's coming back". And many of us believe that Jesus is coming back soon.
When you look at the world today, extreme violence and these satanic movements that are going on, there's something different; there's something, this isn't headline hysteria; I'm just saying that many people believe that we're coming to a tipping point in history, and that the future is going to be very different. I believe Jesus is coming soon. He's coming back. And in the meantime He's called us to enlarge His family, to grow and to go with His church and to bring people to Jesus. I believe God wants to do greater things, new things. Do you? Do you believe in a God who can do big things? I do. This is why I'm calling us to greater prayer in these days, to greater expectancy. Too many Christians don't believe God to do anything except maybe take them to heaven some day. God wants to do greater things in your life! What are your holy ambitions? What are the great desires that God has implanted into your heart?
I remember as a teenager when God put it in my heart to preach the Gospel. He gave me a desire to preach the Gospel. I had no idea what that would mean, but I'm so grateful that I was able to fulfill and am fulfilling God's purpose in my life that God did so much more than I could have ever imagined or dreamed! Through PowerPoint, our church's media ministry: radio, television and the Internet, on television now weekly we're on in Russia and on Russian television around the world. There are Russians living everywhere: Germany, Philadelphia, New York City, obviously Russia, the former Soviet Union. Millions of Russians who need the Gospel! And we're preaching the Gospel, and that blows my mind. A little boy who grew up in Conway, Arkansas during the cold war, to think about that I would actually be preaching the Gospel in Russia blows my mind!
And, oh by the way, I'm not just preaching in Russia, I'm preaching in Russian! Watch the screen. You don't believe me? Watch this! Ha! And we're connected with the ministry there and so people who call in to receive Christ, receive help and materials in Russian who have received Christ. And the family of God's growing and going! There's going to be ultimately more Christians in China, we're told, than any country in all the world! But in the book of Revelation we're told that around the throne of God are peoples from every language and every nation and every tribe and every dialect, and people from all over the world that are going to be born into the family of God and around the throne of God! Millions, myriads of them, praising God forever! We have a big God! We have a great God that is bringing together a great family across the earth, and we get to be a part of it! I never apologize for Prestonwood being big! I just don't! We're not big enough!
Don't let the size of this crowd fool you! There are hundreds of thousands of people around us who don't know Jesus! Millions of people around the world who need Jesus! We're few in number compared to what we need to be. I was in Costco, I like to go to Costco. How many of you are in on Costco? Alright, you like, yeah sure. Deb doesn't let me go alone to Costco because I come back with all this stuff! And you know big boxes of it! But, hey, if you go on Saturday you can basically eat lunch there for free! All those samples! It's really good! And you know Costco is big, it's bodacious, it's outrageous, but I dare you not to like it. Ha, I was coming out of the parking lot thinking about that yesterday. I thought you know it's like Prestonwood. It's big, it's outrageous in some way- what God has done, but I dare you not to like it! I dare you not to love it, because you're with the greatest people that I know anything about. And God wants to do so much more!
Don't limit God in your life! Expand your life! What are your dreams? What are your desires? What are your hopes? What are your aspirations? Don't cut Him off! Spare not, lengthen the cord! Believe God because faith is a muscle that moves mountains! You know, some people, you know, they're little people. You know why? I'm not talking about physically small. I'm talking about they've got small hearts and small vision. They got a little world! They're just little. They're shriveled up. You know why? They've got a little god; their god is too small. If your God is too small, you won't dream much, you won't do much. You know, when troubles and oppositions come, you'll fold because you've got a little god. You think, you know, you worry. Why do you worry? Because you think your problem's so big God can't handle it. Can you not trust God? Is God not big enough in your life to handle what you're going through right now? Sure He is! But so many of us, our God is so small we think of Him in such small ways. He's cut off, His power's cut off in our lives. Believe God! Believe in a God who's big.
You say, "Well, you know, I'm a little older now, can't do what I used to do". Don't say that! God's got big plans for you! God has dreams for you! If you're not dead, you're not done. Pray big prayers, bold prayers! Let God use you. Believe God for greater things in your life and your family. There's no person God cannot save; no problem God cannot solve; no predicament He cannot deal with in your life. Trust Him! So with that, expand, enlarge, put your arms around the world. But there's one thing that I need to say before closing. God not only wants to create a big family forever, but until He comes, God expects us to care for His children and minister to His family. We go wide, but we also go deep, and this is why we have discipleship; this is why we teach God's word. That's the other side of the Great Commission. Make disciples and then mature disciples: evangelism and discipleship. They're not mutually exclusive. We certainly don't want to be a mile wide and an inch deep.
I close with this: I got a good friend by the name of Dave Valle. Dave played major league baseball; he was high draft pick, played major league baseball in the eighties and finished his career in the nineties. It was nearly a twenty year career in professional baseball. And Dave now is a broadcaster with the Seattle Mariners. He also leads a ministry called Esperanza. Our church has been involved with Dave down in the Dominican Republic and helping in this, and he's a great man, now again a broadcaster today for the Mariners in MLB. But I've gotten to know Dave over the years and some of you men have heard Dave speak at our men's conference. But in the 1990's the Rangers were winning. They had about a nine game lead in in the first of August in '96. Looked like they were running away. Then they started tanking. They went on a huge losing streak and their lead was shrinking. We're all thinking, "Okay, here we go again".
When it gets hot in Texas our team goes phfftt! Dave Valle was on that Ranger team in 1996. It was the end of his career. He was a backup catcher. He only had forty-something at-bats that year. He was Pug Rodriquez' backup, so you don't get much playing time, future Hall of Famer, but he's a leader, especially because of his Christian faith, he was respected in the locker room. So they lost, they're on this massive losing streak-this shows up in the top one hundred moments of Ranger history, by the way. It's called "the meeting". And Johnny Oates in that day the before, was so upset, he was a mild-mannered manager, Johnny Oates-he had flipped over the food table in the locker room, food-beans, sandwiches, were hanging everywhere. Everybody was upset. They were tanking.
Dave went to the manager Johnny Oates and said, "I'd like to have a team meeting". He said, "Fine, I'll get the coaches out and you can have". He said, "No, I want you in here; I want the coaches in here; I want the batboys in here; I want the equipment manager in here; I want the bullpen catcher in here, I want everybody in this room". He said, "Fine". So Dave Valle, the backup catcher, gave one of those kind of talks. He talked about "What are you willing to do to win? Are you willing to give it your all"? Just kind of one of those sports speeches. But then he did something different. He said, "What price will you pay to win"? And he went man to man in that room and it was like a Sergeant in the face of the private, he got right in their faces, starting with Johnny Oates, the manager. And he said, "Johnny Oates, are you all in"? Johnny Oates said, "All in"!
Will Clark, the first basemen, one of the stars on the team, "Will Clark, are you in"? Man to man, he went face to face with every one of them, to the backup catcher, I mean, to bullpen catcher, every one of them, "Are you in"? "I'm in". "Are you all in"? "I'm all in". "I'm all in". "I'm all in". "I'm all in". They came out of that meeting; they went on a big win streak, built their lead back up and then started losing it again. They were down to a one game lead in September, about to tank again.
Johnny Oates put Dave Valle into the game, just to show he put his bat where his mouth was, he hit a homerun, drove in five runs and put them on another winning steak that took us to our first division championship! It was exciting! But here's what I want to say. I want to ask you... You know the Scripture says, "Spare not, don't hold back". That means "all in"! I'm going to ask you what Dave asked those guys in that locker room: Are you all in? Are you in? Jarrett Stephens, are you all in? Scott Seal, are you all in? Scott Turner, you all in? Let me hear you. One by one, I wish I could ask every one of you: Joe, are you all in? That's what it's going to take! What price are we willing to pay? All in! Everybody in! In in prayer! In in faith! In in our witness! In in our giving! In in our worship! All in!