(This post was originally published on the Baptist Churches of New England’s blog on August 22, 2022. You can find it here.)
“How could we bless you?”
He looked at me intently as I gathered the courage to reply: “I’d love to go to seminary.”
“Done,” he said. “You should have dreamed bigger.”
Let me tell you, friends—those are some haunting words.
This short exchange echoes a much older and grander discussion in John’s gospel. During the final night with His friends here on earth, Jesus tells the disciples, “…Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:23-24).
Matthew Henry’s commentary over this text points out that Jesus “gives liberally, and is so far from upbraiding us with the frequency and largeness of His gifts that He rather upbraids us with the seldomness and straitness of our requests.”
You should have dreamed bigger.
Believe it or not, I was constantly in trouble as a little girl. I received my fair share of what Matthew Henry calls “upbraiding” for naughty behavior. We might expect Jesus to scold a disciple for asking too much or for asking too often. Doesn’t that guy know we’re supposed to be low maintenance? Come on. But to scold a disciple for asking too moderately, too rarely? That feels like crazy talk. Unless we really grasp who we’re dealing with here. (Or, more accurately, who’s dealing with us.)
Jesus, whose entire life has been an intimate conversation with the Father, is on His way to Gethsemane. Who better to explain God’s stance than the ultimate sacrifice who is preparing to bear the proof of such great love in His ripped body?
God knows neither limit nor lack. His smile is always set upon His children. He eagerly hunts opportunities to bless us. It should be impossible to look at the cross and assume the Lord’s heart is one of a miser. We expect Scrooge and find Santa Claus: jubilant, generous, expansive. Even one minute in His presence will convince us to the core that we’ve been living too small. This is a God of muchness.
Our prayer life is a direct reflection of what we most truly believe about the Father. Vast swaths of reality go overlooked (and divine resources go untapped) when we allow either pride to persuade us that we don’t need help or unbelief to bully us into accepting the status quo.
Where do you need to dream bigger? In what ways have your requests been too seldom and too puny? How might you grow in cultivating a sanctified imagination? My mom’s church places a high value on this concept: “We are faith-filled, big thinking, bet-the-farm risk takers. We never insult God with small thinking and safe living.”
I’m not saying we should abandon wisdom or selflessness; the Lord treasures such traits. But I am saying we should abandon a shrunken view of God that shrivels our souls and minimizes His glory. There’s so much more He longs to give us than the little for which we’ve settled.
Let’s start now. Dream big. Then dream bigger.
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