Are you tired? Stressed? Overworked? Anxious? Are you told you can do it all, but your stamina says you can’t? What does the Bible mean when it says, “I can do all things through Christ”? How should you embrace your God-given limits?
Bible Gateway interviewed Sean McGever (@seanmcgever) about his book, The Good News of Our Limits: Find Greater Peace, Joy, and Effectiveness through God’s Gift of Inadequacy (Zondervan, 2022).
Why is the concept of limitation a good thing to be aware of?
Sean McGever: Have you reached your limit recently? If you answer “yes,” you aren’t alone. Yesterday, my wife’s friend asked me what my recent book is about. I answered, “That we can’t do it all.” She replied, “Isn’t that the truth.” Yes, it is the truth! It almost needs no explanation because we all experience limits in our lives. Most people stop thinking about limits right after they recognize them. They say, “Yes, I know I have limits.” And that’s the end of it.
In my book, I ask the next logical and crucial question that, for whatever reason, people don’t ask. The question is this: Why do we have limits? When we think about why we have limits, we begin to think about our lives in new ways. Christians know why we have limits: we’re not the potter, we’re the clay. Simply put: we’re not God. Paul makes it clear that we’re tempted to “worship and serve created things rather than the Creator” (Rom. 1:25). An awareness of our limits gives us peace that it’s human to be limited. Our limits help us be aware that God designed us intentionally limited to redirect our worship and service from humans and to the Creator.
[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, How to Establish Boundaries in Your Life: An Interview with Dr. John Townsend]
How is Philippians 4:13 mistakenly interpreted?
Sean McGever: Philippians 4:13 is an obvious and well-documented example of how people read meaning “into” a Bible passage that isn’t there regarding our limits. As I show in The Good News of Our Limits, God did not design humans to “do all things.” Christians have imported the spirit of the age and the culture of individualistic autonomy to twist a passage that’s about contentment in the midst of circumstances that are outside of our control. The New International Version adjusted their translation to correct this misunderstanding. The 1984 NIV reads, “I can do everything,” while the 2011 NIV reads, “I can do all this.” The 2011 NIV rightly prompts the attentive Bible reader to ask “what is ‘this?’” The reader, then, should look at the preceding verses to understand what this verse really means. Philippians 4:13 does not teach unlimited human potential, it is about God’s unlimited resources whether we have much or little.
How is the act of reassessing our capacities an act of worship?
Sean McGever: Peter and James both quote Proverbs 3:34 (1 Peter 5:5, James 4:6), which teaches us that God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble. The lesson is clear: if you’re proud, God will oppose you; and, if you’re humble, you’ll receive grace. I need all the grace I can get. When we reassess our capacities, we realize we’re limited, and it’s humiliating. Humility is fertile ground for grace. What if God designed our human limits to humble us so we open our eyes to the goodness of God’s grace? Our limits are catalysts for us to praise God from whom all blessings, and all grace, flow.
[See Bible Gateway Blog posts that introduce you to the Bible]
Considering that we’re daily bombarded by information and we have limited capacity to take it all in, why should reading the Bible be our first source?
Sean McGever: God intends the Bible to be our first source of information because it’s unlike any other information available to us. The Bible isn’t simply just information, it’s living and active (Heb. 4:12) in a way that no other book, conversation, text message, blog, podcast, etc., can ever be. The Bible, as God’s Word, is unique and rightly called special revelation.
Most of us have easy access to many understandable translations of the Bible; reading the Bible ourselves frequently should be our first step. There’s an important place for pastors, experts, and wise Christians to assist us in reading and understanding the Bible. Since our capacity for information is limited—the “hard drives” of our brains have a maximum capacity—we’re wise if we preselect the limited sources we want in our lives. Most Christians know they should read the Bible, but our limited capacity for information gives us another reason to prioritize it as the most important resource for our lives.
[See the Scripture Engagement section on Bible Gateway]
What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?
Sean McGever: I conclude The Good News of Our Limits with a Bible passage I love and it speaks to the key points of my book: Ephesians 3:20–21 (NIV) — Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Some of my friends are “dreamers.” God uses their incredible vision and ambition to accomplish things that few others considered possible. When my “dreamer” friends started reading my book, they were a little frustrated. As dreamers, they don’t like the idea of limits. And they told me! I replied, “Wait until you read the last three chapters of my book.” In those chapters, I explain how God leverages our individual limits by filling us with the Holy Spirit and putting us in communities (the church) to accomplish his plans. When my dreamer friends thought back on some of their accomplishments, they replied, “You’re right. It was never me alone. I can see how the Holy Spirit guided me to collaborate with others to accomplish great things.” This is one of the ideas behind Ephesians 3:20-21.
God has immeasurable power (omnipotence); we don’t. Yet, this power is at work “within us” through the power of the Spirit. And notice the plural “us” in the verse, this is the church. While God made us intentionally limited individual beings, the Holy Spirit and our collaboration in the church allows us to see how God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.
The Good News of Our Limits is published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., the parent company of Bible Gateway.
Bio: Sean McGever (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is area director for Paradise Valley Arizona Young Life and an adjunct faculty at Grand Canyon University. He speaks, teaches, and ministers across the United States, Canada, and the UK.
Study the Bible with confidence and convenience by becoming a member of Bible Gateway Plus. Get biblically wise and spiritually fit. Try it free right now!