[The following article is an edited transcription of our audio teaching, “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.
“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:
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.
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.
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.
Jesus replied, “Let us go…
I love Jesus’ attitude here because many times I have said, “Let us stay.” Jesus’ attitude was always, “Let’s go!” In other words, let us do the will of God. Sometimes it was to stay for a while, but the point is, he said, “Let’s go.”
Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else– to the nearby villages– so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.”
That is why Jesus had the “let us go” attitude because he knew who he was and what his mission on earth was. How did he know it? He knew it because of Genesis through Malachi. How do you know who you are and what your mission is? We know it because of what the Bible says about us in the New Testament.
Mark 1:39 and 40a
(39) So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.
(40) A man with leprosy…
A man, a human being—once he was a little baby with all his life ahead of him. At sometime, he got leprosy. That was really bad in their culture. This man is going to be history (die) if something does not happen.
A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”
Do you think the man smelled good? Do you think he looked good? Do you think that he was real huggable? I do not think so; as a matter of fact, I think that everything about him assaulted the five senses of the Lord Jesus. Remember, Jesus had a nose. I believe that the temptation that Christ faced was to recoil because he was tempted in all ways like I am and you are (Heb. 4:15). I would be tempted to recoil and maybe even gag. I love the King James Version:
Mark 1:41 (KJV)
And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean.
Mark 1:41 (NIV)
Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!”
“Filled” is a little weak; “moved” is better. If you move, you have to overcome inertia. You also have to overcome something pushing against you, if it is. I think that it was in this case. I think that an excellent possibility was there that Jesus was uncomfortable, but something within him motivated him. See where it says reached forth or put forth his hand, it is the Greek word ekteino. The English word “extend” is almost a direct transliteration of that word. We will see that again as we move on, but this is the key word that we will see in every one of these records in the New Testament—this simple little word to extend. Have you ever heard the expression, “Hey, extend yourself”? Do you know what that means? It means to leave your comfort zone or go out of your way so to speak.
Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!”
What happened when Jesus stretched? Do you think that Jesus reached out with one finger and quickly touched the guy and then recoiled away from him and wiped his finger on his garment? I doubt it. He may have taken the man’s face in his hands. Remember, the man was kneeling. He may have put his hands on his head or his shoulders. He may have said, “Sir, stand up,” and then taken the man’s hands in his hands—his rotting stump of a hand. Jesus may have even hugged him. I do not know. The man was rotting away. Leprosy was so unbelievably contagious that they isolated them in leper colonies, but Jesus said, “I am willing.” In other words, I will do what the Father has said. No question is there in my mind that God gave Jesus revelation—He said, “Touch him.” When Jesus stretched, he touched the power of God because it says in verse 42:
Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.
That is awesome.
We are going to fast-forward here to the end of Christ’s life, but if you think about his life and ministry, you can find other times when he was stretched in faith. One of the strangest records in the Gospels is when a blind man came to Jesus and said, “I need to be healed.” Jesus said, “Okay.” Jesus prayed for him, and then asked, “Can you see.” The guy said, “Well, sort of. I see people walking around, but they look like trees.” I do not know what happened there. Jesus had to pray for him again and then the man was healed after the second time.
Of course an incident occurred with a woman (who was not a Jew) who came to Jesus in Matthew 15:22-28. I think that this record is one where Jesus’ faith grew and his whole perspective on faith was stretched.
She said, “Lord my little daughter is dying.”
He said, “Well, I am sorry but I am Union.” In other words, he said that I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Jews).
She did not bat an eye. She said, “Lord help me!”
He said, “Look, it is not right to take the children’s food and cast it to dogs.”
She was respectful but adamant and persistent and said, “Yeah, that is right Lord—no question about that, but even the puppies get the crumbs that fall off the table.”
I think that Jesus’ mind was blown. He said, “I have not seen faith like this in all of Israel, and I know what faith does for you, so you got it. Your daughter is healed.”
(22) A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.”
(23) Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”
(24) He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
(25) The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.
(26) He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.”
(27) “Yes, Lord,” she said, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”
(28) Then Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.
Jesus had to learn; he had to grow. He is our example of faith; and as such, he was stretched by God because God had to prepare him for the greatest stretch that any man would ever be asked to make.
In Luke 22:41, Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane and withdrew about a stone’s throw from Peter, James, and John. He knelt down and prayed, “Father if you are willing take this cup from me.” In other words, he said, “I have read Isaiah 53. I know that I am going to be beaten to a pulp if I go to the cross. If there is any other way to accomplish the redemption of mankind, I would really appreciate doing it the other way.” Then Jesus said, “But not my will, but Yours be done.”
Luke 22:41 and 42
(41) He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed,
(42) “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”
Verse 43 says an angel came and strengthened him.
An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.
Look at verse 44. Again, the King James Version is a little more powerful.
Luke 22:44 (KJV)
And being in an agony…
Do you think that Jesus was uncomfortable? Yes, he was.
Luke 22:44 (NIV)
And being in anguish…
The NIV word anguish is not strong enough.
Luke 22:44 (KJV)
And being in an agony, he prayed more earnestly:
You may have the word earnestly in your Bible. Guess what the word is in Greek? It is the word ekteino—stretchingly, it is an adverb, but it is a form of that verb. He prayed more stretchingly. We would probably translate it as intensely.
And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
I take this to mean that it was pouring off of him. If you do physical stretches and you really do them and stay in them, you will sweat. Well, Jesus here does the greatest stretch that any man had ever made. Now, Jesus has one more stretch to make. This was the next biggest one of his life, and he stretched with everything in him, and he reached to touch the hand of God. God sustained him with the angel. Jesus left the Garden of Gethsemane and went to the cross for you and for me. They nailed him on that tree, and he was hanging there on that tree for you and me, and even in the midst of the incredible pain and temptation to be shamed and the ridicule and the abuse that was being heaped upon him, he was focused on obeying the Word of God. At the right moment, he spoke the words, “It is finished,” and he stepped into the chasm of death. The biggest stretch that any human being has ever been asked to make and the hand of God was there for him because three days and three nights later, God raised him from the dead.
That again is the principle that when we stretch in obedience to the Word of God, we touch His hand.
You may be very familiar with this record in Mark, but maybe you will pick up something that I did not pick up as I read it many times in years past. A warm-up stretch is in here for the man with the withered hand. The point here is that not only did Jesus stretch but that he is going to ask you to stretch.
Another time he went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there.
Do not just let this be just words on a page. A man is here with a physical handicap. He was there in the synagogue.
Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath.
I do not think that it was a very friendly place. Many times people who have a physical handicap like this are somewhat self-conscious. He was probably standing on the perimeter of the crowd with his hand under his other arm. Jesus was there, and those guys who run the place were looking at Jesus to see if he would try to heal this guy. They did not give a hoot about the man with the withered hand.
Now look at verse three. I love the NIV. It is a better translation.
Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.”
Picture it. Jesus is there and those Pharisees are watching him. Maybe this guy was back in the corner, and Jesus says, “Sir, you in the corner there. Would you please standup here in front of everyone?” Do you think the man was uncomfortable? I think so, but he came forward, and he stood there. Maybe his back was to the Pharisees, and he was looking in the eyes of Christ. Do you think he knew that the Pharisees hated Jesus? I think that it was a possibility that he did. He was sort of going out on a limb here by obeying Jesus in the presence of those people who hated Jesus.
Mark 3:4 and 5
(4) Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent.
(5) He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch [ekteino] out your hand.” He stretched [ekteino] it out, and his hand was completely restored.
It really happened right in front of God, Jesus, the Pharisees, and everyone. Picture it. How would you like to have been there looking into the eyes of the Savior. I am sure that his look was very encouraging saying, “Come on bro’, you can do it. Stretch it out.” I think that the man might have been more uncomfortable, but he did not allow his discomfort to stop him from obeying God’s will. He stretched in obedience, and he touched the power of God, and then he gave Jesus the high five.
In Matthew 26:50, we are back in the Garden of Gethsemane, and you can see in verse 50 that the soldiers had come. Now in one of the other Gospels it says a band of soldiers (a cohort of about 400) came with the chief priests and all their helpers. Now picture the scene and get into it. It is nighttime. Let us say that 400 soldiers are there with torches and they are all coming up the path. How much noise are they making clanking along? Maybe as many as 500 people were there in the group. How eerie it must have been and the tension that would have been in the air. The soldiers had all their armor and each Roman soldier carried a huge sword that basically was used with both hands. The Roman Empire had “gun” control. The citizens were not allowed to have the military sword, so in verse 51 where it says sword, it does not mean a sword like the soldier had. It means a big knife. It is a different Greek word. Now picture this. Jesus was with his little band of men as a giant mob is coming, and some of the soldiers grab Jesus at the end of verse 50
Matthew 26:50 and 51
(50) Jesus replied, “Friend, do what you came for.” Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him.
(51) With that, one of Jesus’ companions…
Hold it. The gospel of John tells us who that was. Who else but Peter!
…reached [stretched] for his sword [knife], drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.
See the word reached? Guess what it is? Peter stretched for his knife.
Picture this happening! They grab Jesus. Peter just yanks out his knife and swipes at the nearest guy, who happens to be the servant of the high priest. I do not know if you have had an ear cut off, but if anyone sort of swung at you, you might kind of move back and turn your head to the side a little bit. The knife just cut the guy’s ear off.
Now, allow me a small parenthesis here in this teaching because the gospel of Luke is the only one that tells us more about this record. Picture this. The guy’s ear was just chopped off. Do you think that he just reached down and picked it up and just said, “Aw, shoot.” No way! He was screaming. Blood was gushing all over everything. Every soldier is going for his sword. The soldiers in the back were saying, “What’s happening? What’s going on?” The tension and trauma had to be unbelievable. The gospel of Luke says that Jesus touched the man and healed his ear.
Luke 22:51 (KJV)
And Jesus answered and said, Suffer ye thus far. And he touched his ear, and healed him.
In the gospel of John it says:
John 18:10 (NIV)
Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)
John 18:10 (KJV)
Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus.
I am thinking, “Who cares about the servant’s name?” But God cares or He would not have said it. I think that I am supposed to pause and think about Malchus. Personally, I think that we will meet him at the gathering together. Think about it. Malchus is screaming and going into shock; blood is all over the place, and Jesus touched him, and his ear was totally healed. Now, that did not remove the blood—the warm blood that was all over his clothing and running down his face, but he was healed. They then walked out of the garden. How many times on the way out of the garden do you think that Malchus touched his ear thinking, “Oh my gosh, it is here. I am really healed.” What time do you think that Malchus got home from work? Well, I think they tortured Jesus all night, and it was Monday night if you remember our teaching on The Last Week of Christ’s Life. Maybe it was morning when he got home to peal off his blood crusted clothing and wash up. How many times do you think that he touched his ear as he washed the blood off of it? What do you think that he thought about the man who touched him; especially, when he had to go back to work, and watch this man interrogated and tortured by his boss (remember he was the High Priest’s servant) and then nailed on a tree and killed.
Alright, back to the record in John 18:10 and the word stretch. Who stretched? Peter did. Is that a stretch for one guy with a fishing knife to attack 400 soldiers with big swords? I would say that it is a stretch, but is it a stretch of faith? No it is not. When Peter stepped out of the boat, Jesus had said “come.” Jesus had not said anything in this situation. Peter made up his own stretching exercise, and it did not work out very well. That is why Jesus turned to him and said, “Will you chill out.”
Look at John 21:18, and prepare to have your mind blown. I love this one. We only have two more verses to go after this written about Peter. Watch this—the last conversation that Jesus ever had with Peter—the same Peter that we just read about above. Take a look in your Bible and see if any chapters are left in the gospel of John after John 21. I have a giant white space here on my page! That is it. It is the end of the gospel of John. I turn the page, and low and behold I see the book of Acts. Is there a significant occurrence early on in the book of Acts? You are probably saying “um yeah—Pentecost,” Acts chapter 2, the crux of history in many ways. Well, that is true. Think about it. What was the major theme of the teaching of Christ near the end of his life and in his resurrection ministry; in other words, from the time that he rose from the dead until his ascension in Act chapter one? Jesus talked a lot about it at the end of his life? He talked about the comforter—the holy spirit that he would give, the baptism of holy spirit that every person would receive when he would believe in Jesus. Now keep that context in mind because I think that it is critical to understanding John 21:18. Remember the record? They had just had a cookout on the beach, and apparently the other disciples were playing Frisbee, but Jesus was speaking to Peter, and he said, “Peter, do you love me?” Three times, Jesus asked him that question. Each time Peter said, “Yes,” a little more emphatically. Jesus said, “Well then, feed my sheep.” That sort of shows us the evidence of loving Jesus that we are feeding some sheep. Man, all kinds of goofy sheep are out there, like me, and you can speak for yourself. Anyway, if we love Jesus, we feed his sheep.
I tell you the truth, when you were younger…
Younger—meaning up until now.
…when you were younger, you dressed yourself
You dressed yourself—this is too weak in the NIV. In the King James this word girded means to “cinch yourself up for service or conflict.” You prepared yourself.
John 21:18 (NKJ)
when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old,…
Meaning older, in the future. Now this next part has the key word.
John 21:18 (NKJ)
…you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.”
Is this not a turning point? Yes, it is. This is what Jesus is saying, “Peter, up until now, you have done your own thing, like when you chopped off the guy’s ear. That was unbelievable, but in the future, shortly, when you are older, or down the road, you will stretch and someone else will gird you and take you places that you had never even thought about going.” Jesus is talking about what? He is speaking about the one-size fits all expando holy spirit that Peter was about to receive. What is Jesus telling him? He is telling Peter, “your capacity to stretch is about to be supernaturally enlarged.” Do you happen to have some of the same one-size-fits-all expando holy spirit that Peter received on the Day of Pentecost? Well, if you do, then perhaps your capacity to stretch in faith is greater than you realize. This is exactly what Jesus is talking about to Peter.
Do you want some more evidence of this? Look at the word lead or carry near the end of the verse.
…someone else will dress [gird] you and lead [carry] you where you do not want to go.”
It [carry] is the same word which happens to be from the root word phero and is the same word that you will find in 2 Peter 1:21[moved].
2 Peter 1:21 (NKJ)
…but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
It is the same word in that verse. Holy men of God spoke as they were “carried along” by holy spirit. In our Don’t Blame God book we make the analogy of walking on one of those moving sidewalks. Have you ever seen one of those? Usually you see it at an airport or perhaps a big mall. It is a long conveyer belt that you can stand on. Actually, the next time you see one of those moving sidewalks, you will have four choices to make. Number one, you have the choice not to get on it. Number two, get on it and walk in the opposite direction that it is going. Number three, get on it and stand to the right so that it carries you along at the speed of the belt. Number four, you go on the left, and you walk in the direction of the moving sidewalk. Is that not a great feeling? You are passing those people out there on the carpet! It is unbelievable. You are just roaring along and buoyed by this moving sidewalk. That is how it was when holy men of God were carried along by holy spirit and wrote the Word of God. They were not possessed. They had not surrendered their freedom of will. They chose to go with the flow—sort of like swimming with the current.
In 1 Peter 1:22 we will see what Peter did with this one-size fits all expando holy spirit. Well, he got two books in the Bible. He was one of the holy men of which he himself spoke. The last two verses that we are going to read here are all about love and relationships. Maybe you have been asking yourself or maybe you have been realizing as you have been reading, “Yes, I need to stretch in my speaking in tongues life, I need to stretch in witnessing, I need to stretch in some other spiritual-biblical activity. Now, we are going to get to the real essence of your stretching life: that is in your relationship with other people because some people are there in my life where my comfort zone is too small. It needs to be bigger, and how is this going to happen? I may have to be uncomfortable to reach out to them. Do you have anybody in your life that you have to reach out to? You just know in your heart, “I need to reach out to_________,” because we are supposed to be treating others as Jesus would treat them. That is some definite stretching. I will say here that love means stretching. It is reaching out. I think that you will get a kick out of these two verses in Peter. I see them as stretching out and stretching across.
1 Peter 1:22 (NIV)
Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth [what a great verse] so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.
1 Peter 1:22b (NKJ)
love one another fervently with [out from] a pure heart,
The word “with” is a mistranslation of the preposition, ek, which means “out from.” Now, watch the stretching. You cannot stretch “with.” You stretch “out from.” See the word “deeply” or “fervently” in your Bible. Guess what it is? It is your new friend ekteino, okay. It is Mr. “E.” That is it; love one another stretchingly out from the heart. It is there. Do we have that flexibility? Do we have that capacity to stretch? Yes, we do because, remember Romans 5:5—the love of God has been shed. Watch the tag team match. The love of God has been shed abroad in our hearts by the one-size fits all expando holy spirit, which gives us the capacity to stretch out from the heart to anyone who God puts in our path. We can reach out, as Jesus would have us.
1 Peter 4:8
Above all, love each other deeply [fervently—ekteino—stretchingly], because love covers over a multitude of sins.
When I was growing up, while my father was constantly asking me to do things that I could not, my mother was constantly covering a multitude of leftovers in the refrigerator. We had these little plastic plaid hats that went on the respective bowls. You would get a bowl of leftovers, and you would have to stretch the elastic around the edge of this thing so that it would cover the bowl. This is the weird mind picture that I get when I read 1 Peter 4:8 because 1 Peter 1:22 was stretching out. The way that I look at 1 Peter 1:22 is me absorbing leftovers from other people’s hearts. In other words, in my relationships, I have got to be able to kind of just take in a bunch of garbage because people are not going to be perfect. I am going to have to cut them some slack or however you want to say this so that you understand it. The way that I see it, I am stretching sideways. I am stretching out. I am covering a multitude. Not that I am condoning sin. Not that I am compromising the truth, but that in my relationships with people who are exhibiting some of their sin nature, like I often do, I just do not jump down their throat all the time.
In closing, I think about the statement that I made earlier, “We work out just enough to be sore all the time.” I thought of Philippians 3, which does not contian the word ekteino but it is the same principle. Do you remember this?
Philippians 3:13 and 14 (NKJ)
(13) …forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
(14) I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
I believe that my daily attitude is to be one of stretching because God is going to have the exercises there for me. The Bible is filled with stretching exercises. I have not even mastered all those, but then we get the revelation that comes as we step out on the Written Revelation. Finally, when we stretch, what do we touch?
Acts 4:23-33 (KJV)
(23) And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them.
(24) And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is:
(25) Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things?
(26) The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ.
(27) For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together,
(28) For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.
(29) And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word,
(30) By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.
(31) And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost [holy spirit], and they spake the word of God with boldness.
(32) And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.
(33) And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.
God is going to ask you to stretch. The Lord Jesus is going to ask you to stretch as he stretched when he lived on this earth. They will always be clear about the stretching exercise. They will never ask you to stretch farther than you can stretch, but they will ask you to stretch as far as you can stretch. That is going to often mean that you are going to be uncomfortable, but if you will refuse to allow your discomfort, how about calling it fear, if you will have no fear that you allow to stop you from obeying God, and if you stretch, you will touch the power of God. That is what happened to you the first time that you opened your mouth to speak in tongues. You had to stretch in faith, and when you did, the words were there. If you do not step out of the boat, you will never walk on the water. If you step out of the boat, if the Lord told you to do it, then you will walk on the water, and your faith will grow.
Well, here is a great story that I think you will love. I taught this exact teaching in Minneapolis, Minnesota last September with 30 or so people sitting there. My dear friend Greg was sitting next to me. As he saw that I was winding down the teaching, he grabbed a little tape recorder as we were going to do some ministering. I finished with what you just read. He said, “Okay we are going to do some prophecy. We do not have time to do everyone here, but let me pick a few people out. If it is okay with you, we will give a word for you.” He pointed to a lady in a gray sweater sitting on the floor, “can we give you a word?” She said, “Sure.” He starts into it. I really like it when someone leads. I was batting second that day in the line up. I got a little time to focus in and speak in tongues to myself and get cranked, “Okay, God, what is something You would like said to this woman that would bless, edify, exhort, and comfort her.” I am doing this, and meanwhile God is up there in heaven and I know what must have happened. He elbowed Jesus with His right elbow and said, “Not a bad teaching; huh Son. Let us see if he believes it!”
This is what happened. I was sitting there saying, “Okay, God, what is it; what is it?” The thought comes to my mind (because God is not going to let this teaching be an intellectual exercise and I know that He is going to stretch me in my life in the days to come) that this lady would really be blessed if you would sing the prophecy to her. I want to tell you that I rebuked that thought in the name of Jesus, but I started to get uncomfortable. Now, I could deal with it; Greg is over there chattering away prophesying to the lady, but now I am going okay now, that cannot be God. He has heard me sing. It is not God. What is it? What else, what is the real thing that you want me to say? Now I did that on and on and on with growing discomfort because I was afraid that I had just received a stretching exercise. I swear that this is the honest truth. Within 30 seconds out of Greg’s mouth came the words, “and God wants to give you a love song for your heart.” I wanted to slap him! Now, I became totally uncomfortable. I do not know the physiology involved, but you know, your heart starts pounding, and I had not had that feeling for a long time. I realized how much I hated it. My heart was beating so hard that I thought people were going to notice my shirt just going in and out and then I thought someone had turned up the temperature to about 500 degrees. I do not know what happens in your body, but I was like, “Why cannot this happen in the winter when I need it!” I am sweating on my forehead and armpits because now I know that it is God saying to “sing the prophecy.”
I certainly had never sung a personal prophecy. Now, if you sing a prophecy, you have to come up with a tune. That is the way I figured you did it because I was sort of a novice at personal prophecy, but I knew enough to know that if I did it to Old McDonald, it might take the edge off of it for the woman. I want to tell you that my mind was leaving the planet. I heard it, and I was out of here. It was just almost out of reach. I know what you are thinking. You are thinking, “If I were in that situation, I would have just focused on a Scripture verse or heart of Christ.” No doubt, but I focused on my “no fear” t-shirt. That is honestly what I used to grab my mind. It is pitiful, I know, but my mind was almost out of reach. I just grabbed it and I went, “No, I am not going to be afraid. I am going to do it!” Now, I had fear, but I obeyed God, and the whole room melted. It was awesome!
God has given you your very own personal trainer who is the Lord Jesus Christ, and he will be giving you your set of stretches on a daily basis.
God bless you, and I love you, and I will be stretching with you for God and our Lord Jesus!