Summary: We grow and multiply through faith, oppression, and obedience as God's ancient people did when they experienced harsh treatment in Egypt.
In The Last Days Newsletter, Leonard Ravenhill tells about a group of tourists visiting a picturesque village. They walked by an old man sitting beside a fence, and one of them asked, “Were any great men born in this village?” The old man replied, “Nope, only babies.” (Leonard Ravenhill, The Last Days Newsletter; www.PreacingToday.com)
And that’s the way it is everywhere, even here on Washington Island. Nobody starts out great. We all start out as infants, but God made us for greatness. God designed us to grow. When He created the first man and the first woman, both in his own image, He said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28).
That’s God’s mandate to His original creation, and that’s God’s mandate to His new creation, as well! Thousands of years later, when God put together the church from those who were new creations in Christ, He said to them, “Go and make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:19). “Be my witnesses [starting] in Jerusalem, [then spreading] in all Judea and Samaria, and [then] to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
God never intended for us to remain small. Rather, He designed us, and redesigned us, for growth and greatness.
But the question is: How? How do we bear fruit and increase in number? How do we fill the earth and subdue it? How do we spread the influence of Christ to the ends of the earth, starting right here at home? How do we multiply disciples of Christ who love God and people?
Exodus 1:1-7 These are the names of the sons of Israel who went to Egypt with Jacob, each with his family: Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah; Issachar, Zebulun and Benjamin; Dan and Naphtali; Gad and Asher. The descendants of Jacob numbered seventy in all; Joseph was already in Egypt. Now Joseph and all his brothers and all that generation died, but the Israelites were fruitful and multiplied greatly and became exceedingly numerous, so that the land was filled with them. (NIV)
This verse uses the same Hebrew words of God’s original mandate to Adam and Eve, here translated as “fruitful,” “multiply,” and “filled.” The point is: the Israelites grew from just 70 individuals to over 2 million people, according to some estimates. They were “fruitful.” They “multiplied.” They became “exceeding numerous” and “filled” the land, just as God had promised Jacob they would do before he moved to Egypt nearly 400 years before this.
In Genesis 46, God said to Jacob, “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there” (Genesis 46:3). And that’s exactly what happened. God is simply fulfilling the promise He made to Jacob.
Now, this raises the first point about our own growth. It is not so much about what WE do as it is about what GOD is doing in and through us. He made a promise, and He will fulfill that promise no matter what.
So if we want to bear fruit and increase in number, if we want to spread the influence of Christ and multiply disciples of Christ, then all we have to do is believe that promise. In other words…
MULTIPLY THROUGH FAITH IN GOD’S PROMISE.
Grow by trusting in God’s Word. Fill the earth by depending on what God has already said. Jesus promised us, “I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18). Jesus promised us, “You will be my witnesses…to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). So, fundamentally, our growth and expansion is simply a matter of relying on that promise!
An Australian Christian author and speaker, John Dickson, talks about how he came to Christ. He says the Australian public schools used to offer a Scripture class taught by a volunteer from the local church, and Glenda became his teacher. She was an ordinary, middle-aged mother, but she loved young people. Glenda ended up inviting the whole class to her house on Friday afternoons for lunch and honest conversation about Jesus.
Dickson says they went back the next Friday and the next and the next, where slowly the “Jesus stuff” became as important as the food, so they came with more and more friends. Now, “some of those 15-year-olds were the worst sinners in the school,” Dickson says. “But Glenda just opened her heart every Friday afternoon and treated us all like we were family.”
Then there was a night when Dickson’s friend, Daniel, was quite intoxicated. His friends knew they couldn't take him to his house. His dad was an army man and would be livid. But they didn't want to leave him on the street, so they all said, “Let's take him to Glenda's house. She'll have him. She'll clean him up.”