DEALING WITH LIMITATIONS
He who trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe.
A verse in the Book of Proverbs says, "He who walks in wisdom will be delivered."
The Hubble Space Telescope was first deployed in April 1991 and was expected to revolutionize astronomy. It was thought that it would see farther and more clearly than any before it. Soon after its launching, however, it came to be labeled as another Titanic. - A failure. - Because of a flaw in its manufacturing, the telescope was unable to focus properly. Delicate repairs had to be made. There are limits to human ingenuity and technology.
In view of the tremendous strain our fast-paced world pits against faith, Proverbs encourages us to "walk in wisdom." This word today, then, is meant to encourage us to be REALISTIC about limitations, to be HONEST about them, and to be WISE concerning them.
For us to be realistic in this regard simply means that limitations do exist, and it would be wise to acknowledge the fact. It's foolish to think otherwise, but that's exactly how some modern thinkers would like to lead us. They want us to place faith in mankind's own ability to overcome all obstacles.
The ideals sometimes painted for us are admittedly beautiful. Some would have us think that they're able to lead us into overcoming all poverty and hunger, and that all the people of the many and vastly different cultures of our world can finally be persuaded to live in harmony and mutual respect. It isn't happening on the grandiose scale predicted by secular humanism, though. Jesus said the poor would always be with us, and He gave no guarantee of earthly health, wealth, glory or success. He often spoke of tribulation and cross-bearing, instead!
We have heard society make the claim that virtually anyone can do (or be) whatever he-or-she wants with hard work and a strong enough attitude of self-confidence. Reality shows us that unplanned and unpleasant things can and do happen, though. They happen to us all.
We experience circumstances over which we have no control, so let's be realistic about it! - Sometimes requests for donations flood our mail. We're limited and can't respond to them all. Aging produces certain limitations. A person's state of health can be very limiting. "A mother's work is never done."
Here are some concrete examples from the Bible...
Joseph had no power against the false accusation of Potiphar's wife and was thrown into prison. -/- Job couldn't lift himself out of all his sufferings and perhaps never even knew that they came from Satan's personal contest over him with God. -/- The "man born blind" could do nothing to make himself see. -/- The Apostles couldn't afford the time it took away from God's Word and prayer to serve food to widows, even though one of them wrote that "God-pleasing religion" includes watching over widows and orphans. They had to delegate the responsibility. -/- St. Paul had the "thorn in the flesh" that hindered him in some ways, but God's grace was sufficient for him. -/- Even in areas of professional Missions and Ministry, Scripture teaches, the Spirit of Jesus may shut doors that no human can open. ---- The Bible therefore points us to the fact that wisdom admits the reality of limitations.
We likewise need to be honest about them. We bring about many of our limitations ourselves! We're sinners! - Sin came into the world through the one man, Adam, but spread to us all. Besides our "original sin" natures, though, we do commit actual deeds of sin and omit deeds of righteousness.
St. James characterized it like this:--> "You desire and do not have; so you kill. You covet and cannot obtain; so you fight and wage war. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly to spend it on your passions." - And St. John nails us with honesty:--> "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us."
Sin also brings consequences! That is, we bring limitations down on ourselves. - King David said, "If I kept nursing the sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened." Sin causes separation from God and ultimately even death! It has brought general limitations to all of us together, and particular limitations to each of us personally.
Adam's and Eve's transgressing of God's command and shifting the blame brought curses to us all. They include the labor of child-bearing and the "sweat, thorns and thistles" we encounter in trying to make an honest living. Also yet to come is the curse of returning to the dust from which we came.
Balaam was prevented by God's Angel, lest he proceed to sin against God's plans. -/- Jonah was stopped dead in his tracks in trying to run from God. He experienced the truth expressed in a Psalm:--> "Where shall I go from Thy Spirit? Or where shall I flee from Thy presence? If I ascend to Heaven, Thou art there! If I make my bed in Sheol, Thou art there!" -/- Jeremiah said, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it? I, the Lord, search the mind and try the heart, to give to every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings." That implies consequences for sin! Continual abuse of one's body in some way, for example, will reap its destruction, the Bible says. ---- So let's be realistic, and also honest about our limitations!
The third item mentioned in the beginning is also to be wise, and we can deal wisely with our limitations through repentance and faith! - A good definition of "wisdom" is to sensibly apply the truths we learn over time. The Bible tells us wisdom begins with a proper "fear of the Lord," which means repentance and faith.
Repentance requires two things...
First, it involves the continual acknowledgement of our sin and limitations before God, because, as St. John wrote, "If anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous One." Likewise necessary, though, is the resolve to change what needs to be changed! That doesn't mean simply changing something for its own sake, but to line oneself up in God's Will, imploring from Him the wisdom implied in the famous Serenity Prayer - to change what ought to be. - St. James encourages us to pray for wisdom!
Faith requires two things as well...
More important than all else is the trust in Jesus Christ as BEING our "wisdom." (1 Corinthians 1:30) - To "walk in (the) wisdom" that "delivers," as Proverbs says, is to fully rely on Christ's substitutionary walking in the wisdom that fully followed God's every command. It's also to receive with respectful faith that Jesus endured the most extreme consequence of our sin as He hung on the Cross totally separated and utterly forsaken by God our Father - so we wouldn't have to be. - This most fundamental aspect of faith also believes and confesses that Jesus was raised to life again as God's certain sign that the "wages of sin" were PAID through Christ's suffering and death!
Through His atoning work God both covers and blots out our foolish and sinful behavior, and He therefore promises to faithfully guide us in the right paths. Proverbs says elsewhere:--> "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge HIM and He shall direct your paths." THAT's real "wisdom"! (Proverbs 3:5-6)
The second important aspect of faith is that, along with such absolute dependence on Christ, it seeks to express itself in "walking wisely" in a person's day-to-day experiences - in other words following some basic principles that can be Biblically substantiated:
One such principle is to focus on your own strengths and USE your personal gifts, rather than to be side-tracked by your weaknesses and limitations. -/- Another principle would be to operate on a basis of priorities. A lot of stress may be due to not observing certain priorities. Devote yourself to what's truly important, in other words, rather than expending energy and resources on what's trivial. If you've determined to send financial support for some specific mission work, for example, DO that and then don't feel guilty about having to turn down so many other requests that inevitably come. - Jesus Himself once left healing crowds of adoring fans in order to go preach to new crowds. -/- A principle in line with that would also be to seek God's priorities for you in gratitude for His Blood-bought gift of redemption. David's desire to build a Temple, for example, was NOT God's plan for him. God's Spirit shut the door for St. Paul to work in Asia, but then opened one WIDE for him to go to Macedonia! ("In ALL your ways acknowledge Him, and He SHALL direct your paths.") -/- And one other wise principle is to accept the help of others, receiving it as coming from God Himself. - Jesus accepted Mary's anointing at Bethany. Even the hands of Moses had to be held up in battle against the Amalekites, and he needed the assistance of many others in governing Israel. The Apostles had to allow others, like Stephen, to serve tables.
Let's be REALISTIC. We have certain limitations that we can't overcome! - Let's be HONEST. Many of our limitations are consequences of sin, both generally and personally. - Let's be WISE, dealing in every way with our limitations by repentance and faith in Christ's atoning grace and following His teaching.
"He who WALKS in wisdom WILL be delivered."
(How can the thrust of this message be balanced with Saint Paul's words that "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me"?)