What's Your Capacity to Receive? - Part
by Rich Murphy
While faith is an important factor in our ability to receive from the Lord (maybe even the most important factor), it isn't the only one. Some teachers would have you believe that if you believe enough, and confess enough God is required to give you what you are believing for, but that isn't true. God is not our servant, and isn't required to do what we say. He is God, and we are required to do what He says.
The biggest word in the Bible is the word "if." Any time you find a promise from God mentioned in the Bible, you can pretty much find the word "if." Even if it isn't there in an obvious way, it is there in an implied way. Deuteronomy, chapter 28, makes it pretty clear that blessings and cursing come as a result of obedience.
It's interesting to note in this chapter that there are only 13 verses that list the blessings, while there are 53 verses that talk about curses; more than three times as many!
Like many people, I have children. Like all children, sometimes my children are obedient, and sometimes they aren't. When they are obedient and do good, I, as a father, have a desire to bless them in some way. When they are disobedient, and misbehave, I also have a desire to bless them, but in those cases it is with the rod of correction.
I have seen a lot of "faith people" who aren't receiving from God, and aren't living in victory. Why? Because of two reasons. First of all, they aren't praying and asking with correct motives, but are asking so that they may feed their pride and ego. God will never answer a prayer if answering it will cause us harm, or impede our spiritual growth. He is more interested in our spiritual state than He is in our physical one.
Many, if not most, Christians are carnally minded. They are seeking to use the Word of God, and their relationship with the Lord, to satisfy their carnal desires. This is because they are focused upon this life, and not that which is to come.
The priority in our asking from God should be for the work of expanding the Kingdom of God. Jesus told us: "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Mt 6:33). I think this is pretty clear. The other blessings in life come as a result of placing the Kingdom of God as our number one priority. They are a side benefit, that comes as a result, not as a goal in and of itself.
Yet, most believers, instead of asking so that they might expand the Kingdom of God, are asking so that they might expand the kingdom of self. God is not interested in our expanding the kingdom of self, in fact, He is opposed to the kingdom of self.
Secondly, these faith people aren't receiving because they aren't in obedience. They aren't interested in doing God's will, they are interested in God doing their will. They aren't interested in God's plan, they are interested in their own. They aren't looking at things from God's perspective, they are expecting God to see things from their perspective.
If we want God's blessing, we need God's perspective. Our capacity to receive is limited by our perspective. When we have God's perspective, and are obedient to it, we increase our capacity to receive. More obedience, more capacity; less obedience, less capacity.
In the book of Second Kings, chapter 5, we find the story of a miraculous healing that God performed through the prophet Elisha. But, it was a miracle that almost didn't happen, because of lack of obedience.
This Syrian officer had a serious problem, leprosy. Fortunately for him, his wife had a servant girl who had come out of Israel, and knew about the prophet Elisha. She told her mistress, the wife of the captain, who then told him about the prophet (2 Ki 5:2-4).
Armed with this good news, the captain received permission from his king to go to Israel and seek the prophet. The king was sufficiently pleased with this information that he even sent a letter of introduction along with the officer (2 Ki 5:5).
When Naaman arrived at Elisha's house, Elisha sent a messenger to instruct him to wash in the Jordan River seven times. As easy as this sounds, it didn't meet Naaman's expectations and he became infuriated instead of pleased. Without the intervention of the same servant who had originally told him about the prophet, this reaction would have cost him his healing.
Who are we to tell God how to do things? What ever made us think that we were smarter than God? He is God, not us. He will decide how He is going to do things, not us. He commands us, we don't command him.
I remember a woman in Denver, Colorado. She had determined in her mind that the only way that God could solve her financial problems was through the lottery. This woman would literally park her car in front of convenience stores and pray to see if that store was where she was supposed to buy the winning lottery ticket, since that was the "only way" God could provide for her.
That sounds ridiculous to us, but to her it was logical. She forgot one detail however, that is, God is bigger than we are. If we are able to think of 100 ways in which God can deal with a situation, I'm sure He can come up with 101. When we limit God by our limited understanding, we limit our capacity to receive.
Many times, if not most times, when God tells us to do something, it is contrary to our own natural wisdom and understanding. That's because we are often working under the wisdom and understanding of the world, which isn't the same as God's wisdom. In fact, the two are often opposites of each other.
Just as an example, the wisdom of the world has a three step system to become rich. It is: 1 - Get all you can. 2 - Can all you get. 3 - Sit on the can. But, God's wisdom, as expressed in the Bible says that the manner to become rich is: 1 - Give all you can. 2 - Believe all you can. 3 - Receive all you can. According to the world's wisdom, God's wisdom is foolishness. They think, "How can one become rich by giving? You need to keep what you have in order to amass riches." But, they are functioning under a limited system, whereas our God functions without limits.
Not only is God's direction to us normally contrary to our understanding, but it is also often contrary to our will and our desire. His goal in our lives is to transform us into the image of Christ. That doesn't happen by pampering us, and allowing us to always have what we want. That happens by taking us through experiences we don't like, so that we will stretch and grow.
My wife is a big city girl. She grew up in the city, and always lived in big cities. When God moved us from Denver, Colorado to Roswell, New Mexico (with a population of 50,000) it was quite a shock for her. But, not so much as when He moved us from living in a house to living in a motorhome. Living in the motorhome was one thing, but the real difficult part for her was leaving the motorhome at night, and walking through the trees to the shower house in the campground. That was so totally contrary to her background that she might as well have been in the middle of an African jungle.
She didn't want to live in the motorhome, and especially didn't want to be in a campground in the woods. But, more than her dislike of that, she wanted to obey God. She was sure that God had called us to live and travel in the motorhome, and she wanted to stay in the center of God's will, even if He made her do things and be in places where she was uncomfortable.
Instead of being like this, many Christians are like Naaman. When God tells them to do something they don't want to do, they become mad at God, and don't do it. Their anger causes their disobedience, and their disobedience causes them to lose their capacity to receive.
We need to realize that when God tells us to do something, He has a good reason for telling us to do it. He doesn't tell us to do things just so that He can laugh at our efforts to complete them, He has a real purpose in mind. Our obedience is a necessary ingredient in the process of receiving a blessing from God. Our blessing comes as a result of our obedience!
Fortunately for Naaman, he had wise counselors. They talked him out of his anger, and talked him into obeying the prophet. He went to the river and washed seven times, as the prophet had told him. I can imagine his frustration as he examined himself every time he came out of the water, and didn't see any change. It wasn't until he washed himself that seventh time, in obedience, that he received his miracle, and came out of the water healed.
Had Naaman only washed himself six times, he would have received nothing. In God's eyes, partial obedience is disobedience. God doesn't bless those who only obey partially, He blesses those who obey fully, completing all they are supposed to.
Naaman's blessing came about as a result of obedience. Our blessings, as well, come through our obedience. God has hidden within His plan for our lives many blessings. Every time we reach a point of having completed something that the Lord desires of us, he brings us to a point of another blessing. Those blessings are more dependant upon our obedience than they are on God's power and provision.
There's a story in First Kings, chapter 13, about a prophet who didn't obey God. This happened shortly after the dividing of the kingdom of Israel, after King Solomon's death.
The southern kingdom, which was named Judah, was ruled by King Rehoboam, Solomon's son. The northern kingdom, which chose to separate from Rehoboam, was ruled by King Jeroboam, and kept the name Israel, making their capital in the city of Samaria. Unfortunately, Jeroboam was concerned that he would lose his people if they returned to Israel to worship God. So, he made two gold calves and put one in Bethel, and the other in Dan, telling the people that these were their gods.
God could not allow this idolatry to go unanswered, so he sent a prophet (called "a man of God" in the Bible) to speak out against these false gods, and against the altar erected to them.
Of course, the king was infuriated by the words of the prophet and stretched out his hand towards the prophet, commanding his guards to seize the man of God. When he did so, his hand shriveled, and the altar was broken, just as the prophet had said (1 Ki 13:4-5). Naturally enough, the king was shaken by this, and asked the prophet to pray for his healing, which he did (1 Ki 13:6). Rehoboam was so pleased by God healing him that he desired to bless the prophet, and asked him to come to the palace, to which the man of God replied:
So far, so good. God commanded the prophet to do something, and he did it. Along the way, he demonstrated God's power to the king, but didn't break God's commandment to him in the process. Unfortunately, it doesn't stay that way.
There was an old prophet in Bethel who heard about the man of God and went to see him, asking the man of God to come to his house to eat (1 Ki 13:11-15). The man of God responded to him with the same words that he had used to respond to the king (1 Ki 13:15-16). Again, everything's good up to this point. But, from here on, everything gets worse, for the old prophet lied, saying something in contrary to what God had told the man of God (1 Ki 13:18).
I don't think I'll every understand why the man of God believed that old prophet, but he did. Instead of sticking with what God had told him, he accepted the "new word" as the truth, even though it was the opposite of the instructions he had received. Let me tell you a secret. God will never give you two contradicting words. If He tells you to do one thing, He doesn't change, everything He tells you after that will support what He originally told you.
While the man of God was at the old prophet's house eating, God gave a true word to the old prophet, telling the man of God that because of his disobedience he would not be buried in the tomb of his fathers (1 Ki 13:20-22). Since this word was true, it agreed with the first one that God had given the man of God, and came to pass. The man of God was killed along the way (1 Ki 13:24).
Being of God doesn't automatically make us correct, nor does it make all our actions correct. If a prophet of God can be misled by a false word, how much more so can the rest of us. Where was this man of God's discernment? Why didn't he recognize this word as a false word? Why, since the word was contrary to what he had received before, didn't he ask the Lord for confirmation?
I think the answer to those questions can be found in the man of God's character. Although he was a prophet, he wasn't a mature one. He enjoyed receiving a word from the Lord, and declaring it to the people. But, he didn't enjoy the sanctified life that validated his ministry. He wanted the blessing, without paying the price.
I don't know what sort of blessing God had in store for that prophet. But, I do know that he didn't receive it. Because of his disobedience, his capacity to receive was exactly zero.
Someone can have all the faith in the world, and not receive from God. Why? Because they are not in obedience. I'm sure that this man of God had faith, he must have to travel to Bethel in order to prophecy against the altar. But, his obedience wavered as soon as he had the opportunity. He stopped obeying, and stopped receiving.
Let's look at one more example of obedience, in Second Kings, chapter 13. Elisha was at the end of his life, and King Joash went to visit him.
Our obedience to God has to be very specific. If God tells someone to be the janitor in the church, and they become the pastor, they don't receive the reward from God for their actions. Even though this person accomplished what appears to be a better work, it isn't the work that God commanded them to do. God doesn't give out prizes for accomplishing great works, He only gives prizes for completing what He has commanded.
Nobody has a title, or position, so high that they don't need to obey God, or can modify God's commands to suit their desires. In some ways, having a high position increases one's need to obey, because their obedience, or lack thereof, affects more people. If the janitor doesn't obey God in something, it won't have the same effect on the congregation as if the pastor doesn't obey.
In this story, the king went to visit the prophet on his death bed. It's no surprise that the king did this, because amongst other things, the prophets acted as counselors for the kings. The prophet, speaking for God, gave the king some very specific directions, to do some prophetic acts.
The first thing that the prophet commanded the king was to bring a bow and some arrows. That was pretty easy, and the king had no problem obeying that command. After placing his hands over those of the king, and praying, Elisha told the king to shoot an arrow through the window, towards the east, where the enemy was. Again, the king did exactly as the prophet told him, without problem. As the arrow was flying, the prophet declared deliverance from their enemies.
Finally, Elisha told the king to do one more thing, that was to take the arrows and strike the ground. This is where the king got in trouble. He obeyed, but only struck the ground three times. I don't know why he picked the number three, but he did. After the third time he stopped.
Remember, Elisha was speaking to him prophetically, so whatever Elisha told him to do, was God telling him to do it.
If God tells someone to do something, where in the world would they get the idea that they can decide when to stop? I can understand if God says "do it three times," that the person should stop after three times. But, if God just says "do it," and doesn't say when to stop, then there is no reason to stop.
If I, as a parent, tell my children to do their schoolwork, that doesn't mean do it today, but not tomorrow. Nor does it mean do their math, but not their history. That means do it all, and keep on doing it all until there is nothing more to do, until they graduate from the university. Likewise, if I tell them to put their clothes away. That doesn't mean just put them away when I remind them to. It means that I expect them to put their clothes away each and every time.
Somehow, or other, the king made the decision that he could decide when it was time to stop. Because the king stopped, he didn't receive the fullness of what God wanted to give him. He reduced his capacity for his lack of obedience.
If God says to do something, that means do it, and do it, and do it, and keep on doing it, until there's nothing else to do, or God says it's time to stop. Anything less is rebellion to God.
Sometimes, God adds to what He's told us to do. That doesn't mean that we are to stop what we were doing before, only that there is more for us to do. God has used what we were doing before, to prepare us for new things. The new direction is only God expanding the vision and work He has given us. It is not God telling us to stop the things we were doing before.
Many people don't receive the blessings that God has for them because they stop doing what God has told them to do. Instead of completing God's plan, and reaching the blessing at the end, they give up, coming to the conclusion that God doesn't have any blessings for them. Of course, because of giving up, they don't get blessed.
Where is the part in the Bible where God tells people to stop trying, stop striving, stop obeying, or just plain give up? King Joash didn't understand what God commanded him to do, gave up, and didn't receive all that God had for him. You and I often do the same. Just because we don't understand, we decide that there is no reason to obey. What foolishness!
God never promised to explain everything to our satisfaction; He only promised that He has our best interest in mind with whatever He tells us to do. We don't have to understand, we only have to obey. Our capacity to receive is directly linked to our capacity to obey.
As I said in the first part of this study, the church will never accomplish the fullness of God's will if we don't increase our capacity to receive. It isn't so much that we need to learn how to receive for ourselves. We need to learn to receive what we need for God's work here on earth. Whether, or not, we receive for ourselves is nowhere near as important.
After all, if we receive for ourselves, we will only be storing up treasures that can be destroyed. We can't take any of that to heaven with us, and it will ultimately pass away. But, when we learn how to receive for God's kingdom, and lay up our treasures in heaven, then we shall have true treasures.
I won't say that the only limiting factors for our capacity to receive are our faith and our obedience, but I will say that they are the two most important factors. If we can manage to get a hold of these two areas, and bring them under control of the Spirit, then the other factors that limit our ability to receive will come into line as well. We will no longer be people who are limited, but become as unlimited as our God.
So, what's your capacity to receive?
Copyright © 2005 by Richard A. Murphy, Maranatha Life. All rights reserved.