But by the grace of God I am what I am….
— 1 Corinthians 15:10
When I was young, my father tried to encourage me to join in all kinds of sports along with the other young boys from church and school. He tried to motivate me to get interested in baseball, football, basketball, and even bowling. But there was a problem: I had absolutely no interest in any type of sport that had to do with any kind of a ball. It was all boring and monotonous to me. I gave it my best, but I just didn’t have it “in me” to get involved in sports. My heart and my interest were simply not there.
God had made me to enjoy other things, like attending the orchestra, visiting museums, listening to classical music, and taking art lessons to develop my natural artistic talent. But those were not the kinds of things that young boys were “supposed” to be interested in, so I ardently pushed forward — trying to force myself to be interested in sports. But it was to no avail, because I just didn’t have an interest in it.
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The devil tormented me for years, telling me that there was something wrong with me because I was not like other boys and men who rapturously talked about and played sports. To be honest, sports disgusted me — and decades later, I still have no interest in sports, and I didn’t produce any interest in my sons in sports. Even today, we are a “no sports” family. However, we love operas, classical music, art auctions, and other things of that nature. Each one of us is tuned into the world of the arts.
When I was a boy, I thought I was weird because of how I was made. But now that I live in Russia, where classical art, music, ballet, and arts of all sorts are a vital part of the culture, I understand that God created me exactly the way I needed to be for my assignment in the former USSR. Furthermore, He designed our sons’ desires to align with this culture. In Russia, we are perfectly fitted for the world around us. God knew all of that when I was a young boy. At the time, I struggled with coming to terms with my disinterest in sports and the reason why I had such a profoundly deep love for the arts. But it was all a part of how God needed me to be “fitted” for where I would live the bulk of my adult life.
The truth is, many people secretly struggle with why they are the way they are. Some are deeply affected by their characteristics that others might perceive as shortcomings, whereas others have learned to overlook them. For some, the devil has used these feelings as a launching pad to tell them there is something wrong with them — and he has convinced many that they are indeed an aberration from what other people are like.
But I want to tell you that God fashioned you perfectly for His calling and gifting in your life. Your “fitting” may be different from what is considered normal in your neighborhood, but that does not mean something is wrong with you. It just means God has “fitted” you for something that your neighbors will probably never do! Let them enjoy who they are, and you need to learn to accept yourself and enjoy who God made you to be!
I don’t know anyone else from my hometown who has a ministry in the heart of Moscow, Russia. The vast majority of people I grew up with and attended school with are living the American dream. But God knew that would not be my life, so He designed me for my own unique calling.
Thankfully, I had a mother who understood there was something different about me and encouraged me to pursue my interests. My father never understood when I was young, but as I grew older and the call of God on my life became more evident, he came to understand why I never fit the mold of other boys in our church and school. It took time for him to grasp it, but before he went to Heaven, my dad fully understood and encouraged me in who I am. Amen!
Have you ever felt like a misfit? If so, let me encourage you with a verse that I’ve spoken to myself over and over through the years. Especially in years when I struggled with my differences from others, I learned to lean on the truth of this verse. It is First Corinthians 15:10, where Paul says, “But by the grace of God I am what I am….”
When Paul wrote this verse, he was writing about how different he was from all the other apostles. They had walked with Jesus; he had not. His knowledge of Christ came from direct revelation, whereas the other apostles had walked with Jesus, heard His voice, felt His tender touch, and witnessed His earthly ministry. Paul, however, had been called into apostolic min- istry by revelation, and this put him in a category that made him different from all the other apostles. They could all lay claim to an earthly experience with Christ that Paul could not claim.
Is it possible that Paul was tempted to feel inferior because his experience was different from theirs? I think the answer may be yes, because in First Corinthians 15:8 and 9, he wrote, “And last of all, he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. For I am least of the apostles that am not meet to be called an apostle….” Yet he was one of the mightiest apostles; he wrote more of the New Testament than anyone else; and he traveled to more of the Gentile world than any other apostle of that time. His education, his travels, his love of languages — it all perfectly outfitted Paul for the ministry God had entrusted to him.
When Paul wrote, “But by the grace of God I am what I am…,” it was his recognition that everything that made him who he was uniquely prepared him to fulfill his purpose by the grace of God. So rather than focus on the fact that he was different from others, Paul continued by saying, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”
According to Paul, God’s grace was bestowed on him, and it was not in “vain.” The word “vain” is the Greek word kenos, and it describes something that is empty, wasted, or void. Paul declared that the grace of God, which poured mightily into his life, did not produce hollow results. Rather, he said, “I labored more abundantly than they all; yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”
The word “labored” is the Greek word kopiao, which describes labor and work of the most intense type. The word “abundantly” comes from a form of the word perissos, and it is comparative, which means Paul was essentially saying, “Compared to the other apostles, I worked harder than any of them.” But he went on to acknowledge that it was not he alone doing this strenuous, nonstop work; it was the grace of God that was at work within him. The word “grace” here is charis, which denotes the empowering presence of God.
Paul was indeed different than the other apostles. But he was mightily anointed and perfectly gifted and fitted for the call God had given him to reach the Gentile world. And although Paul had no earthly experience with Jesus like the other apostles did, he was no less an apostle. On the contrary, he was a mighty, world-changing force for the Gospel. But Paul had to come to a place where he surrendered his inadequate feelings and accepted that fact that he was what he was by the grace of God.
Today I want to tell you to stop badgering yourself if you are a little different from others. You may not have realized it, but if everyone was alike, it would be a pretty uninteresting world to live in. Your differences make you unique. God made you with certain characteristics and personality traits because you need them for the assignment He has planned for your life. So rather than struggle with yourself or put yourself down for being a little different from others, it’s time for you to claim First Corinthians 15:10 and declare, “I AM WHAT I AM BY THE GRACE OF GOD!”
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father, I ask You to help me really see and realize that the way You made me is not a mistake. You have fitted me exactly for the call that You have placed upon my life. Although I may be different from others around me, it is OKAY, because my call is different than that of my neighbors and friends. I confess that I’ve struggled with myself, but today I surrender it all — and I thank You that I am what I am by the grace of God. I ask You to help me understand it and receive it. With the help of Your grace, any self-imposed self-rejection I have lived under comes to an end. I receive Your grace; I accept who You have made me to be; and I confidently shine as a trophy of Your masterful making!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that I am made exactly as God intended for me to be made. He fitted with me thoughts, gifts, and talents that may be different from others, but they are essential for what God has called me to do. These differences will be precisely what is needed when I fully step forward into the plan that God has designed for me and my family. I have battered myself long enough — and starting today, I accept who I am and what the grace of God has made me to be!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Let’s think about it: Haven’t there been many people in the Bible who were fashioned differently from their contemporaries, but it was because God had a special call on their lives that required them to be different?
- Who are some of those Bible characters? Take time to consider those who grew up differently from those around them with different gifts and different dreams because God had a special path for them to take in life.
- Can you think of individuals outside of the Bible in secular realms who were seen as “different” from the time they were young, yet their differences contributed to their success in life? Who are some of those individuals?