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I have heard it too many times, and I’m guessing you have, too: “Did you hear that so and so have left, and are going to the church across town?”

I invested deeply in them, answered crisis calls, baptized their kids, served them without reservation, but they left and didn’t say a word. Ouch! I know I’m not alone. Not today, not historically. John the Baptist faced the same thing:

After this, Jesus and His disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where He spent some time with them, and baptized. Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were coming and being baptized. (This was before John was put in prison.) An argument developed between some of John’s disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—look, He is baptizing, and everyone is going to Him” (John 3:22-26, NIV).

You and I know the feeling all too well: “Why are people leaving our church and going to that one?” John’s response struck me hard: “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven” (v. 27).

I would have asked: “After all I’ve invested in them, why do I hear about this from someone else? What about the pastor over there? I thought we were friends! Why didn’t they let me know?”

Rather than trying to solve the anxiety of his followers, John declared that he had limits. “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven.” Nothing more, nothing less. He not only declared his limits, but he embraced them.

Think for a moment about our limits. We live in a physical body that is decaying even as you read this. With our 24/7/365 culture, there is work to do and a kingdom to advance. Yet studies consistently show we need between seven and nine hours of sleep a night to function well. Our physical bodies are a limit to all we want, or even feel called, to do.

Your marital status is a limit. The apostle Paul made it really clear that if you are married, it will limit what you can do. And if you’re single, we know the same is true.

If you have kids, you have built-in limits. They demand attention, time, care. There will only be so much you can do and experience because you have kids.

Our intellectual capacity is a limit. You cannot be brilliant in literature, math, physics, engineering, music, dance and then some. No one gets to. Our time, finances, gifts, talents and even our knowledge of God—all limited. Nobody has it all. The list could go on.

Even Jesus gave Himself limits when He left heaven and stepped into our world. Spend some time counting all the times that Jesus said no. You might be surprised at the number.

You can overextend your limits from time to time, but only for a while. I’ve learned that when I cross my limits continually, I quickly end up in the devil’s territory.

Consider these three practical suggestions:

  • Name and embrace your limits. If you are always running late to meetings (I’m preaching to myself here!), it is possible that you are trying to do too much. Your time is limited. Name it as a limit and adjust your commitments accordingly.
  • Invite those close to help you discover them. If you are married, ask your spouse what they see as your primary limits. Is it your own self-expectation (to do all things or be all things to all people) that drives you to over-commit? If you are single, ask the same question of a close friend or family member.
  • Celebrate your limits by living within them. Readjusting your commitments and your time may be reflected by an ability to show up for meetings on time (or even early!). We can celebrate, enjoy and appreciate being with others while at greater peace and presence.

Revel in the freedom of not having to be, do, have, or even give, everything. 

“A person can receive only what is given them from heaven.” Nothing more, nothing less.

As Foursquare ministers, our movement invests in our health and wholeness by providing places we can go for rest, recovery or recalibration from the overextension of limits that life, ministry and/or our own self-expectations too often demand.

Foursquare has two Centers for Spiritual Renewal (CSR), one in Christiansburg, Va., the other in Los Angeles. They offer a week of free lodging every year for Foursquare credentialed ministers. While there, you can take advantage of time with me (CSR—East) or Robby Booth (CSR—West) to help gauge how you are handling the limits you are engaging. You will be so glad you did, and so will those closest to you.

For more information and to connect with Center for Spiritual Renewal (CSR)—East or Center for Spiritual Renewal (CSR)—West, visit the CSR webpage.

is director of the Center for Spiritual Renewal (CSR) East in Christiansburg, Va.