You know the six New Year’s Resolutions I recently shared?
Yeah, I forgot one. And my act of forgetting only serves to highlight the importance of this resolution:
I resolve to rejoice in my limitations.
For those of you scratching your heads, let me share why it matters.
In my work, relationships, and ministry (both at church and with LRI), I want to make the most of my life for God’s glory. That means working hard, setting goals, and pursuing growth.
I’d love for my ministry with Leadership Resources to bless all of Latin America by making God’s Word more accessible to pastors and their churches. I’d love to grow this blog and impact more people with the truth. I’d love to write a book someday. I’d also like to be a great friend and relative to those around me. And thank God, He is allowing me to grow in these areas (sans the book).
But I want to speed up the process. I want to strip off the chains of limitation so I can have 36 hours in a day, eight days a week, be in two (or more!) places at once, read books like Al Mohler, write epic things like C.S. Lewis, blog like the blogfather Tim Challies, and preach like any number of great preachers out there.
But I’m limited, and no amount of elbow grease or caffeine will ever change that. Much of what I claim as God-given ambition is pride in disguise—and pride hates limitations.
Whether you’re a pastor, parent, or pew-sitter, you need to learn to rejoice in your limitations. Here are a few reasons why.
1. Human limitation is part of God’s perfect design in creation.
If God designed it, it is good (Genesis 1:31). Not just good; PERFECT. When David wrote that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” in Psalm 139, he described finite human beings—not super-powered mutants one step below God. Our weak and limited selves are fearfully and wonderfully made. Rejoice in your limitations because they are part of God’s perfect design.
2. Remember that life would be awful if sinful human beings were limitless.
Imagine with me for a second that human beings were limitless. How much more would sin be ravaging the world? How much could our bosses demand of us? How hopeless would people be to find satisfaction or meaning in life (think of the book of Ecclesiastes)? I think you get the point. Limits are a good thing.
3. Jesus took limitations on Himself.
Did you realize that the Creator of the universe spent nine months in the womb of a woman? His first bed was probably a dirty food trough for an animal that needed a bath. A lot of people wanted Him dead. He worked most of His adult life in a carpenter shop cutting wood, assembling furniture, and providing customer service to people in Galilee. He bore the mocking, shame, and torture of crucifixion because He loved sinners and wanted to reconcile them to His Father. If Christ humbled Himself in such a way for us, we should follow His example—and rejoice (cf. Philippians 2:5-8; 4:4).
4. God doesn’t need us.
God created the heavens and earth by breathing them into existence. He created billions and billions of people over the course of human history. And He doesn’t need measly-old you or me to accomplish His purposes. That’s a good thing, because we aren’t the saviors—He is. It’s even more astounding when you realize that even though He doesn’t need us, He chooses to use us.
5. God uses limited people.
Everyone that God has ever used in the history of the world has been limited. They have experienced failure and know what it means to feel useless. And God used them. Think of the guy whose loaves ‘n’ fishes sack lunch made history—in the hands of Jesus, his lunch fed over five thousand because God chose to use him.
What can you give God and ask Him to use?
6. Our limitations remind us of our need for God.
If we could do it all, we wouldn’t depend on God. This is why I often find my prayer life waning when things are going well—I forget my need for God. Let your limitations drive you to set your heart on God and quit loading yourself with burdens you were never meant to carry. He wants to carry our burdens and we can trust that He is faithful to do so. And when we feel weak, God promises that His grace is sufficient and that His power is perfected in our weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:9).
7. Faithfulness in small things adds up over a long period of time.
I’ve heard it said that many in ministry overestimate what they can accomplish in one year and underestimate what they can do in five years. In ministry and in life, there is a beautiful compounding nature to faithfulness’s fruit over time. Don’t give up. Don’t say that anything is too small to give to the One who gave all.
8. We can set realistic expectations knowing God doesn’t call us to the impossible.
You’re probably like me and have fallen into the unrealistic expectations trap before. This trap may be best illustrated as being stuck running in a hamster wheel: a lot of energy is exerted, but after all my effort, I’m in the same place—and still unsatisfied because I want to accomplish more than I’m able. And. It. Is. Exhausting.
God doesn’t expect us to do more than humanly possible—so we shouldn’t either. If you are in Christ, then you are accepted by God because of what Christ has done and not what you do. This allows you to enjoy true rest in Christ and rejoice in your limitations like Martyn Lloyd-Jones did.
At the end of his long and influential ministry, Welsh preacher Martyn Lloyd-Jones lie on his deathbed without the ability to do the work that characterized his life. A friend came and asked him how he was holding up being limited and unable to do the preaching, teaching, and pastoring that he so loved. Lloyd-Jones’ response, straight from Scripture, shows us the joy we are to have, “Do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20).
There is always a reason to rejoice in God’s perfect design, His unshakable Sovereignty, and His unfailing love for those who believe.
May the Lord recalibrate our hearts to rejoice in our limitations and treasure our Savior.