Have you ever been so anxious to do something big and powerful that you rashly offered to do a job you later discovered was way above and beyond your abilities?
One summer when I was a university student, I was hired by a man who had a lot of confidence in my writing abilities. His firm was creating highly specialized computer programs for a steel corporation. They needed a good writer to document all the steps they were taking, so he hired me to write these reports. At that time I had never worked on a computer, nor did I know anything about computers. Therefore, I obviously didn’t have a clue about what I was getting into when I agreed to take that job!
Soon I found myself seated in an executive office filled with computer programmers who spoke computer jargon that I had never heard in my life! This was a long time before people owned personal computers. Most common people had never placed their fingers on a computer—including me! And here I was, assigned to write a lengthy report about these extremely specialized computer programs. It only took a couple of hours for me to figure out I was the wrong person in the wrong place!
Finally, I had to say, “Hey, could someone please help me? I don’t mind doing the job, but I can’t do it without help.” As it turned out, I asked them to reposition me in another job where I felt more qualified. I simply wasn’t able to do the job because I wasn’t equipped for the task. In the second position, I worked very well and was very successful. Had I refused to admit that the first assignment was too much for me, it would have been a very long summer of frustration for both me and my employers.
If you’ve ever found yourself in a similar place, you know it’s overwhelming to be in so far over your head. There is nothing worse than feeling like you’ve been put in a position you aren’t qualified to take. It can be so difficult for the flesh to admit that it can’t do a job. Yet there is such great wisdom and peace in learning to recognize and respect your limitations!
This is why the apostle Paul told the Romans, “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith” (Romans 12:3).
If anyone could have thought highly of himself, it would have been Paul, yet he admonishes believers that a person should not “… think of himself more highly than he ought to think….” This phrase comes from the Greek word huperphroneo, which is a compound of the words huper and phroneo. The word huper means above, beyond, or way over the top, and the word phroneo means to think or to consider.
When these two words are compounded into one word, it means that Paul is urging us not to over-think about ourselves, or not to think over-confidently about our abilities. Instead, he commands us to think “soberly.” The word “soberly” is the Greek word sophroneo, which means to think sensibly; to think reasonably; to think realistically; to think rationally; to think practically; to keep in proper measure; or not to think beyond the set boundaries.
One Greek expositor says this word means to recognize your limits and respect them. In other words, don’t pretend to be more than you are! Recognize your God-given abilities and use them. But when you come to the edge of your limitations, be willing to say, “This is too much for me.”
If you act like you can do everything, you’re going to find it quite humiliating when you fail miserably in front of everyone. So instead of thinking too highly of yourself and attempting to take on tasks and projects that are too daunting for you, realize that some jobs are meant to be assigned to someone else. You need to be very realistic about your limitations. If you have tackled a job that is too big for you, there is nothing wrong with admitting that someone else should take over the project.
If you refuse to admit you’re over your head because you don’t want to be embarrassed, you’ll probably end up a whole lot more embarrassed later on when everyone else has to tell you that you can’t do the job! When you fail and fall flat on your face, you’ll regret that you didn’t say, “I think someone else can do this job better than I can. This is simply not where I’m most gifted. Does anyone else on this team want to help me out with this project?”
When Paul said we were “… to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith,” he was reminding us that there are other gifted members of the Body of Christ, and we must make room for their gifts as much as ours. God has gifted His entire Body with faith, spiritual gifts, talents, and abilities. Therefore, rather than try to do it all, which we can’t do anyway, we need to learn to think “soberly.” In other words, we’re to recognize our limitations and allow other people to be used by God too!
This principle applies to the church, to the workplace, to school, and to every other sphere of life. Yes, we should respect our own gifts, talents, and callings from God, but we should also respect the fact that it takes all of us to get a job done! So learn to recognize and respect your limitations—and learn to embrace others who are just as needed as you are!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Lord, help me recognize and respect my gifts and limitations. Forgive me for the times I’ve been too prideful to admit I was in over my head and as a result did an inferior job. I’m so sorry I didn’t step out of the way so someone else who was gifted for the job could take my place. Help me specialize in those areas where I feel confident that I will be a blessing. Teach me to embrace and appreciate those who are more gifted than I am in other areas.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that I think soberly about myself and about my gifts and abilities. I thank God for the gifts and talents He has placed in my life, but I also recognize and respect my limitations. Just as I appreciate my own gifts and abilities, I am also grateful for those who are more gifted than I am in other areas. I need them; I embrace them; and I appreciate what they have to contribute. I can’t achieve alone what can be accomplished in partnership with others. Therefore, I choose to partner my gifts and talents with the God-given gifts and talents in other people.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Have you ever found yourself in a job or position that was way over your head? Did you feel like you were drowning, desperate to find a way out of your commitment without being embarrassed? If your answer is yes, what did you do to remedy the situation?
- Have you ever seen someone in leadership whom everyone else on the team knew was in a position that was way too high for him? Did that person struggle, make mistakes, or constantly try to cover up his lack of ability?
- If the team members recognized the source of the problem with their struggling leader, how did that knowledge affect their attitude toward him?