Choosing to Live for God Despite Our Limitations

Dear Friends,

I've been thinking lately about the Apostle Paul.  He strikes me as a man who liked being active, always on the go, always doing something.  As a result of God's call on him he went on 3 missionary journeys, planting churches in the places he visited, teaching, encouraging and supporting new Christians.

Later in his life he is placed under house arrest for approximately 2 years, his freedom is taken from him, he is no longer allowed to travel to do those things God had called him to do.

We read in Acts 28:16 "When we arrived in Rome, Paul was permitted to have his own private lodging, though he was guarded by a soldier." (NLT)  Even though he was in his home, he didn't have complete freedom within that setting, he was constantly chained to a soldier who guarded him.

That must have been so hard for Paul to adjust to, being chained and confined to his home, not able to do the things he enjoyed doing, not able to go where he wanted, visit who he wanted.  That's tough for anyone, but I think it must have been particularly so for someone like Paul.  It could have been so frustrating for him, he could have chafed at his imprisonment, he could have struggled with feelings of uselessness, he could have given in to feelings of self-pity, he could have resigned himself to the limitations and restrictions he's placed under, he could have become bitter and angry, or  upset and heart broken that he's no longer able to do that which he knows he's been made for.  He could have spent the time complaining about his circumstances, in despair over the way his life has turned out.

But Paul didn't do any of these things.  Instead, he continued to live his life, as he always had, on purpose.  Instead of focusing on the things he's not able to do any more he focused on what God was calling him to do in his present season of life. He chose to live for God despite the limitations imposed on him. Even while he was physically confined to his home, he was not useless, his physical freedom had been taken from him, but he was still free to make certain choices about his attitude and mind-set.  There was still a contribution he could make within the restrictions imposed on him.  He may not have been able to go travelling as he once had sharing the good news, teaching and encouraging, but while he was imprisoned God brought people to him, including the soldiers who guarded him, and Paul could still share the good news about Jesus with them.  "He welcomed all who visited him, 31 boldly proclaiming the Kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ. And no one tried to stop him." Acts 28:30b-31 (NLT)  Paul couldn't travel anymore to the churches he had planted, teaching and encouraging the people there, but the Holy Spirit inspired him to write letters to churches and individuals, such as Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon. These letters have blessed and helped many over the years, not just those who were Paul's contemporaries, but also us today. Paul was also committed to praying for others during his own imprisonment.  Here's just one of his prayers for his fellow believers in Ephesus:  "16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God." Ephesians 3:16-19 (NLT)

Are you feeling that you are imprisoned and confined in some way?  Perhaps because of advancing age, poor health, unexpected additional responsibilities etc.?   Are there limitations and restrictions that you need to learn to live with at this present season of your life?  Do you feel like you're no longer able to make the contribution that you once made, are you feeling useless, wishing life was back how it used to be, that you were able to do more? 

There have been times when that's how it's been for me as I've struggled to come to terms with my poor health.  Times when I've felt so frustrated with the limitations and restrictions I'm living with.  The problem is I can let my mind dwell on all the things I would like to be doing, I wish for the freedom to say I'm going to do such and such today, to be able to make plans and see them through, to think about various ways I could be serving God.  When I allow my mind to go down that route I can become miserable and feel like I have no real contribution to make.  Over time I am learning to think differently, to see things as God does, to be open to his Holy Spirit showing me how to change my thinking and my attitude.

I can choose to be like Paul.  I have the freedom to choose and determine my own attitude and mind-set.  It does me no good to deny that I am living with certain limitations, to pretend they don't exist.  The reality is that this is how my life is right now and it's healthier to acknowledge that yes, I am restricted in what I can do and to accept the situation that I am in, rather than dwelling on it in a negative way.  But I can also know that with God's enabling I can still, like Paul, live for God on purpose and my limitations can't stop me from doing this.  What can stop me is me - what I mean by this is that by focusing on my circumstances, on the things I am not able to do, I am hindering myself from recognising what it is that God has for me to do, and this then hinders me from stepping into it.

God has shown me how I can still live for God despite my limitations, I can still choose to live purposefully for him within the confines of my present circumstances, for example, by being available for my kids as they grow from teenagers to young adults, supporting my husband, being a part of a life group where we study God's Word, share and pray together, and also continuing to write for God, and in doing so share Jesus with others without leaving my home.  If in this season I can't do as much as I would perhaps like or would hope to be able to do, I can still spend time with God in prayer, praying for my family, my friends, for fellow believers all over the world.

Each one of us, no matter what season of life we are in, can still be a part of God's big plan, we may need to readjust our thinking, to realise that while our contribution is different now, it is no less significant, no less fulfilling than it was in the past. It's about asking God what he wants for us now, he has the answer after all and it's about embracing his plan and being a part of it in the here and now.  Let's not waste any more time or energy on what was or what could have been, instead let's make the most of what we can do now, and with God's enabling, live purposefully for him.

At the end of my life I want to be able to say like Paul "But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God." Acts 20:24 (NLT) and "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful." 2 Timothy 4:7 (NLT) 

To Think About:
What may be the limitations or restrictions in your life at this present time?  Ask God to help you to come to terms with them.

Spend some time with God asking him how you can live purposefully for him in this season of your life.

What are some of the things you believe God is telling you to do?



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