OK. Can I just say that God's perfect timing and obvious deep and personal knowledge of my heart and soul never cease to amaze me? I have been meaning to write about the second part of chapter four of The Circle Maker for about a week, but this past week has been crazy. Really and truly (more on that later). So I am just now getting around to writing this, and I absolutely needed to hear what this portion of the book has to say. We are still in chapter four, and the final section is entitled, "The First Circle: Dream Big." Well, I like the sound of that.
In this section, Batterson focuses on the fact that as time passes and we age, we tend to trade in faith and our dreams for logic and things we can actually explain. I supposed we become jaded by the world and our life experiences and the realm of what seems "possible" begins to shrink. We start to base our "faith" on what we can see. This is terribly ironic. Hebrews 11:1 tells us that, "Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." So really, if our "faith" is only based on what we can see, then it is not really faith. If we truly have deep faith in the Lord, then the opposite should take place. Batterson puts it this way.
"One litmus test of spiritual maturity is whether you dreams are getting bigger or smaller. The older you get, the more faith you should have because you've experienced more of God's faithfulness. And it is God's faithfulness that increases our faith and enlarges our dreams."
He makes a really valid point. God has been acting in our best interests since before we were born. When we look back at our lives, we should be able to trace the hand of God's faithfulness. Adam and I talk about this all the time. Even when we just look back at the almost six years we have been married, God's hand can be so clearly seen. This is true about where we live now (both the city and precise location within that city), the church we attend, the small group we are involved in, Adam's schooling and current job and even our adoption. Each of these happened in such a way as to lead to where we are now. God is writing a beautiful story in our life, and that should grow our faith in Him. And as our faith grows, our prayer life should deepen.
"The more you pray, the bigger your dreams will become. And the bigger your dreams become, the more you will pray. In that process of drawing ever-enlarging prayer circles, the sphere of God's glory is expanded."
So the result of more prayer is bigger dreams. And bigger dreams lead to more prayer. And so on and so on. The more we pray for big things, the more opportunities God has to showcase his glory, and the more He does that, the more our faith will increase. I can give you a very specific example of this in my life.
In January of this year, I had what I count as the worst experience of my entire life. The afternoon of January 26, I got a call from my dad that my mom had collapsed at work and was being rushed tot he hospital. Her heart had stopped and she was unresponsive. My parents live in South Florida. We live in Birmingham. There was absolutely nothing I could do. I have never been so scared in my entire life. I felt completely helpless. Fortunately, that is where the Lord stepped in. We started praying. Praying like I had never prayed before in my life. I knew I was asking God for a miracle. The doctors were telling my dad and sister that Mom would not make it. They kept telling us to prepare for the worst. I got to Florida the next morning. I had been praying virtually nonstop for over twelve hours by the time I arrived at the airport. More praying. Praying alone. Praying with others. Getting emails from some of my best friends telling me that they they were praying. The doctors were still telling us that we needed to prepare ourselves. Eight days later, my mother, who had been on a ventilator and completely unresponsive, walked out of the cardiovascular ICU on her own two feet. A miracle. We prayed. God did the impossible. He healed her. He healed her when the doctors said there was no hope. Hopeless situations give God the opportunity to rock our worlds. If we let Him.
My mom's recovery makes no sense. Countless doctors and medical professionals have told us so. They don't know how it happened. But I do. God is not limited by what our logical minds can comprehend. He operates outside logic.
"When imagination is sacrificed on the altar of logic, God is robbed of the glory that rightfully belongs to him."
So I want to encourage you to dream BIG. Ask God for BIG things. BIG things that honor Him. Not the kinds of things our modern society tells us to seek after. Bigger house. Nicer car. Higher salary. Those things are puny. God is bigger. What is God calling you to do? What has He asked of you that you feel ill-equipped for? Those are the things we need to draw prayer circles around. I know it can be exhausting to keep praying, especially when it feels like the Lord is loooooong in answering. He has not abandoned us. He is building our faith. Drawing us closer to Him.
"We lose faith in the God who gave us the big dream and settle for a small dream that we can accomplish without His help. We go after dreams that don't require divine intervention. We go after dreams that don't require prayer."
So we don't need to give up. We need to stay on our knees before His throne. That is where He wants us.
"Nothing is better for our spiritual development than a big dream because it keeps us on our knees in raw dependence on God."
When everything else falls away, we are left with the Lord. And He is the only one we can truly rely upon. When He takes a long time to answer our prayers, I really think that is what He is trying to teach us. He slowly (or quickly) strips away everything else we depend on, and we are left with one option. Cry out to Him. He will answer. Always. That is where I am right now. There is not a human on the face of this earth who can bring my baby home to me faster, who can send me a May 2013 referral. Only God can do that. So I am talking to Him, leaning on Him, asking Him, depending on Him.
Focus Questions for Today:
1. What is a time in your life where you can look back and see God's faithfulness?
2. When God is long in answering a prayer, do you tend to give up or pray harder? Why?
3. What are some things you could do to stay focused on the Lord while you pray instead of staying focused on the fact that you are waiting?
I am asking myself these questions right alongside you. Self-reflection is always a good thing. So let me encourage you (and myself) to seek God's face all the more. I pray that you know Him more as a result of the BIG prayers you are praying. That is a big part of what I think God is doing in my life right now. Just drawing me closer to Him, showing me that He is in control.
I hope you are all having a wonderful Christmas season. Adam and I are down on the farm for his family Christmas get-together tomorrow. Pictures to follow!
"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." Hebrews 11:1
**All italicized passages have been taken from Mark Batterson's The Circle Maker.