Guest speaker Yan Hadley spoke last night from Isaiah 54:1-3 on ‘living beyond your limitations.’ There are some limitations or restrictions which God gives us which are for our own good, but many of the limitations we accept are not from God. Personal circumstances, financial restrictions, unbelief, apathy, unforgiveness and a sense of inadequacy and inferiority can all limit what we do, but there are 4 things which can change how we live in regard to limitations.
- Positive expectation
- Practical preparation
- Persistent determination
- Promised culmination
The world tells us that ‘seeing is believing’, but the Christian life involves believing before we see. Isaiah tells the barren woman to sing and rejoice. Even if circumstances don’t seem favourable, we are called to praise God in faith. Jesus said at the tomb of Lazarus, before he raised him, that ‘if you will believe, you will see the glory of God.’ (Jn 11:40) Caleb and Joshua did not let the negativity of the other 10 spies influence their faith in God. We have to learn to see beyond our limitations to the unlimited possibilities with God, how barrenness can give birth to new life in Him.
There are practical things we are called to do, however, as Is 54:2 makes plain. ‘Enlarge… lengthen… stretch…strengthen’ are the key words here. We have to prepare and train, just as runners do before undertaking races or Sir Edmund Hillary did before climbing Everest. Prayer and fasting, Bible study, intercession and evangelism are all ways we can prepare to do what God has called us to do. We might need to learn practical skills, as William Carey did in learning many languages before going as a missionary to India. As Henry Longellow puts it, ‘The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night.’
Persistent determination is also required if we are to live beyond our limitations. We must not give up or give in. A fear of failure can hold us back, but even if we fail frequently, that does not mean we can’t succeed! Peter may have sunk, but he also actually walked on water! As the SAS put it, ‘he who dares wins.’ Is 54:2b reminds us not to hold back. God’s grace is able to make us abound in every good work (2 Cor 9:8). The boy with just a picnic lunch was able to help feed over 5000 people. The disciples who listened to Jesus caught many fish after a fruitless night’s work. We must not let mockery, fear, doubts and disappointments stop us from attempting great things for God.
If we do our part, we can be sure that there will be a promised harvest (see Gal 6:9, Is 55:11). Is 54:3 tells us ‘you shall spread out to the right and to the left.’ There will be growth and expansion. Faith expressed in praise, preparation and persistence will reap the rewards of God’s faithfulness.