“Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left!” ~ Isaiah 54:2, 3
In February 1932, Richard Spikes, an African-American engineer from San Francisco, California, invented the automatic gearshift for cars. He had already been credited with designing one of the first automobile directional signaling devices. Later he would design the swinging barber chair.
People, both black and white, told him he would not be successful. He stretched himself beyond the limits that were placed on him by society as a black man. In February 1964, the Kentucky boxer Cassius Clay, who would change his name to Cassius X and eventually Mohammed Ali, defeated Sonny Liston for the world heavyweight boxing championship. No one could convince Ali that he could lose to a bigger, more muscular, and more experienced fighter. In the Hebrew Bible, David stretched himself and fought a giant of a man three feet taller than the average person, and more familiar with fighting. Not only did David fight Goliath, he defeated him. David, like Richard Spikes and Mohammed Ali, refused to accept the limitations or adopt the attitude of the ordinary, the common, or the mundane. Many people do not succeed because they don’t expect to succeed. They look around and look backward without ever looking within and above for motivation and strength to stretch beyond their own ability. People can be heard daily crying the blues: I’m barely making it; the cards are stacked against me; I seem to be going around in circles; or I’m swimming against the current.
Isn’t it strange that others in the same life situations from the same communities are thriving? Within the same community one can notice one bank is closing while another is opening; one business is closing its doors while another business is established in the same area and the lines for service are long. One church is reducing its service times, while another church in the locale is extending its service times and ministry opportunities. So, what’s the difference? Well, every successful person and organization have two things in common…their outlook is different and there is separation from the ordinary.
In Isaiah 54, the prophet describes a community of hopeless people who have been reduced from more than two million to fewer than 50,000 because of war and injustice. Their surroundings upon their return from exile are in ruins, and the chosen people of God feel they are doomed for non-existence. So Isaiah says to them, “live in expectation.” He encourages that though outcomes appear bleak to be optimistic, because the Lord always favors the righteous.
And, the one who expects nothing will seldom be disappointed. Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays often said, “The tragedy of life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach.” Rev. Norman Vincent Peale expressed the same sentiment: “If you paint in your mind a picture of bright and happy expectations, you put yourself into a condition conductive to your goal.”
Stretching involves not only expectations, but expanded activity. Carpets on the floor do not perform to their maximum capacity until they’ve been stretched. Balls used in sports cannot be used in play until they have been stretched. Rubber bands were invented to be stretched. Now, stretching is always accompanied by resistance. Stretching involves pain and friction.
Learn to stretch. Stretch your commitment because God is not through with you. Extend your possibilities, enlarge your horizons, expand your capacity, expand your influence, extinguish fires of doubt, exalt the Savior, exaggerate your expectations, exceed your goals, excel in the work beyond what is requested, exercise your faith in God AND yourself, exhaust every means possible, exhibit humility, explode with excitement, and express your joy in expectation.
Get beyond of curse of the ordinary; those insistent voices in our internal choir that won’t stop singing songs of doubt, dismay and disbelief.
Yes, you may fall along the way, but fall up. You may fail along the way, but fail forward. Falling and failing doesn’t mean one is finished.
Another famous boxer, Joe Louis, got knocked down once, but after the fall still won the fight. A reporter asked him, “How could you come back after being knocked down?” Louis replied, “When I fell down, I made sure I could still see. In my mind even while on my back I said, ‘If I can look up and I get up!’ ”
Lord, help us to see the possibilities beyond our present condition. Amen
Dr. Walter T. Richardson is pastor-emeritus of Sweet Home Missionary Baptist Church in South Miami-Dade County and chairman of the Miami-Dade Community Relations Board. He may be contacted at wtrichardson@Bellsouth.net. Website: WTRMinistries.com