In God’s complex world, maturity often means holding two seemingly contradictory realities in tension. Freedom and responsibility, mercy and justice, humility and leadership. One such tension relates to the best strategy for maximizing God’s work in your life. Consider first the verses talking about spiritual gifts from 1 Corinthians 12:4,7: ‘Now there are varieties of gifts….To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.’
This says each person has been given a specific area of gifting–to be a blessing to others (for the common good). So God made you with a specific gift. Confident that this is true, you should labor to identify it. Once you identify it, you should work at it with all your might. So far so good.
The mystery enters when you read 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. Here the Apostle Paul describes a conflict within himself–a ‘thorn’ or burden in his life which has seemed to limit his effectiveness. He prays to God to remove the burden, and receives this answer:
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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
So to state the tension simply…if God magnifies Himself in our weakness, should we serve in our weakness, or in our giftedness? If you are an amazing businessman, does that mean you leave it all behind to do something you are poor at, like piano tuning?
There is a humility which makes this a real tension. We do not want to tell God, ‘No, I won’t do that.’ Once we decide the limits of God’s calling on our life, we run the risk of missing the blessings of seeing God’s strength in our weakness.
The two passages can be set in balance by setting the proper order of these things. 1 Corinthians and the call to find and labor in our gifting comes before 2 Corinthians. This is important, because we need to care about finding those things we are gifted at, and pursue it diligently. We have not been given those gifts for ourselves alone, but for others. Once we have found our sweet spot, the reality is that there are almost a limitless number of ways our weakness still manifests itself. In those moments, God will be the more clearly seen, perfecting His strength in our weakness.
So labor to find your gifting and then work at it with all your might. When you are exhausted, broken and discouraged, you are close to God revealing His power. In this world you will have trouble…but take heart! Christ has overcome the world. (John 16:33)