THE PROBLEM IS NEVER WITH GOD
For the past several years, our family has spent the last weekend in August at my brother-in-law Jim’s home in Taber, Alberta, Canada. Taber is famous for its bumper crop of succulent corn. Every year the small town hosts Cornfest to celebrate the harvest. The festivities include a carnival, outdoor concerts, a craft fair, and fireworks, plus 5k and 10k runs.
Five years ago my daughter Carrie decided she wanted to join the rest of the family on the run. Carrie is a marvelous ice skater, but she’d never participated in a formal footrace before. I decided the fatherly thing to do was to let her run with me. In my younger days, my keen competitive instincts would have steered me clear of any impediment that might hinder my chances at a medal. But after undergoing decades of God’s teaching me life’s true priorities, having gained much wisdom in my middle age, and having put on fifty pounds since my university days, I decided to forgo any chance of finishing near the top. I offered to run with my little daughter.
Carrie, knowing her dad’s competitive nature, demanded assurance that I wouldn’t abandon her in the heat of the race. I promised her I was running only for enjoyment and it would be great fun to accompany her—regardless of where we placed. In fact, I said, anytime she wanted to stop running and start walking to catch her breath, I’d happily comply.
The starting gun fired. My wife and two sons were among the “keeners” at the front of the pack, and they quickly disappeared from sight around the first bend.
As my daughter and I loped along at an easy pace on that beautiful morning, I joked with her and encouraged her. After only two blocks, Carrie wanted to slow to a walk. It seemed a little early for our first rest break, but I told her that was fine by me. Dozens of young people whizzed past us as we leisurely walked along enjoying the morning air.
After a few minutes I asked Carrie if she was ready to try running again. She was. But after only a few more blocks, she asked to walk again. No problem. Young adults were streaming by. Then middle-aged people began passing us. Some older women were overtaking us at a brisk walk.
I exhorted my weary daughter to dig a little deeper so we could push forward. We ran, but soon she was complaining that her side hurt. I reluctantly agreed to walk again. In this pattern, our “race” continued.
Then it happened. I heard them coming. I was surprised anyone was still behind us, but sure enough, a middle-aged woman pushing her elderly mother in a wheelchair serenely glided past, leaving us to eat their dust.
That was too much. “I will NOT lose to THEM!” I wheezed. “I’ve got my limits!”
We staggered off at a trot. I could just make out the finish line on the horizon. My legs were aching. My breath was coming in short, painful gasps. But we were slowly gaining on the wheelchair.
Then Carrie, too, noticed the crowds cheering and waving at the finish line in the distance. Suddenly she underwent a metamorphosis. The hesitant little girl I’d been tenderly coaxing throughout the race immediately found her second wind. She accelerated rapidly. The lights had come on. She was possessed.
Carrie torpedoed past the wheelchair, her eye on the prize.
I tried to keep up, but there were only fumes left in my tank. I made a heroic last effort, barely edging out the octogenarian and her daughter before crossing the tape.
Carrie waited for me at the finish line with a water bottle and a handful of fruit. She wasn’t even winded.
Later that day, we were met with a huge surprise. At the awards ceremony, Carrie received a beautiful first-place medal for her age category. (They handed out oxygen masks for mine.) I’m so glad Carrie grew dissatisfied with her performance, even though she had no idea a prize was waiting for her just around the corner.
Carrie has since won another medal, and as I write this, she’s training for a 10k race coming up soon.
What’s my point? My daughter always had the ability to be a medal-winning runner, but she’d set the limit for herself far below her capacity. She might have been satisfied to remain there too, had I not finally urged her to push on to another level.
The Bible describes the Christian life as a race (1 Corinthians 9:24–27; Philippians 3:12–14; 2 Timothy 4:7). This Christian race is one in which every participant has an equal opportunity to be spectacularly successful. It all depends on how much the person wants to succeed.
The apostle Paul claimed he ran life’s race to win the prize (1 Corinthians 9:24). Unfortunately, many Christians set their sights far too low. They’re satisfied to plod along in dreary, unrewarding spirituality, unwilling to pay the price for greater spiritual accomplishments. They may be comfortable, but they’re not experiencing nearly as much as they could. They’ve inadvertently chosen to limit their experience of God.
Here’s another picture. God invites His people to a richer experience: “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know” ( Jeremiah 33:3). Almighty, infinite, all-knowing God welcomes people to come to Him and to allow Him to reveal things from His heart and mind that would amaze them. Yet when was the last time you learned something brand-new from God that was “great and mighty”? Many Christians today receive this enormous invitation, and yet we rarely experience a fresh, dynamic encounter with God. It’s not that the Lord isn’t willing to reveal more exciting truths to us; we limit our own capacity to receive more from Him.
The problem is never with God. The obstacle is us. We’re far too easily satisfied. We limit God in our lives.
God “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Ephesians 3:20). Have you seen Him do things in and through your life that absolutely amaze you in their magnitude? If you haven’t, why is that? After all, the Bible says God wants you to experience this.
Again, the impediment is not God. The problem lies with us. We’ve become too easily satisfied with spiritual mediocrity. Some of us have become so used to a powerless life that we’ve come to think of it as normal for the Christian. It is not. God has more for us to experience and to do than we could imagine. We limit God’s activity by our own choices. This book is for those whose spiritual lives suffer from self-imposed limits. Does that describe you? Have you grown complacent in your walk with God? Do you assume you’ve already reached the pinnacle of what you’re going to experience in your Christian life? Wouldn’t you rather grow stronger in your faith, enjoy new victories, and reach higher levels in your walk with God?
Whatever unnecessary limits you’ve accepted in your spiritual life, my prayer is that you’ll determine to break through the barriers that keep you from reaching an entirely new level in your relationship with God.
It’s time to unlimit God in our lives and to invite Him to do what He longs to do in and through us—knowing that He’s prepared to respond to whatever it is we seek from Him.
I’ve had the tremendous privilege of traveling around the world and seeing God’s kingdom expanding on six continents. I’ve met incredible Christians and been in dynamic churches that are experiencing God working through them in amazing ways. But I’ve also sensed the spiritual lostness among teeming multitudes in Asia, in massive townships in Africa, in isolated villages on the Amazon, and among affluent, spiritually indifferent crowds of businesspeople in downtown districts of the world’s major cities.
Clearly, despite all the modern church is doing to extend God’s kingdom, it’s not enough. We’re losing ground. The number of unbelievers worldwide is growing faster than the numbers of believers.
I’ve worshiped with fellow Christians from around the world as we praised God for His mighty power. Yet God’s power seems to be in short supply in many churches today. Countless congregations are divided,
many others have reached a plateau or begun a steady decline—yet they sing every Sunday of God’s awesome strength.
Clearly the status quo of modern Christianity is inadequate. More of the same won’t bring us any closer to God’s rule on earth. As Christians today we must reach an entirely new plane in our walk with God.
Churches must believe and serve their Lord at a higher level than they’ve experienced so far. There’s too much at stake for Christians and churches to keep doing business as usual.
God is looking for people who are willing to pay the price to obtain a qualitatively different walk with Him. Will you be one of those people? Are you prepared to unlimit God in your life so you can experience
Him the way He has always wanted you to?