My wife and I recently moved to accept a position at her home church in Cincinnati. In the process, I just bought my first bookcase. It was so much fun. I am a booklover, and for the past five years of my transient college life, my books have been confined to little cardboard prisons. Now, those days have passed. My books have been liberated onto the shelves lining my office walls. In the process of this liberation movement I was shocked to discover a secret that only my bookcase could tell me: I am not a theologian.
For most people, that revelation does not sound like it should be that shocking. But put yourself in my place: I just finished Bible College, I am a pastor in training at my church, and I feel like I know a pretty good amount of theology. I scored well in all of my theology courses. I even love talking about theology with interested people in my church. But I am no theologian. I know so by the testimony of my bookshelves.
On my shelves, I have seven books which are pure theology books, and eight books which are a sort of popular theology (Mark Driscoll, J.I. Packer, and John Stott). Then I have one massive systematic theology. Not bad for a burgeoning theologian. Or so I thought.
Below the paltry theology shelf, I have nineteen books on church issues, ranging from small group structure to building a healthy children’s ministry. They are books which help to train people to properly lead a church. On the shelf below that I have 28 books on leadership and management.
I may have an interest in theology. I may be pretty knowledgeable about theology. I may even study theology on my own time, but I know I am not a theologian, because my deepest interest lies elsewhere. My desires show the area where God has gifted me, and my books show my desires.
The Spirit gifts to each person according to His purposes. Work within your area of gifting, and stop trying to become something you are not. You may think that in order to serve God you have to become something different than what you are, but the body is full of different people with different strengths. You don’t have to be master of them all. God worked faithfully through His providence in order to make you into the person you are today. Study what you don’t know, strengthen your areas of weakness, but never forsake those strengths which come naturally in favor of those which do not. If you operate in your strength, God operates in your weaknesses.
Are you trying to bolster up your weaknesses in order to become strong? Stop working yourself to death and trust God to be the strength you lack. John Piper rightly stated that great men were not masters of many things; great men were simply men who were mastered by one thing. Find your one thing and pursue it with the glory of God as your goal.
Do you long for the gifts given to someone else? Take comfort in the need for your gifting in order to keep the body properly functioning. It isn’t as sexy as preaching, but a life spent serving behind the scenes is a necessary part of the body. And service is a gift from God Himself.
Are you desperately searching for your role in the body? Try loading a bookshelf; it certainly set me straight.