For several years, I’ve been listening to a lot of conversations that create dualities. Self-care or self-denial? God made you with interests and passions so that you could use them for Him or the Christian life is a study of denial and hardship?
Of course, I think it’s both. I’m rolling my eyes because I find myself saying this about more and more topics. But what if we anchored a cord on each side of these discussions and leaned our weight on both? What if we took care of ourselves because we are made in God’s image and God cares about us and we can’t pour out of empty cups? And what if we practiced self-denial and put other people first and did work that maybe we didn’t want to do?
What if God made you expressly for the purpose of using the way He made you and yet that way of being part of His plan is full of difficulty and hardship? What if He intends for the very things that make you come alive to also refine you the most?
What if being disciples of Jesus meant that we are all being transformed into the image of Jesus but that it plays out in different ways in each of us? What if you are actually supposed to live a life that’s different from your neighbor, friend, or the person who sits in the pew beside you?
That throws our formulas out the window. Suddenly we can’t whip out our checklist and evaluate ourselves and others to see how we’re doing. We actually have to be in the Word and walking in the Spirit every single day. Paul was an apostle to the Gentiles but Peter went to the Jews. Can you imagine if they spent time comparing their ministries instead of doing what God had for each of them?
It’s an incredibly freeing way to live. What if, instead of wondering if your friend’s job is a statement about your staying home with your kids, it was an opportunity for you to rejoice in the varied ways that God was using both you and her? What if you saw his strengths and rejoiced at how God could use them because you aren’t gifted in those areas?
We, as believers, are part of the body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12 discusses this in depth, explaining how each believer has a part and it’s a different part than the next believer. The body does not consist of one member: we aren’t a cookie-cutter design replicated over and over. God made us different physically: hair color, eye color, height, body shape, female, male, skin color. The Spirit gives us all different gifts. Just go read verses 8-11 of 1 Corinthians 12. Each one gets a gift(s). That includes you. It’s not humility to say that you have no gifts and God can’t use you. That’s a lie from the enemy.
None of us express the fullness of God on our own. Jesus did (Colossians 1:19), but we don’t. We need each other. Together, we are being built into a dwelling place for God (Ephesians 2:19-22). We need all our fellow believers to learn from (Colossians 3:16, Romans 15:14), to weather life with (Romans 12:15), to encourage and stir up(Hebrews 10:24-25).
Stop looking at your brother or sister in Christ to learn how God wants to use you. Yes, you’ll learn how to study the Bible. Yes, you’ll learn to apologize, to speak with wisdom, to walk faithfully. But their lives may not tell you the specifics about what God wants you to do.
We are being transformed to be like Jesus. We aren’t being transformed to look like our neighbor or our pastor or a cultural ideal of manhood or womanhood. We are being transformed to look like Jesus. While He lives out that transformation in our lives in many different fashions, they are all equally important. There is no hierarchy in the faith. The Apostle Peter told the believers in 2 Peter that they had a faith of equal standing to his. There is no ranking of this person or this gifting being more important than any other. We aren’t clawing for a spot or for God’s attention. Just like I need my liver and my nose, my finger and my knee, the body of Christ needs us all.
We’re going to talk about running our own races here in March. There is so much chatter about comparison and competition, about envy and despair. We need to shake that off. We need to leave that behind as we press on toward maturity. The lives we are promised in Christ will have challenges and hardships, but they are lives of victory. There is purpose in your unique life poured out for God’s glory.