One of a Kind

Psalm 139:13-14

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.

Dear Friends in Christ,

DNA – deoxyribonucleic acid.  The blueprint for the human being.  The genetic code.  A vast and incredibly complex information center contained in every single one of the 100 trillion cells that comprise the human body.  How vast and complex, you ask?  Consider the following: “One human DNA molecule contains enough information to fill a million-page encyclopedia, or to fill about 1,000 books.”  To put that in perspective, many of us older folks here today were raised with the Encyclopedia Britannica.  It consisted of 23 volumes and a total of about 25,000 pages. In other words, “in the DNA molecule which is far smaller than the microscopic cell in which it is located, there exists a data warehouse 40 times bigger than the biggest encyclopedia of the world that includes millions of items of information.”  If that doesn’t blow you away, maybe this will: “If one piece of information present in human genes was to be read every second, non-stop, around the clock, it would take 100 years to complete the process. The latest calculations have revealed that this huge encyclopedia contains some 3 billion different “subjects.” If the information in DNA were to be written down on paper, that paper would stretch from the North Pole to Ecuador.”

You know what that means for you, my friends?  Since DNA is what makes you you, it means that you are one of a kind, that when God made you he really did break the mold.  There has never been anyone exactly like you and there never will be.  Or to put it another way, only you can be you. If you can stand a little more mind-boggling, brain-blowing information about DNA, consider this:   DNA molecules can unite in an infinite number of ways.  The number I came across was 10 to the 2,400,000,000th power.  That is the number 1 followed by 2,400,000,000 zeroes.  And that number is the likelihood that you’d ever find somebody just like you.  If you were to write that number out with each zero being one inch wide, you would need a strip of paper 37,000 miles long.  So your uniqueness is not only a biblical fact of life, it is a scientific fact as well.

That means that no one else on earth will ever be able to play the role God planned for you.  Now I don’t want to put a lot of pressure on you this morning, but do you understand what that means?  It means that if you don’t make your unique contribution to the Body of Christ, to the church, it won’t be made.  So because of the importance of what we’re talking about here, I want to spend my time today exploring three things that make you one of a kind and what God wants you to do with them.

We begin then with your abilities.  Your abilities are the natural, God-given talents you were born with.  For example, some people have a natural ability with words.  They practically came out of the womb talking and some would say they haven’t stopped since!  Others have been gifted with athletic abilities or musical talents. Still others are mechanically, artistically, or mathematically inclined.  The spectrum of talents that God gives to individuals is exceedingly broad and diverse in its range.  Which leads to the question: What exactly does God want you to do with your abilities?

Well, he wants you to first of all recognize that you have abilities.  Romans 12:6 says: “God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well.”  And I Peter 4:10 tells us: “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”  But sadly, one problem that a lot of Christians have these days is that they haven’t given much thought to the unique abilities they possess or any consideration as to how they might use them.  Consequently, when they are challenged in a sermon like this to put their abilities to work for God, they say things like, “Well, I don’t think I have any abilities to offer.”  But that is so untrue.  Recently I read that many studies have revealed that the average person possesses from 500 to 700 different skills and abilities.  You are not the product of blind evolutionary chance.  Rather, the psalmist was absolutely right when he declared in our text for today that we are fearfully and wonderfully made by God. In fact, you are so fearfully and wonderfully made that experts tell us that your brain can store 100 trillion facts.  Your mind can handle 15,000 decisions a second.  Your nose can smell up to 10,000 different odors.  Your touch can detect an item 1/25,000th of an inch thick.  And your tongue can taste one part of quinine in 2 million parts of water.

But not only does God want us to recognize our abilities, he also wants us to understand that those abilities come from him so that we will use them for his glory.  In I Cor. 10:31 the Apostle Paul says: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” That’s one thing I appreciated so much about Albert Pujols when he played for the Cardinals.  When Albert would hit a home run and cross the plate, the first thing he would do was point to the heavens.  That was his way of saying, “To God be the glory.”  I remember some years ago when a group from our church went to a Cardinal game on Christian Family Day, we heard Albert give a beautiful testimony to the role that Jesus Christ plays in his life now, thanks to the faithful and persistent witness of his wife.  So he has done well what we are all supposed to do, and that is to use our special talents and abilities not to draw attention to ourselves but to billboard the greatness and goodness of God.

Then one more thing I want to say about our abilities is that what we are able to do, that’s what God wants us to do.  In other words, if God hasn’t given you the ability to carry a tune, he isn’t going to expect you to sing in the church choir.  If he hasn’t given you the ability to speak in front of people, or if that’s something that terrorizes you to the point that it paralyzes you, in all likelihood he probably isn’t calling you to be a pastor or a teacher.  God will never ask you to serve him in a way or for a task for which he has not gifted you.  On the other hand, the abilities you do have are a strong indication of what he does want you to do with your life.

So please understand this very important truth, my friends.  Your abilities have been given to you not just so that you can make a living off of them, but so that you can make a ministry out of them.  To put it another way, whatever you are good at doing, you should be doing for your church.  And I can’t tell you how thankful I am for those in our church who do precisely that.  For example, Steve Stein is great with numbers, so he has served as our treasurer for close to 30 years, if I’m not mistaken.  Ryan Nolte, Tony Dial, Buddy Mulvany, and Tony Gray are all handymen, Mr. Fix-Its, so they serve on our board of trustees.  Barb Roberts and Reva Maurer are exceptionally gifted musicians, so they serve as our organists and Barb also leads the Praise Team.  Jerry Broom has wonderful leadership qualities, so for several decades he served as our Head Elder.  The list just goes on and on of faithful servants in our church who are doing what God has specially and specifically gifted them to do.  And as a pastor I consider myself very privileged to have them serving beside me in this family that we call Salem Lutheran Church.

So you’re one of a kind because of your abilities.  Then secondly, you are also one of a kind because of your personality.  One thing you have to say about God is that he loves variety.  And not only is that very evident in nature, it can also be seen in people.  God made introverts and extroverts.  He made people who love routine and people who love change.  He made some people work best by themselves while others work best as part of a team.  Some he made leaders; others he made followers.

If you want to do an interesting Bible study sometime, just start looking at the personalities of the most famous characters in Scripture.  For example, Moses was self-conscious and humble.  Peter was bold and brash.  Jeremiah was depressed and melancholy most of the time.  Thomas needed to see in order to believe.  Joseph in the Old Testament was one who had the amazing ability to bloom where he was planted, even when he was planted in a foreign land as a slave and later on as a prisoner.

The point I’m getting at is that there is no right or wrong temperament for ministry in God’s family.  We need all kinds of personalities to bring balance and flavor and color to the church.  Imagine how boring and predictable life in the church would be if we all had the same personality.  But we don’t.  In our congregation we have risk takers along with more conservative types.  We have visionaries and planners, engineers and accountants, nurses and teachers, each with their own unique perspectives and personalities.  Because of that, I never quite know what direction our meetings are going to take.  And that’s why when I open those meetings with prayer, I will often simply yield ourselves to the Holy Spirit’s leading, knowing that he, better than anyone, can take this motley crew and meld it together for his purposes and his glory.

Then one more thing that makes you one of a kind is your experiences.  Every one of us has been shaped by the experiences of life that have come our way: family experiences, educational experiences, vocational experiences, spiritual experiences, painful experiences.  I want to say a few words about that last type of experience for it is those painful experiences that I believe God uses the most to prepare us for service in his kingdom.  As author Rick Warren has put it, “God never wastes a hurt!”  In fact, your greatest ministry to others will most likely grow and develop out of your greatest hurt.  After all, who could better minister to the parents of a Down syndrome child than a couple that already has a child afflicted in that way?  Who could better comfort a woman who has had a miscarriage than one who has experienced the same sorrow and disappointment?  And who could better help the parents of a child who has strayed into the dark world of drugs than parents who have themselves experienced that same type of hell?

So understand that sometimes God allows us to go through painful experiences in order to equip us for ministry to others later on.  2 Cor. 1:4 says that he “comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”

So you truly are one of a kind, my friends, because of your abilities, your personality, and your experiences.  And when you take those three unique aspects of your make up and use them for the honor and glory of God, the Body of Christ remains healthy and the work of God gets done.

We’ve talked a lot about our differences today, so let me close by sharing with you two things that we all have in common with one another.  The first is sin, that natural built-in tendency to rebel against God and demand my way over his.  And oh the pain that we have all felt in our lives as a result of following that tendency far too many times.  But thankfully, we have something else in common.  And that is a Savior named Jesus who himself was truly one of a kind – both perfect man and perfect God – and who loved us in spite of our sins and offered himself on the cross as the supreme sacrifice for those sins so that we could be fully and completely forgiven of all our faults and failures and so that we could dwell in his glorious presence forever.  And if you think that DNA is mind-boggling, try to wrap your mind around this: That one of a kind Savior wants to use you and your one of kind abilities, personality, and experiences to make a one of a kind difference in this dark and hurting world.  And that is a one of a kind offer I hope you won’t refuse.