- Brian Houston at Hillsong Conference 2011, photo by Hillsong Church
The message by Brian Houston is a big eye opener: in sum, it’s about our ministry. Drawing from Judges 6, which looks at the story of Gideon who is uncertain of his ability to do the work of God, Pastor Brian reminded us once again to be “doing what you are called to do”. In Judges 6:14, the scripture specifically says, “Go with the strength that you have.”
Continuing with the message, Pastor Brian said that, “We humans, are more conscious in what we can’t do rather than what we have”. Romans 12:3 conveys that our purpose and calling are given by God according to the grace that He has placed for us individually. Furthermore, 2 Cor 8:12 reinstates that we shall do our ministry based on what one has, and NOT based on what one has not.
I had a Personality Psychology tutorial earlier this week. In a questionnaire, we were asked to list 3 of our negative attributes and 3 of our positive ones. What startled me is that it was so much easier listing down the 3 negatives, instead of the 3 positives.
Somehow, human nature is programmed to be looking at our weaknesses and improving them instead of giving a fair amount of time to focus and expand on our positives. The same thing happens in ministry. Pastor Brian kept on stressing the point that we have our own callings according to the grace that God has given to us – simply, we have differing gifts that have to be used.
I’m not a singer, nor a dancer, half a musician (back in high school), but sometimes I envy those who can sing, dance, and play music beautifully. Humans always look at the neighbour’s grass and feel as if they are greener. Similarly, we always want to have the talents that what we don’t have.
Nevertheless, Pastor Brian emphasised the point that if we are comfortable in our own grace, we can be an over-achiever.
“The key is to keep maximising the potent that you have,” he said.
Further on, he drew upon the scripture from 2 Cor 10:12, which says that we are not supposed to class or compare ourselves, and not even to boast about our abilities.
I remember my high school years where I mostly focused on others – what score did they get for the test? Did they have better marks than me? Were they able to complete the questions in shorter amount of time that I was able to? At that time I believe this was normal; the world’s norm is to compete – or fail. It is what Darwin referred as natural selection.
However, clarifying the false paradigm, the Bible teaches us that we are not to ‘judge’ ourselves and ‘judge’ others, and measure them on a balance scale. We are supposed to know our own callings, invest on them, and not to go outside our grace zone.
“There are 7 classic ways to go outside our grace zone,” said Pastor Brian.
The first one is when we class ourselves – what we think we deserve to have. When we begin to have believes that “I deserve to be treated better, I deserve to have a better job,” we start to step outside our grace zone. God is the only one who has the right to do so.
The second one is when we compare ourselves. Do we come second? Do we come first? Comparing ourselves means that we are limiting ourselves, in a sense that we will always be focused on what others have achieved, and not about Jesus. Remember, we are created to reflect God’s image, and not others’.
Third one is when we commend ourselves. Humans are proud beings that sometimes we forgot that we are merely creations, and God is the creator. Everything that we have done and accomplished, they all because of God. Instead of giving God the credit, we cross the line with commending ourselves – ‘because of my hardwork, I’m able to achieve this.’ Remember that we are just dust, and someday, we will return to dust.
Fourth, is when we are measuring ourselves. Titus 1:15 says “stop measuring”, and it is intended for both internally (measuring on which ‘level’ you are) and externally (measuring on which ‘level’ you are in accordance to other people). The Bible teaches us that the right way to measure ourselves is by the ‘faith that God has given to us’. (Romans 12:3). It is not wrong to measure ourselves, but there is a right way and a wrong way to do so.
The fifth one is explicitly told in the verse 14 (back in the 2 Cor), which is when we are overextending ourselves. We want to get acknowledgement, for instance. We want to succeed. However, the main focus should be kept on winning people for God, and not pleasing people for the sake of our acceptance.
Sixth, when we start to boast in other man’s labor. This is such a classic thing. I believe all of you are familiar with the term “plagiarism.” Why does it exist anyway? Because we want to be praised, to be known as someone who is innovative, and we take shortcuts in doing so: by stealing other man’s works and claiming them as ours. While the credit should go to your friends, someone approaches us and say, “good job,” and we simply imply that the credit is ours.
And seventh, stated on verse 15-16, it is when we fail to acknowledge other people’s grace zone. If you are good at singing, and not at dancing, but joining a dancing department, and know a friend who’s terrific at dancing, do him or her a favor: quit, and join singing department. By not doing so, you are limiting your own potential, and becoming a hindrance for your friend to achieve his or hers.
In the end, if we forget everything else and just able to remember one thing out of his sermon, I guess Pastor Brian will want us to remember to keep “staying in our own grace zone.”
“…And give according to what you have, not what you don’t have.”
2 Cor 8:12
“…Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.”
“Oh, don’t worry; we wouldn’t dare say that we are as wonderful as these other men who tell you how important they are! But they are only comparing themselves with each other, using themselves as the standard of measurement. How ignorant!
We will not boast about things done outside our area of authority. We will boast only about what has happened within the boundaries of the work God has given us, which includes our working with you.
We are not reaching beyond these boundaries when we claim authority over you, as if we had never visited you…
Nor do we boast and claim credit for the work someone else has done. Instead, we hope that your faith will grow so that the boundaries of our work among you will be extended.
Then we will be able to go and preach the Good News in other places far beyond you, where no one else is working. Then there will be no question of our boasting about work done in someone else’s territory.”
2 Cor 10: 12-16