Have you ever asked the question, “What limits God?”
Every now and then I listen to Joel Osteen. It’s not really intentional, but usually I am flipping through channels and come across his broadcast. And when this happens, many times what he is saying applies directly to something currently being experienced in my life.
This past Sunday night was no different. As Joel talked about having God’s favor IN THE MIDST of life’s storms, he uttered these words:
”God is not limited by our conditions. He is limited by our thinking.”
These words hit me like a ton of bricks! And has been echoing through my soul ever since. How often do we look at the size and intensity of our circumstances and think they are too big for God to handle? But, when we read Scripture, we are repeatedly introduced to a God who is CAPABLE! God has no problem with being ABLE to change situations, circumstances and people.
IS GOD LIMITED?
And then there’s a particular passage (in Matthew 13:53-58/Mark 6:1-6) where Jesus Christ, (the Son of God who is shown in the gospels to be able to heal every disease, sickness and raise the dead), shows up in his hometown with the intention of doing many miracles. However, the Bible states:
“Now He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief” (Matthew 13:58).
“Now he could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He marveled because of their unbelief. Then He went about the villages in a circuit, teaching” (Mark 6:5-6).
Jesus was only able to do a few miracles in his hometown. Why? Because the bulk of the people he encountered were filled with thoughts of unbelief, disdain, arrogance and contempt. Their thoughts limited what Jesus could do. Only a few who were desperately sick, believed he was able to heal them… and they received his blessing.
There are only two instances in the gospels where it’s stated that Jesus marveled. One is in Mark 6 which was just stated. Here Jesus marveled at the people’s level of unbelief. The other account is in Matthew 8: 5-13. Here, Jesus met the Roman centurion who wanted him to heal his servant with but a word. Jesus marveled because of this man’s great level of faith and understanding. Listen to what the text says:
“When Jesus heard it, [the Roman centurion's reply] He marveled, and said to those who followed, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!’” (Matthew 8:10). Italics added.
I know we don’t want to think of God as limited. Ultimately God is not limited by anything except the limitations he puts on himself. That’s right. God – the All Knowing, All Powerful, All Present One who spoke the universe into existence and created all there is… self-limits himself. He chooses to act or refrain from acting based on the rules and parameters he has set in place. And these rules are not arbitrary.
OUR FREE WILL
But why does God self-limit himself? Because we – humanity – have been given free will. We can choose to invite God into our lives or to go through life on our own. We can choose to accept his invitation to participate in the story he is telling the world through Christ, or we can be busy trying to create our own stories where we are the main character and he has a minor supporting role at best. In many cases we create stories where God is misrepresented or altogether absent!
Yes, we have been given free will and God will not override what we truly want and desire. So, Jesus could walk into his hometown (as we read above) with the desire, power and ability to do many miracles, but be limited because of those who thought he was getting “too big for his britches.” And Jesus could also encounter a man who wasn’t even a part of his own ethnic group, yet who had more faith in him than his own people, and could receive a tremendous blessing from him as a result.
Even in Hebrews 4:2 we read the following: “For indeed the Gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it” (NKJV).
Here, the writer is talking about how many of the Hebrew people God delivered from Egyptian slavery never made it to the promised land he had waiting for them. Even though they saw God’s miraculous deliverance through the 10 plagues and the parting of the Red Sea, they still could not divorce themselves from their own “stinkin’ thinkin’. Their thoughts limited what God wanted to do in their lives. The result was that almost an entire generation died in the wilderness and God raised up their children to inherit what had been waiting for them all along.
YOUR APPROACH MATTERS…
As you can see, according to the Scriptures, Joel Osteen’s comments is spot on!
”God is not limited by our conditions. He is limited by our thinking.”
So, it matters how we approach God and how we approach the situations and circumstances of our lives. What we believe about God, his ability to intervene and his willingness to sustain us will determine HOW we make it through the storms of life. It will also determine whether or not we make it through at all!
“But without faith it is impossible to [walk with God and] please Him, for whoever comes [near] to God must [necessarily] believe that God exists and that He rewards those who [earnestly and diligently] seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6, AMP).
Now, I am not saying that God will give you and I everything we want, when we want it. But God will give us what we need to endure and overcome the struggles we face on a day-to-day basis! Sometimes that means deliverance FROM situations. Other times that means deliverance THROUGH situations. And then there are those times when God will cause us to CIRCUMVENT situations altogether.
What you must do – no matter the situation – is fight to surrender your negative thinking and beliefs to Jesus Christ, so he can begin to work out his Will for you. Your problems may be bigger than you and your ability, but they are NOT bigger than God. Nor do they take God by surprise! He is more than able to bring you through every situation better and not bitter!
I will close this post with Romans 12: 1-2:
”And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Be a living and Holy sacrifice – the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (NLT).
God WANTS to do more in our lives than we can even imagine. But for him to do so, we must open our hearts and minds to him. If we fail to surrender ourselves, then we are ultimately the ones who lose out on what he has to offer us: an intimate relationship with him through Jesus Christ which will affect and transform every area of our life for his glory and our good!
In what ways are we allowing our thoughts to put limits on God?
Take time to pray and ask God to help you believe what he says to be true about himself according to his Word, the Bible. Then read it for yourself, take it to heart and begin to put it into action. Start with the Scripture passages mentioned in this post.
Let me know what you think.
-Allen Paul Weaver III -