This past Sunday, we looked at the limitations of Jesus in Mark 13. When I got to thinking about Jesus’ limitations, I thought also about the limits that other people in the Bible faced, where God then swoops in and does the unthinkable.
God doesn’t do miraculous things through perfect people that can handle it all themselves (if such a person exists). God works miracles through brokenness. I am struck by a passage in 2 Chronicles (a book that I tend to avoid unless I am having insomnia). In 2 Chronicles 20, God’s people are about to go into battle against an enemy that they can’t possibly defeat. They are smaller, less equipped, and simply not up to par with the enemy. They could have trained extra hard, and thought creatively to increase their weaponry, relying entirely on their own strength (or what little of it they had). But they didn’t!
In 2 Chronicles 20:12 the leader of God’s people prays, “We are powerless against this great multitude that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” This sets the army of the Israelites up for a miracle.
Recognizing our limitations poises us to do much greater things through reliance on God.
The amazing thing that happens after this prayer is an example of God’s people recognizing their own limits and relying on God to do the seemingly impossible. The Israelites head into battle after fasting and worshipping and praying, with very limited strength and resources, to find everyone already dead on the battlefield with abundant riches scattered about. What happens, if you read the story, is that more than one strong enemy come up against each other and utterly wipe out each other. By the time the Israelites get to the scene, everyone is dead…their enemy has been defeated and an even scarier enemy is also defeated.
While Israel was fasting and praying and recognizing their limits, God was working the miraculous.
I think that when we take the time to recognize our own weaknesses, our own humanness, our own brokenness, and fix our eyes on God; it allows the all-powerful One to act on our behalf. The Apostle Paul says, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” This often-cited passage seems to be a call to pull yourself up by the bootstraps. But it is not! Paul is not saying that he will find strength because he is a believer. He is saying, quite passively, that Christ will give him the strength he needs. He is a vessel—God is the actor.
When we cease to see our limitations as potential failures, and instead look at them as opportunities for something bigger to happen, God works in powerful ways. “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” This humble prayer reminds us of our powerlessness and of his powerfulness. It reminds me that when I am weak, He is strong.
If you are dealing with something that seems overwhelmingly larger than your capacity to handle it, look to the example in Chronicles… “I don’t know what to do, but my eyes are on you.” Ask yourself, “What can God do with this?” And then wait for an answer.
Sometimes this means setting better boundaries yourself on what you are doing with your time and energy. Sometimes this means learning to reprioritize your life because you are limited. And sometimes this means that God will work through a seemingly insurmountable obstacle on your behalf. As you head into Holy Week, ask yourself where God is showing you your limits, and turn that into an opportunity for God to act.
*For regular readers, this is going to be the last post until after Easter. Next week, during Holy Week, I would encourage you to check out the Seven Last Words Devotional put together by Grant Vissers, here. After Easter, resources will be available on the blog to start our new series on Stewardship called “Living Richly.” Check back for details later!