Claudia Shelton wrote, “Every personal strength when overused has the potential of becoming a personal weakness.”
Our strengths are our gifts. Strengths have the potential of becoming weaknesses if we are not careful. We may believe that our strengths are best and that others are inferior.
Like fruit salad, each fruit brings flavor and texture to the salad. The apples, oranges, grapes, and pears bring their own flavor. If the apples wanted to turn the oranges into apples, that would not be good. If the different fruits collided and were smashed together, that would not be good either.
John Trent said, “Differences are not to defeat us; differences are to complete us.”
God has called us to be exactly who we were created to be. He gave us our God-given strengths for a purpose. We are to use those unique strengths to enhance, not diminish, the value of other people. The Bible reminds us of how we are all like different parts of a body that work together.
In Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth, he is addressing their lack of unity. Each person seemed to believe that the others should become like them. Paul reintroduced the concept of diversity. We are all different and bring something special to the table. Each person plays a significant and important part in the big picture. In the previous verses to our text, Paul established the importance of the unity of the church. Here, Paul wrote of the diversity within the unity.
1 Corinthians 12:14-26 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
So, each person is blessed with gifts and unique qualities. These gifts present no reason to boast because they are gifts from God. These gifts present no reason to despise others because everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. We should thank God that everyone is unique! No one else is like you!
God has arranged us in the body. In the original Greek, the word used here for how God “arranged” the body is the same word used to refer to a jeweler. The jeweler crafts each piece of jewelry with precision and artistry. He or she places the perfect stone in the setting of the ring. In a similar way, God has taken you, a beautiful jewel, and placed you where he wants you in his Church. Your uniqueness brings beauty to God’s design.
1. Your approach to life is unique to how God created you.
Everyone has their own approach to life—their strengths. The frustrating reality is that God almost always places us in relationships with people who approach life differently. We are around others who feel and express love differently. We have to focus on the positive qualities, or we can become antagonistic toward those who are different.
Some scholars have mentioned that the problem of the Corinthian church was not their rejection of unity. Certainly, most of them, if you had asked them, would have believed that unity was important to the church. Their failure was their ability to embrace the diversity of the church. Failure to embrace diversity could be one of the greatest problems among Christians in our day! We want unity, but we want everyone to be like us!
Diversity is present in many ways. Paul talked about spiritual gifts, although he alluded to much more. We all have different gifts. When we became believers, God opened up a spiritual treasure chest and blessed us with gifts. Some examples of the gifts are compassion, administration, teaching, encouragement, discernment, and wisdom. Our individual spiritual giftedness makes us unique.
Another layer of diversity involves our personality or approach to life. Often, our personalities are tied directly to our gifts. Rarely are these things in conflict. Usually, our gifts flow out of our personalities. Some of our gifts place us more “front and center.” Others are “behind the scenes.”
I observe some who are always pushing through life aggressively. John Trent calls them “lions.” These men and women are achievers by nature. To them, every point in the journey is just a stop along the way to something greater and better. Achievers can undervalue deliberation and patience in others. They can be abrasive at times.
People-persons or the friendly crowd impress me too. These are the “otters.” They never meet strangers. When they talk, they share their energy with others in the room. Sometimes, they do not listen well or may procrastinate. However, they always seem to be the life of the party.
Many are the sensitive, caring types. The “golden retrievers” are compassionate. They want unity, love, and peace. Golden retrievers are so lovable and laid-back. However, sometimes they are hard on themselves and have trouble saying no to others. We need them to make the world a better place.
I know a few perfectionists. These men and women, Trent refers to them as the “beavers,” know how to improve any situation. They plan, organize and scrutinize every detail. Perfectionists are the people you want in charge of keeping the rules and guidelines in your organization. They are reliable. They may miss the forest for the trees, but they play a vital role.
What about those creative types? I love how they can bring a stroke of genius to a project. The creative types sometimes get branded as being too spontaneous. This is not always the case.
Every personality type is critical to the function of the family, workplace, community, and church. Understanding your personality type and the personality types of those in your life is helpful. Personality and character are often byproducts of our struggles and triumphs earlier in life.
Think about the personalities of a few Bible characters. Moses became a lawgiver but once struggled to be able to speak. Mark wrote one of the Gospels but had deserted the Apostle Paul earlier in his ministry. Timothy was a trusted church planter and pastor but was nervous and had stomach issues. Elijah was a bold prophet but later experienced crippling fear and the characteristics of burnout. Jonah was a devout Jew but ran from God’s call and struggled with racism. These are just a few examples.
2. God shapes you the way you are for a reason.
We should not be jealous of another person’s personality or gifts. The world may assign greater value to certain abilities and personalities, but God does not! God loves diversity. We can see God’s love for diversity in the stars, in nature, and in people. We should not expect everyone to have the same gifts. God has assigned and distributed gifts according to his own pleasure.
We must be aware that God has fashioned each of us as we are for a reason. I am reminded of the prayer of the unknown soldier:
I asked God for strength that I might achieve,
I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health that I might do great things;
I was given infirmity that I might do better things.
I asked for riches that I might be happy;
I was given poverty that I might be wise.
I asked for power when I was young that I might have the praise of men;
I was given weakness that might feel the need for God.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life;
I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for,
But everything I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am, among all people, most richly blessed.
God shapes each of us through our DNA and life experiences in a way that the Bible calls “fearful and wonderful.” God’s design in our lives should make us humble about our strengths and more accepting of our weaknesses.
Psalm 139:13 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
When you understand your own strengths, you can be set free from negative patterns. You can use those things that you do well bless others, instead of being frustrated by the differences others possess. When we become secure in our uniqueness, we can take greater risks in life and see greater rewards.
3. Don’t try to force people into the mold God created uniquely for you.
God wants unity, but not uniformity. The Fall has impacted each of us. There is no perfectly balanced personality. No one has all of the gifts. Because there is no perfect person, there is no perfect personality. Only Jesus had a perfect balance of all the gifts and character traits.
For the rest of us, God has made each of us unique. The closer we get to becoming like Jesus, the more we appreciate the strengths and unique qualities of others. We lose the sense of superiority or disdain for those who appear to be weaker or less honorable. When we become more like Jesus, we try not to devalue others who are not like ourselves.
Because of our uniqueness, we have to be aware that we see others through the lenses of our personalities. Wisdom is tempering our strengths so that they do not hinder our relationships. Our personality strengths can have a negative side.
Often, the things that draw us to another person can drive us apart, if we are not careful.
One of the best applications of the teachings of strengths and weaknesses is in our marriages. Our marriage relationship is analogous to Christ’s relationship with the Church. A verse from Revelation comes to mind about the church at Ephesus. Ephesus was a good teaching church. The church was strong in many areas. However, they had gotten away from their original passion.
Revelation 2:4-5 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.
The word for “abandon,” or “left,” is a nautical term used to describe a rope that was used to tie a ship to the dock. When we abandon our first love, we untether the rope and drift away. For many of us, we have just slowly gotten away from our passion for Christ and our love for other people. We aren’t running away from authentic relationships. We are drifting slowly from what we know is right and true.