"For your waste and desolate places and your destroyed land -- surely now you will be too cramped for the inhabitants, and those who swallowed you will be far away. The children of whom you were bereaved will yet say in your ears, 'The place is too cramped for me; make room for me that I may live here.' Then you will say in your heart, 'Who has begotten these for me, since I have been bereaved of my children and am barren, an exile and a wanderer? And who has reared these? Behold, I was left alone; from where did these come?' " (Isaiah 49:19-21)God is speaking of a blessing that He would soon bring upon His people Israel. A blessing that they could not comprehend nor contain. God is about to bless Israel with an ingathering of souls that their land will not be able to hold. When God blesses, He does not bless with an adequate amount but in abundance. God's blessings are in abundance, more than enough, beyond what we need. Here are some things to conceder from this scripture.
Church growth does not always need a plan. The growth that Israel was about to experience was not the result of a cleverly devised plan. Israel did not have a five year plan for growth. They did not devise multiple programs to entice people to come in. Their main focus was not growth but rather reconciliation with God. They set their hearts on returning to God, on following Him, and on obeying Him. They did not seek growth but, as the walked with God, God added to their numbers. Jesus likens the Kingdom of God to a farmer, "The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows -- how, he himself does not know. The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come." (Mark 4:26-29) Growth happens even when we do not know how. Perhaps we should spend less time worrying about growth and more time pursuing God.
Bareness can be the birthplace of fruitfulness. I have know churches and Christians who at one time had fruitful ministries but, due to various reasons, ended up in a place of bareness. Israel's bareness was the result of God's punishment for her sins. She had forsaken God and her punishment was exile from the promised land of God. She was barren but God was bigger than her bareness. Our sins may lead us to a barren place but, by the grace of God, we need not stay there. God never intends bareness to be a destination, only, if need be, a place we journey through on our way to greater things in God. Conceder Peter, he failed Jesus and denied Him even after affirming his loyalty and his readiness to die with Him. Peter's heart and spirit were broken at the realization that he had denied his friend and savior. Peter no longer considered himself one of the disciples. This is why angles said, "But go, tell His disciples and Peter , 'He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.' "(Mark 16:7) The angles included Peter separately because he no longer counted himself among the disciples. However, from his place of bareness, God raised him up and used him to preach the first sermon in His new church, the result of which was the harvest of about 3000 souls. Bareness need not mark our end, but may be the place from which God grants us fruitfulness.
No one is too lost for the Lord. "Even the captives of the mighty man will be taken away, and the prey of the tyrant will be rescued; for I will contend with the one who contends with you, and I will save your sons." (Isaiah 49:25) Satan has done a great job enslaving mankind. People are enslaved by many different vices. They are captive to addictions, to ungodly beliefs, and to their own lusts, desires, and ambitions. All men are sinners, but for some, their sins are more evident. This can lead us to judge some as "easier" to save and others as "beyond all hope." God is jealous for His people. He will contend for them. He will fight to deliver them from their captors. No matter what the entanglement, God is able to deliver. No one is beyond the power of God to save and to restore. We must never presume to know who God will save and who will be lost. We cannot know that which is only known by the knowledge and wisdom of God. We must always be willing to share the gospel with everyone God brings our way, even if they seem hopeless to us. After all, if God can save us, He can save anyone.