Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.1 The saying is trustworthy, for:
If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself. —2 Timothy 2:8-13
Lately I’ve been thinking about limits. Not city limits. Not credit limits. My limits.
I had back surgery a week and a half ago. When you have back surgery, you are instructed to rest. No twisting, lifting, or bending. No driving. Wear a cumbersome back brace that inhibits anything else you feel like doing. For someone who likes to feel useful, having these limits is really a drag.
It’s not the first time I’ve felt limited. As soon as I got married, it became clear that my skills at loving another human being well were very limited. I felt limited when I was pregnant and had no control over how or when those babies were coming out. I am limited in my knowledge; limited in my time; limited in my resources.
It’s one of those things I stubbornly refuse to accept. So God has to keep reteaching me. Over the years, through all of the God-designed situations which bump me up against my humanity, I have heard Him talking to me. I know exactly what He’s saying.
“Be still. Be quiet. Your job this time is to rest. You have limits because I made you that way. I’ve got this.”
And I believe Him. I do. But can’t I do just a little more God?
Today, I think I heard Him tell me, “Yes.”
“Yes, my daughter, I do have more you can do.”
What? What is it God?
“Go get your Bible.”
“And pray through my word.”
Oh, that. Well, yeah God…but I meant…could I do something.
Yes, I said that. To the God of the Universe. I told Him that praying His word was not enough today. I told Him I ought to be able to do more. It wouldn’t have been wrong for Him to chastise me with a lightning bolt. My error was that huge.
After all, this is GOD’s word we are talking about. The unchained, free, limitless word! God spoke, and whole solar systems were formed. Jesus spoke, and the winds and waves were stilled. He said three simple words, “Lazarus, come out!” and raised a dead man to life. With three more words—“It is finished”—He declared all His people saved from sin and raised to life. How dare I look down my nose at the thought of praying scripture?? (Or, perhaps, how dare I be so lazy?)
Paul met His limits in a prison. A dark, dirty, cold, lonely prison. He was bound in chains (talk about limits!) But what did he do? He rejoiced in the limitless gospel of Christ! He spoke the true word to himself and to his friend Timothy and took heart the fact that this word has power that cannot be stopped by prison walls. I wonder if he repeated to himself verses like this:
To all perfection I see a limit, but your commands are boundless. —Psalm 119:96
So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. —Isaiah 55:11
I cannot claim to be powerful in any way, but when I pray using scripture, something miraculous happens. Not that they are magic words that I can wield for my own selfish wants. But praying scripture gives my unsure tongue words to say. Praying scripture makes my requests more attuned to the Father’s will. The days I remember to pray with scripture, I feel more complete in my confessions, more sure of His forgiveness. Because I have the confidence that praying scripture brings, I feel more at rest in my limitations. And I do, I truly do, believe that God’s word does not return void.
Charles Spurgeon, a man whose prayers dripped scripture, said: “The best praying man is the man who is most believingly familiar with the promises of God. After all, prayer is nothing but taking God’s promises to him, and saying to him, “Do as thou hast said.” Prayer is the promise utilized. A prayer which is not based on a promise has no true foundation.” Only thing better than a Spurgeon quote is a quote from the Bible, right?
How then to end this study on my limitations and the unbound word? I think, a prayer.
Our Father, who art in Heaven, praise to your name! (Matt. 6:9) Have mercy on me, a sinner. (Lk. 18:13) Paul said that he was sure you were able to guard what he entrusted to you; (2 Tim. 1:12) please give me that kind of faith. Forgive me for the pride of wanting to do everything myself, wanting to be more than you have made me to be. Psalm 16:6 says, “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places.” And so it must be true; my limits are good. But you, Lord, are mighty! Your word is not chained, and you are not limited. Spirit, remind me of God’s promises (Jn. 14:26) that I might pray them. And after I have prayed, give me the promised peace that transcends all understanding. (Phil. 4:7) In Jesus’s holy name I pray. (Jn. 14:14) Amen.