Instead of hiding and denying our weaknesses, we need to learn to recognize them. We need to learn to share them. And we need to learn to glory in our weaknesses.
I have struggled with a handicap all of my life. I was born with a disorder in my brain chemistry that makes public speaking excruciatingly painful to me. Ill often get severe headaches and hot flashes and experience severe, irrational panic when I speak publicly. Its a genetic problem that resists any medication. If doctors could have cured it, they would have years ago.
As a pastor and preacher, of course this has been a thorn in my ministry for all my life. Every preacher knows that adrenaline is your best friend. If you dont have adrenaline, youre boring. Plus, having preached six services a weekend for years, Ive needed adrenaline just to make it through all of them. But instead of helping me, adrenaline makes me absolutely miserable. The very thing that a preacher needs the most to get the job done is like poison to my body.
Sometimes people ask me if, when I get up to preach at Saddleback, Im proud that Im speaking to so many people. Honestly, thats the last thing Im thinking about. Im usually thinking, God, just get me through this one more time. If I wasnt convinced that God has called me to preach, and that hes gifted me, and blessed me to do it, I would have found a whole lot easier way to make a living a long time ago.
Ive been in ministry for more than 30 years. Ive done everything possible to try to fix this problem. Ive prayed about it. Ive fasted for days on end. Ive seen the best doctors, counselors, and read the best books. And God has not chosen although I will keep praying for it to heal me from this ailment.
Whats the lesson? God uses weak people. Why does he do that?
Paul tells is in 2 Corinthians. We don't go around preaching about ourselves; we preach Christ Jesus, the Lord. All we say about ourselves is that we are your servants because of what Jesus has done for us. For God, who said, Let there be light in the darkness, has made us understand that this light is the brightness of the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. Yet we who have this spiritual treasure are like common clay pots, in order to show that the supreme power belongs to God, not to us. (2 Cor. 4:5-7 TEV)
God uses clay pots weak people like us so that the glory goes to him. God has used me to build Saddleback Church, but the power is from God. I glory in the fact that he took someone whose weakness is speaking in front of other people to preach to more than 20,000 people on a typical weekend. Thats just like God.
If by sharing my handicap it causes you to stop making excuses for not serving more, then Ive made my point. One of my life verses is 2 Chronicles 16:9 The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth to show himself strong on behalf of those whose hearts are perfect toward him.
God is looking for people to use. I used to think that God played favorites. I really did. I thought God looked out on people and said, Im going to use you. And Im going to use you and the rest of you, tough luck! But the Bible says that God is looking for people to use. And if you get usable, he will wear you out.
I believe that God has used my ministry the way he has because I told him that I will do what is most painful to me in order to bring him the most glory.
You say, God cant use me like that. Youre dead wrong. What is your excuse for not giving Jesus Christ 100 percent of your ministry? We all hold back. I do. You do. We hold back our weaknesses because we dont want anybody to know what they are. So rather than "glorying in them" and letting God use them, we hide them. We deny them. We put them off in a closet and pretend like we dont have them.
You say, Rick, you dont know my background. God wants to use that background.
You say, Ive got a pain in my life. God wants to use that pain.
You say, Rick, Im afraid. God wants you to use that fear.
What kind of ministries last? Ministries that are led by real, authentic, vulnerable, and honest leaders who arent hypocritical about sharing their weaknesses.
I have met many pastors who are very interested in declaring their spirituality, but I havent met many who are interested in declaring their humanity. We want to hide it. But to deny your humanity not only does a disservice to you, but it does a disservice to your church. In fact, I believe your humanity is actually one of your greatest strengths.
You see, God puts his greatest gifts in ordinary clay pots so that he gets the credit.
Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and best-known churches. In addition, Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose-Driven Life and The Purpose-Driven Church, which was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th Century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for ministers. Copyright 2005 Pastors.com, Inc. Used with permission. All rights reserved.
Adapted from Rick Warren's Ministry ToolBox, a free weekly e-newsletter for pastors and church leaders, available at Pastors.com.