devos from the hill

Your Greatest Strength May Be Your Greatest Weakness

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This year marks the 40th anniversary of Mars Hill Productions! In this devotional series, president, Fred Carpenter is reflecting on the important lessons of God that have guided us in ministry and led us into a deeper understanding of His ways.

“And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me . . . for when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Cor. 12:9&10

Since the early days of Mars Hill, I have used a personality profile assessment with all incoming staff. The one we use is called the DiSC. This assessment is not a test that one could pass or fail. It is more like a mirror that simply reveals who you are. I have found that our personality is much like our fingerprint or the color of our eyes. It is simply how God has wired us. It reveals how we naturally respond to the world around us.

The idea of basic personality types, or temperaments, dates back to the days of early Greco-Roman medicine. The Greek physician Hippocrates (c. 460 – c. 370 BC) incorporated four basic personality temperaments into his medical theories. These included sanguine (enthusiastic, active, social), choleric (driven, goal oriented, often Type A), melancholic (analytical, creative, introspective), and phlegmatic (relaxed, steady, often peaceful). Most people have a combination of these, with one or two being predominant. There is not a right or wrong personality type. God makes every person unique, for a different purpose. Each one is fearfully and wonderfully made” – Ps.139:14

Much like Hippocrates’s 4 temperaments, the DiSC assessment is based on the idea that there are four basic personality “styles”, and a vast number of combinations of these four. The DiSC styles are dominance (D), influence (i), steadiness (S), and conscientiousness (C). Generally, people do well in roles that rely on their strengths. For example, if you need a cheerleader on your team, you’d want to find someone with a high amount of “i”.  If you want someone to pay close attention to the details to make sure nothing is missed and everything is done right, then you’d want someone with a high amount of “C”.

I’ve learned that it is not good to expect someone to function outside of their natural bent, in a style in which they are weak, over a long period of time.  That person will not flourish and be happy, and neither will you.

That said, I have also learned that there can be a great danger when people are given a role that allows them to rely on their strength. For it is when we are operating in our strength, and perhaps receiving affirmation for doing so, that we often fail to see our need to depend on Christ. In other words, it can be our strengths, not our weaknesses, that gets us into trouble.

The world teaches self-reliance. “Believe in yourself and you can do anything.” But the Bible teaches reliance on Christ. Jesus said, “apart from Me you can do nothing” – John 15:5.  It doesn’t matter how great my performance looks to the world around me, if it is not the result of the Life of Christ working in me, if it is not Jesus doing it through me, then it is just flesh. It may be good looking “choice grade USDA” flesh, but it is still just flesh. Yes, when it is not under the control of the Spirit of God, your greatest strength may actually be your greatest weakness.

“For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so. . .” Rom. 8:6-7

In his book “Keep in Step with the Spirit”, J.I. Packer describes what he calls “Augustinian holiness teaching.” It is Augustine’s pattern for “intense activity,” but this activity “is not in the least self-reliant in spirit.” Instead, he says, “It follows this four-stage sequence”:

First, as one who wants to do all the good you can, you observe what tasks, opportunities, and responsibilities face you.
Second, you pray for help in these, acknowledging that without Christ you can do nothing—nothing fruitful, that is (John 15:5).
Third, you go to work with a good will and a high heart, expecting to be helped as you asked to be.
Fourth, you thank God for help given, ask pardon for your own failures en route, and request more help for the next task.

I believe that “holiness” is more a matter of identity and nature than of performance. You will ultimately live out your nature. And the fact is, we all have to walk out our identity and nature in some way. And in this regard, I like Augustine’s teaching. God has given each one of us strengths and weaknesses. May we know what they are, and may we submit our strengths unto Him, and trust Him to reveal His strength in our weakness!

“. . . whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” – 1 Pet.4:11

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