“For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” (Romans 12:3)
It’s wise for all of us to know our limitations. We all have limits to our talents, abilities, understanding and knowledge. God, too, has set limits on us. He has not gifted or “graced” us to do it all. The context of Paul’s admonition, as you read on, is about gifts and offices of service. In the verses that follow, he says, “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them…” (Romans 12:6). The fact that the grace differs for each of us is evidence that none of have it all. We all have limits.
There are some things I know I can do. That’s not a boast. It’s confidence in His grace on my life. There’s a measure of faith I have to step out and serve God with the abilities He has given me. I know that when I step into the pulpit, His ability will enable me to deliver His Word with power. It’s that confidence, that measure of faith, that gives expression to the grace of God He’s entrusted to me. Paul says we’re not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought, but to realize that we are limited to a measure of faith.
Every believer has some grace or giftedness from God (see Ephesians 4:7). We are to steward that by using it to build up and edify the Church (see Ephesians 4:16). God has made an investment in each of our lives, and He’s looking for a return on His investment. As Peter says so succinctly, “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” (1 Peter 4:10).
So far so good. The rub comes when we begin to look at our lack of ability in certain areas and become disheartened, or even envious, because we cannot do what others can. Sadly, there are those who live their whole lives frustrated in God’s service because they wrongly assumed that because they cannot serve God in the same fashion that someone else does, they’ve somehow been shortchanged by God.
I want to drop a thought in your mind that maybe you’ve never considered before. Forget about your limitations! No, I’m not talking about moral weaknesses or areas of our lives we need to submit to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, but rather those areas where we don’t seem to be particularly gifted. There’s a good reason why you can’t do certain things. You’re limited. So am I.
This is counter-intuitive to our thinking in the West because we’ve all heard that good parents tell their children, “You can do anything you set your mind to.” The fact is, we can’t do anything we set our minds to, and to think that we can will ourselves into abilities, natural or God-given, that we do not posses is to set ourselves up for frustration and disappointment.
Too often in the church we spend time trying to be a better singer, a better speaker, a better leader, or whatever it is others do, while looking past the one or two things we do really well and for which we are obviously gifted. We’ve heard a lot about thinking outside the box, and there’s a time to do that, but when it comes to this, we need to be looking inside the box at what we already have, appreciating the things God has entrusted to us.
When we stand before the judgment seat of Christ, we will not give an account for what we weren’t called or gifted to do. God will ask, “What have you done with what you’ve been given?” We will have either been faithful, investing His gift into the purpose for which He gave it, or we’ll be like the wicked and slothful servant in Matthew’s parable that hid his Master’s talent in the ground (see Matthew 25:14-30).
The longer I serve God, the more comfortable I am with all the things I can’t do. God has entrusted me with what He saw fit to give me to serve Him acceptably. If I’m diligent with that, I can stand before Him with boldness, knowing I have been a good and faithful steward.
Embracing our limitations helps to us appreciate the gifts in others. It also helps us to narrow our focus and be more effective in developing ourselves where God has truly called us. So, instead of trying to improve our weaknesses, I believe we need to soar with our strengths, learning to steward well the grace God has given us. Doing so will help us grow in confidence as we serve God in the sweet spot of His ability in our lives.