INTRODUCTION

We live in a ME culture that tells us that pride and arrogance are good things.  The spotlight on me is a good thing.  Who doesn’t want to be a celebrity or a rock star, even in the Church world?    And, yet, when God comes to judge the Earth, He will take an axe to the root of all pride and arrogance.   Needless to say, we don’t want to go the way of the world and have to be “cut down to size.”

Consequently, we’ve sought out ways to war against pride in our lives.  Last time, we talked about how we can have a balanced view of ourselves.   Today, we discuss more ways to keep our view of ourselves sober, humble and balanced.

1.  AS A BODY PART, YOU ARE NOT INDISPENSABLE!

If someone were to ask you if you’d rather have your eyesight or your hearing, which would you choose?  Obviously, no-one would want to make that choice.  Most people think eyesight and hearing are both critical faculties essential to life.  But, what if you had lost both?

By 19 months old, Helen Keller could neither see nor hear, due to “brain fever” or possibly scarlet fever.  Though she started speaking at only six months old, that ability to speak fell to the wayside.   Later as a child, she developed a limited type of sign language to communicate with her friend.  All the avenues of communication were severely limited for her.  How could she survive as a human being?  This was a complex question to answer.

Her parents did the best they could under the circumstances.  They even resorted to spoiling her, because the strong-willed Helen Keller would fly off into a rage, flail around and throw things, when frustrated by not being understood or getting her way.  Anything to calm the storm was their ticket to peace.  She would eat with her hands and act like a wild animal.

Until… Anne Sullivan, a teacher, came to work with her.  Loving but tough as nails, Anne was just as stubborn as Helen was.  She didn’t spoil her, but persistently brought Helen into line.    She would sign into hand over and over again, until Helen caught on and began to connect the signing with words, meanings and language.

The first word that made contact and exploded into her mind was “water.”  Below is a movie interpretation of that famous moment of understanding between Helen and her beloved teacher.   Information about Helen Keller

Now, why do I share this story?

  • For one, I personally love this story!  Maybe, it’s the “teacher” in me.
  • Helen Keller was a remarkable person, who went far despite her disabilities, even graduating from college.  She became an inspiration and a spokesperson for those living with disabilities.   Her fame continues to this day.
  • Anne Sullivan was an amazing teacher!  Devoted to her student, she worked with Helen Keller for forty-nine years.   As Helen’s companion and interpreter, she made it possible for Helen Keller to go through college, travel the world and do many other remarkable things.  Without Anne Sullivan, there’d be no Helen Keller.
  • This story shows clearly how we need one another to become our fullest and best selves.  God created us to be INTERDEPENDENT and put us in a body context.  It may be easy to see how Helen needed her teacher.  But, Anne Sullivan also needed Helen Keller.  In her field, she had a lot of good ambition, determination, skillful knowledge and care to offer somebody.   She needed the right person to pour herself into in order to flow in all that God had given her to be, do and accomplish.   Together, they made an unbeatable team!  Separately, they would’ve been lost to history.
  • Lastly, through Helen’s example, this story shows how nothing and no-one is indispensable.  In its resiliency, the body can adapt to many severe losses.  In fact, you can lose various organs and still function as a human being, such as a lung or kidney, a spleen, an appendix, a gall bladder and even a stomach.  As we’ve seen from this story, you can lose your sight, hearing and ability to speak and still adapt.  Nick Vujicic, inspires many as a Christian evangelist, with a unique claim to fame:  he doesn’t have arms or legs.  Nick Vujicic’s Biography

Of course, being disabled is not ideal, but these examples highlight the coordination and miracle of the BODY versus the importance of any one body part.

Sometimes, in our pride, we may think we can dismiss other people, because they aren’t “critical” to the ministry or they’re the “little people” or they aren’t obviously gifted in some way.   We elevate the rock stars and push aside those that seem inconsequential.

“Pride and being a respecter of persons” can categorize people in a person’s heart.  (Romans 2:11; James 2:9)  But, God speaks a better word!

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!”  And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t 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.  –1 Corinthians 12:21-23(a)  (Caps mine)

2.  AS A BODY PART, YOU ARE IMPORTANT!

Remember how God calls us to hold seemingly contradictory things in dynamic tension.  We are important, but we aren’t indispensable.

Some of us may feel like we aren’t that important in the Body of Christ.    We’re like the person with the “one talent” who buries in in the dirt, only later to give it back to the master without interest.  (Matthew 25:14-30)

I share this truth with all the sincerity I can muster in a blog post.  WE DESPERATELY NEED YOU TO BE WHO YOU ARE IN THE BODY OF CHRIST!

We can’t give into feelings of unworthiness and insecurity.  God doesn’t want you to be overinflated in your opinion of yourself, but he also doesn’t want you to be underinflated.  He wants everyone to see themselves soberly in the prosper perspective.

Like you, I cringe when I think of my weaknesses.  When I take spiritual gift inventories, I usually wind up with a zero on mercy and hospitality.    I’m not strong on pastoral gifts either.  Not that I can’t learn or I haven’t gotten better.  Those things are just not my strengths, which is why I desperately need and value other people.  Those people who are merciful, who invite me into their cozy homes and who take care of people and their hearts.  Sometimes, I wish I could be more like those people.  But, then, I remember I am the way I am for a reason.  It’s so I can fulfill MY PART of the body of Christ.

I’m not a Trekkie, but I love Star Trek Voyager.  One particular episode from that show comes to mind while writing this blog post.

In “Riddles,” two unlikely crew members become closer friends.  Tuvok and Neelix are like oil and ice cold water.  Tuvok is the ever-logical Vulcan that won’t crack a smile, if logic doesn’t dictate, and it mostly doesn’t.  He’s the ship’s second officer, Chief of Security and Chief Tactical Officer.  Neelix, on the other hand, is a happy-go-lucky Talaxian, who genuinely cares for people.  With an amazing EQ, he’s the ship’s “morale officer” and “ambassador.”

Through a freak accident, Tuvok suffers brain damage that radically changes his personality.  He becomes more personable, creative and emotionally expressive.   Neelix decides to help Tuvok recover and in doing so, they develop a deep, close friendship that wasn’t possible before.

Towards the end of the episode, a breakthrough gives Tuvok the opportunity to change back to who he was.   Surprisingly, he doesn’t want to go back to being a “Vulcan.” He wants to stay Neelix’s friend and continue to have fun with him.  But, Neelix, however much he has desired this friendship, says no.  The reason he gives is because the ship needs its Chief Tactical Officer, which is more important than just having Tuvok like him more.  You see, 100%, unadulterated Tuvok, is a logical, analytical, impartial strategic thinker.  He doesn’t allow his heart to interfere with his mind and he doesn’t allow his mind to get clouded by things he views as irrelevant.  These things make him the ideal Chief Tactical Officer.

With every body part comes a God-given personality and skill set to respect and value in each and every person.  Just like you, I have strengths AND weaknesses.  I identify with Tuvok more than I do Neelix in how I’ve been created and how I operate.  I may be very analytical and not as personable.   (Just so everybody knows, I’m not a Vulcan.  I’m pretty easy-going and I like to smile, lest anyone should read too much into my comments here.)  For what I’m called to do in the body, I can totally see the wisdom in how God has created me.  But, honestly, it took me a long time to accept myself for exactly who I am.  If you struggle in a similar way, I hope it doesn’t take you as long.

Being who I am, does that make me any less than someone who is more people-friendly?  Does that make me any more important than them?  No and no.

This differentiation of gifts is why we DESPERATELY need one another!   Part of needing one another is first accepting who I am, in my strengths, weaknesses and limitations, and valuing other people for who they are and what they have to contribute.

Sometimes, even with the best intentions, people try to change others to become more like them.  I’m not saying we don’t all need to round off our rough edges and become more balanced.   But, to try to fundamentally change a person, because we either don’t see their place in the body or don’t value their particular gift mix, is not a good thing.  Likewise, trying to be more like someone else will compromise the part I play in the body.

The Body of Christ needs its tactical officers as much as it needs its morale officers and vice-versa.

Others may have dismissed us and rejected us for our gifts.   Or, it could be, our own insecurities may have gotten the better of us.  Regardless of what it is, know that God has especially created you and placed you in the body exactly where he wants you for His high and holy purposes!  You are valued and valuable!

15  Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.  16 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 stop being part of the body.

17  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?

18  But in fact GOD HAS PLACED THE PARTS IN THE BODY, EVERY ONE OF THEM, just as he wanted them to be. 

19  If they were all one part, where would the body be?

20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.   –1 Corinthians 1215-20 (Caps mine)

3.  WE NEED EACH OTHER!

In order to grow up into the fullness of Christ,  we need one another!  We need our COLLECTIVE revelation, wisdom, knowledge and gifts in order to complete the puzzle of the mature Bride of Christ.

Sometimes, we, as individuals, or as tribes in the Body of Christ think we have the “corner market” on righteousness, revelation, teaching, God’s favor, gifting and the list goes on and on.

God says “we know in part and we prophesy in part.”  Nobody knows in full.  Every breakthrough of revelation we’re blessed to walk in right now came at the expense of the blood, sweat and tears of those who have gone before us.  I think of those who died as martyrs in order for the Bible to be written in the language of the common people.   Then, there are those who were persecuted and even died for redemptive truths we now may take for granted, such as salvation by grace through faith.  Our ancestors in the faith, in turn, can’t be completed without us, who have yet to finish this race for the glory of God.

When we’re tempted towards becoming self-absorbed, shortsighted, narcissistic and proud, we need to draw back the lens towards a wide-angle perspective.  In other words, we need to take in the bigger picture.

After the glorious descriptions of love in 1 Corinthians 13, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:9:  For we know in part and we prophesy in part.  It’s like God’s saying through him, “You can’t afford NOT to love each other, because we all need each other to make it to the end, until the perfect comes.”

We may be looking to the “heroes of the faith,” without realizing that these heroes are looking to us now to complete what they couldn’t complete on their own.   As godly, persevering and sacrificial as many of them were in their faith and devotion to God, their inheritance is intricately tied to us, so much so they can’t receive the promise apart from us.

39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised,  40  since God had planned something better for us so that only together WITH US would they be made perfect.  –Hebrews 11:39-40 (Caps mine)

Hebrews speaks of these same “heroes of the faith” as being a part of the great “cloud of witnesses” watching us run this race.  From the balcony of Heaven, they cheer us on and pray we finish strong and finish well!   They each have finished their leg of the race and have passed their batons onto others who have now passed them on to us.  (Hebrews 12:1)

We’re all interconnected in Jesus’ story.  We learn from one another.  We depend on each other.  We help each other.  We are all a part of God’s family.

4.  IT TAKES AT LEAST TWO PEOPLE

We can’t begin to understand the love of God without each other.  Yes, I can write blog posts on the famous love passage, until Christ comes back.  But apart from you and him and her…I won’t be able to understand God’s love in all of its fullness.  Conversely, God can teach us many things about love simply by having one special person in our lives.  Who of us would not know love if it wasn’t for father, mother, husband, wife, son, daughter, friend, mentor, etc.?

In other words, we can’t know love if there is no other to be loved by and to love.

We can’t come into the fullness of Christ without each other!

11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until WE ALL reach UNITY in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.  –Ephesians 4:11-13  (Caps mine)

Yes, you need that person who rubs you the wrong way.  Maybe, he’s an eye and you’re a hand.  He’s always trying to project vision and inspire people to greater things.  You, however, think what’s most important is to do the everyday things right in front of you.   You see him as a procrastinating dreamer, because he can’t live in the here and now.  And, he sees you as mundane with your sights set too low.

Yes, the charismatic church needs the Baptist church down the street, despite the points on which they disagree.  The pastors need the prophets and the heart people need the systematic teachers.

5.  CHRIST, AS THE HEAD, KNOWS HOW TO COORDINATE HIS BODY

How can we be unified in the midst of these differences??  In the natural, do you realize that despite the myriad of moving body parts, they all work in conjunction, because of signals from the brain?  The brain (or in this case, the head) coordinates the rest of the body.  The hand doesn’t question the brain’s decision, but simply responds to the impulse that was sent.

In the same way, Christ knows how to COORDINATE his body, so that it will work in accordance with God’s will and purpose.  But, in order to see this incredible outworking of God’s mystery, we all need to submit to the Head!  So much easier said than done!

So many things get in the way of this COOPERATION AND COORDINATION:  pride, envy, jealousy, rejection, wounding, divisions in the body, my opinion versus so-and-so’s opinion, my lordship versus Christ’s lordship, the traditions of men versus the movement of the Spirit, etc., etc.

Love and the outworking of God grow at the point of relationship!  Since we’re not complete within ourselves, it takes us HUMBLY RELATING to one another to accomplish great things for God!

We may be different.  It may take a while for us to warm up to one another and adapt to the way we each do things.  We may not initially value what the other brings to the table.   All of this relating involves HUMILITY and God’s perspective on divine relationships.  Having healthy and strong relationships takes humility, love and thinking of others before ourselves!

Do you wonder why God often initiates marriages between opposites?  Is it so people can practice this love that’s meant to be worked out throughout the whole body?

6.  GREAT PARTNERSHIPS!

It’s difficult to imagine Paul without a Barnabas, who believed in Paul and took the pains to introduce him to everyone, in the face of longstanding suspicion against Paul.   Yes, the “Son of Encouragement” paved the way for a very intense apostle who had the reputation of being hostile to the Church.   Who else could’ve smoothed the path the way Barnabas did?

Where would Helen Keller be without Anne Sullivan?  Where would Anne Sullivan be without Helen Keller?

Where would Tuvok be without Neelix?  Where would Neelix be without Tuvok?  Where would the Star Trek Voyager be without either of them?

Bringing it to a more personal level:  Where would you be without me?  AND where would I be without you?

15  But, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things Him who is the head– Christ– 16   from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.  –Ephesians 4:15-16

7.  GOD’S NOT-SO-SECRET FORMULA FOR GROWING THE CHURCH

Paul jam packs many of his sentences with concepts that can take years to explore.  Therefore, it’s worthwhile to take a few moments to unpack the verses in Ephesians 4:15-16.  To be fair to the passage, the context goes back to verse 1.  But, the sake of brevity, I focus on this specific verses.

  1. But, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things Him who is the head– Christ– :  As said earlier, to be rightly related to the body and to one another, we all need to be rightly attached to the Head, who is Christ.   We need to submit to him in all things.  Going off on our own or astray from the truth results in body parts going gangrene.  Disconnected from brain, heart and blood, that part of the body dies and rots.  In a similar way, branches that disconnect from Christ, the true vine, dry up and die.  (John 15:6)  Those, who are in a gangrene state, can infect other people.  As in the natural, gangrene parts of the body often need to be cut off in order to save the rest of the body.  “Speaking the truth” as it relates to the Word of God is, therefore, imperative!  (2 Timothy 2:15-19)
  2. from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies,:  Yes, Christ holds the body together, but what also does is the quality and strength of our relationships.  A joint is where two parts come together and are held together.  A strong body doesn’t come from loose and casual relationships with one another, but bonded relationships.  Something I need to work on.  The quality of my relationships actually contributes to the knitting together of the body in how it’ll grow and how resilient it will be in face of every difficulty.
  3. according to the effective working by which every part does its share,:  This verse tells me that we can be in the body, but not do our share.  We can have gifts and things to offer that aren’t effectively working.  Despite the immensity of the body, my part, my share, matters to the whole.  If I bury my talent in the ground, step back and don’t do my part, then, something gets lost.  Once again, you are desperately needed.
  4. causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love:  We often talk about what causes the Church to grow.  Seminars, classes and sermon series have grown up around this subject.  The Bible, however, tells us that this cascading group of concepts is what makes the Church grow, where every aspect is necessary and needs to work in proper order.

As you look around the Body of Christ worldwide, or even in your nation, can you see why the Church may have a difficult time growing.   Before it’s all said and done, however, Jesus will successfully build His Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it!   (Matthew 16:18)  Of course, that change will also require a RADICAL SHIFT in the how the Church views its structure, value systems and relationships. I took this passage from the larger context of Ephesians 4 and the even larger context of the book of Ephesians.  So much more insight can be gained into the growth of the Church from simply studying the rest of Ephesians 4, which I challenge you to do.

CONCLUSION

This theme of combating pride by having a balanced view of ourselves will continue next week.

 

–Joyce Lee

REFLECTION AND APPLICATION QUESTIONS

1.  Have you ever felt indispensable to a project, Bible study group, Church leadership team, outreach, etc.?   In other words, without you, things wouldn’t run right or be as successful?  Those people, they need my knowledge and expertise.  If they don’t get it from me, then, what will happen to them?  How will they fare in this cold, harsh world?

OR have you ever dismissed someone, because they weren’t gifted in the ways you view as important?

Do you or I recognize that as pride?

If you’ve ever felt that way, as I have, then take time to repent before God.  Meditate on the fact that you’re not indispensable.  Without you, the Body of Christ will adapt and possibly see new leadership spring forth to fill in the vacuum.   How does the Body of Christ and the natural body parallel one another in this respect?

What verses/passages can I meditate on in order to knock down my pride and bring a more balanced view of myself?  What steps will I take to change this area/perception of my life

2.  Take the time to research the relationship between Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan and/or take the time to watch a version of The Miracle Worker.  I’m thinking the 1962 version with Patty Duke is most likely the best.  Think about how relationships between the right combination of people matter and that our interconnectedness is what works miracles, “as every joint supplies.”  (Ephesians 4:16)    As you recall, their working relationship spanned forty-nine years.  It was not only a strong bond, but a long one.  Though Helen Keller was the one with the fame and acclaim, Anne Sullivan was the teacher who made it all possible.

Consider what kind of relationships God may call us to in the future.

3.  We saw from the Word of God that even when we don’t see ourselves as part of the body, we still are.  Have you ever felt insecure, unworthy and/or not as good as the next person in Church?  Through John the Baptist’s ministry in preparing for Jesus, the Bible tells us that “every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low.”  (Isaiah 40:4)  In other words, God wants to lift up the low places in your life, so that you are more aligned with His will and viewpoint.

God wants you to repent of your insecurity and feelings of unworthiness.  If you find yourself comparing yourself to other people and falling short, He also wants you to repent of that need to compare yourself to others.   (2 Corinthians 10:12)

What verses/passages can I meditate on in order to raise up my insecurities and bring a more balanced view of myself?  What steps will I take to change this area/perception of my life?

4.  What’s the difference between becoming more balanced and growing in maturity versus fundamentally changing who we are as people?  God created your personality and gift mix for your calling and vice-versa.    Have you ever felt rejected/dismissed/marginalized/made to feel less than and/or different (as in strange), because of your calling, personality and gift mix?

Take the time to forgive those who have not valued you or understood you in the way you would have liked.  Thank God for making you who you are.  Also, take time to reflect on how who you are as a person enhances/ fits in/ adds to your calling.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made, your works are wonderful, I know that full well. –Psalm 139:14

5.  Under the section “God’s Not-So-Secret Formula for Growing the Church,” we broke down Ephesians 4:15-16 to make its meaning clearer.    Reflect upon your walk in light of the implications of each statement.

For example, in statement 1:  Am I rightly connected to Jesus?  Am I submitted to Him in every area of my life?  Do I live by the Word of God or some other word?

An interesting question:  What are the implications of those who have disconnected from the Church and God’s truth?  If God describes disconnection as gangrene and death, what would be the wisest way to relate to these people?

Statement 2:  How are my relationships?  Do I do what’s necessary to cultivate stronger connections?  What does it mean and look like to be in covenant relationship with my brothers and sisters in Christ?  Etc.

Consider also:  Why is it easier to bring countless other strategies and solutions to the table, instead of doing what God clearly prescribes in His Word?

Read and study all of Ephesians 4 to see the bigger context of this passage on growing the Church.  If you feel led, read all of Ephesians.  Journal and pray over your findings.

6.  Can you think of some other great partnerships in the Bible or in history?  I bet you, if you examined them more closely, you’ll see different sets of strengths and weaknesses coming together to complement one another.  I’d also venture to say that if those relationships never came together, the resulting accomplishments most likely would’ve been lost to history.  Research a pair or a group of people who accomplished something grand… together.

7.  Study more deeply the 1 Corinthians 12 passage regarding the Body of Christ.  Also, read/meditate upon/study the passage in light of 1 Corinthians 13, the famous love passage.  How do these two chapters fit together?  Journal your findings.

8.  Reread the blog post and study any other verses/passages in their larger context.

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