Just 2 weeks away from running the 2nd Bible Core Course in Brisbane, I’ve found myself staring down the barrel of a problem I never expected to have.
Our inaugural school challenged me a great deal as a leader. Despite many people expressing interest in the course, our student numbers were not rising as it drew closer. We ended up with 4 students and a budget too small to afford the very basics. Regardless, I resolved not to give up, cancelling was not an option.
If I hadn’t persevered, I would have missed the opportunity for God to teach me that I didn’t have to compromise on quality because of finances. Through relying on Him, humility and creativity, we ran a school that I could feel proud of – a school that never felt second-rate despite our meagre budget.
With the school of “less than enough” now behind us, we prayed for more students this time around. In my mind, 6 would be enough, but I decided to pray for 8-10 students.
And, God gave us enough!
Then, He met my hopes.
Then, He exceeded my hopes.
Then, He exceeded my LIMIT!
My heart’s inner dialogue began to scream “ENOUGH! It’s more than we can handle!”.
As a leader, it’s a dilemma. I don’t want to turn away anyone who wants to study the Bible, but I also feel a responsibility to not put more on myself and my staff than we can handle.
How much can they handle?
How much can I handle?
And what about this idea that “God won’t give you more than you can handle”?
When I look at the world around me, I struggle with that concept. How can it be true when so many people are living lives that are certainly full of more than they can handle?
The inspiration for this thought seems to be 1 Corinthians 10:13b “God is faithful, and will not let you be tempted beyond your ability…”. But, let’s copy this ½-sentence and paste it back into its context to explore its real meaning.
Here, we have the Apostle Paul, writing to the church in Corinth. In this particular chapter, he is addressing their temptation towards idolatry. He uses the history of the Israelites in the wilderness as an illustration of their circumstance.
All of Israel experienced God and had the potential to come into what He had promised them, but few did because they had a weakness towards idolatry, sexual immorality, grumbling and putting God to the test. Comparing it to a race, he says, all the athletes run, but only 1 takes the prize. So, don’t be like the many, be like the 1! Run to win – it is possible to overcome temptation – because “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, BUT with the temptation, he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
This verse should be an encouragement to us! An encouragement that with God, it’s possible to overcome any temptation and live righteously.
It has instead become a Christian way of telling people to “suck it up”. We use it to make others feel that if they can’t bear the load they’re under, they must not be trusting in God. Can we please stop using scripture to hurt each other?!
Instead, let’s look at examples in the Bible that relate to our struggle of feeling overwhelmed by the pressures in our lives – our responsibilities, circumstances beyond our control, etc.
Moses had the overwhelming task of being the leader of Israel in the Wilderness years. When they left Egypt, they were 600,000 men, plus women and children (Exod. 12:37). Estimates suggest their total number could have been around 2-3 million and it was Moses’ job to lead them. It was no small responsibility. It was time-consuming. It was draining.
Luckily, God sent wisdom to Moses through his father-in-law, Jethro, who saw the way Moses was labouring for the people from morning to night. He advised Moses that for his sake, and the sake of the people, he needed to learn to delegate responsibility to those who were trustworthy and capable of handling more than they were already carrying! By obeying Jethro’s advice, Moses learned how to share his burden with others. (Exodus 18)
Learning from Moses’ example, we should ask ourselves: Are there areas of control I need to release or delegate to others in order to be able to handle my other responsibilities better?
Gideon was from the weakest clan in Manasseh and the least in his father’s house. Yet, God entrusted him with a massive task. Saving Israel from the oppression of the Midianites and Amalekites, who had afflicted them for 7 years. At that time, the Israelites would plant their crops only to have the Midianites, Amalekites and their livestock swarm in like locusts, devouring everything.
Gideon’s first act of obedience was one that would make him very unpopular. The people of Israel had been worshipping, and putting their trust in the gods of the Amorites. But, it would not be Baal, the sun-god, and Asherah, the goddess of fertility, who would make Israel’s crops and livestock flourish, their hope needed to be in Yahweh. Gideon had to tear down the altar of Baal, cut down the Asherah beside it and, in their place, build an altar to God.
He then called together an army of 22,000 to go up against the vast army of the Midianites and Amalekites. But God said “it’s too many”, and instructed Gideon to send some home. With only 10,000 left, God again said “it’s too many”, he wanted to leave no question in the minds of Israel – it would be by HIS hand that they were saved, not their own – so He narrowed Gideon’s army down to a measly 300 men. 300 against a vast army. And then, He gave them the victory. (Judges 6-8)
Learning from Gideon’s example, we should ask ourselves: Does God want to bring himself glory through me? Are there circumstances in my life that I need to trust God’s ability in, instead of looking to my own ability?
How comforted we can be to know that Jesus is able to relate to even the most burdened of hearts. We hear it in his own painful words in the Garden of Gethsemane “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death.”
Under the weight of what laid before him, we see him on his knees, praying to the Father. He wished to be spared the agony that was coming, but surrendering his own desires to God’s plan. Giving word’s to his heart’s inner dialogue, he cried out “Yet not what I will, but what you will.” And leaning into God’s strength, he submitted himself to death on the cross. (Mark 14:32-42)
From Jesus’ example, we learn how to: Cry out to God for His strength to endure the things we need to endure.
When I look at these examples in scripture I have to come to the conclusion that sometimes God DOES give us more than we can handle. And often life does it without God’s help. BUT, either way, He doesn’t leave us there! Though the way forward in each circumstance is different, this I know:
God gives us wisdom to change our circumstances.
God uses our circumstances to bring Himself glory.
And God strengthens us to endure the unendurable.
With the school of “too much” on the near horizon, I’ve asked myself these questions, and I’m relieved to say that God has transformed my heart’s inner dialogue to “Not my will, but yours Lord”.
I choose to see my impossible through the eyes of His possible.
Will you choose to do the same in your life?