I’ve learned over the years—both from my own experience early on and because of emails I’ve received asking for advice—that there’s a great temptation to get frustrated with the people in your church as you learn theology and apologetics. There’s a temptation to look down on them with a scornful attitude of “they should know what I know!”
This is a spiritually dangerous misunderstanding of how the body of Christ was created to function. It’s not by accident that the people in your church don’t know what you know, it’s by Christ’s design, who has given us all different gifts "for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ."
If you understand that any ability you have comes from a gracious God and that anything good you accomplish happens through His power alone, then you will less likely become arrogant as a result of your skills or successes. You will also be less condescending and critical toward others who have different gifts than your own, because you will remember that God Himself has organized the body according to His perfect plan, “just as He wills” (1 Cor. 12:11). If you are unhappy with some of the constituency of your local church and wish that they were more like you, then your problem is ultimately with God, who put them there and made them the way they are.
And now comes the crucial point:
Rather than complaining about their weaknesses, you should eagerly seek to use your gifts for their benefit and humbly receive the ministry God has designed for them to have in your life.
You’ve been given your gift for the sake of those who don’t have that gift, and their lack of that gift is a result of God’s design, not their failure. Their weakness is your opportunity for joyful service, just as your weakness (whatever it might be) is theirs. It doesn’t make sense to despise people in your church for lacking the very thing you were placed there to give them.
Your gift of theological and apologetic aptitude and knowledge is not the only important gift. (“If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be?”) It’s given to you so you can get down in the trenches below the people you’re trying to help and lift them up, not so you can look down on them from above.
Your gift makes you a servant, not a master. Once I understood this, it changed everything.
In “Top 50 Questions Christians Can’t Answer,” the author asks many questions about the problem of evil, sin, and hell, but since we’ve covered those things a few times before, I thought #25 would be an interesting one for you. It touches on a subject I don’t think we’ve practiced explaining in a challenge yet: hermeneutics:
25 – In the book of Luke chapter 19 verse 27, Jesus says, "But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me." This seems pretty clear that Jesus would have Christians kill all non-believers. How do you explain this? Convert them or kill them, right?
If an atheist challenged you with this, could you explain how biblical interpretation works, along with your answer to his question? Tell us what you would say below, then we’ll hear Alan’s response on Thursday.
We can’t help but have unreal, romantic imaginations and expectations about what God’s answers to our prayers will be.
Therefore, we are often unprepared for the answers we receive from God. His answers frequently do not look at first like answers. They look like problems. They look like trouble. They look like loss, disappointment, affliction, conflict, sorrow, and increased selfishness. They cause deep soul-wrestling and expose sins and doubts and fears. They are not what we expect and we often do not see how they correspond to our prayers….
If we ask God for greater, deeper love for him, what should we expect to receive? Answers that give us a greater awareness of our deep and pervasive sinful depravity, because those who are forgiven much, love much, but those who are forgiven little, love little (Luke 7:47).
If we ask God to help us love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31), what should we expect to receive? Answers that force us to give unexpected attention to a neighbor (who we might not put in that category (Luke 10:29)), which are inconvenient and irritating….
If we ask God for a deeper experience of his grace, what should we expect to receive? Answers that oppose our pride and humble our hearts (James 4:6)….
If we ask God to help us “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord” (Colossians 1:10), what should we expect to receive? Answers that require more humility, gentleness, patience, and bearing with one another in love (Ephesians 4:2) than we thought possible and might result in destitution, affliction, and mistreatment, like many saints throughout history, “of whom the world was not worthy” (Hebrews 11:38).
We often forget that God “predestined [us] to become conformed to the image of His Son”—that He is working in our lives to achieve this, and that we can expect pain will be involved. As Hebrews 12 reminds us, “[Y]ou have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons”:
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines”…. He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.