The Power of Acknowledged Weakness (Our Confessions of Faith)

First, credit to Jack Hayford‘s podcast entitled “The Power of Acknowledged Weakness” for inspiring this writing.

As I think about the various posts I’ve made on my metanoia, it is clear that I have been working through the process of undoing some of the “faith based” one-sidedness I see so much in this world. While I believe we are to stand in faith, I am often put off by the excessiveness this can take in some people. At times, it seems preachers tell us to only confess the positive when the reality of the situation isn’t so positive, or conversely to avoid saying anything negative because that shows a lack of faith and gives place to the enemy. While it is easy to pull out a scripture here or there to support such claims, I find that when you look at the whole of the Bible, you see a more complicated (and honest) story.

1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (NKJV) says “And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Paul’s words are interesting here. He came in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. I can almost hear some preachers today:

“Paul, where was your faith? Don’t you know that fear is the opposite of faith? Don’t you know that perfect love casts out all fear? If you have fear it must be a deficiency of love or of the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Get refilled and you won’t have fear!”

Yes, this is the formula taught today, and the formula is scriptural. But just because we’ve learned a formula doesn’t mean our hearts are right with God and that we are trusting in anything more than the formula itself. Even when we think we are right, we are wise to remember that there is a greater fulness to God, and even in our most perfect state on earth, we do see but dimly.

1 Peter 2:18-24 (NKJV) says “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: ‘Who committed no sin, ​​Nor was deceit found in His mouth’; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.”

We love to claim the promise at the end of this passage. Jesus died for our sins and died so that we might have power over sin in our body. He died so that we can have healing from the presence of sin’s attack on our body. But he did these things by what would be considered weakness in our carnal minds. When Jesus was reviled, he did not revile in return. When he was threatened, he did not threaten, but simply trusted in God who judges righteously. If we are misunderstood or mistreated and take it well, then this is a sacrifice to God, and it is to this that we are called. We need to understand that the wonderful glory we have in Christ we have because Jesus didn’t retaliate but surrendered to what was apparent weakness, trusting in God. We are called to a similar surrender. Are we standing on the final promise alone (are we standing on confession of the words alone and having memorized certain scriptures) or are we standing on our weakness compared to Christ’s glory and in our willingness to walk as He walked, even if He doesn’t take us on the easy path?

In the podcast referenced above, Jack Hayford points out for common types of believers in relation to the promises of God’s word:

  1. Strategist: This the the person who likes to find a way to make things work. To appear strong, this person has to work out a program. I think my issues with the Ministry of Strengths course was that this was a very strategist modality. But Paul said in the Corinthians passage above that his preaching and his teaching were not with enticing words of man’s wisdom. The strategist works out his own way, and then prays the Lord to bless it. The Lord would say to the strategist, “get out of my way and I’ll work.”
  2. Defeatist: This person simply accepts that what is what is what. Displaying even an appearance of spiritual humility, this person simply “praises God anyway, whatever the will of God.” This person may speak to past prayer that didn’t work and assume a sickness or failing must simply be the will of God. The defeatist’s defense is no defence. Defeatists don’t defend themselves, but they don’t let the Lord be their defence either. The defeatist presumes a negative situation is simply a mandate of God he must suffer, but he never invites God into the situation. The Lord would say to the defeatist, “if you’ll stop sulking and denying that I may want to do something positive and let me in, I will work.”
  3. Positivist: Every faith seems to have their positivist – from those in the occult to those in the Charismatic Christian movement. The very idea that the ideology is so widespread gives hint to the notion that there may be a truth within it, but the ideology itself doesn’t cut it. Positivism, like many other isms, is a thing that often becomes substantial for its own sake alone – I am positive because I’m positive, vs. I’m positive because Jesus is truly making me that way through the inner working of His Spirit. The Lord may say to the positivist, “stop trusting in your positiveness, for it has become a separate idol to you before me.”
  4. Religionist:  The religionist loves theology. He can point to the Word and often point out where others are wrong. I struggle with this myself, especially when confronting the extreme ideals of strategists, defeatists, and positivists. We see ourselves as right, and therefore as strong. While it is good to have correct doctrine, the religionist has faith in his knowledge of the Word rather than the Word Himself. We lose sight of the Savior forest due to the theology trees. To the religionist the Lord will say “your theology does not impress Me, for I am the embodiment of it all.” We must remember, we see but dimly, and we only know in part.

The Lord though, is looking for people who say “I don’t have it, but I’m in touch with the One who does.” People who will come and acknowledge their own weakness: the weakness of their own plans, their own slogans, their own passiveness and apparent spirituality, and even their own knowledge of the Word.

We need to come to the place of the apostle Paul where we come in weakness and in fear, not trusting in anything within ourselves, but simply leaning on God, trusting that God will support His word, not through us, but through His Spirit and Power.

What Happened Between Crucifixion and Resurrection?

The purpose of this post is to quantify some things that likely did not happen between Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection. Having grown up in the ’80s and as a young adult in the ’90s with pentecostal teachings common around me, I often heard the teaching that Jesus went to hell after he died and was “beaten up on” by Satan until the time of his resurrection and ultimate conquering of hell. The argument goes that Jesus not only took our punishment by dying in the flesh, but he took our punishment by experiencing hell as well. Once he had had “enough” then God turned the tables and brought him back in power. This has a logical sound to it, so I never thought too much about the correctness of it for the longest time.

Before I go too far, I want to review what I have decided likely happened. I acknowledge it is rather difficult to determine exactly what happened, but the vagueness of the question does not leave open unending possibilities, either.

I think John Piper’s church has a pretty good view regarding what transpired. As noted in their article found here, we must first realize that previous to Jesus’ death on the cross, the heathen who died and those who died in (the future) Christ (i.e., the old testament righteous) went to Sheol. In the Old Testament, Sheol is the place of the dead, both for the righteous (like Jacob, Genesis 37:35, and Samuel, 1 Samuel 28:13–14) and the wicked (Psalm 31:17). Sheol is under the earth (Numbers 16:30–33), is equated to a city with gates and bars (Isaiah 38:10)(Job 17:16) and is a land of darkness, a place where the shadowy souls of men dwell (Isaiah 14:9; 26:14). It is the land of forgetfulness (Psalm 88:12), where no work is done and no wisdom exists (Ecclesiastes 9:10). Most significantly, Sheol is a place where no one praises God (Psalm 6:5; 88:10–11; 115:17; Isaiah 38:18). From those scriptural hints, it really does sound like a “waiting area.”

The new testament sheds further light on Sheol (known as Hades in the new testament). The story of the rich man and Lazarus lets us know that those who were righteous and had the hope of the future Christ went to “Abraham’s side” or Abraham’s bosom where they were comforted. But those who did not have that future hope were indeed in torment and in flames. There was a chasm between the two, but it appears that the two sides were in view of each other and communication could be made across the chasm. Journeying across, though, was not possible (see Luke 16:19-31).

So this tells us what existed as far as where dead people were at the time of Jesus’ arrival on the scene – either in torment and fire (but not the final hell, as judgment has not yet come) or in comfort at Abraham’s side (and similarly, not in heaven). These two places seem to be two halves to a whole with a chasm between the two. Per the words of Jesus to the thief next to him, Abraham’s side may also be called “Paradise.” (See Luke 23:43).

As the author at Piper’s site continues, “Following his death for sin, then, Jesus journeys to Hades, to the City of Death, and rips its gates off the hinges. He liberates Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, John the Baptist, and the rest of the Old Testament faithful, ransoming them from the power of Sheol (Psalm 49:15; 86:13; 89:48). They had waited there for so long, not having received what was promised, so that their spirits would be made perfect along with the saints of the new covenant (Hebrews 11:39–40; 12:23).”

Jesus leads the righteous out of that place so it is assumed that the former and current dead (since the time of Jesus) are no longer within sight and hearing of the place of torment. “Paradise” (after Jesus ascended) is also referred to as the “third heaven” in 2 Corinthians 12:2. Now, Christians who die are immediately in the presence of the Lord in Paradise (see Philippians 1:23). Eventually, those still in torment in Hades will be given up for the final judgement where they will ultimately be cast into the lake of fire. This is known as the “second death” (see Revelation 20:13-15). Those in Paradise with Jesus will ultimately be judged and taken to heaven.

It is reasonable to assume that while dead in his fleshly body, Jesus was working in Hades to set the captives free. Matthew 12:40 says that while Jesus’ body was in the tomb, He was in the “heart of the earth.” The old testament descriptions of Sheol would suggest that the “heart of the earth” was indeed Sheol/Hades. 1 Peter 3:19-22 (KJV) says that Jesus “went and preached unto the spirits in prison” which would make sense considering all of the above.* It is also important to note that 1 Peter 3:18 specifies that he suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,” (italics mine). This does not say he suffered further after his death in the flesh – or that he suffered torment in hell.

*it is noted that some believe that the “spirits in prison” were the demons in chains referenced in Jude 6, but I disagree with this “na na na na na na” sounding proposition. Since we all have spirits who will live eternally, it makes more sense that Jesus preached to those at Abraham’s bosom so that they could be officially born again into the new covenant brought forth by Jesus’ crucifixion.

What’s interesting to me is the extra belief that I mentioned at the onset of this article, that Jesus was “beaten up on” by Satan and his demons for some time. As the study outlined above doesn’t really seem to allow for this post death suffering, I want to look to see if the more common prosperity teachers (to lump some of the more common televangelists into one grouping) in fact do teach this ideology. My memory tells me they do, and if they do, what biblical evidence do they use to support the notion. Below, I will look at the teachings of a few ministries I know personally (I’m not searching the internet for the whacko I’ve never heard of). These are ministries I have on occasion or in the past studied from and/or are ministries actively followed by people I know and respect. I will not be naming all the ministries discussed, as that is not the purpose of this article – google is the friend to those who want to search these things out on their own. I want to further say that just because I find a ministry teaches this (I now believe) incorrect doctrine does not mean I am otherwise speaking bad of the ministry – that too is not the purpose of this article. Some of the ministries I researched are ministries I do believe to be deceivers in our time, but others are likely God-fearing ministries who have been incorrect on this one point. Haven’t we all be incorrect at times? We all see as in a mirror, dimly, remember. As I’ve stated before, the purpose of this site is my metanoia – the clearing out, specifying, and scripturally proving of what I believe to be correct. This article is simply a part of that process.

The first popular multi-billion dollar ministry I looked at states the following on its website, in response to the question, “did Jesus go to hell?” (as of 12/30/2016):

After the crucifixion, Jesus’ body was placed in a tomb, and His Spirit went to hell. There Jesus suffered all the torments of hell that we would have suffered. Jesus’ submission to death was complete. He experienced it to the ultimate degree so mankind would never have to be punished (2 Corinthians 5:21).

I have to note that 2 Corinthians 5:21 says “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” – this ministry, which I heard often while growing up, really stretches this verse into something it simply does not say. The Amplified Bible says for this verse:

He made Christ who knew no sin to [judicially] be sin on our behalf, so that in Him we would become the righteousness of God [that is, we would be made acceptable to Him and placed in a right relationship with Him by His gracious lovingkindness].

The ministry gives no other scripture evidence to support its claim.

The second ministry I looked at tells/told a similar story. From a book written by the head of this ministry in 1993:

“Jesus paid on the cross and went to hell in my place. Then as God had promised, on the third day Jesus rose from the dead. The scene in the spirit realm went something like this: God rose up from his throne and said to demon powers tormenting the sinless son of God, ‘let him go.’ Then the resurrection power of Almighty God went through hell and filled Jesus. On earth his grave where they had buried him was filled with light as the power of God filled his body. He was resurrected from the dead — the first born again man.”

A 1996 version of the same book took out the wording: The scene in the spirit realm went something like this: God rose up from his throne and said to demon powers tormenting the sinless son of God, ‘let him go.’;  but the updated version of the book still said “Jesus paid for our sins on the cross and went to hell in our place”… “His spirit went to hell because that is where we deserved to go”…”He became your substitute and took all the punishment you deserve.” and “He was alone for three days satisfying the courts of justice and conquering the hosts of hell” (italics mine). While this wording is less severe, the implication is still there that Jesus suffered in hell (rather than went to Hades to set the captives free) as part of the redemption process. The only verse used in the book to support this is Acts 2:31, which says “he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption.” – Again, a far stretch for the verse to suggest hellish punishment.

For this minister, it is easy to find audible lessons expressing the horrors Jesus endured in hell, but these, like the books quoted above, are old. I believe in this case, the minister has backed away from the teaching. Searching the current site for this ministry does not reveal such content. Hopefully this popular minister no longer believes the concept to be true and didn’t remove it simply to avoid known controversy.

A third popular ministry also has proposed this same doctrine. From the ministry’s magazine in 2003:

(Jesus) suffered everything He suffered when He was here on this planet. Whipped with the cat of nine tails. Crucified on the cross at calvary. Somebody says ‘Oh that’s suffering’ But He not only suffered when He was in a physical body, His spirit stepped off the cross, went to HELL. The Bible says in the book of acts the pains of hell. Suffered everything that a man could ever suffer. Somebody say ‘What?’ Yep. You better hope He went through everything that you could ever go through, because whatever Jesus did not take on, you and I would have to take on.

While I don’t have the original of this magazine as proof, I believe the words are accurate, as I’ve heard this minister say nearly the exact same thing on television in the past couple of years. This same minister’s current website has the following (as of 12/30/2016):

Jesus took back the authority that Adam turned over to Satan.

  1. When Jesus died on the cross, His spirit went to hell.
  2. Jesus looked like sin when He entered hell, and Satan thought that he had the victory over Him.
  3. After three days, Jesus’ spirit was quickened by God and He revealed His identity to the enemy.
    1. Jesus took back the keys of death, hell and the grave, and released those saints in hell who had died before they had a chance to become born again.
  4. Jesus gained the victory over Satan forever and restored authority to mankind.
  5. You have a right to every promise in the Bible because of what Jesus did on the cross.

While the wording is less obstinate, point number 3 shows that this minister believes that until Jesus’ spirit was quickened by God, Jesus was under submission to Satan, because Jesus looked like sin and Satan thought he had the victory – for a full three days! Jesus did submit to the sin of man, but nowhere in the bible does it say he was ever under Satan’s power or in submission to Satan, as clearly suggested by the first two points above. No scripture references are given to support the false points. This one was hard to search out on the minister’s site as the very popular minister offers no statement of faith that I could find.

In continuing research, there are many others who have expressed this belief. There are some who say that Jesus was the son of God on the cross, but was the son of man in hell, being tormented by Satan for those three days – that there was a separation so that it was fair that Jesus, as man, went to hell as a sinner and suffered under the devil’s thumb (It would not have been fair to the devil if the son of God went to hell – so it had to be the separated from himself son of man) – until God revealed the fullness of who he was and pulled him out. The logic always sounds good when people preach their version of this ideology, but no one seems able to offer sound biblical (or often any biblical) proof to the theology. This belief seems quite popular with many popular tv preachers today, though I have noticed that some, who clearly have video of themselves teaching this theology in the past posted online, have pulled back in their current websites, using more vague wording as to what they believe (in some cases, possibly due to the backlash they’ve received online?).

It is further clear that many of the better known “founding fathers” of the prosperity/faith/health movement clearly taught this ideology. It is easy to search online and find original video of the “Jesus suffered in hell” theology, by numerous “founding fathers” of the faith movement and even by the owners and heads of multi-national christian television ministries. These were the teachings I heard as a child, and having done this research, it is clear why I remember the teachings as being so common. It’s clear this incorrect belief was commonly present.

I’m not sure it is as much today, though, at least with some (but clearly not all) popular ministries. It does seem that a few ministries have backed off on this teaching, or are at least more vague about it, not directly describing the tortures Jesus received by the demons he submitted to. Hopefully this reflects a disbandment of the theology in the hearts of today’s better known tv preachers.

Final thoughts:

At first, this teaching does seem rather altruistic. Jesus took on everything for us (but many turn further and say this was so we could have everything because of Jesus). But to me, this incorrect teaching has much greater implications. It implies that Jesus subjugated himself to Satan, and Jesus never did that, no matter how tantalizing Satan’s temptations were or how dead Jesus was in the flesh. Jesus took on himself our sin, but he did this while being righteous. That was the false accusation leading to crucifixion – that Jesus had blasphemed when in fact his words were true. That was the reason God backed off and let the crucifixion happen (because Jesus was carrying our sins). That was why once he died, he still had the right to go and set the captives free. It was finished on the cross – there was no need of further punishment under Satan’s charge. 1 Peter 2:24 makes it clear: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” (italics mine).

The case for: Healing? Not Always.

In my last post, I spoke a bit about the case for healing. In reading over that post, I affirm and agree with what I have written… but…

…But.

In my younger days I would alway use Romans 3:4 as a fall back position when people did not receive healing. God’s word says in Isaiah that salvation covers our sins, our minds, and our bodies (Isaiah 53:5). If we are not seeing that active in the lives of people around us, it is not because God’s word isn’t true – so it must be something within us…

…But.

Having grown up in a pentecostal/charismatic environment, I was indubitably indoctrinated into their way of thinking. Every denomination has their particular slant, and I’m not knocking that, but none of us are perfect and none of us see perfectly clearly (see Romans 3 and 1 Corinthians 3:12). I was taught that healing, as man sees it and defines it, is an absolute truth we can see and have now.

…But.

As I have grown to consider the message of some preachers in the prosperity/health/wealth movement, I’ve become bothered by common points made by (again, some) of the common preachers. In a nutshell, since God can’t be a liar and they claim his word demonstrates absolute healing no matter what, then it must be our fault if we are not healed. By default, that also implies that it’s our doing if we are healed. We had the faith or we didn’t. What bothers me here is the principal antecedent of the pronouns in these sentences – man. Is God not sovereign? Does everything really rest on our shoulders? For the poor soul who doesn’t get healed, this message tells them to act in more faith – that they must do something better, and if they do things right, their healing will come to pass. Sadly, with some of the preachers, giving more money to their ministry will be the seed that increases faith. Think about what is happening and being said here. Our healing is up to us, and if we don’t get it, then something is wrong with us. That is neither a yolk that is easy nor a burden that is light! (See Matthew 11:28-30)

…But.

The movement teaches that healing is absolute. There is no instance of Jesus not healing someone, except when it was due to the people’s unbelief (see Mark 6:5 – And in this instance, I feel I must point out the unbelief was regarding who Jesus was – not an unbelief in his ability/willingness to heal despite knowing and accepting that he was the Savior of the world). All through the new testament, it is said by most people in the faith movement, people were always completely physically healed.

…But.

Is this really true? Are there really no instances of people not getting healed in the new testament that we have to deal with? I have previously spoken regarding Paul’s thorn. The thorn itself wasn’t sickness. The bible clearly states that the thorn was “a messenger of Satan sent to buffet him” (2 Corinthians 12:7 – 10), but as I write this, I think, “could the messenger of Satan sent to harass Paul have harassed him by inflicting physical pain on him?” Maybe? Isn’t that what Satan did to Job – harassed him by bringing destruction, loss and sickness – all under the watchful and permissible eye of God?

But what about other instances beyond Paul’s thorn. What about those who are not in danger of becoming “conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations” given to them, as was the purpose of Paul’s thorn. What about the masses?

Mark 1:32-38 tells of Jesus healing the sick in the evening while staying at Simon and Andrew’s house. The text is clear in saying that they brought all who were sick and Jesus healed many of them. The text goes on to say that the next morning, the people were back, looking for Jesus who had gone off to pray. When Simon and others found Jesus and told him that there were people looking for him, Jesus said “let’s go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” Jesus did not go back and offer healing to the many that came out that morning – instead, he left town and moved on to another. He knew his primary purpose, and that was to spread the gospel everywhere, so knowing that this town realized that someone special named Jesus had come, he moved on to the next.

A similar happening occurred at the pool of Bethesda (See John 5). Here, the Bible says that there was a “great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting…” Jesus healed one man who had been there for 38 years, and that single healing caused a controversy with the Jews as it was the Sabbath and Jesus had told the man to take up his bed and walk – which he did. There is no evidence to suggest that Jesus hung around to heal the others. I’m sure the story of the Jews being singularly mad at the single man who was healed would have played out quite differently if Jesus were still there healing everyone in their midst. The Bible clearly says that Jesus had “withdrawn” after the singular healing.

Then there are the small lines here and there throughout the new testament that have always bothered me. One of the more famous ones is where Paul tells Timothy to “No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.” (see 1 Peter 5:23).  I’ve heard numerous preachers speak on this and say that the water was bad so Timothy had to drink wine as it purified the water, but with a little research and logic, this argument falls apart. Others simply blame Timothy as not having faith enough for healing. If this is the case, why was he allowed to be so involved in the initial spread of the gospel? Why did Paul not give Timothy better instruction on faith? Maybe Timothy needed to give Paul some money as seed for faith. This argument falls apart too. While Timothy was obviously well enough to work for the gospel, it can not be denied that while doing so he had stomach issues and frequent ailments.

Another one liner comes in second Timothy during the final greetings. In 2 Timothy 4:20 the word says “Erastus remained at Corinth, and I left Trophimus, who was ill, at Miletus. (emphasis mine)” Here, Paul is speaking and he says he simply left Trophimus behind because he was sick. If anyone should have known about the gospel of perfect health, it would have been Paul, who wrote most of the new testament. Why would Paul leave Trophimus behind if he could have simply prayed for his healing. Why did Paul not say “and I left Trophimus behind because he did not have enough faith to receive his healing” as some preachers today would make people believe. Paul also did not say that he left Trophimus behind because he was weak and ill because of his sin. The word is telling in its simplicity. Paul left Trophimus behind because he was ill. If there had been better options, there is no reason to think Paul would not have used them. Paul is still sending greeting on behalf of Trophimus; he is still included with the faithful.

While Epaphroditus was ultimately healed, it is apparent in Philippians 2:25-30 that he suffered with a lengthy sickness that nearly took his life before he was healed. It is further pointed out that he was sick because of his work for Christ – the opposite of faithlessness or sin. This too, would not fit the pattern laid out by modern faith preachers. One could go a bit far and teach that if you are a lazy Christian, others may get sick because of your lacking, but that would not be a fair use of scripture either (Philippians 2:30 – “…for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.”). Finally, it says he was healed by the mercy of God, and not because of God’s obligation to heal or because Epaphroditus had finally mustered enough faith before the sickness took him.

These verses speak specifically to healing and sickness. These do not speak to suffering, which while denied by many faith preachers, is something to which we are called (John 16:33, Romans 8:17, 2 Corinthians 1:5, 2 Corinthians 4:8–10, Philippians 1:29, James 5:10). But that’s another entry.

And then there’s 1 Peter 4:1-2 (NKJV). These verses read: Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.

While the word translated as “suffer” in the verses above can refer to persecutions, it can also refer to sickness (compare Matthew 17:12 with and Matthew 17:15). When seeking the Lord, suffering in the flesh (no matter the form/source) can be used by God to remove us from sin. We know this speaks to us, and isn’t referencing Christ who suffered in the flesh, because it says that “he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men…” Jesus never spent any of this time in the flesh for the lusts of men. This is clearly a message to us. If we are suffering, no matter the cause, let us be sure we are allowing God to use that suffering to purify our lives. Even if for a season, the suffering can hang around and do us a world of good. Remember the point of Paul’s thorn, though – we should know what improvements are being made in us due to the suffering or the reason for it – if we do not, we are either wasting an opportunity God is trying to take to cleanse us from some sin, or we are allowing an unpermitted illness to wreck havoc in our lives for no purpose but the enemy’s.

I must reiterate this final point. I have not stated the above in an effort to disprove healing. My previous entry should speak to that. I fully believe Jesus is our healer. But I can’t say I believe we can always claim instant healing in this lifetime. Yes… we should pray. Yes… we should expect to see people healed…

…But.

Sometimes God has other plans and purposes in mind. As Romans 8 makes clear, all of creation is groaning and waiting for the final redemption, and this includes the redemption of our bodies.

As a final thought on Biblical healing, I encourage you to watch the following video with Joni Eareckson Tada. She speaks to a greater healing that we all need. Be encouraged.

Please note that the above video is from John MacArthur’s/Grace to You’s Strange Fire conference. While the conference (and book) give needed rebuke to some of the more outlandish in the charismatic movement, inclusion of this valuable and worthwhile video from that conference does not imply that I agree with the biblically unsound cessationist theology.

Healing? Yes!

I went to a prayer seminar on healing today. Luther J. Oconer was the speaker; he was quite good. Dr. Oconer cleary has knowledge and history in the Pentecostal traditions. I imagine portions of his teachings were new material for some of the more traditional Methodist attendees.

During the course of the day, Paul’s thorn was brought up by a member commenting on not knowing if God would heal, because God never healed Paul, despite repeated requests. As interaction with this same gentleman continued, it became apparent he was not convinced of God’s desire to always heal – maybe there was a purpose in his physical pain. He was willing to receive prayer, but spoke of being a “hard case” who had been prayed for many times before without success.

This well-meaning gentleman’s story is not atypical. Many don’t know or believe, or know they can believe, or believe they can know God’s position on healing. The typical person from American society would not postulate that God is the healer of our illnesses… that’s what doctors and hospitals are for (I have no issues with doctors or hospitals – they are ministers of grace and necessary for many people. There is no sin in attempting to bring wellness to another.).

I spoke up and addressed Paul’s thorn to the group. Typically when Paul’s thorn is discussed, it is to discuss not knowing whether or not God will heal, because he didn’t in Paul’s case. Paul’s thorn is often said to be an illness or sickness that Paul was told he had to endure – to keep him humble. However, the Bible is clear in showing that this is not accurately the case. What does the Bible say?

2 Corinthians 12:7 – 10: So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (italics mine)

While we can not know the exact nature of the thorn, we do know the “what” of what it was – it was “a messenger of Satan.” In his writing, Paul gives the figure of speech (thorn in the flesh) and immediately defines what this means (a messenger of Satan). He does not say, “a thorn was given me in the flesh, a deep aching in my right side” or “a thorn was given me in the flesh, and I have endured migraines because of it.” Paul was very clear – a messenger of Satan. When we look at Paul’s life as a whole, there was plenty he had done which would give Satan fodder with which to buffet him. Paul was complicit in the death of Christians before his salvation. It is perfectly logical that the accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10) would regularly remind Paul of his past. Paul was keenly aware of who he was in the flesh and what he had done (I Timothy 1:15). We may be buffeted, accused, insulted, receive persecution and survive calamities – but none of these things is sickness. You simply can not find Biblical evidence to support that Paul’s thorn was sickness. (Please see my next post for some updated thoughts on this topic).

Additionally, it has to be noted in the case of Paul’s thorn, that while God did not remove the thorn, Paul was made aware of why he had it (to keep him from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations). So for those who say that “maybe” God is causing a sickness for some reason or to teach them something, but they don’t know the reason… well, then God is not doing a very good job at teaching them anything via their sickness – just something to consider.

But showing that Paul’s thorn is not described in the Bible as sickness also does not show that God is our healer. The argument for this is simple, though. Consider the following:

Exodus 15:26: “If you will diligently listen to the voice of the LORD your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, your healer.”

The Hebrew here shows that God is our Jehovah-Rapha (The Lord that Heals). It is one of His names given in the Old Testament.

Further, Malachi 3:6 adds, “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.”

God is the God that heals, and God does not change. He also does not discriminate or show partiality (Acts 10:34).

We all take for granted that salvation from the consequences of sin is provided for all who receive the gift given by what Jesus suffered at the cross, but the cross covers all aspects of our lives: spirit, soul (mind) and body.

Isaiah 53:5, speaking of Christ: But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.

Consider it. He was pierced and crushed for our sins (spiritual healing/salvation). The chastisement of our peace was upon him (this brings mental/emotional healing – and is why we can say we have the spirit of power, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7)). And with his wounds we are healed (physical healing). The word for “wounds” in the ESV is translated “stripes” in the King James. You may have heard the phrase “by his stripes we are healed.” The word for “healed” here comes from the Hebrew (Strongs H7503) râphâʼ, raw-faw’; or רָפָה râphâh; a primitive root; properly, to mend (by stitching), i.e. (figuratively) to cure:—cure, (cause to) heal, physician, repair, × thoroughly, make whole. (from Strong’s Concordance).

Christ’s sacrifice provided all healing – spirit, soul (mind) and body. Just because we don’t always see this manifest does not mean it’s not true. There are many truths of God found in scripture that are not lived out in the lives of believers. But does this mean God is not willing? No… in all these cases “Let God be true though every one were a liar” (see Romans 3:4). Also remember, we are not yet perfected. Jesus died for our sins, but we still sin. Jesus died for our peace, but we still have times of fear. Jesus died for our healing, but we still struggle with sickness as well. All of creation is eagerly awaiting the coming perfection (see Romans 8:19).

Jesus did not even distinguish between healing physically and the forgiving of sin. In Mark 2:9 he says “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’?” Jesus considered the two (healing and forgiving of sin) to be two sides to the same coin… if only we could do the same! (See Mark 2:1-12)

The Bible says that as a man believes in his heart, so is he (Proverbs 23:7). Our society, even if based our our real and personal experience, has taught us that salvation is limited to the “by and by.” That healing is for some, but not all. By the very traditions and teachings of men, we have put God in a small, limited box. Mark 7:13 clarifies that the traditions we hand down can nullify the Word of God in our lives, making the word of God of no effect. We must be careful… do we believe what we believe because it is our experience and what we have been taught, or do we believe what we believe because it is what the scripture says? What must adhere to what scripture says – it is the only truth, no matter what we experience that seems to contradict. We must believe the Word of God!

Does this mean that everyone will always be healed every time they are prayed for? Sadly, no. There will always be those who are convinced they are the “hard case” who won’t be healed. There are always things we don’t know or see that may be blocking the path to healing. But that doesn’t make God a liar. We should always seek God as if his word is 100% true, because it is 100% true. Whether it takes a minute or a lifetime, we will ultimately see his truth and we must not give up or lose faith on that journey. We may also be surprised at what God does in our life as we take that journey.

Have we Been Called to Maximize our Strengths?

I while ago I asked a pastor’s wife friend of mine if she knew of any Bible studies I could participate in. Ultimately, this lead to my taking a Ministry by Strengths course built on the foundation of the Tom Rath book, Strengths Finder 2.0. The basic gist of the study is that trying to improve our weak areas is futile; instead we should figure out what are strengths are and maximize them. We will work best when we work to our strengths. By earthly logic, this sounds like a can’t miss.

In the process of the study, I have taken a lengthy likert scale questionnaire assessing my leanings towards several character traits. The scoring gives me my five top strengths, which for the purpose of this study fall into four main themes.

The four main themes are:

  1. Relating
  2. Impacting
  3. Striving
  4. Thinking

My strengths and how they define me came out as such:

Relating theme:

Relator – I am pulled towards people I know and enjoy the relationships I have with my close friends.

Striving theme:

Achiever – I have a consistent need for achievement. I need to achieve things in order to feel satisfied.

Thinking theme:

Deliberative – This trait describes me as a careful, vigilant, private person. I am a fairly serious person who recognizes the risks and am cautious in which way I go and with whom I associate.

Input – This trait describes someone who is inquisitive, a collector of knowledge (or things), always wanting to learn (or have) something new.

Learner – Similar to input, this theme describes my love of learning, especially the process of learning (researching). I am energized by the deliberate journey from ignorance to knowledge.

Overall, I feel my top five strengths do describe me well. At this age in life, I know who I am, and I know the areas God is constantly working on with me. Finding I had these “strengths” was nothing unexpected. Within the four themes, there are 34 possible strengths for each person. I’m sure many people would easily describe themselves with a large handful of the many available traits.

The Ministry by Strengths study has worksheets for each of 7 weeks. Much journaling is expected as one discovers his strengths and the importance of learning to work with them. The first three weeks build up to our taking the online questionnaire which, when scored, points out our top five strengths. Very little Bible is referenced for these three weeks. Weeks four through six involve discussion of each of the strengths, and how we see them impacting our lives. Only a little scripture is discussed in class, but the handout for week four includes biblical examples of each of the 34 strengths in action.

The biblical examples for my top five strengths were listed as the following:

Relator: Elijah and Elisha had this strength, as they had a closeness to each other to the point of Elijah’s translation. In the book of Acts, the church has this strength in that the believers were together and had everything in common.

Achiever: Martha was an “over” achiever – in that she was too focused on getting things done instead of doing what her sister Mary did – listen to Jesus, sitting at his feet. Proverbs 13:4 says “The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.” Ephesians 2:10 says “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” See also 1 Thessalonians 1:3.

Deliberative: Judges 6:36-40 tells the story of Gideon asking God to place dew on a fleece but not the ground, and then the next night, just to be sure, he asks God to do the opposite. In Luke 14: 31-32, Jesus tells a parable of the importance of assessing whether or not one can go to war against another, and if not, send a delegation (Jesus is discussing the seriousness of the decision to follow him).

Input: Ezra had this strength in his study, observance, and teaching of the Law of the Lord (Ezra 7:10). In Luke 12: 15-21 Jesus warns of too much of the input trait in the story of the rich man who had so much from his crops that he tore down his barns to build bigger ones, only to have his soul required of him – the lesson being not to store things up for yourself when you are not rich towards God.

Learner: Solomon was a dedicated learner (Ecclesiastes 1:12-17). Jesus states we should learn from him; his yoke is easy (Matthew 11:29-30). In Colossians 1:9-10 Paul prays that God will fill us with all knowledge of Him.

My initial thought is that this is not a Bible study. This is simply a self-improvement course which follows the same earthly logic of most self-improvement courses. It offers a method to learn about and improve oneself. As the Tom Rath book is by no means Christian, and offers no biblical basis for its structure, any biblical connections made are an afterthought by the Ministry of Strengths team. This study didn’t start with the Bible, but did make some small attempts to work backwards into a biblical connection.

Going into this study, having known myself for forty-some years, I could have told people what my stronger personality traits and preferences are, whether for good or for bad. Reviewing these often was a conversation in the obvious. I found it interesting that personally I see some of my “strengths” as negatives. Due to my achiever strength I often become obsessed on things that I should be relaxed about. I work too hard and don’t rest when involved in a project. My need for Me to start a project for Myself can actually be a distraction to time with God.

While there are certainly benefits to the deliberative strength, this “strength” also causes me to be unnecessarily untrusting, and unwilling to take risks that may work out to be great benefits in my life. It also hinders my trust in God when He asks me to “step out in faith” in something that may not make sense in the natural. His wisdom is foolishness to man, and a man with a deliberative strength doesn’t really trust in what is perceived as foolishness.

When it comes to gaining knowledge, I see very little difference between the input and learner strengths. For me, these can be positives, as I research things well, including the word of God. It is the reason for this essay you are reading. For tangible things, though, the input strength can be a negative for me, as I can easily become obsessed with collecting things I don’t really need, spending quite a bit of money in the process.

In reviewing my strengths, I honestly don’t think I need to maximize some of them; I need to reign them in!

As we were going through the strengths one by one in class, we started with the relating themed strengths. My natural self is not strong in these areas. I became excited a couple of times in the study when we were discussing an area of possible strength and I recalled examples of how God has worked with me in these areas. When discussing empathy and includer I even spoke up with how God has pushed me in these areas which are not in my fleshly nature. My comments, though, were not met with great reception, as it was perceived by some in the study that I was incorrectly focusing on my areas of weaknesses – something we shouldn’t do due to the futility of doing so. We are supposed to maximize our strengths.

This really got me thinking. The more we went over the relating theme strengths all I could see was that for nearly every strength, we are ALL supposed to improve in the “strength” or trait as we grow in Christ. The “strengths” are Bible mandates! For the impacting and striving themed strengths, it was clear that in some aspect, we should all demonstrate the traits in our lives, though some could clearly have a strength in a trait compared to others. As we moved through the striving themes and into the thinking themes, I often thought how such “strengths” or traits could be negatives (sometimes) causing people to easily develop dependence on themselves, and themselves alone. If there were no God in the picture of humanity, then things would be different, but as it is, as Christians, we need to be careful of self-dependence when our lives are supposed to be fully rooted in Christ.

Towards the end of the study, we compared how our positions in life (jobs/career/etc.) lined up with our strengths. We were also to consider: Are we doing what we are called to do? For me, my strengths line up very well with my unique career. But that’s no surprise. God took a total stranger and had him give me an all expense paid education involving two graduate degrees in my career field – a field I didn’t even know existed before it was placed in my lap. However, my calling is much more than my career – even if my career is God given. My calling involves how I allow God to use me in my career, and for God to use me in my position, he has had to work on many areas that are not strengths to me, areas that the Ministry by Strengths authors would suggest I not focus on. God’s focus is not man’s focus, and that is the fundamental truth that is missing in this study.

The paragraphs above show the gist of this study as it played out for me. The paragraphs below will be an exegesis of the 34 strengths in an effort to see what the Bible says about each. The 34 strengths are laid out under their main theme, with a brief summary of Rath’s book’s definition. Under each description the Ministry by Strengths course’s scripture references, and other references/commentary are provided:

The Relating Theme

The strengths listed under the relating theme are: communication, empathy, harmony, includer, individualization, and responsibility. At first glance, it is clear that these are traits all Christians should be known for. In reading through the scriptural examples, it is confirmed that many of these are simply to be the traits of a Christian. If by the nature of following a strengths course we find we don’t have these traits, we should know that we should seek God to better develop these aspects of His Spirit within us. If we find we do have these strengths, then we will need to be sure we are using them for His Kingdom and glory. Either way, scripture would suggest that these should all be strengths to be maximized. Unfortunately, as the Ministry by Strengths study frowns upon wasting time focusing on improving areas of weaknesses, those who don’t have natural strengths in the relating theme areas are not encouraged to seek God regarding the weakness.

Communication. This strength is defined just as you would expect. People with this strength communicate well, bringing life to the events they speak or write about. People hear and take in what a communicator has to say:

  • Colossians 4:5-6: Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

From the Colossians verse, I see that we all should be able to communicate our faith to others. I find the second example of a communicator given in the study materials interesting. Exodus 4: 10-16 shows how Aaron was a man with a strength in communication. It is true that Aaron was a good communicator, and God let Moses use Aaron to speak for him, but… this was not God’s intent. God had told Moses himself to go, and God had said he would teach Moses what to say. Moses had complained that he was “slow of speech and tongue” and God responded by pointing out that He had made man’s tongue and that He would be with Moses’ mouth… but Moses continued to complain. “Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses and he said, “Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well.” It was in anger that God sent Aaron with Moses. Clearly, God’s initial intent was to use Moses, and to show His strength despite Moses’ weakness in communication.

As we have worked through this study on maximizing our strengths, the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 12: 9 have continually come to my mind – But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Empathy.  These people can sense the emotions of those around them and can see the world through another’s eyes. The empathizer may not agree with another, but he does understand. Someone with empathy can hear the unspoken question:

  • Matthew 7:12: So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
  • 1 Peter 3:8: Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.
  • 1 Corinthians 12:26: If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
  • Galatians 6:2: Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Harmony. Someone with the harmony strength does not see the value in conflict or confrontation, but seeks agreement. Finding the common ground is a gift, and focusing on that ground moves people forward:

  • Romans 12: 16-18 – Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
  • Romans 14: 19 – So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.

Includer. This person wants everyone to feel involved and accepted. The includer wants to draw others in, and casts few judgments  so that others can benefit from the larger group:

  • Romans 14:1: As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.
  • Romans 15: 7: Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

Individualization. An observer of others, the person with a strength in individualization is intrigued by the unique qualities of others and sees the differences between people. You can sense the strengths in others, and draw those out in your interactions with them:

  • Exodus 35: 30-36 tells of Moses pointing out the strengths and teaching abilities of those chosen by God for various tasks in building the Tabernacle.
  • 1 Corinthians 12 speaks of the many parts and purposes of the body in the body of Christ.

I agree that some people may have a true strength above the average person in being able to see purpose in others and organize a team accordingly, however, scripture makes it clear we should all be cognizant of the value and purpose of everyone in the body of Christ.

Relator. The relator is pulled towards people he already knows and derives pleasure from being around close friends. The relator is comfortable with intimacy and enjoys an increasing understanding of how the other person works. Relationships are valuable if they are genuine:

  • Acts 2: 42-47 tells of how the early church had all things in common and shared all things.
  • The second reference in the study speaks of Elisha wanting a double portion of Elijah’s anointing, and the close relationship he held with Elijah until the point of his translation.

While provided in the Ministry By Strengths study materials, neither illustration above gives a great example of a relator as defined in Rath’s book. It should go without saying that as a Christian we should be able to hold close relationships where we are accountable to another and support one another. Some verses along this line would be:

  • 1 Thessalonians 5:11: Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
  • James 5:16: Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
  • Proverbs 27:17: Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.
  • Romans 12:15: Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

Responsibility. This person feels emotionally bound to follow through with commitments. When someone with responsibility fails at a commitment, apologies are not enough, and peace is not found until restoration is made. At times, this person may take on more than can be handled:

  • Genesis 39: 6-10 tells of a man who has a clear strength in responsibility – Joseph. Even when tempted, he held to his responsibility to the pharaoh. But responsibility is still for all Christians.
  • Matthew 5:37 says to let your yes be a yes, and your no be a no – even to your own hurt.
  • James 1:22-24 speaks to our responsibility to DO the word of God, and not just hear it.

Looking back over the strengths listed under the relating theme, it is clear that these are all strengths that should be possessed to some degree by all Christians, and more so as the believer matures in Christ. They describe the character of a Christian as outlined in scripture. If we don’t see these in our lives, then we need to look inwardly and figure out why. This does not mean that non-Christians can’t have these strengths, too. They can, and in sad cases, the non-believer may be self-satisfied in having the strengths. The non-believer may think, “I treat others so well, so clearly I am a “good person”.” Because of this, these people often feel they don’t need salvation. But the fact remains, for Christians, the strengths in the relating theme are expected and they are expected for the purpose of bringing glory to God in how we relate to others. The verses in the relating theme are verses to all, describing the character we should all have. The examples are typically not unique examples of individuals operating in a unique strength.

Impacting

The second theme is the impacting theme. The strengths within this theme are command, competition, developer, maximizer, positivity, and woo. These traits should be seen to some extent in all Christians. It is what makes us good witnesses, which we are all called to be in how we live our daily lives. These strengths can also be abused by the ungodly. As you read below, think about how well various cult leaders have fared in the impacting theme strengths.

Command. This strength leads someone to “take charge.” A commander has no issues with imposing his views on others; his opinion needs to be shared. Confrontation is not something to be avoided as it is the first step towards resolution. The facts are what matters, whether good or bad.

  • John 2: 13-16: The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”

In some ways, command appears to contradict harmony. The Christian must find balance between the two, being sure not to back down when the truth of God is at stake, but also being sure not to force opinions that don’t really matter in the long run. Someone with command may make a good manager.

Competition. A “strength” rooted in comparison, someone with competition needs to outperform others. Competitors invigorate, but the desire is to win, not just to play the game.

  • 1 Samuel 17:32-50: The story of David and Goliath. David had a competition strength, and he played to win (and did win).
  • 1 Corinthians 9:24-27: Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

This trait could clearly be a positive or negative, depending on the spirit of the one with the “strength.” In our Christian life, though, we should all be running the race as to win, but in this sense, our “competition” is against the darkness that holds humanity away from God and the “race” is in bringing the truth of salvation to the world.  We are all to be competing to win in this.

Developer. A developer sees the potential in others and strives to see others succeed. A developer challenges others, and signs of growth in others is fuel for the developer. Others see the developer’s helpfulness as genuine.

  • Acts 11: 25-26: Barnabas was a developer to Saul shortly after his conversion.
  • 1 Timothy 4:15-16: Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. (Here, Paul is developing Timothy with encouraging instruction). 

In a sense, we should all help to develop those around us though some will clearly have a strength in this area compared to others. Teachers could make good use of a developer strength.

Maximizer. A maximizer enjoys further developing the strengths in others, and himself. He doesn’t focus on weaknesses, but instead wants to make what is already good into something excellent.

  • Genesis 1: The study materials suggest that God’s creating the universe was an example of the maximizer strength.
  • 1 Corinthians 10:31: So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

The maximizer is a developer who doesn’t start with weaknesses but  instead takes already perceived strengths to the next level. Like the other Impacting themes, this is an area where some will clearly have an innate strength above others. The warning is to be sure we are maximizing to the glory of God.

Positivity. People with this strength celebrate every achievement, bring a lighthearted joy to situations, and draw people in with their great attitude. These people always see the best in situations.

  • Psalm 100 says that all the earth is to be thankful, with joy towards the Lord. We enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise.
  • John 1:40-42:  One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).

The study materials suggest Andrew had contagious positivity. While this may be true, I don’t know that this is the point of the scripture. Andrew found the Christ! Of course he told his brother. As for the verse in Psalm 100, and many like it, we are all called to be continually thankful towards the Lord.

Woo. Woo stands for Winning Others Over. Someone with Woo enjoys meeting new people and starting conversations; strangers are rarely intimidating – in fact, they are friends not yet met. Once an initial connection is made, someone with Woo will often move on to the next person.

  • In Acts 8:29-40 Philip is instructed by God to go to a chariot where a man was reading Isaiah. Philip was able to explain Christ in the scriptures, leading to the man’s salvation. At this point, Philip was removed by the Spirit to the town of Azotus and the man in the chariot went away rejoicing.

While I would not necessarily say this reference demonstrates woo more than obediently communicating the gospel when told to by the Spirit of God, it is clear in society that people can have a strength in this area. Like the other examples in the impacting theme, what matters is how one uses the traits they have, and in some sense, we are all called to be prepared to act in these traits when the opportunity for witnessing arrives. If we feel weak in these areas, we should be open to allowing God to strengthen us as he promised he would, so that we can be his witnesses (See Luke 24:49, John 14:16, Acts 1:4, Romans 8:15, 2 Timothy 1:7).

Striving

The striving themed strengths are achiever, activator, adaptability, belief, discipline, focus, restorative, self-assurance, and significance. Previous to this point, most of the strengths seemed to be personality traits that we should all have to some degree as a Christian. As the Spirit of God moves in our lives, taking us from glory to glory in changing us into the image of Christ, the strengths above, especially the relating themed strengths, should be expected to develop as they represent the character of Christ.  With the striving theme I began seeing some “strengths” as personality traits that may not necessarily work towards our benefit. Many of the strengths in the next two sections can easily lead someone who has them into self-dependence, with success being found in having the strengths themselves, and not in dependence on Christ. At this point in the study, I came to see that the “strengths” would be better defined as personality traits that we may or may not naturally have. Rath’s book has a comparative “mismanagement risk” associated with each strength. With this, the innate trait can be a benefit or a negative, depending on how it is used or developed. Many are traits that we should develop as Christians, simply as they describe how a Christian should be. Others can become weaknesses as they pull us away from God and into the security of our own successes and abilities. We must always be aware of our heart.

Achiever. An achiever has a strong drive, and a constant need for achievement. Doing something tangible makes the achiever feel good about himself, and days of rest are not typically allowed. Every day needs some level of achievement. This need for achievement gives the achiever energy and a jolt to get things started, but always exists as a nagging dis-quietness saying that something needs to be accomplished.

This was the first “strength” where a biblical example given in the study materials is of the strength in a negative light. It is also one of my strengths where I personally feel that the trait is as much of a curse as a blessing. In Luke 10:38-40, Mary’s sister Martha is “achieving” while Mary is sitting at Jesus’ feet. Martha complains that she is doing all this work by herself and asks Jesus to tell Mary to help her. Jesus points out that Mary has in fact, chosen the better thing by sitting, listening at his feet.

  • Proverbs 13:4: The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.
  • 1 Thessalonians 1:3: (We are) remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • Ephesians 2:10: For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

The above verses do state that we should be workers and not lazy. However, the achiever is more than a worker, and would consider required rest or not focusing on a task that may not necessarily need to be done immediately as laziness. The new testament verses given as examples show work done for the glory of Christ, but even for Christian achievers, it is easy to get caught up in work that has nothing to do with the Kingdom of God. Since the achiever’s feeling of satisfaction comes from achieving, this person can easily be self-satisfied in his own workings. Matthew 11:28-30 says that we are to take Christ’s yoke upon us, and he will give us rest. Work for God, if done with and in his strength, will include a rest component. Someone overly charged by an achiever spirit will struggle with the restfulness of working for Christ. Mark 2:27 states that the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Rest is important. Rest can be the achiever’s enemy, and greatest need.

Activator. Action is what counts. Analysis and debate may have its place, but action is what matters, because it is action that makes things happen. The activator feels that acting is the best source of learning. You make a decision, take an action, and look at the result. The activator is happy to be judged by what he does, not what he says or thinks.

  • Nehemiah’s encouraging his team to get started on rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem shows his strength as an activator (Nehemiah 2:17-18).
  • James 4:17: So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

I like James’ verse here. We all know some right things we should do, and we all should activate doing those things, and if we don’t, it is sin. While some will have a true strength in this area, we all are required to be activating what we know God has put before us to do.

Adaptability: For someone with strong adaptability, the future is not fixed, but something to be created by the choices made right now. This person doesn’t become bothered by the unexpected or detours, but expects them to interrupt the path.

  • Matthew 6: 33-34: But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
  •  James 4:13-16: Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”- Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.

The verse in James above may make some feel that adaptability and achiever are incompatible strengths, but that is only true if you are focused on achieving for yourself and not on achieving for God. From the verses above, it is clear that all Christians will need to be flexible at times, and focus on the now rather than worrying about the future. As we work to achieve the desires he has put in our hearts, God can handle whatever comes our way.

Belief:  Someone with belief has certain core values that are enduring. These values will impact behavior in the day-to-day and give value to life. Typically someone with belief will value ethics and responsibility in himself and others. Success is more than just financial stability. Work must be valuable and mesh with one’s core beliefs.

  • The verse given in the materials is Matthew 28:18-20: And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold,I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

I find it interesting that belief shows up strong for people who have a “good moral foundation” or “positive work ethic.” We all believe in something, even if it is that there isn’t anything of value in life or that it doesn’t matter what we do, and what we believe naturally influences how we live. I guess belief can be considered a strength if A: one believes in something society considers positive and B: we act on that belief in how we behave before the world.

Discipline: Rath’s book states that if you are a person with a strength in discipline, then your world needs to be predictable, ordered, and planned. This person sets up routines and timelines, imposing structure on his world. This person wants to feel in control despite the inherent messiness of life. It is wise for the disciplined person to realize that not everyone senses his innate need for predictability and order, and that other people have their own ways of getting things done.

  • The study materials use Exodus 20 to show the discipline strength in the giving of the ten commandments.
  • In the New Testament, 1 Corinthians 14:33, 40 is used:  For God is not a God of confusion but of peace… But all things should be done decently and in order. (found in a section of scripture discussing orderly worship).
  • 2 Timothy 1:7: for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

I believe it is clear all Christians should have a measure of self-control, and the verse in Second Timothy suggests that this is not necessarily something we can singularly develop ourselves, for the spirit of self-control comes from God (it is a fruit of the spirit: Galatians 5:23). Those who do have a natural strength in self-control may grow to feel that they are keeping themselves and may be less likely to see the need to have God’s Spirit working in their lives.

Focus: The person with focus is guided by his goals. Goals help determine if an activity is worth the time and effort (does it help me reach my goal or not). A focused person is forced to filter out those tasks that ultimately do not matter. In business, the person with focus will keep the group on task. One with focus must be careful not to become too impatient with others, delays, and the unexpected obstacle.

  • The Ministry by Strengths materials uses Acts 9:17-22 to describe focus: So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; and taking food, he was strengthened. For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?” But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.
  • James 4:17 also shows the need for a Christian to have focus: So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
Restorative: The restorative person loves to solve problems and can even be energized by breakdowns. The challenge of analyzing symptoms, identifying issues and implementing solutions is enjoyable, especially if the problems are practical. The focused person likes problems similar to ones he has encountered before as he is sure he can offer a solution but that doesn’t mean he shies away from the more challenging conundrums. The restorative person feels that without his guidance and intervention, the company/thing/person/etc. would stop functioning.
  • John 3:16: Jesus is the great restorer.
  • 1 Peter 5:10 (shown with 6-10 for context): Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

I like how both verses show God/Jesus as the restorer, and not man. This is so true in life. While we may be used by God to bring his restoration to others, and while we may be able to bring restoration to earthly things, he is the only true restorer. On a side note, I also like these verses because it undercuts the idea that if we become a Christian we won’t have to suffer anything in this world. Our restoration by Christ does not involve the promise of a perfect life here on earth.

Self-Assurance: The strength of self-assurance is the knowledge that one is “able.” Able to take risks, meet new challenges, stake claims, and deliver. It is a deep faith in our strengths and judgments. It is the knowledge that no one else can make decisions for you, and that you alone have the authority to form conclusions, make decisions, and act.

My initial impression is that self-assurance could lead to enmity with God.

  • The study materials speak of John the Baptist having self-assurance (Matthew 3:1-5). While it may appear that John had self assurance, and it may be that he did, ultimately his assurance was in his God and the Spirit of God that had been with him from the womb.
  • The second example given is of Paul’s independence and confidence in running his own race (Philippians 3:12-14). Similar to John, I would say that Paul’s appearance of self-assurance was really his focus on the task God had given him in Christ. Paul makes it very clear that his assurance is in Jesus. Verse 14 says “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” His pressing towards the goal was due to the call of God in Christ Jesus.
  • Abraham is a good example of someone who, to some, may have seemed self-assured, but his assurance too was in Christ (See Romans 4:3, as well as Ephesians 2:8-9, Titus 3:5-7)

The material’s example from Philippians must be considered in light of the whole chapter, especially Philippians 3: 8-9: Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ

Significance: The final strength under the Striving themes is significance. I was glad the class participants struggled with seeing this trait as a a “strength.” This trait is defined by Rath’s book as wanting to be significant in the eyes of others, wanting to be recognized and heard. People with significance want to stand out and be known and appreciated for what they bring to (the group, friends, etc.). This person needs to be admired as credible, professional and successful, and wants to associate with others who are the same. Someone with significance has an independent spirit that wants work to be a way of life rather than just a job. This person wants “free reign” to do things the way he wants.

All I can think of here is “Me me me me me me me me me.” This is not a strength, especially in the Christian life.

The scriptural examples were of Jesus claiming his own significance. Only he could have this strength and get away with it, for Jesus truly is the Christ of God (see John 2:18-22 and 14:6)

Thinking

The thinking theme includes the following strengths: analytical, arranger, connectedness, consistency, context, deliberative, futuristic, ideation, input, intellection, learner, and strategic.

Analytical: The analytical trait wants others to “prove it.” The analytical person wants theories and ideas to be sound; he likes data and evidence. He likes that data has no values and no agendas. This person likes seeing the patterns in life, and learning how patterns influence one another. Peeling back the layers, the analytical person looks for the root of the matter. Others see this person as logical and rigorous.

  • A negative view of the analytical spirit is shown in Thomas, who wanted “proof” that Jesus had in fact risen from the grave (see John 20: 25-28).
  • Luke 14:28: For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?

Here, Jesus points out the importance of the analytical strength in planning. Proverbs 20:18 shows a similar thought: Plans are established by counsel; by wise guidance wage war.

An analytical strength can work for you are against you. God is gracious, though, and like with Timothy, if you are really seeking to know the truth, God will reveal himself to you in a way that will be convincing to your analytical style. As a member of the study group pointed out, it was St. Thomas Aquinas’ writings which ultimately convinced him of the truth of God in Christ. However, not all of God’s ways will make sense to the foolish natural mind (see Isaiah 55:9 and 1 Corinthians 1:18), and for these, their analytical style may keep them from receiving the truth of God. Most atheists I have met have been quiet analytical.

Arranger: The arranger enjoys managing the many facets and variables of a complex situation. It doesn’t seem special to the arranger – she is just doing what needs to be done in the best way possible. To others, though, the arranger’s talent is impressive – the ability to keep so many things in her head at once while being flexible with all the various needs and circumstances.

  • Exodus 18:13-24 demonstrates how Jethro used the arranger strength to assist Moses.
  • 1 Corinthians 12:12, 14-20: For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ… For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

With the above, it is clear we should all realize we have a part in Christ, and we should recognize that everyone else does as well.

I do see arranger as a strength that some people have more than others. They can use it for their own good, for their company’s good, and even in service to God.

Connectedness:

The connectedness strength was formerly known as spirituality, but Rath’s book didn’t want to be associated with the “spiritual” construct that raised. For a person with connectedness, everything happens for a reason. This person feels all are connected, and despite our free will, we are all a part of something larger. Because of this, we all have certain responsibilities as members of humanity. Many new age thinkers have a connectedness component to their belief system.

  • The study materials use Genesis 45:11-8 to show the connectedness strength in Joseph, as he talks about how God brought everything together and had a purpose for what was allowed to happen (Josephs’ brothers sold him as a slave and God used that to bring salvation in the midst of famine). Really, though, in this example, Joseph is demonstrating hindsight.
  • Another example given by the study materials is Matthew 17:20b: For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.

Better examples show connectedness as trust we should have as followers of Christ.

  • Hebrews 11: 1-3: Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
  • Romans 8: 28: And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. and 38-39: For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I like the above verses. As Christians, we can have faith in the assurance of God’s control in this life, no matter what we are faced with.

Consistency: For the person with consistency, balance is important. People need to be treated the same, regardless of their situation in life; the scales should not be tipped too far in anyone’s favor, which can lead to selfishness and individualism. The person with consistency is a guardian against the injustice of using connections to “grease the wheels.” Special favors are a distaste.

  • Joshua 14:6-13 shows Caleb’s consistency over 4 and a half decades. It was because of this that Caleb was one of only two people from the original tribe of Israel that was able to cross over into the promised land.
  • I Corinthians 1:10: I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment (this is a good verse showing that God does not show favoritism – he favors everyone!).
  • Ephesians 4:1-6: I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith,one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

The above verse covers harmony, maximizer, developer, and includer well as well.

Context: Someone with context looks back to the past to find answers for the present. Understanding the present via the past gives calm and confidence, giving a sense of the underlying structure. The seeds for the future were sown in the past.

  • 1 Samuel 12:6-13: Much like Joseph above, Samuel uses hindsight to show how the past has impacted the present. Samuel uses context to show how the decisions of the Israelites have brought them to the place they are at (in having a king appointed over them).
  • Ecclesiastes 3:15: That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away.
  • Hebrews 1:1-2:  Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

We need people with context in our society to remind us that our choices have consequences, as we can see from all of history.

Deliberative: The deliberative person is careful and vigilant. He sees the world as unpredictable and is aware of the underlying risks. He draws those risks out so they can be dealt with. The deliberative person is a serious person who approaches life with reserve, proceeding cautiously.

I can relate to Gideon’s seeking double assurance from God with the fleece (see Judges 6:36-40). I’m happy to see God was gracious in providing for Gideon’s need for surety. I too am deliberative, and at times, this makes it hard to trust in things outside of our natural realm. There is a such thing as “too cautious.” Used appropriately, though, a deliberative strength can keep people safe.

Futuristic: The person with a futuristic strength loves to look ahead towards the horizon. The hopes and desires for tomorrow keep the futuristic person moving forward, always reaching towards that next prize. This person paints an exciting picture of tomorrow, and can encourage others in their doing so.

  • Matthew 26:64: Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
  • Jeremiah 29:11:  For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
  • Proverbs 23:18: Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off

Here I see that God is futuristic, and that we should all have a sense of hope in our own futures because of what God has done.

Ideation: This person is fascinated by ideas. This person likes to explain why things are they way they are, showing the underlying order for things. This person is always looking for connections and likes to finds new perspectives on familiar challenges. A person of ideation can explain things in a new way from a different angle, bringing clarity that may not have been apparent before.

  • Joshua 2:1-24 tells the story of Rahab, “a woman with ideation in a crisis.” Rahab hid the men of God and helped them escape their pursuers.
  • Romans 12:2: Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

If looking at the Romans verse, then it is clear that we are all supposed to be allowing God to work with us in the renewing of our minds, which if practiced, will lead to many changes in who we are, as we are conformed to his image.

Input: A person with a strength in input is inquisitive and collects things (both knowledge and tangible objects). He finds knowledge exciting and so many things to be interesting. The infinite variety and complexity of the world is enchanting. This person may want a bit of everything, whether he knows exactly why or not (in excess, this can lead to hording).

  • Ezra 7:10: For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.

The above verse, given in the materials, reminds me of 2 Timothy 2:15: Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth (the KJV says “study to show thyself…”)

  • Luke 12: 15-21 gives warning not to let this trait overrule you. Life is not in what we collect or in our stuff. It is also not in the collection of worldly knowledge. We are to be rich towards God.

Intellection: A person with intellection likes mental activity – exercising the muscles of the brain. Mental activity can be either focused or without focus; it is the activity of thinking that is enjoyed. Time alone is enjoyed; these thinkers like to be introspective. Mental hum is a constant.

The study materials use Job 2:11-14 to show Job’s strengths in intellection. While Job never did curse God, his thinking did not bring him the answers he sought. Those came only from God. Job’s friends, as well, practiced intellection with their reasoning with Job, but their wisdom, too, was worldly, and not accurate.

  • Luke 2:17-19: And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.

It is interesting here that like in Job, the true intellection comes from God – the shepherds were simply stating what they had been told by the angel of the Lord.

  • Philippians 4:8: Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

We are all called to practice intellection, in that we should mediate on the Word of God and whatever is worthy in his sight.

Learner: The learner loves to learn and the process of learning. The process is what is exciting. The learner enjoys taking on new tasks in order to learn new skills.

  • Ecclesiastes 1:12-17 shows how Solomon realized in his older age that all his chasing after wisdom, including “all that is done under heaven” was folly. As he sated in vs. 18: For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.

This world’s wisdom will never satisfy. Only the wisdom of God has answers for our earthly questions.

  • Matthew 11:29-30: Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

This verse supports the findings from the words of Solomon. The verse below supports that we should encourage this for all believers.

  • Colossians 1:9-10: And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

Whether we call it intellection or learner, we should focus on the praiseworthy things of God.

Strategic: A person with a strategic strength enjoys sorting through the clutter with his distinctive way of thinking in order to find the best route or solution. This person may see patterns that are missed by others and likes asking the question, “What IF we tried this?” or “What IF this happened?” This way of questioning lets the strategic person see around the next corner and  evaluate potential obstacles so that they can be avoided.

  • Mark 6:37-44 tells of one of the examples where Jesus feeds several thousands with a minuscule amount of food. Jesus was strategic in how he decided to feed the masses. Not a great example of the strength as seen in an individual, but it’s the only biblical connection made by the Ministry by Strengths materials. Clearly God is strategic. From before the foundations of this world until after this world melts away, it is clear God has been deliberately strategic in his plans.

Overall thoughts

While I would not recommend the Ministry by Strengths materials as a Bible study, that does not mean the program’s concepts are not without merit. Rath’s book sets a solid foundation that could be used by multiple organizations. The military, our schools, and nearly every business could benefit from better placement of their enlistees/students/employees. For Christians, it too can be beneficial to be aware of one’s innate personality traits. However, within the confines of the Christian life, it is clear that our innate “strengths” aren’t necessarily the facets of our personalities that God will always choose to use as he works through us. First Corinthians 12:6 says “there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.” While he can certainly choose to use us in our areas of strength, God is very much known for working through our weaknesses as well. We’ve all heard the story of a successful minister who spent his entire life “working” for God within the confines of his strengths only to realize as he matured that the things he did “for God” – God didn’t ask him to do any of them.

God will let us know what we need to do, and if we lack in area of ability required, God will work with us to bring about the necessary traits within us. For some strengths, it is clear that for Christians, the strengths should be developed as God changes us from glory to glory into his image; many of the strengths speak directly to his personality which should be seen in all his children. Many times, though, he may ask us to crucify those areas were are naturally strong, as those “strengths” cause us to depend on ourselves and not on God as our true provider. For others, we may be asked to “stop trusting in” our strengths, and give the talent to him, to see what he can do that we never even imagined. The study, for me at least, and this website is titled “my metanoia,” was too restrictive – a formula we should assume God will use. There are thousands of formulas out there, and like many of the others, while well intended, the formula ends up putting God into our human sized box. God is so much bigger than any box our meager social sciences could construct.