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The Incredibles

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The Incredibles: Discovering Your Gift
Pastor Mark Batterson
04.05.05

This evotional begins a new series titled God @ the Box Office that explores the spiritual themes in popular movies. To check out this week’s trailer visit our videos @ www.theaterchurch.com.

Two weeks ago we got a Mr. Incredible suit for our God @ the Box Office series and I decided to wear it home from work to surprise my kids. It’s only about a three block walk so I thought I could play it cool, but I was wrong. I hadn’t walked half a block before people were screaming, Mr. Incredible. Cars were stopping. People were staring. Kids were waving. I just had to go “into character” so as I passed people I said things like “At ease” and “The neighborhood is safe folks.” I have to admit: it felt incredible being Mr. Incredible.

I think everybody ought to don a superhero suit and wear it to the office or store or gym every once in a while! But here’s the thing: you don’t have to get a Mr. Incredible suit and feign superpowers to feel incredible. I’m absolutely convinced that if we simply exercised our God-given gifts to their God-given potential we’d feel like Mr. Incredible (or Elastigirl or Dash or Violet).

There is nothing like using your gifts to serve others. It’s the greatest feeling in the world. The key to fulfillment and fruitfulness in life is using your God-given gifts to serve others. It’s that simple.

Superhero Relocation Program

The Incredibles is about a family of superheroes who possess amazing superpowers but they aren’t supposed to use them because they are part of the Superhero Relocation Program. And it’s eating Bob Parr alive. Instead of using his incredible gifts, he’s stuck in a tiny cubicle pushing papers for an annoying boss! He would give anything to be Mr. Incredible again.

Almost every week, when our staff gathers for our team meeting, I pray and thank God for the incredible privilege of being part of his plan for earth. Using our gifts to serve others isn’t something have to do. It’s something we get to do. Here is a common mistake we make: we view privileges as obligations.

Imagine you had two front row tickets the NCAA championship game and you invited someone to go with you. So you give them a ticket you’d give your right arm for, but the entire game you get this vibe like they don’t even want to be there. It’s almost like they’re doing you a favor using your ticket.

I wonder if God ever feels like that. He lavishes incredible gifts on us and we act like we’re doing him a favor by using them. Or worse yet, our response to God’s gifts is “Do I have to?” We debate and dissect the miraculous gifts in I Corinthians 12 instead of actually using them. Or we turn the ministry gifts in Romans 12 into a competition instead of complementing one another.

Let me share a conviction: maybe the thing that causes God the greatest frustration and disappointment and sadness aren’t the things we do wrong. Maybe it’s all the gifts He’s given to us that remain wrapped.

Desperation

Henry David Thoreau said, “Most men live lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” I think that’s how Bob Parr feels. He wants more than his four foot cubicle. He wants more than his normal life. He wants to do more than go bowling. So he’s moonlighting. He’s listening to police scanners and saving people incognito.

Superheroes are born with superpowers and to do anything other than use them to serve others is frustrating. In the same sense, Christians are endowed with spiritual gifts and to do anything other than use them to serve others is frustrating. When we fail to use our God-given gifts to their God-given potential we lead lives of quiet desperation.

Abraham Maslow put it this way: “A musician must make music, a builder must build, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be.”

I think we focus way too much on not doing anything wrong and way too little on doing something right. I’m not convinced that the greatest tragedy is the things we do wrong. Albert Schweitzer said, “The tragedy of life is what dies inside a man while he lives.” I think too many of us are playing not to lose instead of playing to win. Let me show you the difference.

Sideliners

In I Samuel 14, Israel is held at bay by a battalion of Philistines that control the pass at Mikmash. And what was the leader of Israel doing? Verse 2 speaks volumes. “Saul was staying on the outskirts of Gibeah under a pomegranate tree in Migron.”

I can see Saul kicking back with a cluster of grapes being fanned by palm branches. Here’s what I think: instead of fighting on the frontlines Saul was sitting on the sidelines. And this isn’t an isolated incident.

Do you remember what Saul said to David when David offered to fight Goliath? He said, “You are only a boy.” But I don’t see Saul fighting Goliath in place of David. He sat on the sidelines while a shepherd boy fought his battles for him! Scripture says that Saul was head and shoulders taller than any Israelite. So the only one who matched up to Goliath physically was cowardly.

In his book, Divine Appointments, Erwin McManus says that most of us are what he calls sideliners. He says that a sideliner is “an observer of life rather than a liver of life.” He argues that most people live vicariously. He says, “We find our romance in You’ve Got Mail, and we fight our battles through William Wallace and Maximus Aurelius.”

There is no place for sideliners in a church. Church was never intended to be spectator sport. I think there are two ways you can get off the sidelines and get into the game. The first is as simple as inviting someone to church. Don’t keep NCC to yourself. It’ll totally change the way you experience church. So stop being an attender and become an inviter. The second way is to get plugged into a ministry. The way to get more out of church is to give more.

Here’s the bottom line: if you’re looking for an excuse to stay on the sidelines you’ll find one. We’re all too busy. And we all have too many problems.

Here’s what I love about Mr. Incredible. He’s got problems. He’s so overweight he can’t get his superhero belt on. He and his wife have superhero fights. He’s distracted. He slips on skateboards. He breaks doorknobs and car windows. But he doesn’t let any of that keep him on the sidelines.

After he retired from his counseling career, Carl Jung was asked how he helped people get well. His response was pretty profound. He said, “Most people came to me with an insurmountable problem. However, what happened was through our work together they discovered something more important than the problem and the problem lost its power and went away.” That’s what ministry is. It’s something more important than your problem.

If you’ve got problems you need to start serving others. Keep trying to solve your problems and your problems will get bigger. Start serving others and your problems will get smaller. If you wait till you get your act together you’ll be warming up the rest of your life.

Armor-Bearers

Saul is sitting on the sidelines, but Jonathan is listening to the police scanner. I Samuel 14:3 says, “No one was aware that Jonathan had left.” Jonathan is tired of sitting and waiting. He wants some action.

Verse 4 says, “On each side of the pass that Jonathan intended to cross to reach the Philistines outpost was a cliff; one was called Bozez and the other Seneh. One cliff stood to the north toward Mikmash, and the other to the south toward Geba. Jonathan said to his young armor-bearer, ‘Come, let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised fellows. Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few’.”

I love the armor-bearer’s response, “Go ahead. I am with you heart and soul.”

I think we underestimate the importance of armor-bearers. We all need armor-bearers in our life—people who are with us heart and soul. They pray for us and believe in us and encourage us.

We have a tire on our mini-van that is driving us crazy. You know those waist-high cement poles that many gas stations put in near their gas pumps? I ran into one several months ago. And I think it did something to our tire. It’s got a slow leak. So every couple of days for the last couple months I’ve had to refill that tire with air. It costs fifty cents a pop. I think it would have been cheaper to buy a new tire.

All of us are like our rear-right tire. We leak. We lose air. We get deflated. I think God inflates us in two ways. One is the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit that breathed into Adam in Genesis 2:7 wants to breathe into us. But the second is via the gift of encouragement. I think we all need people with the gift of encouragement speaking into our lives. They help reinflate our spirits!

That’s what this armor-bearer was that to Jonathan.

Can I make an observation? Not many of us are superheroes. In fact, very few of us are. But all of us can be armor-bearers!

Proactive Waiting

One of my favorite scenes in The Incredibles depicts Bob Parr parking his car and a little neighbor boy is watching him. Bob Parr says, “What are you waiting for?” The little boy says, “Something amazing I guess.” Bob Parr says, “Me too kid.”

I think most people spend their entire lives waiting for something amazing. And I think sometimes what we call waiting on God isn’t really waiting on God. It’s lack of faith. Praying in an upper room for ten days qualifies as waiting on God. I’m not sure that most of our waiting qualifies. Let me make a distinction between two kinds of waiting: passive waiting and proactive waiting.

Proactive waiting is what Lora and I do when we go shopping. We usually divide and conquer when it’s time to checkout. Heaven forbid we pick one line and wait however long it takes. We get into separate lines and then one of us jumps ship at the last second to whichever line is moving faster. That’s proactive waiting.

Passive waiting is sitting under a pomegranate tree waiting for something amazing to happen. Proactive waiting is picking a fight with the Philistines.

George Bernard Shaw said. “People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want and if they can’t find them they make them.”

The Plan

I love Jonathan’s plan because it is such a bad plan. If there are only two of you and entire battalion of Philistines I’m thinking your only hope is the element of surprise. So let’s wait till the middle of the night and then sneak up on them. Jonathan does the exact opposite. Jonathan walks into the middle of this gorge in broad daylight and exposes himself to the enemy.

And then he says, “If they say to us, ‘Wait there until we come to you,’ we will stay where we are and not go up to them. But if they say, ‘Come up to us,’ we will climb up; because that will be our sign that the Lord has given them into our hands.”

Observation. Jonathan made up the sign. I don’t know about you, but if I’m making up the signs I do the exact opposite. If they come down to us that’ll be our sign. In fact, if they fall off the cliff that’ll be our sign!

This makes no military sense. Not only are you outnumbered, but you’re going to give up the high ground?

The Philistines taunt them. “Look! The Hebrews are crawling out of the holes they were hiding in.” By the way, if you study the original language you’ll discover that a literal translation of this ancient taunt is “Nanny, nanny boo, boo.” Or something like that.

So Jonathan and his armor bearer climb the cliff. Have you ever climbed anything?

I went rock climbing a few years ago with Pastor Joel. The different climbing routes are numbered based on degree of difficulty. I think 12 was the toughest climb, and we didn’t want to embarrass any of the veterans, so we started on the 10. We barely got off the ground! After five minutes of climbing my forearms were frozen into a claw-like position! I could barely unclench my fist.

Hold that thought.

I haven’t been in a lot of sword fights, but I’m guessing that sword fighting uses your arms and forearms. You’ve got to grip the sword pretty tight. So the last thing you want to do in preparation for a sword fight is climb a cliff. But that doesn’t stop Jonathan. Why? Because Jonathan had a modus operandi: “Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf.”

So they climb the cliff. Defeat an entire Philistine battalion. Trigger a panic amongst the Philistines so they start fleeing in every direction. And verse 20 says, “So on that day the Lord saved Israel.”

Here’s what I want you to see: the course of Israel’s history was changed by one man with the right mindset: “Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf.” What if Jonathan had sat on the sidelines like the rest of the Israelites? I have a theory: if Jonathan hadn’t done anything then nothing would have happened. Brilliant deduction isn’t it?

Nolan Bushnell, the founder of Atari, once said, “Everyone who’s ever taken a shower has had an idea. It’s the person who gets out of the shower, dries off and does something about it who makes a difference.”

Last weekend we held our fourth annual Easter Eggstravaganza at Lincoln Park on Capitol Hill. It was incredible. We blessed fifteen hundred parents and children. It even made the eleven o’clock news. As I was eating cotton candy and enjoying the games, I remembered when the Easter Eggstravaganza was a crazy idea. We could have let the idea die. But our modus operandi was: perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf. And the rest, as they say, is history. Here’s my point: if you don’t do anything nothing will happen. Everybody knows that. But most people live like they don’t.

So here’s my question: are you sitting under a pomegranate tree passively waiting for something good to happen? Or are you proactively picking a fight with the Philistines?

Go climb a cliff.

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