Ephesians 4:30 (NKJV) -
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

The title implies a ridiculous question to many in the realm of western Christianity. To suggest that God can be limited, to many Christians, would mean God is not Almighty. This kind of thinking is not unbiblical, but totally unnecessary.

Throughout biblical history, God has chosen to work independent of man, and for much of salvation history, through man. In fact, man’s choice to believe God is that which moves God to consider a person righteous (Genesis 15:16; Habakkuk 2:2-4; Romans 1:17). We can consider Moses and how the Lord worked through Him, even in the most practical way.

In Exodus 17, the Israelites are sent into battle against the Amalekites. While Moses has the staff of the LORD extended over Israel on the battlefield, Israel would advance toward winning the battle. When his arms would drop, Israel would lose ground to their enemies exponentially. In a wonderful move of faith and collaboration, we read that Aaron and Hur gave Moses a stone to sit upon and they held his arms extended until sunset. The result, as God worked through them, was Israel winning the battle against a much great and superior force.

This theme of God working through men and being limited by men, continues throughout the Old Testament, with the nation of Israel and is clearly stated in Psalm 78:40-42.

 Psalms 78:40-42 40 How often they provoked Him in the wilderness and grieved Him in the desert! 41 Yes, again and again they tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel. 42 They did not remember His power: The day when He redeemed them from the enemy

It is true that God is all powerful and limitless, but because He chooses to work through humanity, by faith, when the faith of that humanity is faulty and unbelieving, it can and does limit His will and plan from moving forward, for a time, to a certain degree.

This is not only an Old Testament phenomenon. Remember that where there was little or no faith, in the Lord Jesus Christ, He could not do many miracles (Matthew 13:58; Mark 6:5). In addition, we find the church can be a limiting factor to what the Holy One of Israel desires to do in a particular area or time.

1 Corinthians 10:6-13 6 Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. 7 And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” 8 Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; 9 nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; 10 nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11 Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

Christians who commit sexual immorality, tempt Christ, and complain in a fashion like Israel, can and do limit what the Lord desires to do, for a time. It is important to see these violations, as violations of faith in God’s word, Person, and plan. The word unbelief is the action in us which limits the work of God. Consider Romans Chapter 11.

Romans 11:19-22 19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.” 20 Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. 22 Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.

To be cut off means to fall away into judgment. This is made clear by what the Lord Jesus Christ declares in John 15:1-3 where He declares “Every branch in me that bares fruit will be pruned and every branch in Me, that does not bear fruit will be cut off and cast into the fire”.

Unbelief, therefore, is the key factor which limits the Holy one of Israel and it is a potential big problem for the Christian. This is because unbelief is not to declare that Jesus Christ is not the son of God, but to declare He is your Lord and Savior, but to act contrary to that profession. Consider the book of Hebrews which uses Israel as an example of those who declared we will follow YHWH, but who would not obey Him.

Hebrews 3:7-15 7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says:

 “Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, in the day of trial in the wilderness, 9where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, and saw My works forty years. 10Therefore I was angry with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart, and they have not known My ways.’ 11so I swore in My wrath, they shall not enter My rest.'”

 12Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; 13 but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, 15 while it is said:

“Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”

Let us remember that this passage declares “Beware, Brethren, lest there be in any of you and evil heart of unbelief in departing the Living God”.

To be cut off, or having an evil heart of unbelief, is to limit the work of God in the individual, the church, and the world. So let us be determined to not be a factor of limiting the power of God in our sphere of influence. Let us revisit Psalm 78:40-42 to understand how to be a conduit of God’s limitless will.

Psalms 78:40-42 40 How often they provoked Him in the wilderness and grieved Him in the desert! 41 Yes, again and again they tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel. 42 They did not remember His power: The day when He redeemed them from the enemy

In this passage we see four descriptive words which arise from their lack of faith in what the LORD had done for them in the past. “They did not remember His power: the day when He redeemed them from the enemy. This is unbelief for the whole time, they professed they believed God, but forgot what He had done, when the going got tough.

This is egregious for us as well, but in our Christian culture, we make excuses for not trusting God alone, for what He has promised and what He has done for us in the past. Now for some, who believe faith  only to believe for salvation, they have little built up testimony of what the Lord has done in their life.

When we walk in unbelief, we provoke, grieve, tempt and limit the LORD, not only in our life, but also in our fellowship and the communities of lost men, we live in.

This passage greatly convicts me, and ought to greatly convict all of us. The Church in America is largely based on individual profession of salvation, but salvation is not about a ticket to heaven, it is the powerful transformation of the entire man, by the power of God filling and working through our humanity.

When the Son of Man comes, will He find us faithful and believing of His power still, or simply hanging on till He arrives? The choice is ours, for not everyone who declares to Christ “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but those who do the will of His Father (Matthew 7:21-23).

About Michael J Erdel

Mike is a pastor with The Assembly of God Fellowship. He is the lead pastor at Encounter Church in Fostoria Ohio. His desire is to encourage the Church of Jesus Christ, and declare God's hope through His Son Jesus, to a world which is long on excuses and short on hope. Mike has experienced the truth that when we kneel before Christ, surrendering to Him as Savior and LORD, being led and empowered by His Spirit. To Jesus Christ be all glory and honor.
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  1. rhumby150 says:

    It grieves my heart to think that I could possibly be hindering God from moving supernaturally in my life. I want God to be glorified with my life, but I need to stop grumbling about what he hasn’t done but to praise him for what he has done. I am praying Heb. 12:2 everyday. Thank you brother that God gave you these words to convict me.