Work Your Strengths

Many years ago I listened to a sermon. I can’t remember who preached it, nor can I remember anything else about the sermon other than this simple little sentence: “Work your strengths and staff your weaknesses.” I have chewed on this sentence many times over the years, drawing on its truth in both my spiritual life and my secular life.

The first half of this saying is easy to understand, but not always easy to walk. “Work your strengths.” We all have gifts and talents, but we don’t always know what those gifts and talents are. Perhaps this is because we are too close to see them clearly, to bring them into focus. And sometimes we may have difficulty believing in ourselves, due to any number of things, and we can only see our own weaknesses and deficiencies. Of course, we must first identify our strengths.

There are several ways in which this can be accomplished. We can look to our passions. Oftentimes, but not always the case, the things about which we are passionate contain our strengths. We became passionate about them for a reason!

We can also find our strengths by inviting those close to us to share their observations. They have the advantage of a greater propensity for objectivity. Of course we need to choose those who can be objective. Most of us can remember watching American Idol and the numerous people who had absolutely ZERO talent at music or singing, but they were told by family and friends that they were good.

We can also ask God to show us what we are good at. He knows better than anyone, and desires for us to know. But when we ask, we need to pay close attention to the things people say, the way we feel when we are doing things, successes and failures, and mindfully consider and evaluate the things that pop into our heads.

Once we know our strengths, the saying becomes obvious. We need to dedicate our time and energy to doing the things that we are best at, cultivating the seeds that God has put within us, developing those strengths. Just because we know what we’re good at doesn’t mean that our journey is over. We work those strengths, building on the foundation of our gifts, becoming better through attention and due diligence.

But what does it mean to “staff your weaknesses”? There are a couple of things that come to mind. If you are in a position of authority, be it secular or ministerial, you can choose people on your staff whose strengths are in the areas of your weakness. By delegating the tasks that you struggle with, you maximize the time that can be devoted to your strengths. The same thing works in a family structure as well. Tasks can be divided based on strengths.

Another way to look at it is an alternate meaning of the word “staff.” While there are other uses for a staff, it was, basically, a  long stick that could be used as a crutch. One with a handicap would lean on the staff to take pressure off of a damaged leg. It also provided an aid for balance.

You may remember that Jacob, while wrestling with God, had his hip dislocated. He used a staff to get around. Before his death, he blessed the sons of Joseph while “bowing in worship over the head of his staff” (Hebrews 11:21 ESV).

Mirroring the physical use of a staff to shore up a weakness or handicap, we can metaphorically lean on the staff of God’s support and power. “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness” (Romans 8:26 ESV). When we are not sufficient in ourselves to accomplish a task or responsibility, God is faithful and willing to help us. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5 ESV).

Just as it is important for us to know and work our strengths, it is equally important that we know and staff our weaknesses. Without knowing and acting on these things, it will be difficult, indeed, to fulfill our personal callings.

Work your strengths, and staff your weaknesses!

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