Facing the Stairs
How must a little child feel when seeing a high imposing staircase standing between where he is, and where he (or she) wants to be? How daunting the challenge to make such little legs ascend such high steps for what looks like forever! To infinity and beyond seems an apt phrase—only little Joey or Chrissie doesn’t have Buzz Lightyear’s space suit to soar into the heights. Little legs will need to get it done; one endless ascending riser and tread at a time. There’s a metaphor in there somewhere. Life is a long series of daunting staircases; goals and godly ambitions for which to strive, that require one more step up after another. So many steps. So steep. So intimidating. So imposing and seemingly impossible. You don’t have to be young to feel this. Fearful doubts often keep those of us in the later years on the basement level. Life’s personal, relational, moral, spiritual, missional, and societal high staircases can drain faith-energy fast. The next hard thing can feel too high and hard to even try.
Daring to Try
Elisha dared to try. He welcomed challenges and went after the difficult, with faith. In confidence that God would do in and through him what he could never do himself, Elisha had big faith that asked and expected big things from God. Here’s a sampling:
- He asks for a double portion of Elijah’s powerful, kingdom-building spirit (2 Kings 2:9).
- He says that filling a dry river bed—without rain falling—was an easy thing for God to do (2 Kings 3:15-18).
- He tells a poor woman who has just one jar of oil, to borrow vessels from her neighbors, “empty vessels and not a few” so that he, by God’s power, could fill them all (2 Kings 4:2-7).
- He sees protecting angels, chariots, and horses sent from God when others see only enemies (2 Kings 6:15-17).
- He grieves because Israel’s king believed God for only three victories over his enemies instead of a decisive five or six (2 Kings 13:14-19).
Jabez was another who dared. Whatever the full intent of his famous prayer, it still models big, bold faith— “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me…” (1 Chron. 4:10). Likewise, Caleb would have been another kindred spirit. When 85, he was ready for war, for going out and coming in, for driving out Anakim (massive Goliath-type men of war), and for taking great fortified cities for God; all because the Lord was with him (see Josh. 14:10-12). Then there is Paul. Probably in his fifties (perhaps equivalent to 65/70 today) he penned his later-in-life ambition to go where no gospel witness had gone before (Rom. 15:18-21). The spirit of Elisha, Jabez, Caleb, and Paul is a spirit of power, of vision, of faith, of big spiritual dreams and aspirations; all for the glory of God. It’s a faith-energy that moves mountains (Matt. 17:20); that still bears fruit, even into old age (Jer. 17:7, 8; Psa. 1:1-3; 92:12-15); that, believing God, dares to try.
Men and Women for Our Times
We need men and women with this spirit in our times; men and women who—in believing they have a big God—think big, and do not shrink back. I do not mean big in numbers, or power, or grand and glorious achievements, as the world measures such. I mean big in terms of disciple-making, multiplying, and maturing. Big in terms of renewed faithfulness, boldness, godliness, respect for all, advocacy for others, love for neighbor, and ambition to take a little more territory for God—yes, one evil spiritual stronghold at a time—without ever lifting a worldly weapon in the process (2 Cor. 10:3-6). Whatever our callings, we need to know that God will supply so that we can take on life’s challenges with confidence that he will do above and beyond. We need to believe that whatever our pain or suffering or enemy attack or weakness or deficiency, God will overmatch them all. We need to escape complacency to take on challenges that we know we can do only if God helps us. And we need to believe that he will help us. There are many staircases to climb. We live in a gospel-deprived, Word-starved, love-depleted, holiness-famished, justice-denied, godliness-impoverished world. Make no mistake: these stairs need to be climbed, and they will be, though only by those who dare to try. May they—may we—dare in hope. For those who try will reach landings along the way; resting spots from which they will look back and see what God has done. Sinners will be converted. People will be healed. Churches will be planted and built. Lives will be changed. Justice will roll down. Racial harmony in the Body of Christ will sing its song—even if only after some rough and raw conversation. Good will be accomplished. Sins will be defeated. Hell will be beaten back. And the Church of Christ will prevail—because Christ will prevail. As we ponder our life ahead will we stand at the bottom of it life’s high staircases, and wonder whether we can ever reach the top, or will we raise one foot after another and get a little closer today than we were yesterday? Let us start, and then stay climbing folks. May we, while at the base of the staircase, believe; while in the midst of our weakness, be renewed; while surrounded by enemies, see the chariots of God; while getting old, never slack or retire; while needing oil for our lamps, make sure to find some large vessels and not a few in the sure expectation that God will fill them all. “Faithful is he who calls you, and he will also will bring it to pass” (1 Thess. 5:24; NASB).St