Here is today’s big point. We all have limits in our lives.
If I’m younger than 16 years old, I cannot drive a car. Why? Because the State of Pa said it’s illegal. I have a legal limit.
I will never be an elite NFL wide receiver. Why? Because I am barely athletic enough to bring home the groceries let alone being in the NFL. I have physical limits.
If I have children in diapers, I will be busy and tired running after them. Why? Because those kids need my love and support. I have a life stage limit.
If I pull away from community [community in church, my marriage, my family, my friends], I will feel lonely. Why? Because I need to be with people to feel close to people. I have relationship limits.
If I am always thinking about myself and have wounds that I have not dealt with, chances are, I will feel rejected in all new relationships. Why? Because too much self-focus mixed with wounds can be a barrier to healthy relationships. I have relationship limits.
If I am over committed in life, I will be exhausted. Why? Because I am violating time. I have time limits.
If I am not with God on a regular basis, I will live a stressed, spiritually flat, and reactionary life. Why? Because I am choosing to be disconnected from the life of God. I have spiritual limits.
If I don’t listen to the wisdom that comes from older people like my parents or pastors, I will waste years learning about life the hard way. Why? Because I am too prideful to learn from others. I have life limits.
If I don’t spend time with God and I feel spiritually flat, I will go to church and say, ‘The spiritual atmosphere is off.’ Why? Because the life and passion of God isn’t in me to give to others. I have spiritual limits.
Here is today’s big point. We all have limits in our lives. And, if you fully embrace your limits and relax in them, you accept the reality of life. And if you don’t fully embrace your limits and choose to fight against them, you aren’t accepting the reality of life. Limits are reality.
Before I continue, I need to say there are different kinds of limits. Some limits are about rules and sin. Some limits are about wisdom and common sense. Some limits are about walking through a crisis. A crisis is something that happens outside of us and ruins our limits. Today we will talk about all three.
When God created the world, He built limits into His creation.
8 Then the Lord God planted a garden in Eden in the east, and there he placed the man he had made. 9 The Lord God made all sorts of trees grow up from the ground – trees that were beautiful and that produced delicious fruit. In the middle of the garden he placed the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
15 The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it. 16 But the Lord God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden – 17 except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.” NLT Genesis 2:8-9, 15-17
Adam and Eve lived in the garden of Eden. There were two unique trees in this garden. The tree of life gave them the ability to live forever. The tree of knowledge gave them the knowledge of what was good and evil. All they needed to do was trust God and not eat from the tree of knowledge. If they lived in the limits God gave them, they would live in a perfect world – forever. No sin. No shame. No death. No COVID-19. No politics. No pandemic.
1 The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”
2 “Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. 3 “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’”
4 “You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. 5 “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”
6 The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too. 7 At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves. NLT Genesis 3:1-7
Adam and Eve decided to live outside of God’s limits. Why? They didn’t accept the reality that God loved them. They believed that God was holding out of them. They wanted to live with no limits. They wanted to be like God. So they trampled over their God given limits.
What happened? You know the story. They were removed from the Garden of Eden. That meant they could never eat the fruit from the tree of life, so they would ultimately die physically. That meant they were removed from being in a close relationship with God, they would die spiritually. And they were cursed in life. For Eve and all women, pain in childbirth and always wanting control while never getting control. For Adam and all men, always working hard to make a living.
We all have limits in our lives. You have limits in your life. I want to ask you how you deal with the limits in your life? Do you recognize the limits in your life? Do you fully embrace them? Do you relax in your limits? Do you fight against your limits? Do you try to live like limits don’t exist?
Chances are, like Adam and Eve, you want to be like God and live with no limits. We all do, it’s called sin. You may struggle to fully embrace the reality that God loves you with the limits He placed around you. And you may think that God is holding out on you. You may conclude, I have a better way to live and it’s living outside of the limits God created for me. You may think, ‘I will be ‘god’ of my life and I will live with no limits.’
When we live outside of our limits, that’s when we do enormous damage to our lives. Why? We expect too much from ourselves and too much from others. With God, we no longer serve God, we expect God to serve us. What damage is done? When we come up short of our own expectations or when others come up short, we become frustrated, disappointed, and angry. And when we are at our worst, when we are living way beyond our God given limits, we burn out. In that burned out condition, we do damage to ourselves, our relationships with others, and we can be resentful to God for not doing what we wanted. What is it that you hear from people? We are so exhausted and so busy and so stressed.
Think about this for a second. When we live beyond our limits, we struggle to simply enjoy our life, enjoy others, and enjoy God. We can’t enjoy life because we are expecting too much from ourselves and others. We can’t enjoy God, He isn’t doing what we need Him to do for us. Does that make sense?
As a result of living outside of our God given limits, we become miserable. In this moment we wonder, how did I get here? We may even blame our work place, our community, the news, others around us. The answer is, instead of seeing our limits as a gift from God, we resented our limits. Instead of seeing how God loves us, like Adam and Eve, we think God is holding out on us. Instead of trusting God we want to be like God. We don’t trust that He will come through for us so we must make something happen. And this is the core of rebellion against God. We just refuse to embrace the reality of life that God has given us limits.
What did Sam say last week? He asked us, ‘Can you relax?’ Then he added, ‘Can you relax in Jesus?’ One of the reasons we struggle to relax in Jesus is because we fight our limits. We fight against trusting God. Remember when Sam pointed out that Jesus told us to trust Him 98 times in the book of John? Why did Jesus tell us to trust Him, to relax in Him, 98 times? Because He knows our struggle.
Sam read for us an interaction between the disciples and Jesus
28 “What must we do to do the works God requires?” 29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in The One He has sent.” NIV John 6:28-29
Our work on earth is to believe. Believe in Jesus. Why? If we believed, we would trust, we would relax, we would live in our limits.
I want to ask you how you deal with the limits in your life? Look at your life, what is happening inside you emotionally? How are you feeling spiritually?
Let’s go a little deeper. Some limits we must live with. They are reality. Other limits we must push through to grow up. So how do we know the difference?
Some limits you cannot change. Your physical body. Your intellectual capacity. Your talents and gifts. Your wealth. Your time. Your life-stage. The family you were born into. These things are our realities.
Some limits we have, God is asking us to break through. Examples from scripture. When Elijah was depressed, God told him to go back where he came. Timothy was young and insecure but God anointed him as a leader. Gideon had 300 men to take on 135,000 Midianites. Mary had to face possible scandal to give birth to Jesus. There are moments when God asks you to do something and it will require you to break through your limits.
And that’s how you know. When God leads you or asks you to follow Him, you go. Your personality style doesn’t matter. Your spiritual gifts don’t matter. Your likes and dislikes don’t matter. Your fear and anxiety don’t matter. Maybe God’s talking to you through scripture like cleaning up your life from sin or harmful choices. Maybe God’s talking to you through a responsibility you have like being a father, or teacher, or leader. Maybe God is speaking to you through a wound you have and God needs you to take steps to be healed and not stay wounded. Maybe God is speaking to you through immature choices or immature relationships and God needs you to face reality and overcome challenges to grow up.
Before I close today, I want to talk about one of the hardest things we will face. What do we do when we have to walk through a crisis? What do we do when the crisis is so intense, we question ourselves, God, the church. We discover for the first time that our faith does not appear to ‘work.’ Our good feelings about God seem to evaporate. We begin to feel darkness, helplessness, weariness, a sense of failure or defeat. When we wonder if faith is real and our prayers don’t seem to work. When we feel totally and utterly lost. We call this: Crisis.
We all have limits. How tall we are. The family we were born into. Our life-stage. But this limit is so much more intense. Crisis. If we could, we would probably ask God, “What do I do when I walk through my crisis and You seem a million miles away? I feel so defeated, so lonely. What do you expect from me?”
Let’s turn to scripture. Before I read this, did you know that Jesus did not have all His prayers answered?
36 Then Jesus went with them to a garden called Gethsemane and told his disciples, “Stay here while I go over there and pray.” 37 Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he plunged into an agonizing sorrow. 38 Then he said, “This sorrow is crushing my life out. Stay here and keep vigil with me.”
39 Going a little ahead, he fell on his face, praying, “My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this. But please, not what I want. You, what do you want?”
40 When he came back to his disciples, he found them sound asleep. He said to Peter, “Can’t you stick it out with me a single hour? 41 Stay alert; be in prayer so you don’t wander into temptation without even knowing you’re in danger. There is a part of you that is eager, ready for anything in God. But there’s another part that’s as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire.”
42 He then left them a second time. Again he prayed, “My Father, if there is no other way than this, drinking this cup to the dregs, I’m ready. Do it your way.” MSG Matthew 26:36-42
Jesus knows the time for Him to be betrayed, beaten and whipped, humiliated and die is now. He said,
“This sorrow is crushing my life out.” vs 38.
What does He do? Jesus turns into the pain and prays. He is completely honest.
“My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this.” vs 39
Grieving, dealing with a crisis means you must be honest with your anger, sadness, loss, fear, everything.
Jesus continues, “But please, not what I want. You, what do you want?” vs 39
In Jesus’ prayer, He’s begging God to not make Him walk through this. But ultimately, Jesus sees the conflict between what He wants and what God wants. Jesus surrenders to the limit of his life. He walks through His crisis.
This is probably the hardest thing we will ever walk through. To be faced with the reality of life and the pain and realize, God has allowed this to happen. We feel confused and disoriented. No one likes this. We want quick and easy solutions. To wait on God could mean months, maybe years. This means losing a sense of control, no perfect plan to follow, no clear ending. It means a loss of time. There are no perfect categories. No Christian bumper stickers will help. No Christian books about success living will help. You are left with a confusing time period when you just don’t know when you will make it through. That’s the reality of a crisis.
Like Jesus, we enter into it. Don’t ignore it. Avoid the temptation to try to figure out what God is up to and take short cuts. Embrace your limits and give your life to God. And yes, it hurts. It feels lonely. It feels defeating. We pray and we purge our emotions. We share everything with God. Our anger, fear, loss of control, anxiety, all of it. We stuff nothing; it must come out in prayer. This isn’t about trying to be nice; it’s about being honest with God.
Joni Eareckson Tada knows a lot about limits. When she was a young girl, she jumped into a lake, hit a rock and broke her neck. She was paralyzed from the neck down. She wrote:
The cross is the center of our relationship with Jesus. The cross is where we die. We go there daily. It isn’t easy.
Normally, we will follow Christ anywhere – to a party, as it were, where he changes water into wine, to a sunlit beach where he preaches from a boat. But to the cross? We dig in our heels. The invitation is so frighteningly individual. It’s an invitation to go alone.
When suffering forces us to our knees at the foot of Calvary, we die to self. We cannot kneel there for long without releasing our pride and anger, unclasping our dreams and desires… In exchange, God imparts power and implants new and lasting hope.
Please hear me. We all have limits. And, if you fully embrace your limits and relax in them, you accept the reality of life. And if you don’t fully embrace your limits and choose to fight against them, you aren’t accepting the reality of life.
Success is surrendering our lives to Jesus. That includes living inside of our God given limits. Why? That’s where we find peace.