Limitations: The Ones We Respect and the Ones We Transcend by Tony Cooke

Limitations: The Ones We Respect and the Ones We Transcend
Tony Cooke

Limitations by Tony CookeThere are two types of limitations. There are legitimate limitations that we should respect, and there are perceived limitations that we should transcend. Wisdom in life is knowing which limitations are valid and are to be respected, and which limitations are illusions that are meant to be conquered.

It’s more exciting to preach about the limitations we get to (with God’s help) transcend, but it’s needful that we recognize limitations that we should respect. For example, if you try to engage in “limitless” activities, you will have no focus in your life. You’ll be trying to do so many things that you’ll do nothing effectively. Wisdom teaches us to limit ourselves appropriately and strategically so that what we do is meaningful and fruitful.

In other words, it’s way better to do a few things well than to do many things poorly. Blaise Pascal said, “We must learn our limits. We are all something, but none of us are everything.” The Apostle Paul understood the principle of limiting himself to what God had actually assigned him to do.

2 Corinthians 10:13 (AMP)
13 We, on the other hand, will not boast beyond our legitimate province and proper limit, but will keep within the limits [of our commission which] God has allotted us as our measuring line and which reaches and includes even you.

When we recognize the role that God has given us, the assignment that He has for us, it helps us know what to say “yes” to, and also, what to say “no” to. Failure to understand and respect one’s limitations can have tragic consequences.

Jude 1:6 (NLT)
6 …I remind you of the angels who did not stay within the limits of authority God gave them but left the place where they belonged.

Jacob understood the physical and “endurance” limitations of those under his care, and he treated them accordingly. After what could have been a very tense reuniting with his brother, Esau said to Jacob, “let’s be going. I will lead the way.” Have you ever felt pressure to keep up with someone, to measure up to someone else’s expectations? Jacob wisely responded, “You can see, my lord, that some of the children are very young, and the flocks and herds have their young, too. If they are driven too hard, even for one day, all the animals could die. Please, my lord, go ahead of your servant. We will follow slowly, at a pace that is comfortable for the livestock and the children. I will meet you at Seir” (Genesis 33:12-14, NLT).

Jacob recognized some legitimate limitations, and those under his care were blessed because of his wisdom. I’m a wise person if I recognize that there are some legitimate limits. I’ll be safer and not pay fines if I observe the speed limit when I drive. I’ll be healthier if I respect the limits of my physical body and make sure I get proper rest. I’ll be able to apply myself realistically to life if I accept the fact that I’m not going to be drafted to play in the NBA next year.

While there are proper and legitimate limitations that we should observe, there are also pseudo-limitations that we can transcend. One of the things that made Walt Disney great in terms of his contributions to the happiness of people of all ages was his attitude about transcending limitations. He said, "It’s kind of fun to do the impossible."

I recently read the following about Lucille Ball. “Lucy grew up with a burning desire to be in show business. She left home in 1927 at the age of 15 and headed to New York City to study drama. After a short time her drama instructors sent a letter to her mother DeDe, stating that her daughter had no talent and was too introverted to make it in show business.” Anyone who knows anything about her illustrious career knows that her supposed “limitations” were radically transcended, and she became one of the greatest comedic actresses in America.

I’ve read from various sources about what is involved in training elephants. I’m sure you’ve heard the old adage, “Elephants never forget.” Trainers apparently capitalize upon that, beginning when an elephant is young and small. It is said that they will tie a rope to the ankle of the elephant and tie the other end to a stake that is driven firmly into the ground. The baby elephant quickly learns that when it feels tension on the rope, that it can go no further, and eventually quits trying.

Even when the elephant becomes a powerful adult and is capable of easily yanking the stake from the ground, it doesn’t even try. Why? Because it’s been programmed mentally to believe that when it feels the least bit of tension, it can go no further. So even though the adult elephant is now capable of going wherever it wants, it doesn’t try. It is “limited” by a misbelief… one that was true when it was a baby, but is certainly no longer the case.

I wonder how many believers are bound today by mental ropes? People are often intimidated by past failures, or simply by fears based on prognostications of, “You can’t do it; you’ll never succeed.” How many are being held by limitations that God wants them to transcend? God had so much more for Israel than they ever experienced, and this grieved God. Psalm 78:41 (NKJV) says, “Yes, again and again they tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel.”

If we only see our potential in terms of our own abilities and our own resources, we’re probably going to set our sights pretty low. On the other hand, if we see our potential in terms of God being with us and God being for us, we can have much greater expectations. As a matter of fact, Paul strongly encouraged this when he said, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us…” (Ephesians 3:20, NKJV).

There is a “spirit of faith” that believes with God’s help, we can go further, higher, and deeper. There is an attitude that simply doesn’t want to settle for mediocre or the bare minimum. Wilfred A. Peterson summed this up when he said, “Every forward step achieved by man has been due to the adventurous attitude. This attitude inspires dissatisfaction with the world as it is; it arouses the desire to change and improve things. The attitude of adventure is the flame that lights the fuse to explode new ideas."

Jessie Owens, winner of four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, powerfully expressed the significance of passion that endures. "There is something that can happen to every athlete and every human being; the instinct to slack off, to give in to pain, to give less than your best; the instinct to hope you can win through luck or through your opponent not doing his best, instead of going to the limit and past your limit where victory is always found. Defeating those negative instincts that are out to defeat us, is the difference between winning and losing – and we all face that battle every day."

Complacency and lethargy are great enemies to achievement. It’s easy to get comfortable in routines and to let past accomplishments be the measure of tomorrow’s goals. God is not a relentless taskmaster, driving us incessantly toward exhaustion, but if we listen to Him and get His direction, we’ll find that He will empower us to accomplish great things for His glory. Daniel 11:32 says, “…the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits.” Neil Simon said, “If no one ever took risks, Michelangelo would have painted the Sistine floor.”

Peter learned about transcending limitations when he loaned Jesus his boat.

Luke 5:1-11 (NKJV)
1 So it was, as the multitude pressed about Him to hear the word of God, that He stood by the Lake of Gennesaret, 2 and saw two boats standing by the lake; but the fishermen had gone from them and were washing their nets. 3 Then He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat.
4 When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”
5 But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.” 6 And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. 7 So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”
9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” 11 So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.

I love the way the Message Version renders verses 6-7… “It was no sooner said than done—a huge haul of fish, straining the nets past capacity. They waved to their partners in the other boat to come help them. They filled both boats, nearly swamping them with the catch.”

What did Peter learn on this day? He learned that when you cooperate with Jesus and have good partners, you can transcend what have been your limitations in the past.

In summary, a person who thinks they can transcend all limitations is foolish and will end up in trouble. A person who thinks they are bound by all limitations is captive and will end up achieving little. A person who knows the difference between legitimate limitations and conquerable limitations is wise and will end up doing great things.