Mike Novotny - You Belong
What's my part in the body of Christ? I'm not sure if that's a feeling you ever wrestle with but I know I do. And I think most often that question comes into my heart when I walk into a room and other people are there who are better than me. How many of you have siblings here today? How many of you are not only kids? Sometimes that happens when you have an older brother or sister who's like the stereotypical firstborn child; you know what I'm talking about? They're organized and they're responsible normally and they're smart and their disciplined and maybe you were the second born kid and you just never could keep up. Or maybe it was the opposite; maybe you were the firstborn kid and you were responsible and disciplined and smart but the second born kid in your family just enjoyed life way more.
Maybe your little brother or your little sister was just more laidback, a free spirit; they had fun and people loved being around them. They just had that personality that could light up a room and that was never you. Or maybe you wrestled with that same dynamic at work. There's someone you really like at work and you're friends and you get along but that person just had talents and strengths that the management noticed that you just didn't have. Or maybe that feeling happened in a place like this; in a church. There's people out in the lobby who feel so comfortable meeting strangers and they crack jokes and they win people over and you've always felt, you know, anxious and uncomfortable in crowds meeting new people.
So what do you say to your heart when that happens? When someone smarter, better, stronger, more faithful, more knowledgeable, what do you tell yourself? Well, this part of the Bible, 1 Corinthians 12, reminds you that you're a part in the body of Christ. You're a special creation of God and that's easy to say but not all parts are created equal, are they? I mean, the armpit is a part of the body but it's not exactly like anyone's raising their hands saying, "I'd really like to be that"! Or the appendix is a part of the body but if left and was taken out it's not like the body suffers and sometimes that's not enough for our hearts to hear, "Yeah, you're a part, you're one of us, that's fine," but it doesn't always make you feel like you belong. So what do you do then?
Well, the apostle Paul today wants to answer that question for us. You know, there are four parts in the Bible that talk about these different parts, these different gifts and different strengths, and Paul wrote three of them. And in the longest section, 1 Corinthians 12, the apostle Paul actually devotes an entire paragraph trying to help people who feel insecure about their faith; people who feel like they don't belong; people who battle with envy and jealousy and feeling like they're not good enough. And so, I'm going to direct your attention to the screen or if you brought a Bible with you, to 1 Corinthians 12 where Paul's going to help us tackle all those things and so much more.
So Paul says this in verse 15: "Now if the foot should say 'Because I'm not a hand, I do not belong to the body,' it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, 'Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,' it would not for that reason stop being part of the body," which is a brilliant analogy. Alright, so Paul's tapping into this feeling in his friend's hearts that they didn't belong. They went to church and they saw all these different parts, these different people, and they just felt like they didn't measure up and so he makes this comparison. He talks about feet compared to hands and then he talks about ears compared to eyes and those are two great illustrations and here's why: Because if there was a comparison for the most popular kid at the "Part" High School, the feet wouldn't stand a chance against the hands.
And think how it is... I mean, we greet with our hands, we say goodbye with our hands, there's a whole language with our hands. If it's hands verses feet, the feet don't stand a chance, right? And the same thing is true with Paul's other analogy; the ears compared to the eyes. I mean, think of how many beautiful songs have been written about people's eyes. "Your My Brown-Eyed Girl," or hazel eyes, or some of you have blue eyes so you, like seriously, your whole wardrobe is based around the color of your eyes. Some of you women, you just have, you spend absurd amounts of time with eyeliner and eyeshadow and mascara because you're trying to draw more attention to your eyes. But the ears? Seriously, like what's up with earlobes?
I was trying to figure that out. I don't know what their purpose is and what they do for the body but ears, they have this weird shape and these weird folds; there's hair that grows in random places out of our ears. I was in Mexico a couple years ago and a guy said to me, "Miguel," Mike, "Tienes orejas peludeas," which means, "you have hairy ears". And I said, "I do"? and I looked in the mirror and there's these like random, wispy hairs. About every month, I have to take my razor and shave my earlobes. Is that also too much information? It's just weird! The ears! But the eyes are so much better.
Ladies, if you went on a date, you came home and you're with your girlfriends and you're texting them, you say, "We were at dinner and I just got lost in his eyes". The girls would say, "Awe"! But if you said, "We were at dinner and I just got lost in his ears," they'd say, "Ew! Are you okay? Do you need us to call anyone"? Eyes verses ears, you know, it just doesn't stand a chance. And we laugh about these things but Paul, you know, he's not talking about body parts here; he's talking about people. People who feel like if you put me next to this person, who would choose me? Compared to what that person does, they're like a hand and I'm like a foot. They deserve to be presented and I deserve to be hidden. They deserve to be drawn attention to but not me.
Some of us just battle that insecurity and that jealousy. So what do you do? And I was thinking about all of you the other day as I got ready for this message and I was wondering like which of you battle this? What kind of people in the church would be like the feet and the ears people and what kind of people would be like the hands and the eyes people? Who might be more prone to envy and jealousy and insecurity? And I'm sure there's a whole bunch of factors to answer that question but there's two things that popped out at me and I'd love for you to write them down. I think the two triggers for jealousy we have to be really, really cautious of (are on our next slide) the two triggers would be when other people have the stage and then when other people have certain strengths. I think you have to be very, very careful with your heart and your soul when someone else is on the stage and when someone else has certain strengths.
Here's what I mean by that: In any church and in any family and any group of people, there are some people who have what I'm going to call the "stage". They have more visible positions while other people are behind the scenes. For example, right now you can see me talking but why can you see me talking? Well, because I chose to stand up here in front of you and number two, someone chose to turn on these, right? The lights. But you might know my name; do you know the person who's running the lights today? You see me but you don't see them. Or maybe you're listening to this message on a podcast and you hear Pastor Mike's voice but who uploaded the podcast and who recorded it and who made sure there were batteries in the microphone so that it would work? Do you get what I'm saying?
You know, all these people are part of the ministry but you only get to see some of them and not others. Same thing in a band, right? Some people are going to sing and they're going to be right in front and other people are going to be hidden in back on different instruments. Some people are going to mix sounds, some people are going to arrange music, some people are going to pick the songs but you're only going to see a couple people when you come to church even though dozens of people were part of the process. And when you're not the one who's on stage, it's hard to resist the envy. And I think here's why: It's not that everyone wants to be a public speaker, right? Most of us are terrified of public speaking and not all of us want to be a lead singer in the church band.
I think what happens is people who are on stage tend to get more attention, more encouragement, and more compliments, right? I mean, if you really loved the music today, would you research and find the person who actually picked the songs for today's service? No, you wouldn't even think about that. Who would you go to? The musicians. And you'd give them the encouragement and all the people who were part of the process would go unrecognized. Maybe you're part of the church ministry and you did something behind the scenes and it's not that you want to be praised and get some special award but no one knows who you are and so no one can say thank you or we appreciate you and encourage you. It feels like you're doing the work and no one sees it. And so those moments when someone else is getting the attention, the encouragement, the award, the praise, you have to be very careful of your heart. And number two, you also have to watch your heart when certain people have different strengths.
Now here at our church, we are huge proponents of a personality test called the StrengthsFinder. I know some of you have heard of it; many of you have taken the test. And I was emailing with a pastor friend this week and he was talking about his StrengthsFinder and he said, "You know, I didn't get any of the good ones". He said, "I didn't get any of the manly ones," is what he said and I remember feeling that way the first time I took it. Like I read the different strengths and I was thinking, "I hope I get that one," and "I hope I have that one," and, "Oh, that's really impressive," and, "This one? Eh". Are you familiar... there's a strength in the list of 34 different StrengthFinders called the "woo".
It stands for winning others over. It's those people who have the kind of personality that they can meet a stranger and they feel so comfortable they will win them over in less than two minutes. Waitresses don't stand a chance, guests who sit next to these people at church are about to love this place, they're going to make such a good impression and the words come so quickly and they make people laugh and feel so comfortable it's like an incredible, incredible gift. Or there's another gift called communication where words come really easily to you; where you can give speeches and presentations at work. Where you can communicate in a relationship where it's not difficult. Your mind just thinks of words really quickly and what a great gift that is!
There's another strength called command, which is like this leadership gift where when you have an idea, people follow you. You might be riffing it with the other people about you know, where's the church going to go and we all share ideas and no one really gets on board but when command people share an idea, it's like people follow. And they're really, really impressive gifts but when you look at some of the other gifts on the list and honestly, they just don't look that impressive. There's one strength called intellection, which the authors of StrengthFinders say is when you just have that kind of personality where you need to retreat and have quiet time to think.
It's like people drain your energy, resources, and you just need a book and you need to get away from the crowds and it kind of seems like a flaw, doesn't it? Like, "Okay, once you're back to full strength, the rest of us would like to get on with the ministry and the family plans". There's another strength called the relator, which are people who do not generally do well in big crowds; they're not great at small talk. Instead, they just have this small group of friends that they're really faithful to and it seems like okay, you're kind of awkward at meeting new people. That's wonderful. Good for you for that strength, right?
And so there's these differences and it feels like if I have these, all those would be the impressive people at church. And if I have this, it feels like I'm an ear, like I'm a foot. Do I belong? You put both those things together and if you come to a gathering of Christians and you don't get attention and you don't get praise and you don't get encouragement and you don't have those gifts that everyone notices, it's so easy to feel insecure. Or maybe that's not just a problem for some of us; maybe that's a struggle for lots of us. There's this Bible study that meets at my house on a lot of Thursday nights and one of our values is to keep what happens in the room in the room; it's confidential. But I asked my group and they said I could share this story with you.
A few months ago, we were talking about jealousy. We're in the book of Genesis and studying this guy named Jacob who always wanted more and he was always jealous and envious of what other people had, even his own brother. And after we got done studying it, I asked the group, "So who are you jealous of"? And I was not expecting their answers. Woman A in the group said that she was jealous of Couple B for their relationship. And Couple B said they were jealous of Guy C for his job. And Guy C said he was jealous for the talents of Woman D and Woman D said she was jealous for the personality of Person A.
We went around the room and it turns out that none of us felt good enough. We thought, "If I was like you will I be content"? But that person wasn't content; they wanted to be like that person who wanted to have the family situation of that who wanted to have the history of that person who wanted to have the strengths of this person who wanted to have the gifts and talents of that person and it turned out it didn't matter who was on the stage or who was in the seats. It didn't matter who had these strengths or who had that strength. Like all of us were battling this envy and this jealousy. And if I can be just real with you today, I can guarantee you that standing here does not fix that part of your heart.
I hope this doesn't sound really, really arrogant but I have been super blessed to do some really cool things with my job. I've gotten to travel the world and talk to people about God. I've gotten to travel the country and speak to big groups of pastors. I've gotten to write books. I've gotten to be like the keynote speaker, the headliner, at conferences and do you think all that stuff has made my heart secure? For me, it takes one person. One person in the room who's better than me and all that stuff falls apart. So what do we do so this jealousy doesn't devour Jesus' people? What do we do? Well, tonight Paul has the answer.
See, Paul did not want this obsessive, comparison disorder to devour his friends. God refused to let jealousy amputate a single member of the body of Christ. So he wasn't done in 1 Corinthians 12. He went on to say this. Paul said, "If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body". You catch Paul's logic? He said, "Hey, if we change you and made you like them, who would take your place? Who would do what you're supposed to do"? Which makes total sense, right?
Have you ever pulled a muscle that you didn't know you had until you pulled it and you realized like, "Oh my goodness, I use this all the time to get up and to eat and to laugh and to drink. I never thought about this but it's such an important part on my body," and I guarantee you, that's true for our church and it's true for every church. Do you know what's behind the sermon tonight? Tons of people. Did you know there's a whole group of people at our church behind the scenes who pray for every single Sunday? For the music, for the message, for our guests, for the gospel to spread. Do you know their names? Of course you don't. But if they weren't praying, what would today have been? Do you know when I get a sermon ready, there's a group of people at our church called our "Sermon Research Team" who I ask questions and I bounce ideas and even though I get to share the message, they're half of the content? Do you know their names?
Of course you don't, but every time a sermon gets to your heart it's because of them. You ever see those people after church who got the personality and they're meeting new people and they're laughing and making guests feel comfortable. Do you know why our guests are sticking around? Because someone made food. Do you know the people who made the food? No, of course you don't, but if it wasn't for them the people who have these big, impressive gifts wouldn't have a chance to stick around. Do you see how it works? It's all the small parts. It's the backup singers, it's the bass players, it's the person at the soundboard, it's the person that knows how to make a camera work that makes the church work.
Paul says why would we change you? We need you! What would the body be if we amputated you, if we changed your parts? He says no, it's a good, good thing that there are many parts but just one body. And if that's not enough to convince you that you belong in this place, Paul's going to say one last thing. Look at verse 18; I skipped over it intentionally. He said, "In fact, God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be". If there's one thing and only one thing that can deal with jealousy and envy and insecurity in your heart, it's this: To know that God made you. The strengths that you have, these ones and not those, do you know why? Because God made you.
When God knit you together in your mother's womb, he could have picked anything but he picked this thing and God is good at his job. If there's one big idea I want you to take away, it's the antidote for jealousy and it's our big idea if you want to write it in your programs, is that God made me. And if God is God, with a capital "G," if God is good and he is holy and he makes no mistakes, then jealousy doesn't stand a chance. Actually, this sentence is why insecurity is not just a weakness, it's a sin. Because what does my insecurity say about God? If you complain about a meal at a restaurant, who are you insulting? The chef who made it. And if you look in the mirror and think you're trash, who you are insulting? The God who made you.
So when you say, "Oh, it's nothing," or, "I'm not good," or "I'm no one," you're not being humble. That's pride in disguise. That's insulting the God of all the universe who created you. Instead, Jesus would say embrace this fact that you are a part in the body of Christ. That God did not just make you; he saved you and he equipped you to be on this great mission to change the world. Maybe the best thing I could tell you today is you are part of the body of Christ with an emphasis not on the word "part," but on the word "Christ". If you think about that, if you believe in Jesus, no matter how talented or weak you think you are, you are connected to Jesus Christ.
Does that blow your mind? That's just crazy to me! Like Jesus, I think about Jesus' woo; how he could win others over. He could talk to tax collectors and prostitutes and broken people and they would love him because he talked about mercy and grace. And I think about Jesus' command, his leadership. He marched to the cross and he wouldn't let all the enemies and demons in the world stop him but he wasn't overbearing. Instead, he laid down all of his power and he set his crown down next to a cross so that you could be loved by God. And I think about Jesus' gift of communication; that being tortured and dying on a cross he still could speak those words that change everything: "It's finished".
Your shame, your past, your sins, your struggles, your weakness, your jealousy, your everything; it's finished. God took care of it. I think of Jesus' intellection that he would draw to lonely places so he could be by himself and pray and do you know who he was praying for? He was praying for you and you're connected to that Jesus. Because of that Jesus, you are forgiven and you are loved and you are valuable. You are a member of the body of Christ. And you know what that means? It means that God will always notice you. If no one says a word because of what you do, God notices you. If no one sees the little things that you do for your family, at your job, or for our church, God sees.
So when you're a part of our church family who doesn't park as close as they can to the building but far, far, far away and not just for the cardio... so that our guests who show up late because they don't even know what time church starts, they can have the best spots, even if I don't say a word to you, do you know who notices? God. And when you come to church early and you can snag one of those coveted like end seats but you don't, you slide all the way in even though it's going to be inconvenient if I have to go to the bathroom and I have to crawl over 10 people, but I'm going to slide in so the person who comes in late to church, they don't have to embarrass themselves and ask me to move.
Even if the usher doesn't see you and say a word, do you know who does? God. And if you change a diaper in Jesus' name, if you give a cup of cold water to a little kid and no one sees, do you know who does? God. And if you pray for church and if you try to encourage people and you welcome a guest in Jesus' name, even if you never get an award, even if I don't say a thing, do you know who will? God. And one day, you will stand before Jesus and he will say, "Well done. Well done, good and faithful servant. Whatever you did for the least of these people, you did for me".
So tell that to your jealousy, your insecurity, your sin. I'm a member of the body of Christ and my God always sees. See, in the end, you in God's sight are a lot like this final picture. Anyone know what that is? That's $450,300,000. That painting is a painting by Leonardo Da Vinci. It was recently discovered and refurbished. It's called Savior of the World; his painting of Jesus Christ. Twenty-six inches by 19 inches and last year, it broke a record: The most expensive thing ever sold at an art auction, $450,300,000 for paint! I'm going to ask you why in the world, why would someone pay half a billion dollars for some paint? Half a billion dollars! Why would they part with that for this little picture? I can tell you why: Because there's only one of it and it sounds a lot like someone I'm looking at right now.