Why limit your television, internet viewing, or exposure to media?
Why limit yourself to buying only what you can afford?
Why limit yourself to only on sexual partner? And why limit yourself to marriage?
Why limit your ambition, dreams and potential income?
Why limit your free time by spending it on tedious disciplines like Bible reading, prayer and fasting? Seriously, fasting? Who even does that any more?
If you’ve watched television, listened to the radio, read a magazine, or been to the grocery store recently, you might have heard a similar message. Indulgence in whatever our hearts desire is the message we see everywhere we go. From beautiful things to food to newer, bigger, faster and stronger things, we are encouraged to pursue fulfillment through MORE.
But God says different.
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Mark 8:34
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
1 Corinthians 9:24-25
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive.
1 Corinthians 10:23
Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No”
to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled,
upright and godly lives in this present age. Titus 2:11-12
When my son learned to crawl, a whole new world opened up for him. And a whole new word entered both of our vocabularies. No. At times, I wondered if I would ever be able to tell him yes. No, you may not pull on the electrical cord. No, you may not eat dirt from the house plant. No, no, no, no.
I eventually found a solution—the playpen. My recently mobile pre-toddler was not thrilled about the prospect at first. I set him in there the first time with a few of his favorite toys—all baby friendly—and he shrieked at me for a good twenty minutes.
Nobody likes limits. We’re born resisting them, I think. My youngest didn’t even like being held, he resisted limits so much.
The next day, I tried the playpen again. This time, he played with his toys for a full minute before the shrieking began. Progress. Everyday I stuck him in there. I hung over the side and helped him learn how his toys worked. I read him stories, I gave him snacks, and every day, he did a little better. He figured out that even though the pen kept him confined, it was also a small world full of YES. Yes you can play with that toy. Yes, you may eat that cracker. Yes, you may jump up and down and look at yourself in the mirror!
I think God does the same thing with us. It seems like we hear Him say NO more often than not because we are learning the limits. Once we accept His parameters, it frees Him up to tell us YES whenever possible.
We don’t have to accept his boundaries. He gave us free will so we could choose to accept or reject His authority. (An option I don’t allow my son). But since it’s up to us, with His help, we must learn the boundaries and learn the disciplines necessary to maintain them.
We learn through practice. Just like my son’s confinement fits gradually ebbed through time and consistency, ours will too. If we set small, attainable goals in Bible reading and prayer, we will gradually get into good habits.
Why limit yourself? It’s good practice! No matter how hard we try we will always be limited by something. Time, space or money will inevitably hold us back. We can rage about it or accept that, as people created out of solid matter, limits are good for us. They build character.