Testing the Boundaries

Strong-willed children often "test" the "boundaries" placed on them. There are children who are eager to please, and there are children who resent any form of control. Thankfully, there are lots of children whose attitudes fall somewhere between eager compliance and rebellion against any form of control.

Children who resent control commonly test the boundaries of any control placed on them. "Will I really be in trouble when my parent counts to three, or can I push him [or her] to four, five, or six? Will a temper tantrum control the situation by putting me in charge by embarrassing my parents? Can I defy my teacher's instructions because he/she is afraid of my parents who are certain to rescue me and be on my side?" Etc.

All limiting instructions are a game. The object of this game is to determine who is in control. To find out the limits of "my" control, I deliberately "push the edge" to see how far I can go and what I can "get away with."

There are adults with that same attitude. Two sets of rules exist. One set for "me," and the other set for everyone else. This person operates on the attitude and thesis-in-life that "rules are made for me to break! If the speed limit is 30, I will go 45. If I am supposed to be thoughtful of my spouse on this occasion, I will ignore my spouse. If I am supposed to do things "Y" way in my work, I will do them "X" way. No one is allowed to tell me no, and no one is allowed to restrict me! I know what I am doing, so just get out of my way! If you cross me, I guarantee you, you will regret it! Life is always about "me," "my" pleasure, "my" ambitions, and "my" objectives. "You" exist to please "me," and don't "you" forget that fact!

Such attitudes have no desire to know God in any genuine sense, because God always is viewed inwardly as a rival Who places restrictions on people. In Deuteronomy 6:16-19, Moses warned Israel not to put God to the test. God does not bless us for us to "push His boundaries" in our relationship with Him.

To illustrate the point, Moses referred to the incident at Massah. The incident is recorded in Exodus 17:1-7. It was there that the thirsty people of Israel asked, "Is the Lord among us, or not?"

The question was needless. The issue was self-evident. God delivered them from slavery. God rescued them from a hostile army by deliverance across a sea. God made the waters at Marah drinkable. God gave them quail and manna to eat. Why should they doubt God would provide them water? Yet, instead of a faith reaction, they demanded for God to perform once again.

Moses made the point that Israel should obey God because they had confidence in God, not because God performed as they wished. He said if they obeyed God, (1) it would be well with them, and (2) they would possess the good land God promised them. Good things happening to them depended on their confidence in God!

Life is filled with undesirable circumstances and undesirable happenings. Each time the undesirable occurs, our issue remains the same: do I or do I not trust God? Does God truly know what is best for me? Will He in actuality keep His promises to me?

In each undesirable occurrence, the temptation remains the same: the temptation to demand that God perform in the manner we desire. Instead of trusting Him in the face of the frightening, we too often demand that "God do something immediately about this" regardless of what He has done for us in the past. Thus instead of the crisis becoming a time of confidence in God, it becomes a time to doubt God. In our arrogance, our importance constantly escalates as God's importance constantly diminishes.

Perhaps no conviction lies at the heart of faith in God more than does this conviction: God has my best interest on His heart!

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 1 June 2006

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