Face Your Inadequacy with God’s Strength

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One of my greatest passions in life is writing and researching. However, like all passions, I often discover that my current skill and talent levels are far too inadequate for the tasks I want to accomplish. Recently, I started to work on a writing project that I began last year (and have not touched for months). As I began scanning the document, I felt completely overwhelmed. It was so much more disorganized than I remembered it to be, and I quickly realized that most of the words just repeated my personal opinion over and over again.

Yet, right as I was feeling completely inadequate to the task ahead of me, I remembered the stories of people behind me who were completely unequal to the jobs they were called to. God can use weak people to carry out his work in extraordinary ways. Here are some examples:

1)      Nehemiah-From Cup Bearer to City Leader

Nehemiah was the king’s cup bearer, until God flipped his life upside down. Nehemiah felt called to help Jerusalem rebuild its walls. He obeyed, and the wall rebuilding project was finished in record time. However, he was no master builder.  He did not possess any architectural or project management skills, and his cup bearing skills were obviously useless in this scenario. To make the situation more complicated, enemies intent on stopping the building project were bearing down on all sides, right in the middle of construction! From a natural perspective, Nehemiah was the very worst candidate for this job. Despite his lack of military leadership and construction skills, he still completed the job that God called him to, and it in record time at that.

2)        Mary- An Unlikely Choice

Mary was just a young teenager when the angel appeared to her and told her that she would have a son. Mary was as ordinary as they come, an unlikely candidate to carry and then take care of the son of God. Even worse, she was then unmarried – basically a single mom! In her society, she would have been looked down upon with scorn for becoming pregnant before marriage. In our society, we would see someone like Mary, a young, pregnant teenager, and think her to be completely irresponsible and incapable of raising a child. But God called Mary to do just that, and she succeeded in her God-given mission.

3)      Abraham and Sarah-Facing Impossible Circumstances

Abraham and Sarah were faced with an irreversible obstacle – old age. God had promised them a child, but Sarah was ninety and Abraham was one hundred years old when they actually had their son, Isaac. As time wore on, Abraham and Sarah were forced to either hang on to God’s promise or give up entirely on having a family. After all, it was humanly impossible for them to bring God’s reality to pass on their own. Thankfully, they hung on and God delivered (no pun intended). As God is not intimidated by natural impossibilities, we should face seemingly impossible circumstances knowing that we have a supernatural God on our side!

4)        Josiah-Overwhelming Responsibility

Josiah was only eight years old when he was made King of Israel. Knowing the typical nature of little kids, I can imagine that this reign was rather chaotic. After all, Josiah was starting out with zero experience, knowledge, wisdom, or maturity! But Josiah turned to wisdom that was greater than himself. In his weakness, God’s word supplied him with direction. Josiah knew that weakness is not a boundary; it’s really just an opportunity to ask God for help!

Just like Nehemiah, Mary, and Josiah, God will call us to complete missions that are outside of our realms. We may consider ourselves as being too old, too young, or not skilled enough, but God doesn’t pay attention to limitations. As the end of 2 Corinthians 12:10 says, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

When we are faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges, we can remind ourselves that we are children of the One True God, who turns hopeless situations into miracles.

 

 

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Building Strong Relationships

picnic-1208229_1280High-quality relationships never come about by accident.

Strong friendships and families are built intentionally. The best relationships must have a solid foundation in order to survive times of strain and testing. Here are five practical exercises we can apply to strengthen our relationships.

1)  Compliment freely!

Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” According to Dictionary.com, the word “corrupt” can be used to define something that is “infected”1 or “tainted”1.

In our society, we are quick to speak words that are “infected” with condemnation or “tainted” with harsh criticism. We don’t think twice about criticizing but are painfully slow with compliments. Some people try to build themselves up by tearing others down, but this approach only damages both parties. Finding the good in someone else is actually a sign of humility because it forces us to acknowledge that we aren’t the only talented individuals on planet earth.

You don’t have to hand out compliments right and left, but when you notice a positive feature about someone, tell them! You will have to give constructive criticism at times, but as a part of that critique you can mention something positive about the person or their actions.

2) Challenge one another in love.

Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.”
Friendships are supposed to help us grow. We can encourage each other in our pursuits, and gently correct when we notice something that is damaging our friend. Relationships not only give us joy, they also make us face our struggles and weak spots. The best kind of friend will not leave us to face our struggles alone, but will rather link arms with us and walk with us.

Just as iron sharpening iron, sparks may fly in our relationships, but that is not always a bad thing. Conflicts resulting from corrections may hurt, but sometimes a little bit of pain forces us to change. In our relationships, we always must remember to correct and challenge with love. In their discussion of Proverbs 27:17, Jason and David Benham wrote, “if these clashes are motivated by love, then we should embrace them, not avoid them.” (Living Among Lions, page 182)

3)  Celebrate one another’s victories.

Did your friend pass their driving test? Or perhaps they baked a batch of cookies that weren’t burnt to a crisp? Maybe they can’t stop smiling because their cousin just had a new baby. Whatever the joyous occasion, partake in the celebration! As Romans 12:15 says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice”!

You may not understand how momentous this occasion is, but to your friend, it could be life changing. Besides, when something exciting happens to you, you will want your friends to be eager to celebrate alongside you.

4)  Stay for the struggle.

The second half of Romans 12:15 says, “weep with those who weep.” Many people stick around for the party but quickly diminish when the going gets tough. This reminds me of the Prodigal Son. His friends stuck around as long as he had money, but once the money was spent—and he was left to starve—the friends vanished into thin air.

Being a friend during good times is easy, the real test comes when harder circumstances hit. Celebrating with our friends is a necessity, but we need to remind ourselves to be there when they are going through a rough time. This includes proactively contacting them as well as offering any support we can.

We regularly need to remind ourselves to be a shoulder to cry on as well as someone to celebrate with.

5)  Be quick to forgive and forget.

Ephesians 4:32 says, “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”

We can only offer God’s kind of forgiveness when we are acting in His strength. On our own, the urge to hold a grudge is simply too strong to overcome. Once we truly forgive, we will soon find ourselves forgetting the instance.

Forgetting a friend’s mistake doesn’t mean that you should immediately trust your friend again, but rather give them an opportunity to earn your trust back without holding their mistake over them.

Although building a strong relationship requires time and conscious effort, the friendships in our lives are well worth it. First, we need to remember to use our words to lift our friends up. Then, out of love, we can challenge and even gently correct our relations. We also must remember to celebrate during the good and comfort in the bad. Finally, we can offer forgiveness when they make a mistake, knowing that we will also need forgiveness in our relationships.