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Limiting God's Power

It's more than we know.

Barriers to Encouragement (2)

“Then I will also confess to you
That your own right hand can save you.”
Job 40.14

Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God.”
Matthew 22.29

Job’s problem…
Job had a problem, but it’s not the problem that is most obvious. Job’s trial was that he had lost his children, wealth, and wellbeing. His friends had turned on him in a most dismissive manner. And even his wife seemed to have given up hope for his recovery.

This was Job’s trial. But it wasn’t his problem. Job’s problem was that he could not figure out why he had been subjected to this trial, and he was persuaded that he had every right to know, and that God owed him an explanation.

In chapter 28, having rebuffed his friends and their pop-theology approach to his trial, Job turned to God. He knew that God understood his problem. God knows everything, and He promised that those who fear Him – as Job certainly did – would have wisdom and understanding as well (Job 28.23-28). But he felt as if God had abandoned him (29.1ff). Life was good when God was with him, caring for and watching over him by His power. But now, that was all done (chapter 30), and Job was bitter. His trial was getting the best of him, and God was shedding no light on the matter. Had he fallen out of the power of God? Had God decided to ignore him and withhold His providential care (30.20ff)? Job reasoned that, if he had done anything to deserve all this suffering, then by all means, let it come (31.13ff). But if not, he deserved an explanation.

Job demanded a fair hearing from God (31.35ff). He wanted an audience with the Almighty, where he would declare his innocence and demand an explanation for his trial.

Job’s problem, as he saw it, was that he did not have the understanding of his trial that he knew God had, but that God was for some reason withholding from him. And Job was operating out of a skewed view of the power of God, one that considered that God’s power ought always to work the way he thought it should.

Job’s problem was that he failed to perceive the vast scope, infinite majesty, constant working, and ultimately mysterious ways of the wisdom and power of God. And thus he was limiting the power of God.

…and ours
Jesus might have said to Job what He said to those religious leaders who tried to catch Him in a theological puzzle: Job, you don’t understand the power of God, because you do not know the Word of God.

Job’s problem is often ours. Though our trials may not be as severe as Job’s, like him, we tend to think that the power of God only operates according to our understanding of things. The religious leaders who accosted Jesus thought themselves quite clever and knowledgeable about the Scriptures. But you can know the Scriptures inside-out, and you can be abundantly blessed more than any person on earth, and you can still limit the power of God.

We limit the power of God when we think it ought to be wielded only according to our puny understanding of things divine and mysterious. The power of God, we think, ought to keep us safe and happy, take care of all our needs, and not require of us more than we’re comfortable undertaking. The power of God, that is, should be predictable, safe, and beneficial.

The power of God is always beneficial, but it’s not always predictable or safe. If we believed that the power of God – for example, the power promised to make us witnesses for Jesus Christ, or to enable us to obey and teach His Law – is always beneficial – for His glory, our enrichment, and the blessing of others – wouldn’t we be more ready and eager to acquire and exercise that power, whether or not it was predictable or safe?

Following Jesus is not always safe. Sometimes doing what Jesus calls us to do in serving Him can lead us into unpredictable situations, where we need to be constantly in communion with Him to know where He’s leading.

And where we may be subjected to trials we otherwise might not choose.

But the power of Jesus is always beneficial. It is always at work to do that which is according to the pleasure of the Lord (Phil. 2.13). And it is always able to do in and through us exceedingly abundantly more than we have ever dared to ask or think (Eph. 3.20). We limit the power of God by thinking of it in our terms rather than His.

God set Job straight about the enormity and mystery of His power, and all its beneficial applications, by a whirlwind tour of creation and the ways God’s power works to keep it all going. Jesus corrected the religious leaders’ ignorance of God’s power by further teaching from His Word. If we are limiting the full scope, majestic sweep, illimitable applications, and transforming mystery of the power of God, we need to look more deeply into the Word of God and pay more attention to the world around us.

This way to greater faith

And then we need to pray and call upon the Lord to give us a bigger vision of the possibilities for knowing, loving, and serving Him. Cry out to Him to fill us with His Spirit continually, so that we walk by faith and not by sight, and in the power of God’s Spirit rather than the puniness of our own strength. Like Peter, we need to seek God for things exceedingly abundantly above all we ever dared to ask or think, and to grant His power to be at work in us, making us willing and able to step out onto the waves of life.

Then we need to act as the Lord leads, taking small but constant steps in the direction God is leading, resting in His power and promises for the courage we need to restore our part of the reconciled world. Let the power of God that holds the cosmos together, raised Jesus from the dead, and flows to us from His Word do its transforming work in you as you obey the Lord’s encouragement to follow Him each day.

Then, when God meets you with His power, and you respond to His encouragement, be sure to give Him thanks and praise, and to bear witness to His greatness and power, just like Job did (Job 42.1-6).

When the Spirit of God is encouraging you to do something new or different or more than before, be assured that He has the power to do what He is calling you to do. He will meet you in your prayers and next steps to give the courage and power to fulfill whatever He is calling you do to. You may not always know how that’s going to work out, and it might even be a little risky; but the power of God that encourages and moves you to obedience always acts in ways that benefit us and glorify Him. Keep focused on that, and you’ll be less likely to limit His power when He comes to exert it through you.


For reflection
1. How was Job limiting the power of God? What about the religious leaders who confronted Jesus?

2. What are some ways we limit the power of God in our walk with and work for Him?

3. How do prayer and obedience work to tap into the power of God for courage to follow Him?

Next Step – Transformation: Where is Jesus calling you to follow Him boldly today? Prepare for this in prayer, then plan the next steps you’ll take in obeying Him.

T. M. Moore

Small Stuff

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
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