One of the greatest messages I’ve ever given. Fifty thousand leading pastors from around the world heard it. They were members of my school called Schuller Institute for Successful Church Leadership. Many of the pastors of the largest churches today, oh like Bill Hybels or Rick Warren, came to this institute 35 years ago, 34 years ago, 33... they came and they all heard this sentence: the shoe must not tell the foot how big to grow. Cause I had all these ministers. When they came, they had to fill out a questionnaire and I would pass on my critiques to them. What I think they should do or some advice for what its worth.
And I passed it on, and it’s in my book, Your Church has Real Possibilities. It came when they almost all answered the question how many parking spaces do you have. And nobody had enough parking spaces. Churches up till this church really didn’t bother about big parking lots. They would ask the city council must we have parking lots, how many do we need and they’d take the advice from them. I said imagine getting the people you wish were coming to church, then how many parking spaces do you need. Don’t let the parking set your leadership goals, set your leadership goals based on how much I would need to park if I had the people coming that I wish I had. At any rate, it made a difference. The shoe must not tell the foot how big to grow. Now that’s a universal principle. You’re not in a church, you probably aren’t running a church, but that principle applies to you and it applies to me. We set up limits that keep God from doing the bigger thing He wants to do in our life. We can’t do that.
I remember when I was going to write my first book and I remembered the one F I got in college. I don’t think I’ve ever told you this before. It was in writing. So I wasn’t a writer. Then one day I tried to practice what I preached and its this kind of stuff I’m giving you now, so I put a piece of paper and I put it in a typewriter. Looking at another one of my slogans on the wall, beginning is half done, and I’d rather attempt something great and fail than attempt to do nothing and succeed. I put in the paper and I typed out a title of a book, Move Ahead with Possibility Thinking. Man. And a publisher in a weak moment, I think, agreed to publish it. And I became a writer. And for the past two weeks, let me say, I’ve been writing because I’m practicing the sermon I’m preaching this morning.
Stuff came out that has changed me in the last six weeks. The one line is I’ll give it to you: Something is in nothing. Even though we don’t understand it, probably, or believe it necessarily, say it out loud will be the first time in my earthly life I’ve heard anybody say it. Something is in nothing. You see it in the Garden of Eden. Nothing. But something is in that nothing. It’s usually an idea. It’s usually an idea that’s connected to a person or an idea connected to somebody that we probably have never met. Something is in nothing. There was something in nothing before Adam and Eve were created. The something was a power, it was a presence, it was an intelligence, it was a cosmic energy. It was God.
Easy for you to believe, actually. Today you’re in a generation that can believe that very easily where they couldn’t a hundred, two hundred years ago. Today you can look at a room, there’s nothing in there but there are voices in there. There’s music in there. There are plays in there, movies in there, there’s a lot in that nothingness but you need an instrument to pick it up. The TV set, computer, and so it is with a something that is in nothing. You need an instrument to pick it up. It’s built within you. You have the capacity. You have to learn how to turn it on and then how to set it to the right dial. The something that is nothing is a spirit. It is the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is, if you’re a Christian, the presence of Christ or the presence of the Holy Spirit. It’s there. But you need to have an instrument that will turn it on. That instrument was potentially created in you! Everybody has that potential. I use the word potential. What is that instrument? It’s called faith. You have been born with a power to exercise a thing called faith. As far as we know, there is no other creature: foul, animal, or fish, no other living creature has that instrument built within him. You have to turn it on.
Now for many people, they turn it off. They don’t realize they are limiting God. Once a man said to me if what you say is true, why in the world didn’t God give us all faith? I said He gave that instrument into every brain with the capacity, but you have to turn it on. If He gave it to you by nature like I’m hungry, it wouldn’t be faith anymore. It would be a sensory science. And then it wouldn’t have the power of faith. The faith has a tremendous power to built imaginary bridges and connections. Here’s the Bible verse. Isaiah 54 verse 2: “Enlarge the place where your tent stands.” Hear that: which means you’ve got ideas, you have opinions, you have interpretations, some you haven’t shared, some you have. And you’re not going to share them with me; I don’t need to hear it. The verb, most important word in most sentences as a writer, let me say this, are verbs. Enlarge the place where your tent stands. Enlarge it. THINK bigger! Think longer! Think deeper! Enlarge the place where your tent stands. Lengthen the cords, strengthen the stakes.
Now how do you set your goals? Set your goals by what you as a Christian should be doing. First, there are people you know that I don’t know. There are people that are hurting, I don’t know. There are people that are depressed and I don’t know them. There are people that’ll commit suicide and I don’t know them. Shall I go on and on and on? If I keep going on and on, I’m going to stop with my finger pointed at you! Enlarge the place where your tent stands. Don’t limit God. Don’t let your success limit God. Oh I’ve got what I need, I’ve got enough, etc. Then I’ve got a faith, I know I’m going to heaven so that’s enough. That’s not enough.
Enlarge your faith. Lengthen the cords and strengthen the stakes. Where are you this morning? You have a faith in God? Great. Faith in Jesus Christ? Maybe, well stop there. If you don’t, go for Him. He will bring qualities to your life to say nothing of eternal salvation who preach about it all the time. You know why haven’t you accepted Christ if you haven’t? And if you’re an agnostic or an atheist, why? It’s because you have established limits, boundaries, fences on the ideas that God keeps sending to you.
There was this man I heard of when I was a student. So long ago I don’t remember his name, but I heard he was a very famous preacher. And he talked about his own witness. He said I became an atheist in high school then a solid as a rock atheist in the university. These were all the brightest people in the world, and most of them didn’t believe in God as far as I could tell. So I became a hardened atheist and decided I was going to spread atheism so I could enlighten and make more intelligent the people I lived with. And he said that’s where I was when one Sunday morning I was out for a walk and I walked by this big church and I heard music coming out of there. So I stepped in, stood at the back. I really don’t remember much about the sermon or the music, but at the end the minister said I want you to become a believer. It’s just a decision. Don’t debate it. Don’t argue it. You’ll never win the argument. Nobody will. It’s got to be left in the realm of faith.
And then he said, the minister closed with prayer, I didn’t close my eyes. Everybody else did and I looked around, everybody was praying. There I saw the white hair of my head of my physics department. He was famous as being the most intellectual, the most brilliant, the most talented professor of the university. He goes to church? Must be something to this or he wouldn’t go to church. And after the prayer, I stared at him, his face and head went up and I saw a radiance coming out of that face, radiance I never saw in the classroom. Never saw it before. It came out of that prayer thing. And I said, must be a God. Something happened to him the last minute or two when they were praying. And then I thought I’m going to become a believer. Believers aren’t crazy after all and he became a believer. Wow.
The shoe must not tell the foot how big to grow. Your doubts must not tell your faith how to be enlarged. Your sickness, what is it, must not tell you how long you’re going to live, or how you can or cannot find healing. Leadership is the force that sets your goals. You make the decision. Don’t listen to people that talked you into whatever it is that’s negative. And for sure, atheism is negative. Meet Jesus Christ. Will that change me? It surely will.
I sat next to a man often in the Rotary Club meeting in Garden Grove and he and I were closest of friends. I don’t think I had a closer friend there than Benny Tee. And I think in his heart he had a lot of Jesus.
At his death, people stood up and told stories and one man told a story that topped them all. He said you know, I’ll never forget the story that a few days before Christmas this guy came into Benny Tee’s shoe store and he made shoes. He could create them in his mind and with leather stitches. He was known for that. This man came into the store very poorly dressed, holding the hand of a little boy that was walking odd. Obviously did not have normal feet. The man came up to put his hands, waited for Benny to come from his machine to take his order, he used his right hand and said thank you for seeing me. His right hand was closed. It was holding something. Later on when he accidentally exposed it a little, Benny Tee saw it was a ten-dollar bill. He spotted the money. The man said I’ve been sent here because they tell me that here in California in Orange County; Benny Tee can make shoes, any kind of shoes. See my son? Look at his feet. They’re both abnormal. Born that way. These shoes are so old, I keep putting cardboard inside, the tops don’t wear out. I found out you don’t get holes in the top of your shoes. He’s had these a long time. But I’d sure like to get him a new pair. I was told Benny Tee could make them. And you know Christmas is only a few days away. I want to give it to him for Christmas.
And it was about that point where Benny Tee saw that what was in his left hand was money, paper money, and he read the numbers one-zero. It was a ten-dollar bill. He’d usually charge from 50 to 100 dollars for custom made shoes. So he answered him, pleading father saying you know, see those shoes in the shop there? I promised them all they’d be fixed by Christmas. I don’t have much time left. I hope to God I can get them fixed because they’re counting on them as Christmas presents. Yes, I can fix your shoes but not before Christmas. And he sensed a dismay go over the father’s face.
So the father left with the little boy. Benny worked hard and the father, hoping for a miracle, came back December 24 late in the afternoon and said by any chance? And Benny Tee said no chance. I close shop in 60 minutes. I’m still finishing the one that I promised. But come back, I’ll do it for you. The man left. That night at 3:00 in the morning, his telephone rang. It was Benny Tee saying well I just finished your shoes. They’re here and I’m open for you if you want to come on over. The man drove over there; brand new custom-made shoes for this disfigured and deformed feet. And he said how much will that cost me? Benny Tee said well I usually get a low of fifty dollars and a high of a hundred dollars. But he said these came pretty easy so I’ll only charge you ten dollars. And the man opened his palm and there was his one and only ten-dollar bill.
Now that’s Benny Tee. Don’t let anything limit you from thinking bigger, thinking more generously, thinking more kindly, more Christ like. You set your goals, you make your decisions. You’re the only one that can do that. And you’re the only one that can say no, when the idea comes into your mind. Wow.
Never let problems, never let pain, never let hardship, never let your limitations tell you how big to think. The shoe must never call the foot and tell him how big to grow. Let’s pray: Oh God, You brought us here and this is the place where You’ve chosen to communicate and make believers out of people that listen to this from these pews, or from television sets from Russia to China and only You know where. Oh God, we’re stepping in new shoes today. We look at what we’ve limited, why we’ve limited them, and we heard You speak to us in Your own words from the Holy Bible when You said enlarge the tent. Lengthen the cords. Strengthen the stakes. We are. Hallelujah, Amen.