Recently I read 1 Chronicles 4:10 where Jabez prays, "Lord that you would bless me and enlarge my territory...." In the early 2000's, nearly every Christian knew this prayer and prayed it. A book had been written on the idea, encouraging believers to ask God to enlarge their territory for Him. As I read this verse, I wondered how many of those prayers had been answered and how many had been unanswered.
Enlarge he did. I went from a town of 1,000 to a town of just under a million. I went from rural Montana to quiet Moldova--both agricultural but worlds apart.
Enlargement didn't come without a price. We left friends, family and the familiar and went where we knew no one and life seemed strange. In reality it was just a change of scenery.
We were stretched to learn new languages and decided to divide and conquer with the two languages in the country. I took Romanian, and Andy took Russian. Some days we wondered if we'd ever be able to speak, but reward came in listening to women's stories of healing in their language. Hearing their hearts sing in their own tongue.
Enlargement came when we started to build friendships with pastors and help them build their church buildings. We were stretched in bringing in teams to lift cement and pour walls. We were stretched to believe God would provide the money through His people to build another church.
Then God pushed us a bit further, "Open Freedom Home". We did. We often laid awake at night wondering why we did it. The problems were great. The financial need huge. We dreamed of true freedom in the lives of the girls. Could it really happen? Could the love of Jesus really change women who had been sold into sexual slavery?
He could, and He did. My territory is enlarged yet greater as I have incredible love for women I didn't know 5 years ago. Women who are made in God's image, but the sin of this world did all to destroy that. They are redeemed, made new. I love them like my daughters. They love me and express that love freely. It's a joy to see their daughters grow and change and learn to love Jesus too.
Late last summer we were asked to move to Russia to assume leadership of the Russian missionaries. I didn't want to leave Moldova, but I felt the nudge. Andy felt the nudge. God was asking us to stretch and enlarge our territory once again. The good-byes began and were always painful. I became tired of telling the story again and again.
You see territory enlargement often comes with stepping out into the unknown. As I again read this prayer in Chronicles, I thought that many miss the answer to the prayer becuase they simply didn't want to step out into new territory. New territory isn't always easy. It comes with a price-the price of our comfort and peace.
A new song from Hillsongs speaks to me:
"You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand
Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You've never failed and You won't start now"
And that is the key to enlarged territories--understanding and trusting the character of God. As we trust who He is we know He will never leave us or forsake us, and we can step into the unknown.
Our territories enlarge, our work enlarges, our joys and ministry enlarge. Greater still, our relationship with the One who made us and created us enlarges. He knows best who we are and what we can do. With each new place we have stepped our foot, with each rise of the waves around us, we better know the hand of God in our lives. We better know the One who created us. We know that He has never failed and won't start now.
These past ten years in missions have been incredible. We step again into the great unknown, only knowing that God goes with us.
Where is God asking you to step today?
I have friends who have left lucrative business careers for ministry in church and missions.
I have friends who gave up teaching "easy" kids in the suburbs to teach the poor in the inner-city.
I have friends who have planted churches in communities that have yet to know the Savior and others who have started businesses because God called them to be a light in the business world.
God asks us to trust him and follow where he leads. His grace abounds in the deep water.
I'm asking God to give us the grace as we follow him to deep waters once again.