Imagine you needed water, and you went to the sea to fetch some. The amount of water you collect would be dependent on the capacity of your container. A cup would get you a cup of water, and a bucket would fetch a bucket of water. This analogy somewhat explains my ability to receive all God has for me. However, it isn’t an accurate analogy because there’s a finite amount of water on earth, and God is infinite. Therefore, what I can receive from Him is only limited by my capacity. So, how much do I want to see what God can do with my life? It’s easy to say we want all of Jesus, but are we willing to do what it takes to receive that?
In the days of Elisha, a widow in debt, approached him begging for help because her creditor was about to take her sons into slavery. Moved by her plight, Elisha asked her if she had anything of value in her house. She told him she only had a jar of oil. Elisha instructed her to source as many empty vessels as possible and then pour her oil into them. She did as was directed, and her oil miraculously flowed until she filled every empty container she had. She subsequently sold her oil to pay off her debts [2 Kings 4:1-7]. The amount of oil she received was equivalent to the capacity she had. What if she only had one vessel? This miracle highlights two things: I’m responsible for creating my capacity, and my capacity can limit God.
Many of us take our requests to God like this widow. However, have we created sufficient capacity to receive from Him? Will we be able to handle it if He grants our requests? Our heavenly Father is the Giver of every good gift [2 Corinthians 9:8], and He’s benevolent [Luke 11:13]. Nevertheless, a gift can be wasted. If the oil hadn’t stopped flowing when the widow ran out of empty vessels, it would have gone to waste. Scripture reminds us that though God’s resources are infinite, He cares about our stewardship of them. Whether it’s manna in the wilderness [Exodus 16:15-20] or crumbs of food on the mountainside [John 6:12], He wants nothing to be wasted. As I reflect on my prayer requests, I must ask myself if I’d be a good steward if God granted them. More importantly, am I a good steward of what He’s already given me?
In many careers, individuals often progress through the various ranks on their way to the top. Each experience is valuable because it prepares you for the next responsibility. It’d be irresponsible to ask a novice soldier to lead a war. That responsibility usually goes to a veteran with decades of combat experience. Similarly, we shouldn’t expect God to entrust us with responsibilities if we aren’t ready to handle them. Could this be why some of our prayers haven’t been answered? Could God be saying: “I want to grant that request, but you aren’t ready yet”? I appreciate that this isn’t the case for many, but it might be worth considering if God hasn’t granted your request yet because we know He wants to give us the desires of our heart [Psalm 37:4].
There are people whose death is precious in God’s sight [Psalm 116:15]. I aspire to be one of them when my time is up. This means making myself valuable to God’s purposes in my lifetime. But I’ve realised that if I desire to be useful to Him, I must build capacity. My wife recently completed the London marathon. However, she could barely run a mile at the start of this year because she hardly ever ran. She also suffered from prickly heat. So, deciding to run a marathon was momentous. It was significantly beyond her comfort zone. Undeterred, she kept pushing herself, making the necessary sacrifices to train and build the physical and mental fortitude she needed to accomplish her objective.
Some sources estimate that only about 1% of people ever run a marathon in their lifetime. The truth is most able-bodied people can run a marathon, or undertake similarly challenging feats, but they are unwilling to make the sacrifices necessary to do so. The same is true with following Jesus. Many of us are reluctant to stretch ourselves beyond our comfort zones. Paul tells us that the Christian life is a race, and we’re to run as athletes aiming for medals [1 Corinthians 9:24-25]. Are you willing to run the race? If so, how are you building the capacity you need? God will provide grace as we push ourselves to increase our capacity, but He won’t do the work for us.
World-class athletes train incredibly hard to improve themselves. We must do likewise to grow spiritually. When done with the right motives, spiritual disciplines like prayer, fasting, studying the Scriptures, etc., facilitate this. They increase our ability to discern and act on God’s will, with marvellous results. Some of our heroes fasted for days, even weeks [Daniel 10:2, Acts 9:9], spent days in prayer and solitude [Deuteronomy 9:25], and made remarkable sacrifices which drew God’s attention [Psalm 50:5]. Consequently, they influenced the destiny of nations, had encounters and revelations which impacted generations, and so on. If we can barely survive a day’s fast, make time for Bible study or spend a day in prayer, how can we expect to accomplish comparable feats for God’s kingdom?
Maybe it’s time to assess our excuses. What are we telling ourselves that keeps us in our comfort zones? Are we subduing our bodies and emotions to attain spiritual ascendency in our Christian walk, or are we allowing our comfort to dictate what God can accomplish in us? God desires to fill us with His fullness [Ephesians 3:19]. How much capacity do you have?