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Christian View


Christian View #5

"A Christian View of Strengths & Weaknesses"

Matthew 25:14-30

Introduction:

1. Several years ago I shared a part of my musical biography in a sermon. I told about taking piano lessons for eight years and never finishing the second book. I started when I was five and knew within a few months what took my mother nearly a decade to discoveróthat I am musically deprived. Three piano teachers over those years sent home notes asking my parents to stop bringing me in for lessons. I like music. I learned musical theory. I just couldnít play the piano.
The week after telling about my keyboard humiliation a piano teacher in the Wooddale Church congregation contacted me with an offer of lessons. She assured me that anyone can learn to play the piano and it was not my faultóI just needed better teaching. Besides never wanting another piano lesson in my life I could not convince this gifted teacher that it would be a waste of her time. I just donít have what it takes to play the piano.

2. By contrast, I recently heard a one-minute radio biography of pop singer Mariah Carey. She grew up in metropolitan New York City, the daughter of an opera singer. One day when Mariah was four years old her mother was practicing at home. When she finished, her daughter sang the opera from memory with perfect pitch . . . in Italian! I think she has something I donít have. (She probably plays the piano, too!).

3. Please take a quick personal quiz. Write down your answers or at least clearly answer in your head.

I. Personal Quiz

1. Question #1: What are you good at?
Question #2: What arenít you good at?

2. Letís call your answers to #1 "strengths" and to #2 "weaknesses."

3. Surprisingly, some people flunk this quiz. They think they are really good at something they do very poorly. Others flunk because they think theyíre terrible in areas where they are wonderfully strong. You know the typeóshe thinks she is a great singer but just isnít very good. He thinks that he is a gifted writer but no one will read or publish his novels. She raises wonderful children under adverse conditions but insists she isnít a very good mom. Michelangelo wrote, "I am no painter" (although he was actually quite good).

4. For now, letís assume everyone came up with the right answers. Weíll assume you know your strengths and weaknesses. Letís next develop a Christian view of those strengths and weaknesses.

II. Christian View

A. No one has everything; we need one another

1. Christian concept #1 is that no one has everything and we need one another.

2. 1 Corinthians 12:12-27
The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one bodyówhether Jews or Greeks, slave or freeóand we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, "I donít need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I donít need you!" On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

3. St. Paul was making a point and trying to be funny at the same time. He compared our strengths to body parts and imagines that you are an eye. You are a very good-looking eye with stunning color and 20/20 vision. Eyes are goodóthey are the windows and cameras of the body. A body without eyes can live but something is missing and the handicap is significant. But, a six-foot tall 200-pound eye is grotesque. An eye without the rest of the body canít eat, hear, small, walk, talk or think. Even the best eyes need the rest of the body or they arenít good for anything but seeing.

4. The point is obvious. We need others. We cannot make it alone. We need othersí strengths and others need our strengths. Godís plan is for Christians to connect to one another linking strengths to strengths to make us all strong together.

5. Warning: some people think they are omni-competent. They think they are all strengths. They think that because they are successful running a business that they are good parents. They think that because they have a graduate degree in psychology they are good at home decorating. They think because they made a lot of money they know everything about everything and are always right.
Warning: some people think they arenít good at anything. They see themselves as total failures. They think that everyone is better than they are at everything. They think that because they have failed in a few things that they arenít good at anything.

6. No one has all gifts. No one has all strengths. No one has all weaknesses. No one is good at everything. Everyone is good at something. No one can make it alone. We all have strengths and weaknesses. We all need one another.

B. Distinguish between weakness and sin

1. Christian concept #2 is to distinguish between weakness and sin.

2. It is no sin to be a lousy piano player. It is no sin to have weaknesses. It is no sin not to measure up to our parentsí expectations or our own personal dreams.

3. One of the awful myths of America is that we can do anything if we just try hard enough. How often have we heard that "you can be anything you really want to be; you can do anything you really want to do"? That is not true. I canít be a concert pianist no matter how many hours I practice. I canít master a foreign language just because I try. Working hard to be something I was never meant to be is foolhardy and destined to failure.

4. Sin is doing something wrong. It is disobedience of God. And, God never asks us to do something we cannot do. So, how do you decide if something is a sin or not? Ask a few simple questions. "Does the Bible specifically say it is a sin?" "Is this something that God specifically asked me to do or not to do?" Frankly, I think there are a lot of people carrying around guilt over sins they have never committed.

5. If it truly is a sin rather than a weakness, God desires for us to confess the sin to him so that he can forgive our sins and we can get on with life.

6. 1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

C. God can use our weaknesses

1. Christian concept #3 is that God can use our weaknesses.

2. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christís power may rest on me. That is why, for Christís sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

3. St. Paul was keenly aware of his weakness. He doesnít tell us what it was; only that it was a physical weakness. Maybe he was fat; maybe he was skinny. Maybe he was short; maybe he was tall. Maybe he was ugly; maybe he had a speech impediment. Most Bible scholars think it was really poor eyesight. Whatever it was, he didnít like it and repeatedly prayed for his weakness to go away. It didnít.
Paul decided that God could use him in spite of his weaknesses. But it was really more than thatóGod could use him because of his weaknesses.

4. Examples of God using weaknesses are many.
Joni Eareckson Tada is a quadriplegic God has used to influence the lives of millions of people, giving them hope in spite of their disabilities.
Chuck Colson is an ex-convict God used to start Prison Fellowship and impact the lives of millions of prisoners in the USA and around the world.
Mother Theresa was short, poor and unimportant yet God used her to bless the lives of the poorest of the poor in Calcutta and to inspire acts of charity around the globe.
But we donít need famous examples. God can and does use us for great good because of our weaknesses. When God does something good through us that we could never do ourselves, it is obvious God did it!

5. Romans 8:26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.
This is one of my favorite teachings in the Bible. It says that when I donít know what to pray, the Holy Spirit takes over the praying for me.
As a pastor I often have people ask me to pray for them. I always try to honor the request although I think of myself as a weak pray-er. I want to pray. I do pray. I just donít think Iím very good at it. I often donít know what to pray for myself and for my family (and I think to myself that if others knew how weak I am in prayer they wouldnít ask me to pray for them). Then I read that I can start a prayer, get stuck in my weak praying and ask the Holy Spirit to pick up where I left off. Clearly, the Holy Spiritís prayers are infinitely better than my prayers.
Another example of the fact that God can use our weaknesses for greater good!

6. So, donít be afraid to admit that you are weak. That is the first step toward releasing Godís strength.

D. We can leverage our strengths

1. What are you good at? What are your strengths? They should be the focus of your life because that is who God has wired you to be.

2. When Jesus was asked what is the most important command from God, here is what he said:
Mark 12:29-30

"The most important one - - - is this: ĎHear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.í"
Jesus didnít tell us to love God with our weakness but with our strength. Love God with what you are good at. Serve God with what you do best.

3. Matthew 25:14-29
[The Kingdom of heaven] " - - - will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his masterís money.
"After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ĎMaster,í he said, Ďyou entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.í
"His master replied, ĎWell done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your masterís happiness!í
"The man with the two talents also came. ĎMaster,í he said, Ďyou entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.í
"His master replied, ĎWell done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your masterís happiness!í
"Then the man who had received the one talent came. ĎMaster,í he said, ĎI knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.í
"His master replied, ĎYou wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.
"ĎTake the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.í"

4. Talents were measures of money in the first century and this is a story of really big bucks. The point is that talents from God should be used for God and leveraged for God.
The principle of Jesus allows us to substitute our strengths into his parable. Use our strengths for God and he will give us more strength. And, if we donít use our strengths for God, weíll probably end up losing them.
Connect this to Jesusí call to love our neighbors as ourselves. We can leverage our strengths to help othersóuse our blessings to benefit those who are weak.

Conclusion:

1. What are your weaknesses? Too old? Too young? Too fat? Too thin? Too clumsy? Canít talk in front of people? Canít remember names? Not so good at faith? Pretty weak as a teacher? Wish that you were better looking? Sorry you donít have a better education? Kind of inept with social skills? Not so competent at handling money? Quit worrying about your weaknesses and just give them to God.

2. What are you strengths? What do you like to do? What are your gifts? What are you really good at? What has God wired you to do? Leverage your strengths for God. Be who God wired you to be. Enjoy who you are!

3. Some people spend their entire lives focusing on what they canít do and neglecting what they can do. The results are a wasted life where God is neither loved heartily nor served well. The Christian view of strengths and weaknesses is that our lives should be mostly about what we are good at not what we are bad at, that we give God our weaknesses and serve God with our strengths.

November 9-10, 2002 Wooddale Church

© Leith Anderson 2002


 
 
 
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