Today’s article is from guest author, Mike Amiot, Director of Chi Alpha Campus Ministries in Minnesota.
Last year I had the opportunity to ride on the track where they hold the famous Daytona 500. It is amazing to see the incredible banking of the turns and to try and grasp how fast these cars go. Just this past week I was watching a NASCAR race and took note as two cars blew their engines. Evidently you can’t run a car at 9300 RPMs for 4.5 hours without the chance of blowing an engine.
It is clear that in racing there are limits to just how fast you can go and how long you can run at certain speeds. It is not so evident in the life of a leader. Over the years, I have seen leaders who have run at an unbelievable pace with seemingly no limitations, that is, until they hit the wall.
When I was a younger leader, I used to think I could do anything I set my mind to and had no limitations, and I truly believed that to an extent. Over the years, I have come to realize that we all have limits and that some of these limits are necessary to our success.
In the Bible there is a character named John the Baptist. You can find him in John chapter 3 as people are clamoring over his celebrity status. After all, people thought he was the Messiah. But an interesting thing happens here that I believe helps us see that he understood his own limits. In John 3:27 he states, “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven.” John understood his limits. He accepted them by understanding his own limited humanity and his soon to be declining popularity. So much so that in John 3:30 he says, “[Jesus] must increase, I must decrease.”
This notion that we have limits or success in seasons is hard for leaders because they are naturally driven individuals. I believe, however, that God does place limits on leaders, even on leaders who are extremely gifted. Why? To keep us grounded, healthy, and humble.
This is where the “gift” of limits comes in. While we may not see them as gifts, they are given to us for a purpose. So what do limits look like? Here is a general list of limits that Peter Scazzero gives in his book, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality:
- Physical Issues
- Family of Origin
- Marital Status
- Intellectual Capacity
- Talents and Gifts
- Material Wealth
- Your Time
- Work and Relationships
- Spiritual Understanding1
As you look over the list surely something will resonate with you. You will also notice that limits are not just bad things, like a physical ailment. Sometimes they are good things that happen to us like getting married or having children. For instance, I remember the pace I had before I was married with children; it is drastically different now. Those blessings in my life are also limits, things that are supposed to hold me back from the pace I once ran.
Using John the Baptist as a further example. What if John has gotten it into is head that he was more than a “voice calling in the wilderness,” preparing the way for Jesus? Had he pressed through for more than he was called to do, a mess would have ensued. He succeeded in his calling by understanding he was to take it only so far.
I wonder as leaders how much we ignore the limits that God has placed in our lives. I have seen this both in the secular and sacred world of leadership. Leaders can try to do too much, accomplish too many goals, strive for better systems, be more successful, or work to match someone who is far more gifted or skilled than they are.
But the question is can we do and/or accomplish that which is beyond our capabilities or limits?
Peter Scazzero stated, “Often we have larger fantasies for ourselves than our real lives can support. As a result, we work frantically trying to do more than God intended.”2
What happens is that when we push past or though those limits we crash into the wall or “blow an engine.” In the racetrack scenario the caution comes out and it stands as a warning for other drivers to slow down. Take note of the leaders around you who are pushing through the gift of limits and do not emulate them, but rather take caution and slow down.
I leave you with this challenge: Do what God wants you to do, not what others want you to do, or even what you want from yourself. Don’t try to outrun or outpace God. It leads to disappointment and frustration. Avoid creating a reality that is bigger than He intended for you.
I leave you with this verse from Ecclesiastes 9:11.
I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happens to them all.”
Mike Amiot is approaching his 18th year in college ministry. After serving 8 years on campus, he has spent the last 10 years as the Director of College Ministry in Minnesota for Chi Alpha Campus Ministries. He has a passion for his leaders throughout the state and continues to strive in helping them stay healthy for the long run of ministry. He has a wonderful wife and two amazing kids!
1: Scazzero, Peter. Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: Unleash a Revolution in Your Life In Christ. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2006.
2: Scazzero, p. 148.
Photo “Ragan_Fire” by Bristol Motor Speedway. Available at Flickr.com.