I’ve met a lot of people who knew what it was to burn plows and set out to live for God but didn’t know what to do next. They prayed, they made a commitment—and they got stuck. As a pastor, I’ve seen it over and over again. As a man trying to live for God, I’ve experienced it over and over again.
I’m guessing you’ve made plenty of resolutions about stuff you needed to start doing or stop doing. Maybe you were going to start praying or reading your Bible more.
Or maybe you were going to stop smoking or boycott carbohydrates or stop looking at pornography or stop saying mean things about family members behind their backs. Maybe you decided to break away from a relationship you knew was unhealthy for you.
The way I see it, there are two major reasons why well-intentioned people like us get stuck after we burn our plows.
One, we don’t think big enough. Two, we don’t start small enough.
I’m not trying to talk like Yoda here. Thinking big enough and starting small enough are two sides of the same coin. So I not only want to motivate you to dream bigger dreams for your life. I also want to challenge you to take realistic steps of obedience that can actually make God’s vision come to pass.
After all, our God “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20). It is true that we often settle for dreams and visions that are far less than those God has for us. And He wants us to experience much more. If I didn’t believe that, the title of this book would beSamer.
So of course God wants you to believe big—it’s in His very nature. I’ve devoted my whole ministry to inspiring people with this truth. Preacher Dwight L. Moody made a statement that I love: “If God is your partner, make your plans big.” That way of thinking makes my heart race.
But we’re not going to see God’s bigger vision fulfilled in our lives just because we spend more time thinking transcendent thoughts. We don’t attain greater things simply by lying on the couch and concentrating on the possibilities of a better life. Alas, sitting for thousands of hours with my headphones on listening to Guns N’ Roses and imagining I was Axl Rose didn’t translate into my being the lead singer of the world’s most dangerous rock’n’roll band.
You do have to be willing to think big. But the active ingredient of God’s greater work through us is our willingness to start small.
I want to show you an incredible image in one of the first main-stage miracles Elisha performs after Elijah departs and leaves the ministry in his successor’s hands. It demonstrates the principle that small steps and hard work precipitate a move of God. That human action prepares the way for supernatural favor.
It comes from 2 Kings 3, and it goes like this:
King Joram is ruling over Israel during the years when the kingdom is divided. When the king of Moab rebels against him, the frightened king enlists King Jehoshaphat of Judah and the king of Edom to help him. Their combined military force should be fearsome against the Moabites—but they almost immediately run out of water for their armies and animals. Now they are preparing to face a terrifying foe while facing an even more terrifying fate: dying of thirst.
Par for the course in Israel’s history, the crisis drives King Joram to look for divine help. He isn’t desperate for God, but he is desperate for a solution. King Jehoshaphat asks if there is a prophet who could consult God for them. A servant reminds him of Elisha, the artist formerly known as Mr. Plow. So the three kings and their entourages go looking for Elisha.
Elisha confirms to the kings that water will flow from Edom by the time the sun comes up the next morning. Their armies and their animals will have plenty to drink. The drought is almost over. God is going to deliver Moab to His people just as they prayed for. Hallelujah, somebody?
But he tells the kings to take a small, ludicrous step first.
This is what the Lord says: Make this valley full of ditches. (verse 16)
Why would anybody in their right mind dig ditches to hold rain that isn’t even in the forecast?
Because that’s the way faith works. When you know God has promised you greater things, you don’t wait for a sign to appear before you respond. The kings wanted a miracle. They would get their miracle. But first they got a work order: This is no time for the power of positive thinking. Tie a bandanna around your head and pick up a shovel.
It would have been great if all the army had to do was sit around thinking hydration-related thoughts or had a few guided exercises to help them visualize the water. But that’s not how God operates.
It’s as if God says, “If you really believe I’m going to do what I told you I would do, get busy. Show Me your faith, and then I’ll show you My faithfulness. Do your part. If you will do what I asked you to do, I will be faithful to My word.
“If you’ll dig the ditches, I’ll send the rain.”
The entire nation must have pitched in and dug all night, because they got it done. The next morning the water arrived. As promised. As always. The newly installed ditches were full of water, the armies and animals were refreshed, and the joint army easily overtook the Moabites.
I think Elisha used the process of ditch digging to teach Israel this important paradox of great faith:
Only God can send the rain. But He expects you to dig the ditches.
It really comes down to this: What small steps and practical preparations is God asking you to make for the greater life He wants you to live? What ditches is He asking you to dig?
You can’t expect God to entrust you with a big dream if He can’t trust you to make a small start.
You can’t have the apostle Paul’s walk with God overnight. Big dream.
But you can pray ten minutes a day beginning tomorrow. Small start.
You can’t entirely mend a broken relationship overnight. Big dream.
But you can have a conversation and open the door, write the letter, make the call, say, “I’m sorry.” Small start.
If your kid is far from God, you can’t bring him back overnight. Big dream.
But you could start praying for him every day. Small start.
Notice what Elisha doesn’t say; he doesn’t tell the kings to dig one ditch. No singular ditch digging on this prophet’s watch.
Instead, make this valley full of ditches. Plural.
Believe that God is going to send a lot of rain.
If we really believe God is an abundant God, ready and willing to bless our lives in greater ways than we could ever imagine, we ought to be digging all kinds of ditches. In our relationships. In our careers. In our ministries. In every area of our lives, there ought to be heavy-duty equipment on site. Moving dirt. Making preparation.
And we ought to dig ditches using every means available. We can dig ditches with our words. With our prayers. With our expectations. Even with our thoughts.
How many ditches are you willing to dig? How deep will you dig them? You’re not digging alone. And it’s not in vain. God has a downpour scheduled in your near future. The deeper you dig, the greater the rainfall has the potential to be.