When God Holds You Back

Being held back hardly has a positive connotation.  Think of being held back in school, or some person or circumstance holding back your potential.  In such terms, it certainly doesn’t seem as though holding us back is something that God would do, but I’m convinced he does.  Rather than allowing us to rush headfirst into a situation that will harm us, God does many things that seem painful and restrictive from a limited perspective. However, on closer examination and reflection, those things might be God’s way of either preventing us from harm or setting us up for a situation that will be even better than the one we are facing.

Numbers 22-24 records how a king named Balak hired a prophet named Balaam to curse the people of Israel.  Unfortunately (?), Balaam had enough respect for God to not say something that he hadn’t been commanded to say.  When the prophet was unable to do what the king required of him, Balak had this response:

I said, ‘I will certainly honor you,’ but the LORD has held you back from honor.” – Numbers 24:11

Balaam’s response is classic for Christians, especially those with a word ministry.  In a nutshell, he says “I told you already.  It doesn’t matter how much you pay me; I’m only going to say what God tells me.”

As I read that, it occurs to me that the human response to Balaam’s sentiment is to think that God is holding him back.  He could have “a house full of silver and gold” – if only God would let him say what Balak wants him to.

It would certainly be easy for a Christian to think that way.  The teachings of Jesus simply forbid Christians from behaving the way that the world does, which means that Christians are held back from a lot of the things.

We’re held back from pursuing wealth at any cost.  We’re held back from giving in to every sexual desire that crosses our minds.  We’re held back from addictive pursuits.  We’re held back from hateful thoughts, bitter words, and vengeful actions.  In fact, we’re held back from many things that the world looks at and screams “go for it!” and pursues at every opportunity.

If we’re not careful, we could begin to imagine that we are being held back from great opportunities, rather than grasping the truth that we are being held back from the edge of a cliff.

God loves us with an incredible love, and when he does hold us back, it is always for our good.


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