How many apples do you see in my hand? If you are thinking there is just one – then you need to expand your vision. In this apple there are seeds that can produce trees, which over time will produce hundreds of apples, whose seeds can produce thousands of trees, which over time will produce millions of apples. So let me ask you again, how many apples do you see in my hand?
God is never about small things or simple growth, God is always about big things and exponential growth. The word exponential means expanding or growing at an unusually rapid rate, and this is often the kind of growth God desires in our lives. In the creation story, God created human beings and then said to us, be fruitful and multiply. When we think addition, God thinks multiplication. Scientist tell us that the universe is ever expanding, and I don’t think this means every year a new planet is created, I think it means that the universe is exploding out in size and scope. It is growing exponentially. God is about exponential growth and exponential living
Let’s go back to the apple for a moment to see what this kind of exponential growth looks like. Each apple can have up to 12 seeds, so let’s say this 1 apple has 10 seeds, which can produce 10 trees. Each apple tree can produce up to 1,000 apples, which means from this one apple can come 10,000 trees, which each produce 1,000 apples which means from this one apple can come 10,000,000 trees which each have 1,000 apples which means from this one apple can come 10 Billion trees, which each produce 1000 apples which can produce 10 Trillion trees… This is exponential growth, and this is the kind of growth God placed in the world. While we often limit our thinking to addition, God thinks multiplication.
For the next few weeks we want to talk about what exponential living looks like. The reality is that many of us think too small when it comes to life and faith. We have settled for how things are today instead of seeing how things might be tomorrow. Our vision is shaped by what we think is possible instead of what God desires for us and our world. If you are feeling like you have settled for the status quo and yet want more out of your life and faith, then these weeks are for you, and it all beings with a vision. Can we see ourselves the way God sees us? Can we see our God given potential? Can we see our God given future? God always wants more for us and from us, much, much more.
To help us see how God wants more for us, let’s go back to Abraham and Sarah. Abraham was the first person specifically called by God, and Abraham was told that if he would follow God, God would make him into a great nation. Genesis 12:1-3.
God wanted to do something big in Abraham’s life. He didn’t just want to give Abraham a child, or a family, he wanted to make Abraham into a nation. I am sure Abraham thought, wow, this is great. I am going to go home and tell my wife, and a month from now she will be pregnant, and we will have our child.
At some point during the next month it became clear to Sarah and Abraham that she was not pregnant, and then the next month, and the next month, and the next month. Month after month, nothing happened. Year after year, nothing happened. There is no child. There is no family. There is no nation. Many years pass, a decade passes without anything happening which means that for 120 months Abraham and Sarah got their hopes up, only to have them beaten back down. Abraham finally says to God, You have given me no children, so a servant in my household will be my heir. Abraham is saying, You promised me a child, a family, a lineage and a legacy and after 10 years I still don’t even have a child so my entire estate will go to the child of a servant. Abraham has lowered his expectations and given up hope for God’s big plans.
And this is how we end up settling for less in our own lives. We had great hopes and high expectations, only to be disappointed again and again, so we simply settled for less. We wanted to get out of debt, but after years of trying, we are still there. We wanted a more meaningful job, or any job – but we are stuck where we are. We wanted a better marriage, or maybe we just wanted to be married, and yet we are still single, or still not satisfied with where we are in our relationships. There are times we all say to God, Where are you? We don’t see you working anywhere in our lives, so we am going to settle for what we have, and where we are. If you are in that place today, please hear this, just because we don’t see God working, doesn’t mean that God is not working.
Let’s go back to that apple. If we were to plant these seeds, how long do you think it would take before we saw any kind of growth above the ground? I have no idea… but it will take a while, but just because we don’t see the growth, doesn’t mean it is not taking place. Just because we can’t see what God is doing around us, doesn’t mean that God is not doing great things and preparing us, and our lives, for greater things to come. Can we grab hold of a vision for our lives that includes faith that God is at work doing great things around us, and preparing us for exponential growth. The Bible says that faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things unseen, and many times what God is at work doing in our lives is unseen.
As a parent, much of your work in raising children in life and faith is unseen. You don’t see your children being shaped and formed by your words, actions, and love. You don’t see how your values are forming the heart of your child so that they will grow up to be kind and giving. Much of parenting is done in faith – the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things unseen. The same is true for our faith, and our lives as followers of Jesus. While we are called to share with others the love of God, and the good news of Jesus Christ, we often never see the fruit of that work, and sometimes we don’t see God working at all. We love others, pray for others, care for others, teach and share with others, and while we trust that God will use our efforts to draw people closer to Him, and to change our world, we often don’t see God doing anything, but that doesn’t mean God is not at work.
As a college student, I was walking across campus one day when a man handed me a small green bible. It was the New Testament and book of Psalms, and each year millions are passed out by the Gideons. I am inspired by the work of the Gideons because they not only work hard to get the word of God into people’s hands, but they do it all in faith. The Gideons have no idea if the person who receives that Bible will read it, or take the words they read to heart. They have no idea what will happen, they just trust God to use them for big things.
That little Bible was used by God to help change my life, because it was from that Bible, that one day, before a class, I read Psalm 18:1-3. For the first time, the Bible wasn’t just a book written long ago, because it was as if my words had come to life. This was now my story, my words, and the cry of my heart, and God began to become real to me. In time, I gave my life to Jesus and started to serve God. I like to think that one Bible, given in faith, has produced a harvest for God. I have tried to share God’s love with others, and I have tried to call people to Jesus, and my hope is that through me, other seeds have been planted, and trees have grown, that are all bearing fruit for God, and giving glory to Jesus Christ.
My life, your life, is often that one seed God wants to use to bring about his kingdom through exponential growth. Can we see that, and will we let God make that happen? The first step to exponential living is to simply see that God can use our lives to make a difference. Can we have that kind of vision for our lives? We are all that one seed God wants to use to bring hundreds, and thousands, and maybe millions to him. Each one of us can do it, if in faith, we will step into the vision God has for our lives.
When we help pack a shoebox, we have the potential to change a life, a family, and a community, and in a few generations, maybe our one shoebox has changed a nation.
When we give to help support the pastors in Sierra Leone, we are helping to spread the gospel in churches across a nation, which touches hundreds of communities and thousands of lives.
When we helped send bibles, and clothes, and supplies to Belize, we were planting seeds that God will use to change the hearts, lives, and destinies of others.
Does the vision of our lives include God doing great things in us, even if we don’t see God moving?
It’s not easy to have this kind of vision. We often don’t think we are able to do much, or maybe we don’t think God is able to do much, or maybe we don’t think God works this way, or wants to work this way in us, well, Abraham thought the same thing. He struggled to have a God sized vision for his life. He was beginning to settle for less when God helped expand his vision. Instead of leaving Abraham in the dark, he gave him a vision of exponential life, faith and growth. God said to Abraham, leave your tent and look up. So Abraham went outside, and it was night time, so he looked up and this is what he saw.
Standing there, God said, now count the stars. Obviously Abraham didn’t count the stars, he couldn’t, but God got his attention, and then God said, Abraham, that will be your family.
God gave Abraham a vision of his life and future. Abraham didn’t even have one child at this point, but God was going to do something so big in his life that in time his family would be greater than the stars of heaven. God had made Abraham a promise, and God had not, and would not forget it, and God was at work fulfilling it.
And God did fulfill that promise and today, each one of us is one of those stars, because each one of us is a child of Abraham – not biologically, but through faith. Galatians 3:29, If you belong to Christ, then you are Abrahams seed, and heirs according to the promise. Think about it. When Abraham was thinking about a son, one child, God was thinking about you and me, and generations of people who would be part of his family. When Abraham was thinking of addition, adding one more person to his family, God was thinking and planning exponentially, God was thinking of all the people throughout time who would be added to his family through this one man’s son and then through His own son. When Abraham was lowering his vision, God was working to lift up his eyes. God wanted to expand his vision so he would think and live exponentially.
When we don’t see the things in our life that we were hoping for, dreaming of, and planning on, and when we are not feeling like God is at work, it is then we need to leave the tent and look up. We need to leave our old way of thinking and look to God, who wants to do more in us, than we ever thought or imagined was possible. Yes, more than we ever thought or imagined. Ephesians 3:20.
Each one of us is like this apple. We see one simple life – God sees an abundance of good works, and a life changing faith. When we have settled for less, and see decline in our life and faith, God still sees exponential growth. We have to leave behind the old way of thinking. We have to leave behind our doubt and fear, and see that with one step of obedience, with…
• one shoebox filled
• one prayer prayed
• one dollar given
• one box of food donated
• one hour in God’s word
• one act of kindness
• one moment of sharing faith
we have the potential to expand God’s kingdom exponentially. Just because we can’t see God working, doesn’t mean God is not at work. God is at work, and God is on the move in our lives, and in our world. Let us trust, believe, and lift up our heads and see the exponential life and faith God has for us.
1. As you think about your life and faith, where do you feel like you have settled for less? Where do you feel like God has let you down? Where are you looking for God to do more and be more? Share all of this with God and a trusted friend.
2. Make a list of the big blessings in your life. Next to them write down the initial seed that over time multiplied into that blessing. Thank God for that exponential growth.
3. Make a list of the big, maybe even seemingly impossible dreams you have for your life and future. Next to each one, write down the seeds you can plant in faith this week that can lead to those dreams being fulfilled. Commit your seeds of faith, and impossible dreams, to God.
4. In faith, commit to packing a shoebox and/or providing food items for the food bank. Ask God to MULTIPLY your gift.
5. Let go of your past, your doubts, and your fears, and look up to God. Ask God to give you a vision for your life, faith, and future.
6. Prayer for this week.
Almighty God, You are so incredibly good and faithful. Your ability to multiply my smallest efforts is immeasurable. I can barely begin to comprehend the width and depth of Your love, and Your plans for my life. I trust You. Give me greater faith so I can step out and plant the seeds You have for me. Amen!