Note: water balloon images from the Internet
This week in “If I were teaching Sunday school…” the subject is CAPACITY. This is one of my favorite chapters from “10 Life-Charged Words,” and I feel it gets at the heart of the power potential in living as beings “made in the image of God.”
As usual, let’s begin with a recap, just in case you want to catch up, or go back and start at the beginning.:
- “New Weekly Feature” – introduces the concept.
- Then “JESUS” – explores who Jesus is and who Jesus is to us.
- The Good Wine of “Excellence”.
- “Passion” is a sure sign of life; “Passion,” I wrote, “lights up everything else around it.”
This week “Capacity“, in terms of adding a charge of life to our experience of faith, explores the gap between how people tend to live and what is possible.
When we live (and love and shine) to capacity then much of what happens around us could be called “miraculous.” But – rather than God making things happen from “outside” – wonder and beauty and depth of spirit can become more a natural part of our experience.
Loving God, we often live and act as if you are far away rather than directly involved. Today, we ask that you so flood our consciousness with your presence that you inhabit every breath of our conversation. May the insights we have be filled with your truth and may the stories we share encourage others to invite you into their lives. We know you have given us so much yet we live as if we are spiritually powerless. Help us to close the gap between how we live and what is possible in you. Amen.
One of my go-to capacity stories is this one about water balloons. I like it because it points to a spiritual principle that is hard sometimes to grasp.
Take a water balloon from the bag it came in and it looks like it should hold a specific – small – amount of water. And that is true, so long as we don’t put much in. Then something amazing happens: the moment the balloon begins to approach capacity, the dimensions begin to change.
The balloon does not respond much unless it is – first – being filled. Our spiritual capacity is like that. We don’t wait for our capacity to increase and then start living; we live, we pour in as much of God as we can, and then our capacity increases.
We will never begin to approach capacity, it turns out, unless we first open ourselves up to be filled. Then, as we do, our capacity increases and we can be filled more. We will never know the potential until we first approach the limits.
Okay, so there is a lot of scripture that could potentially contribute to this conversation.
In a sense, this is what The Bible is all about! The Bible – Old and New Testaments – tells the story of humankind coming to grips with the fact that our story is bound up in The Greatest Story Ever Told, and that if we are to even begin to engage what is possible then we must enter into a restored relationship with the Creator.
This is the God “who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…” (Ephesians 3:20).
“The Word of Life appeared right before our eyes; we saw it happen! The infinite Life of God himself took shape before us. We saw it, we heard it, and now we’re telling you so you can experience it along with us…” (1 John 1:1-4).
“So that they may take hold of the life that really is life” (1 Timothy 6:19).
“Shine like stars in the world… by your holding fast to the word of life” (Philippians 2:15-16).
Just these few examples point to the energizing, empowering, capacity-building work of God once we allow ourselves to be filled with Jesus!
Questions for conversation:
- Which one of these scripture references grabs your attention? Explain how God’s word is speaking to you right now.
- When Jesus commissioned his followers to continue his work, what did he imagine us offering the world?
- Think of an area in life where your capacity has increased in response to your commitment (this could be as simple as cooking, or more complex such as playing an instrument, or even a relationship – maybe being a parent has stretched your capacity?)
- Have you ever help back from serving God because you felt you capacity was not up to the challenge?
- Do you believe the water-balloon illustration? If we allow God to fill us will God also increase what is possible?
- Why do you believe we tend to hold back so much and not even begin to reach our potential?
What does my church – or other faith community – offer in terms of opportunity?
If we are affiliated with a faith-based community there are probably some built in opportunities for us to open ourselves up and be filled.
For some of us, this means – first – nurturing and growing our relationship with God, and being filled spiritually. However, there is also a practical component to this, there is taking the risk and following Jesus in terms of service, and mission, and even leadership.
So talk – if you are with other people for this lesson – about what is possible in terms of your local church. Talk about what your faith community is doing and how you can plug in. Challenge one another to push the limits of capacity and see how God responds by filling you up more.
If you are not part of a church or other faith-based community, getting involved in some practical ministry is a perfect opportunity to connect.
This is one of those conversations that must, absolutely must, lead us into a deeper journey of faith. I love the way this is expressed in 1 Corinthians 2:8-10:
What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”
the things God has prepared for those who love him—
these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.
Eye has not seen nor ear heard, nor human mind conceived…. but these things have been prepared by God for those who love God. So take a deep breath, lean in, jump in the deep end, and see what God has in store! – DEREK