Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Limiting God

I wonder how often we fail to step out in faith, either as individuals or as church families, because we believe the task is impossible? While we talk about God being all powerful, when the rubber meets the road we decide even God can’t do what is humanly impossible. By limiting God we miss out on the wonderful experience of God working through us to redeem the world.

This is what William Barclay had to say about limiting God:
“When we listen to men planning and arguing and thinking aloud, we get the impression of a vast number of things in this world which are known to be desirable but dismissed as impossible. Men spend the greater part of their lives putting limitations on the power of God. Faith is the ability to lay hold on that grace which is sufficient for all things in such a way that the things which are humanly impossible become divinely possible. With God all things are possible, and, therefore, the word impossible has no place in the vocabulary of the Christian and of the Christian Church.” (The Daily Study Bible: Hebrews; p. 147)

It seems silly to put limitations on the Creator of the universe, but we do. We put limitations on God when we think we have God figured out and so we tell ourselves that God doesn’t work that way. We limit God when we think we have to do certain things or pray certain prayers in order to get God to respond. We limit God when we live by fear rather than by faith.

Faith is what is needed for us to experience God at work in the world. Our Heavenly Father uses those who decide to live lives of faith. That is what Hebrews 11 is about. The author of Hebrews wants us to remember what God has accomplished through people of faith. Yes, God has done some very impressive things, but more often than not, He does those things in response to a person’s faith.

Without faith Abraham would never have left Ur. Without faith Moses would never have returned to Egypt to face Pharaoh. Without faith the apostle Paul would never have endured beatings, shipwrecks, and imprisonments to take the Gospel to the world. What are we, our church families, and our world missing out on because we are not responding to God with faith. We may justify our lack of faith in religious language, the reality is that are lack of faith is the result of putting limits on God.

Faith removes the limits we put on God as we allow God to work through our actions. While we may not limit God with our words, we do limit God through our actions. Remember this: When we surrender to our fear we tell the world God is unable to help us. Living by faith means that we trust God: His promises, His power, and His purpose. Faith removes the limits we have placed on God and allow us to experience His mighty power at work in the world around us.

What is the most impossible thing that you can think of? To me it is making righteous people out of sinners. Sinners are people who have broken God’s law, and there is nothing that can be done to unbreak the law. The Law is like a glass window. Once the baseball shatters the glass there is nothing that can be done to unbreak the glass. We may be able to glue the pieces together, but the cracks will remain. The same is true with breaking God’s law. We maybe able to continue to live good lives, but 70 years of good living can never undo 7 seconds of sin.

When we put our faith in Jesus Christ we are saying that we believe that God can make us righteous people even though we are sinners. In short we are saying that God can do the impossible. Remember what the apostle Paul wrote about faith in Romans?
1 Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of God's glory. (Romans 5:1, 2; NET)

If we truly believe that God has done the impossible in this situation, then it should be evident in the way we live our lives. Instead of putting limits on God and justifying our lack of obedience; we will step out in faith and do those hard, and humanly impossible, things that He has called us to do. This is why faith is not just about what we believe, but also about how we live. We can say that God has saved us from our sins, but only through our actions is it evident that we really believe it.

  • Point to Ponder: When we surrender to our fear we tell the world that God is unable to help us.
  • Passage to Remember: Romans 5:1, 2
  • Question to Consider: What limits have you put on God?

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