Breaking The Barriers Of Limitation
By Pastor Michael Olawore
New Wine Church, London
Foundation Scripture: Isaiah 54: 1-3; Judges 6: 11-15
Sunday 2nd February 2014
In the course of the series, 'Enlarge Your Territory' we have looked at a number of messages including 'The Unlimited God', 'Enlarge Your Capacity for Your Blessing' and 'What does Enlargement Mean to us?' in which we examined the vision of New Wine Church. We continue our journey of understanding today by looking at the barriers that seek to hinder us from experiencing enlargement. This is our year of enlargement and it is God's desire that you expand, go further, go beyond and prosper. However, whilst accepting this as being true, it is important to understand and grasp certain realities. Nothing just happens. There are barriers in this life which are designed to restrict and restrain you. You, however, must be prepared and willing to break those barriers that seek to hinder you and step out into what God has planned for you. We see this truth at play in the account of Gideon's encounter with the angel of the Lord in the book of Judges. The people of Israel had been oppressed and intimidated by the Midianites to such a degree that when the angel of the Lord met with Gideon, he was threshing wheat in hiding in the winepress. Having been addressed as a 'Mighty man of valor' and that God was with him and that he would save the people of Israel from the Midianites' oppression, Gideon's response was to focus on everything that appeared to contradict what the angel of the Lord had announced. He first complained that if God indeed was with them, they would not be going through such oppression and concluded that God had forsaken them. Having been told of his assignment to end the oppression of the Midianites, he then concluded that he was incapable of the mission, being the least in his father's house, which was from the smallest clan in the tribe of Manasseh.
The mandate given to Gideon represented enlargement and expansion, however, all that Gideon could see was the barriers that stood between him and the mandate. Gideon, having evaluated himself, his background and his prior experience, concluded that he could not possibly experience expansion and enlargement and had no business expecting this to be his reality. However, for enlargement to happen, you must be willing to confront limitation. Every one of us must be prepared to take a stand and confront the barriers which stand between our current reality and the promises of God. If we are serious about the fulfillment of God's purpose for our lives, confrontation with the forces that work day and night to frustrate the purpose of God is inevitable. This is the case for us as individuals and for the corporate body of Christ: we must be willing to confront our limitations.
In Isaiah 54 we are told 'Sing, O barren, you who have not borne! Break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not labored with child!' It is an instruction to break out from whatever has hindered and held us back, to burst out and break out of the shell of confinement and break forth into singing and rejoicing nonetheless. In order to experience enlargement there must be a willingness to answer the call to intensification of prayer and faith. It also demands a willingness to leave our comfort zone. In Genesis 15:5 we are told, 'Then He brought him outside and said "Look now towards heaven and count the stars if you are able to number them." And He said to him "So shall your descendants be."' In order for Abraham to begin to even conceptualize enlargement, God had to bring him outside. Staying where you used to be does not bring about enlargement. There are situations that we must break through but we must be willing to step out of where we are. This scripture also confirms that Abraham was instructed to 'Look now towards heaven'. This speaks of a change of perspective and a need to see differently. The good news is that despite whatever barriers there are which may seek to hinder and restrict us, we are able to break through and step into the enlarged territory that God has designed for us.
Ephesians 3: 20 says, that God 'is able to do exceedingly and abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us'. This makes clear that there is power working in us and therefore notwithstanding the enemy's desire to confine us, we can be confident that we will grow, prosper and enlarge. It is important to understand that when we are enlarging our territory, the enemy is losing ground. When God promised that the descendants of Abraham would inhabit the Promised Land, the land was already occupied but the Lord promised to dispossess the inhabitants of the land. Every step of enlargement and expansion that you take therefore results in diminished territory for the forces of darkness.
There are many people who never experience enlargement and expansion as they are unwilling to deal with the barriers of limitation and as a result, live unremarkable and average lives. You however have not been called to live an average life. You were created to thrive and to succeed. In John 10: 10 Jesus spoke of His mission that we may experience the abundant life. It is nothing short of tragic therefore for us to settle for average lives and agree to live below our potential. Let's look together at four key barriers which must be broken in order for us to experience enlargement:
1. The Barrier of the Familiar - In Genesis 12, God called Abram out of his country and instructed him to leave his family and kinsmen, telling him 'Get out of your country, from your family and from your father's house to a land that I will show you.' No one can reach you in your familiar surroundings and you cannot reach the world. There is no call to greatness that keeps you where you have always been. Unless you are prepared to step out of the familiar, expansion and enlargement will not be realised.
2. The Barrier of Human Limitation - In order to experience enlargement, we must be willing to break through and beyond our human limitations and refuse to allow them to stop us. In Exodus 3, we read of Moses' encounter with God in which he repeatedly sought to persuade God to accept that he was incapable to undertaking the assignment to deliver Israel from slavery and oppression on the grounds of his inability to speak. God however, merely reminded him of His Lordship and limitless power. Similarly in Jeremiah 1, the prophet sought to persuade God that he was unable to undertake his assignment as he was merely a youth. We must not focus on our human limitations but keep our focus on God.
A compelling example of one whom has refused to allow human limitation to restrict or restrain him is Nick Vujicic whom was born without arms or legs and yet has refused limitation and a mediocre life and instead traded self-pity for a life of purpose. He has used the apparent limitation of his disability as a springboard on which to challenge others to refuse to accept limitations and embrace God's purpose for their lives stating, 'It's a lie to think you're not good enough' and 'If you cannot get a miracle, become one.'
3. The Barrier of the Past – In Exodus 16: 3 we see the children of Israel, despite having experienced God's dramatic deliverance from Egyptian oppression longing for the past, "Oh that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full!" Many of us fall into this very same trap. Every time you step out to fulfil destiny, the past, whether in the form of past failures, past sins or even past successes seeks to pull you back. The children of Israel had no motivation to press ahead whilst they wallowed in misplaced nostalgia. You must refuse the past permission to frustrate your future.
Let me tell you about a man: He lost his job in 1832 and in the same year was defeated for state legislature. He failed in business in 1833 although was elected to state legislature in 1834. His sweetheart died in 1835 and he suffered a nervous breakdown in 1836. He was defeated for the position of Speaker in 1838 and a a year later was also defeated for nomination for Congress. He was elected to Congress in 1846, however lost re-nomination in 1848. He was rejected for the position of Land Officer in 1849, was also defeated in election for US Senate in 1854 and was also defeated for nomination for Vice President in 1856 and was again defeated for US Senate in 1858. It is clear that this is a man whom encountered significant barriers, defeat, rejection and misfortune in his life. Many people would have given up and resigned themselves to failure after such a catalogue of pain and rejection. However in 1860, this same man was elected as the 16th President of the United States; this man was Abraham Lincoln whom is regarded as one of the greatest ever presidents in the history of America. Question: what will you do with the barriers that seek to hinder you?
4. The Barrier of Self-Limitation – This is potentially the most damaging of barriers as your opinion of yourself is the image and impression that others will accept from you. In Judges 6, Gideon's responses to the angel of the Lord were laced with negativity. His evaluation of himself and his ability was informed by his poor self-image and negative experiences. The truth is that we all go through challenging experiences in life. The issue becomes however, how those experiences will leave us. Our experiences cannot be permitted to allow us to lose our identity but instead must become a springboard from which we are propelled forward. You must not allow your experiences of life to stop, define or limit you.
God told Gideon that He was with Him. We often underestimate the significance of this statement. This means that notwithstanding our failings, frailties, errors, inabilities and weaknesses, God's strength, wisdom and limitless ability is with us and available to us. Paul in 2 Corinthians 12 provides an important lesson to us as to how to face the challenges of life and it appears that God is not responding. What do you do? Do you give up or do you wait and listen to the heart of God? Paul spoke of having cried out to God for relief from the 'thorn in the flesh' on three occasions and being told 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.' When God says "No" it is a prompt to us to draw upon His grace rather than to become bitter towards Him. The challenges of life must improve rather than defeat us.
Briefly, in order to experience enlargement we must:
(i) Recognise that God is with us, focusing on His ability rather than our abilities or lack thereof. In Genesis 28: 15 God told Jacob, "Behold I am with you and will keep you wherever you go." This is our promise too.
(ii) Change our perspective and determine to see ourselves only in the way that God sees us. God does not see our frailties and weaknesses but sees the giftings and abilities He has deposited within us. It is our responsibility to see ourselves only through the lens of the word of God.
(iii) Walk in faith, standing only on the word of God. In Hebrews 11:8 we are told that it was by faith that Abraham obeyed God's instruction to come out of his homeland, not knowing where he was going. We must be driven by faith.
I challenge you therefore to rise up in the strength of God and reach out and go beyond where you have ever been. We have no excuse not to enlarge our territory, make an impact with our lives and see enlargement and expansion become our experiential reality. This year 2014 must not pass without you becoming all that God has called you to be.
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