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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Mike Novotny » Mike Novotny - United yet Unique

Mike Novotny - United yet Unique

Mike Novotny - United yet Unique
Mike Novotny - United yet Unique
TOPICS: Some Assembly Required, Unity

The person next to you is ridiculously unique. Now we might be one united place in one church on one night. We might even share one faith, one salvation, one cross, one Jesus, but that doesn't stop the fact that you are very, very different. You're very, very unique. And I'll prove it to you, alright? I'm about to describe a certain kind of person and if you are that kind of person, I want you to raise your hand nice and high and to embrace it. And if that kind of person is sitting next to you, I just want you to, you know, do one of these and just point at them, okay?

Alright, so raise your hand and point at a person that you know that is very, very Type A, organized, structured, box-checking, to-do list. Anyone know someone like that? Yeah, that's me. Raise your hand or point to someone that you know that leaves their shoes in the middle of the kitchen and that any... oh, now it just got really interesting, didn't it? Alright, point at someone that loves to be the center of attention; that doesn't mind talking, being on stage. Alright, point to someone that's pretty quiet, introverted, behind the scenes. Point at someone who loves to make impulsive decisions; they just want to get things done and they have a bias for action and moving forward. They don't want another meeting, another discussion.

Alright, now raise your hand if you're that person at Walmart who price-checks the two different kinds of spaghetti sauce before you make a serious commitment like that. Ah, yes! It's interesting, isn't it? We laugh because we came with these people; we know them. They're our friends, our spouses, our kids, our brothers, our sisters in the faith, but we're so unique. And the question for you is why is that? How did we end up so different? You see, if you know the answer to that question, it's a game changer. I feel like I went through so many years of marriage, so many decades of life, without really understanding who I was and who they were. In fact, this question (Why are we so unique?) is so important to God that he wrote down the answer in four different spots in the Bible.

And so, whenever you notice that you're unique, when people are different and it's messing with your heart, there's one of four places that I want you to turn in the Scriptures. And if you're taking notes in your program today, I want you to write these down so they really get embedded deeply into your mind. Those four sections are two chapter 12's and two chapter 4's; so in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4 and 1 Peter 4, God is going to give us his answer why you and I and him and her and them are all so, so unique. So if you're going to follow along on the screen or you brought a Bible with you, let's jump into the first Scripture for today and we'll start in 1 Corinthians 12.

Here the apostle Paul is writing to some of his friends, Christian friends, about 2,000 years ago and he says this: "Just as the body though one has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. Even so, the body is not made up out of one part but of many," which makes sense, hey? You don't have to know a ton about the Bible; you have one body and you have different parts. You have one face but you have lots of features and I think we'd all agree that's a pretty good thing, right? Imagine if you love your eyes and you thought they were so amazing that you replace your nose with another eyeball and you popped off your ears and you put two more eyes on the side of your head and you took out your teeth and put little bitty eyes.

Like, we would not let you work with the children, okay? That would be terrifying. Instead, no matter how wonderful your eyes are, we're so grateful that our one body has many parts. In fact, this idea is so important that when the apostle Paul writes this one chapter, 1 Corinthians 12, he uses the word "part" 13 different times. He wants his friends to know different parts, you're different parts, you're different parts, you're different parts. You're united in faith but you're different parts. You're united in Jesus but you're so, so unique. And then he writes a letter to the Christians at Rome and he uses the exact same picture and he gives the exact same message.

Look at Romans 12. Paul says, "Just as each of us has one body with many members and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts according to the grace given to each of us". Same analogy, right? There's one body but there are different parts, different members, different functions, different gifts according to the grace that God gave to each of us.

And to me, this is the perfect analogy. And even though I grew up hearing these Scriptures and reading these chapters, I don't think I really got it until I thought deeply about my face. Because everything you need to know to avoid insecurity and a feeling of worthlessness and pride and jealousy and quick frustration is found in your nose. Do me a favor; play along with me for a second. I want you to take your hand and I want you to touch your nose. I want you to feel it, alright? I want you to put your finger under your nose and smell it; hopefully you washed your hands after you used the bathroom. You smell that?

Alright, I want you to look at a person who's sitting next to you. I want you to look at their nose, examine it very closely, look to the other side. Alright, now let me ask you three questions about that experience. Number one, where did your nose come from? Did you stop at the nose depot like on the way to church? Did you really work hard for it to earn that nose? We'd say no; no, I just have it. I came out of the womb with a nose. Okay, question two: How did your nose get so talented at smelling? I mean, it dominates the eyes and the ears in the smell test. How did that happen? Did your nose train like an Olympian? The answer is no; it just, I don't know, it's just always been good at smelling. I don't really have to work on it.

Question three, here's the important one, do you expect your nose to be well-rounded? Do you ever get frustrated with your nose that it's not better at hearing? Do you ever try to change your nose and make it better at seeing? Do you have like a nose job to change the nose's job and you'd say no. No, like that's not the point. The nose's job is to do the one thing and to do it well. The parts of your face don't compete and compare; they complement and complete. Which is so obvious when you think about your face but it's not so obvious when you look in the mirror, right? When you notice the differences between you and your sister and your younger brother and your boyfriend, your girlfriend, your son, your daughter, your best friend, your classmate, your teammate, then all those truths just go out the window and we forget.

But the apostle Paul is saying, no, no, no. This is how it is with Christ. You are a certain way because God made you that way. And there's certain things about you that are so strong and so natural, you didn't have to train for it. You didn't have to increase your skills. You just do it better than the rest of us by nature. And God's not expecting you to be like him or to be like her or to think like them or to communicate like him. God made you a certain way like he made your nose a certain way. It doesn't have all the jobs; it has this job. That's such a huge idea! Before I drive that home, let's jump to the other two chapter 4's and you're going to see this is all over the Bible.

So in Ephesians 4, the apostle Paul says, "There is one body". There's that same analogy, hey? "And one spirit. Just as you were called to one hope when you were called, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But," there's a huge word, "but to each one of us, grace has been given as Christ apportioned it". So much in common! We are one in so many ways but to each one of us, to each one of you, there is grace. There are certain gifts that have been given, not as you decided, but as Jesus Christ decided. And the apostle Peter agrees with Paul. In his letter, 1 Peter 4, he says really simply, "Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms".

When God wants to give grace, when he wants to bless the world with love, how does he do it? In one form? No, in various forms. In people that are a lot like me, and my wife, and my daughters, and you, and your friends, and our brothers and our sisters in the faith. So put all four of these sections of Scripture together and what have you got? You've got the big idea for today if you're taking notes. The big idea is that God made you "nique". I think I made up that word. God made you unique. He didn't mass produce the impressive people that you look up to. No, he decided to make you. And Jesus helped to create the world. He could create anything, including a cloning machine, but he didn't want to clone you. He wanted to make them. And so, God makes everyone in his church (you and him and her) unique.

So here's the billion dollar church question: What makes you unique? What do you bring to your family that your mom doesn't and your sister can't? What do you bring to your church family that I never will and neither will they? How has God made you as a unique part, with unique strengths, and none of the rest of us have? Now I'm not sure if I grasped the answer to that question until I stumbled upon this. Ever heard of it? This little book called StrengthsFinders 2.0. Decades ago, there was this guy, this psychologist named Donald Clifton, and he came up with this personality test to show how unique people are. And I've got to tell you, I'm not sure if there's a book that's transformed my parenting, my marriage, and my ministry quite like this one, besides the Bible, of course.

There's flaws in this book, just so you know; I'm not giving it my wholesale approval. This didn't float down from heaven; some guy created it. And with every personality test, not everything is exactly accurate and correct. But I don't think I really grasped what part of the body I was until I read this book. In his analysis, Clifton came up with this exam and he found 34 different themes or strengths, as he called them. And if you take the exam, it will give you your top five and here's what I love about this test, do you know the odds of another human being having your top six strengths in the same order? The odds are one in 7 billion. The odds that another human being has your top strengths in order, like you are the only human being on planet earth!

Put all 34 strengths in order, sprinkle in all the experiences you've had in life, and I can guarantee there's no one like you sitting in this room tonight. There's no one like you in your family. There's no one like you in our church. There's no one like you in your neighborhood. God made you ridiculously unique. And I tell you all that not just cause it's important to know who I am but I want you to think what happens when you and I walk into the same room or are part of the same church? Well then it gets really important.

Let's imagine you take my pre-marital counseling course and I've read 25 books that have been such a gift for me on marriage and I want you to enjoy that because they're so, so good and here I assign you eight books and you're thinking, "How insensitive is this guy? We've got a wedding to plan, there's invitations, and we've got to pick out all these things," and you're going to be frustrated with me and I'm going to, by nature, think, "Well, who cares about centerpieces and dresses? It's one day. This is marriage and marriage can be great or it can be really, really hard. This matters more. And if we don't understand each other, it's going to be hard to love". Or think about focus. I love meeting with people but it's hard for me to meet with people spontaneously.

And so, if you stop by my office and you knock on the door and I'm working on something, I'm going to try and be nice but it's going to be really, really hard for my heart and you're going to think, "This guy just wants a paycheck. He doesn't care about people. He's supposed to help people," and I'm going to think, "Hey, Sunday's coming. No matter how long you talk and I got to get the sermon ready, we're not going to love each other or understand each other". And think about what this might mean for all of you who just raised their hands and pointed at one another. What happens when you're the adaptable type and you go with the flow at the spur of the moment and you're in the church band with someone who has discipline and they practice these songs in this order and they don't just want to jam and riff it. What happens? Can you love each other?

And what happens if you're one of those people with a big personality and you love to work the room and meet new people but you're dating someone who's kind of quiet and they just feel anxious in those situations. How long will you stay? Will it be about you having a good time or you think about them? What happens if on your work team there are people who are really analytical and they want all the facts before they make a decision and then there are people who hate meetings and they just want to make a decision and adjust on the fly. What happens then? Well, we love each other.

You see, knowing who you are and knowing who they are matters immensely. And in moments like that, Peter's words are essential for God's people to act like God's people. Once again, 1 Peter 4 he reminded us of this. He says each of you should use whatever gift you have received, whatever your top five are, to serve others. This isn't about being me. This is about me using those gifts to love you the best way that I can. And so here's my encouragement to all of you today: Figure out who you are. You might take this test, it's the best way that I know how, but however you want to do it, if you want to ask questions, ask friends, family members, enemies to describe what you're like. Figure out who you are. And figure out who they are.

If you're dating someone, if you're raising kids, if you're working with a team, if you play on the same band, serve on the same team here at church, figure out who they are. Know what to expect out of yourself. Know what to expect out of them. And don't expect people who are wired by God to be a nose to be great at hearing. This is what gives us patience and understanding; how we bear with one another in love. How God's church can be the church. You see, don't do what I did. At my last church, I made a really huge mistake because I didn't understand the unique parts. We had this ministry at our old church, I won't tell you exactly what it was, but the woman who ran it did not have the most winsome personality. She was like the frontline for people coming into the ministry and she just, you know, she didn't have a big smile, a big personality, she didn't make people feel very welcome.

So I thought, as a pastor, this is too important to avoid a tough conversation so we had a tough conversation. I told her, "We're going to make a change". And I found this woman from our church who had a great personality and the first time you met her you loved her. And I asked her, "Would you consider serving here?" and thankfully, she said yes. But you know what I didn't realize? There were a whole bunch of gifts that I was about to lose. All I thought about was that one thing and the new woman who came in just didn't have other gifts that the last one did. And I thought the ministry would thrive and it would grow but it didn't. She was better at this but she wasn't the part to do this. And so, when we make decisions we have to know who we are and understand the parts.

So before I send you off to figure out exactly who you are and who they are, I want to give you four quick tips of advice. If you're taking notes, just four quick bullet points to remember. Here's the first one: No one is every part. Hopefully as my story proves, no one has all the gifts. And sometimes we want to change people and we wish they could be that like we are, but if they were that, they would stop being this. I think about that in my family. My little girl said I could tell you this story. We're a family of four (me and Kim and our two daughters) and three of us are ridiculously organized. We hang up our coats, we put our backpacks away, we make our beds, and then there's the other daughter.

Yesterday, I went to the bathroom and there was her winter coat laying right in front of the toilet and I said, "Sweetie, I don't think this is where this goes," and she picks it up and there's her sweatshirt underneath it and then she picks up the sweatshirt and then the shoes are underneath that. And she puts away the shoes and we go and have dinner and I come back literally 30 minutes later and then her socks are suddenly in the middle of the bathroom and I say, "We just talked about this"! And so much, I want to tell her, "Why aren't you different"? But can I tell you something about my little girl? She has more empathy than 1,000 people put together. And she's the sweetest, kindest, most selfless little kid. Would I want a more focused, organized kid and give up that heart? Not in 1,000 years. No one's every part. We've got to help each other. We've got to bear with one another in love. We have to be patient and thank God for the people that God made them to be.

Point number two: Every part is divinely designed. I would bet many of you here today struggle with self-worth. Statistics tell us that anxiety is spiking to all-time highs. The comparison game, the social media scroll, even Facebook is saying it's not a good idea to log on to their platform and just scroll. We forget who we are. And so, I want you to hear this really clearly that when you were created, it was God who created you. And how you are is not a mistake. You're not like a fruitcake, you know, all the stuff that was left on the chef's table and he just pushed it into something: "There, I made you".

The Bible says in Ephesians 2 that you are God's workmanship. You're his masterpiece. In the Greek language of Ephesians 2, it says you are actually God's poiema, his poem; something that he wrote beautifully and crafted intentionally. Do you believe that? When you're around other people who seem so impressive, do you believe that? That I am divinely designed; the one who made me is God. The God who chose me and loved me and knit me together in my mother's womb. If there's one thing that could cure the way we feel sometimes when we stand in front of the mirror, it's that truth. The apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:18, God arranged the parts of the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.

Point number three: Every part is dangerous. There's something a professor said to me a few years ago that I didn't understand at the time but now I absolutely do. He said to the guys in our class, "Brothers, I don't pray that God would protect me much from my weaknesses. I pray that God would protect me from my strengths". And I get it now. Most of the time, when I sin, I think, when we sin, it's because there's something good about us that's just turned up a bit too much. It's like a radio station where the music is good and professional and wonderful but if you turn it up too high, it doesn't matter what it is, it's hurtful on the ears.

And so having the gift of competition can be a blessing for motivation but you turn that up a bit too high and you're driving away from your girlfriend's house over a game of Trivial Pursuit. And things that are supposed to be fun with your family, they're not fun anymore. They become sinful and dysfunctional and tense for no reason. You might have the gift of analytical or deliberate; to really think things through. But turn that up to high and you'll think and think and think and think and you'll never do something and sometimes God wants you to do something.

Have the gift of discipline and you'll check boxes and get things done but sometimes you have to remember that life is not about boxes; it's about people. Have the gift of intellection and you'll be great at going to quiet places and reading books and thinking deeply but sometimes God wants you to take a risk and talk about his love with someone you don't know that well just yet. Take any gift and turn it up a bit too high and it's a bit much so here's my encouragement: Figure out what your strength is and figure out what it looks like to sin with your strength.

Ask the people who are closest to you; I guarantee they would love to help you with this exercise, right? And you recognize here's when I'm great and here's when I'm a bit much. Here's where having a way with words is a wonderful gift and here is where everyone is just tired at the sound of my voice. And once you figure that out and you share that with one another, just have mercy and grace. I mean, it's so easy for me to take my gifts and turn them up a notch too high and the same thing is true for him and her and you. The Bible says in regards to our differences, "Let's bear with one another in love".

Let's remember that every strength and every part can be dangerous. And finally, and by far most importantly, number four: Every part is connected to Jesus. The best, best thing I could tell you today is not the fact that you're this part or that part. But that every part is connected to Jesus. The best thing I could tell you is not because you're strong in this you get to do this but because he was strong in everything, it's already been done. The best thing I could tell you is that Jesus Christ gave up every part of his body and he died on a cross so that you could be one with God in his family forever and ever and ever.

The thing I love about Jesus is that he was a finder with his strength. When you were weak and broken and sinful and messed up and misusing your personality and talents, Jesus used his divine strength to find you, to live for you, to die for you, and to rise from the dead so you could be one with God forever and ever and ever. Your part is beautiful but nearly as beautiful as the part Jesus played in saving us all from our sins. And that, friends, is what makes us unique.

Fourteen years ago and seven months, I stood at the altar and I had no clue how to love that woman even though I vowed to do it but now I do. Now when she falls asleep at 9:00 because she's going to be up by 4:00 and her clothes are all laid out neatly by the bed and her calendar is open with the colored pens and the to-do list is in front of me, I've got three hours until I'm going to bed. And if I could check one box and if she could wake up and one more thing was done, that woman would think I'm a stone cold fox. That's what love looks like.

So what does it look like for your family? Your friends? Our church? What part do you have? What part do they? Brothers and sisters, we are united in so many ways but God intentionally made us unique. Let's not be ashamed of that uniqueness but let every part live for one another and especially live for the glory of God.
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