Getting God’s Best
About the Guest
How do you get God’s very best, and would you know it if you got it? Today Chip Ingram, president of the international ministry Living on the Edge, talks about understanding your spiritual gifts and employing them in the service of the body of Christ. Hear Chip tell his own personal story about exchanging a curse for a blessing.
How do you get God’s very best, and would you know it if you got it?
Getting God’s Best
Bob: I want you to think with me for just a second about the things that drive your life. Are those things leading you toward liberation or toward bondage? Here is Pastor Chip Ingram:
Chip: A lot of our drives for significance and security are rooted in we don’t have a sober self assessment. I love that—a sober self, an honest accurate self assessment it just frees you to quit pretending and thinking, “Well, if I had that, if I drove that, if people thought that, or if I could only get in this zip code.” Then, when I get this accurate view of myself, what you’re starting to see is this picture of freedom.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, February 15th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’re going to hear from Chip Ingram today about how knowing, believing, and really living out the truth really does set you free.
Welcome to FamilyLife Today; thanks for joining us. You know some of our programs, I mean, let’s just be honest. Some of them get a little dangerous from time to time. There are some programs you can listen to and you go, “That was good. That was helpful. That’ll make a difference.”
Dennis: Are you speaking of other people’s broadcast?
Bob: I’m talking about ours. I’m talking about what we’re talking about today. It is getting dangerous in here. You know what I mean?
Dennis: I do.
Bob: Like I said, sometimes you listen; and you go, “That was good. That was helpful.”
Dennis: We have Dr. Edge.
Bob: Dr. Edge, that’s right.
Dennis: Dr. Edge who joins us. For a second day.
Bob: I think, you know, it is called Living on the Edge; I think it ought to be called “Pushing You Over the Edge” because that’s really what you’re talking about here, right?
Chip: We’re really talking about the amazing, exciting adventure of what it really means to follow Christ: not rules or religion. That is what Living on the Edge is: It is a life of faith and where you expect and see transformation from within and impact from without.
Dennis: Well, that is the voice of Living on the Edge, Chip Ingram. He joins us again on FamilyLife Today. Chip, welcome back.
Chip: Great to be with you.
Dennis: You’re a pastor. You’ve written books. You’re a father of four adult children, grandfather of eight children. You’re pushing people over the edge.
Bob: No. On the edge, on the edge. I pushed them over the edge. He’s got them back living on the edge.
Dennis: Oh, he has them living on the edge.
Bob: That’s right. That’s right.
Dennis: There we go, alright. We’ve talked about how Romans 12 really contains an outline that spells out how we’re to live the Christian life as Christ followers. It begins with what?
Chip: It begins with giving God what He wants the most; and that is surrender: all that you are and all that you have.
Dennis: Then, it moves?
Chip: It moves to asking and answering this question: How do you get God’s very best? The answer to that is to live a life separate from the world’s values.
Bob: That’s Romans 12:2 that says, “Do not be conformed to this world. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” So, we’ve got to reprogram what is the fuel of our life. Right?
Chip: Then, there is the purpose clause. There is a “so that.” So, you get to experience—taste-test what God’s will is: good, acceptable, and perfect.
Dennis: So, as you go through this process, the net result is you’re going to live a fruitful life. You are going to enjoy life. It doesn’t mean that it will be easy.
Dennis: It’ll be difficult. You’ve actually taught this in your church in the Bay area. You said there were three areas when you taught them that you sensed God was doing some business with people. One of them you said was when people began to do a sober, self assessment—
Dennis: What does that mean?
Chip: Well, Romans 12:3 says, “According to the grace given to me, I say to everyone among you: Don’t think too highly of yourself, but to think with a sober judgment as God has allotted each a measure of faith.” If you study it carefully, that word sober and the word think is all the same root word. It happens four times in one verse.
What he is saying is don’t think too high, don’t think too low; but you—just as we have a DNA physically that is unique and God-given—God made everyone of us, and He wants us to look in the mirror of our soul, of our body, and say I was designed for a purpose. I am made uniquely. I need to know what my strengths are. I need to know what my weaknesses are. I need to know my primary spiritual gift because then that will align with my purpose and my passion and where I fit in the body of Christ.
Verses four and five talk about connected to the body; and six through eight talk about this dynamic, supernatural gift of being able to love people and express what God made you to do. When people got a hold of that, it was just amazing. We literally gave out cards, and people wrote their top three strengths, their top three weaknesses; and then, we went through a process where they could learn their primary spiritual gift.
It was like “Wow! You mean I don’t have to be everything. I don’t have to cover and act like I’ve got it together. My weaknesses really are the doorways where I can invite people into my life. My strengths, instead of acting humble, I can say, “You know I’m good at that. I’ll take care of that.” So, it was—it was liberating. It was very exciting to see what happened.
Bob: I grew up spiritually in an era where spiritual gifts was a controversial subject: Which gifts are for today, aren’t for today? We all kind of at least looked at the passages: Romans 12 talks about it; 1Corinthians 12 talks about spiritual gifts; there are other passages that unpack it.
You’re saying for a lot of Christians who had been following Christ for a long period of time, the issue of their own spiritual giftedness was not even on their radar screen.
Chip: Not only not on their radar or some that it was. They had this salad bar mentality. You’d say, “Well, what is your spiritual gift?” “Well, it’s mercy, leadership, some exhortation, maybe a little hospitality.” They’d rattle off four, five, or six things. Then I’d ask, “How does that help you determine your priorities: what you do, where you go? What’s the one that motivates you?”
They’d look at you like “What do you mean?” What’s your primary one? What’s the one that drives the others? When we help people discover that, the lights came on.
For me, it was revolutionary because I had some natural leadership ability and I was put in leadership positions. When I read those early on in the Christian life, I just assumed that my spiritual gift must be leadership.
I didn’t like being a preacher. I mean I had a very negative Christian experience. So, the word preacher wasn’t good. I didn’t really want to be on, but I ended up one. So, I called myself a communicator. I just share God’s word. I’m not a preacher.
But what God kept blessing was the prophetic exposition that challenged people to live a different life that was culturally relevant. That’s a gift of prophecy. Well, I always wanted to be a leader. So, I kept leaning in different directions, and God kept blessing what He made me to do.
Finally, I realized, “You know what? That is what God made me to do.” I can lead, but I only lead to fulfill that vision of what God gives me. I may have some teaching or exhortational gift, but those ministry gifts around my primary passion and what God made me to do. That allowed me to say no to some things. It gave me freedom. It gave me a sense of confidence. Then, it allowed me to prioritize what it is I really want to do.
We’re in the process of helping everyone in our church discover that.
Dennis: You know there was the best-selling book by Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life. I think what made that so popular was that Rick did a fantastic job of laying out some biblical mandates that are true for all—all people but especially for followers of Christ. It became a magnet to attract them.
As I was reading your book and I was thinking about my purpose, I was thinking I’ve really never ever heard someone tie my spiritual gifts, my strengths and my weaknesses, together with my purpose in such a clear way. I thought I wish I had read your book forty years ago when I was just getting started as a serious Christ follower.
I could have had your coaching and encouragement to help me to begin to distill out what were my spiritual gifts, my strengths, and to help me understand that in light of God’s purpose for my life.
Dennis: To me, that is revolutionary because if you can get on with what God’s purposes are for your life, then you know what? You are hitting it on the fat part of the bat at that point. You are living life according to God’s plan for you and your family.
Bob: There are some folks who look at these lists of spiritual gifts; they look at their own life; and, frankly, there are some gifts they wished they had that they don’t because it seems like there are some gifts that are more highly esteemed in the body. They’d like to go after those. How do we deal with that desire for something we may not have? Well, you talked about it.
Bob: You had a desire for leadership—
Bob: But it wasn’t your primary gift.
Chip: Well, I think we have pictures in our mind of what is acceptable; and we come out at either models or churches or there is someone who really impacted your life. You want to be like them. So, you kind of imitate their gift. Here is what I would just say to people:
Anytime I compare myself with another person, it will always produce carnality. I either—I’m envious, or I feel superior. I’ve compared, and I’m a little better than them. Well, that is not a good place to be.
Dennis: Or you feel inferior—
Dennis: And you put down what God’s put together.
Chip: Then, you neglect the most beautiful person, the most impactful person, the most attractive person I will ever be is the me that God made. When I can embrace that and accept that, of course, I have needs along with my needs I’m fallen; so, I can invite people into my life. But I do have strengths.
I love that—a sober self—an honest, accurate self assessment, it just frees you to quit pretending and thinking, “Well, if I had that, if I drove that, if people thought that, or if I could only get in this zip code.” A lot of our drives for significance and security are rooted in we don’t have a sober self assessment.
So, again, when I say Jesus be Lord, surrendered. When I’m saying no to the media of the world, that’s telling me that success and significance and all that’s going to come with what I have and how I look. Then, when I get this accurate view of myself, what you are starting to see is this picture of freedom. You’re starting to see you’re going to know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
Dennis: From that, you begin to challenge people to join in community. You say that community is a non-negotiable if you’re going to live life according to God’s perspective.
Chip: Well, once I know my gift, once I understand who I am, you cannot be a Christian; you cannot grow in Christ in isolation.
Now there maybe, you guys know the Bible well I can’t find any command in the New Testament, apart from one or two that aren’t in the second person plural, it is you all love one another; you all honor one another; you all be holy before God.
I need community. I mean if Starbucks has taught us anything. I’ve got two daughter-in-laws who worked there at one time. It is the third place. When they do their training, they’re not selling coffee. You have home, work, the third place—Starbucks. It is where we build community.
Guess what? When people gather and are in community, they drink a lot of coffee. So, they sell a lot of stuff. People are desperate to be belonging and connecting. So often, even small groups, just because you are in a small group doesn’t mean you have community. Community is heart-to-heart, face-to-face, vulnerability, accountability.
We’re doing life together. You shoot it straight with me. I’ll shoot it straight with you.
It’s safe. I’m going to open up the deepest hurts of my life once you tell me you’re safe enough to do that with; and you’re not going to judge me, but you’re not going to let me keep living in my sin. We’re going to do life together, and you’re gifts that you now know and my hurts and vice versa begin to create this beautiful thing that Jesus said is the greatest apologetic.
Bob: Well, it makes sense that if God’s given you gifts, He didn’t give them to you so you can use them to edify yourself. In fact, the Bible speaks to that point clearly. So, if you have this gift, you have got to live in community or else your gift is worthless, right?
Chip: Exactly. In fact, in the book, we lay out a summary of verses 9-13 by saying authentic community occurs when the real you meets real needs for the right reason and the right way.
The real you, authenticity versus hypocrisy. Real needs, it costs you something. It is not just going to a little group and talking about ball games or skimming over the Bible. It’s—it really costs you something, but you do it to honor God. When people are connected like that, it is priceless. It really is priceless.
Bob: You know the name Paul David Tripp? He is an author and a speaker. He has done workshops, seminars. He’s got one that’s called Your Relationship with God Is a Community Experience. That’s really one of his themes.
The definition he gives to the Church—I really like this: He says, “the Church is made up of people in an intentionally intrusive, grace-based, Christ-centered, redemptive relationship.”
Bob: I really like all the components of that: grace-based, Christ-centered, intentionally intrusive. Most of us don’t want—we want intrusion only when it—when it pleases us, but we needed to be intruded. We need people intruding into our lives, don’t we?
Dennis: Yes. I just want to go back to the little phrase you used, “doing life together” with a group of people. We move so often in this culture. There are a lot of young couples who are missing an opportunity in the Church today by not having people who have access to their lives, who can intrude—
Dennis: To your point, Bob. Who can also cheer us on when we get off in a ditch.
Chip: All these things fit together. The reason a lot of people don’t have community is they’re not surrendered. If you’re not surrendered, it’s I’m going to figure a way to live my life. Now, I want God’s forgiveness, and I want Him to be around in case someone I love is in the ICU, my mortgage goes upside down and I’m in big trouble, or I lose my job; but then, I kind of want to run my own life.
When I do that, then, I usually feed my mind with the media and the world and a lot of messages that are the very opposite. The messages of the world are at the checkout stand. It is basically Cosmo—
Chip: And People Magazine—
Chip: Lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, pride of life. Now, the promise is, is that those things are going to fulfill me. So, if I am really busy doing those things because I don’t know who I really I am and I’m looking for who I really am in those things, guess what? I don’t have time to be in the Bible. I don’t have time to connect with other people.
Here is the deal: They’re really sincere. If you’d ask them, “Do you really love God?” “Of course, I love God. I trusted Christ at this camp, or it was two years ago or eleven years ago.” But they’re not experiencing the grace of God. For many people here is the deal: I literally wrote this book the Christian life isn’t working.
Chip: They’re burned out because “I’m trying to keep rules, I go to these meetings, I’ve been to these programs.” It ain’t working. It is not working because we’re not doing it God’s way.
Dennis: Instead of overcoming evil, they’re being overcome by the very thing God put them here to conquer. That’s really another key area you talk about in your book. In fact, it is the last—well, it’s verses 14-21 of Romans 12 overcoming evil with good.
In your life, you had a guy that you did basketball with, and I guess it is because I’m a basketball player, too, Chip. I love this illustration of this guy. He was persecuting and prosecuting you, wasn’t he?
Chip: Yes. He really was. He was about 6’8, very big, very mean, and because of a number of differences but primarily because I was a Christian. He hated Christians. He had some bad experiences. This guy had a scar that went from his shoulder all the way around his back. He was an evil guy. In fact, he described himself. He said, “I am evil; and I know if there’s a Hell, I’m going there.”
It is a long story. I was a freshman; so, I’d have to carry his bag, and he’d make me go get food for him. I just hated him. I had a guy that was leading our ministry, and he said—I shared—and he said, “Chip, I’ve got the answer for you. You’re not going to like it, but it will work.” I said, “I’ll try anything.” You just can’t imagine. I was one very afraid, and two had stomach acid and nightmares.
Dennis: You were very angry, too.
Chip: I was really angry. So, he pulled out Romans 12. Verse 14 says, “Bless those who persecute you. Bless and curse not.” Then, it goes on to say, “If you’re enemy is hungry, feed him. If he’s thirsty, give him a drink. Don’t be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.”
He said, “Chip, you know what the word bless means?” I said, “No.” He said, “It means to want the salvation of another.” He said, “Do you know what it also means? It means doing good when God blesses. It means to try and do everything possible that would bless and encourage their life.” He said, “I want you to start treating him with blessing in exchange for everything he gives you. Don’t retaliate.”
By the way, I felt like killing him, but I chose to bless him. So, that day, I took his clothes when he was in the shower, I folded them, took them to the trainer. The next road game he didn’t have to ask. I went and got his tray. I got him extra food. I grabbed his bag. I put it on the bus, I complimented him. At first, he looked at me like, “Man, what are you doing?”
You’ve got to hear: no change for three or four months. Zero change.
Dennis: He was still insulting you.
Chip: He was just, just killing me. We played the end of the year tournament. We get done, and we’re walking out. This guy says, “Chip.” That’s what he used to call me. “Chip, I’ve got news for you, man. There are only two of us that I respect on this team. Everybody else is a phony. I am evil, and I know I’m evil.”
He said, “You’re the first Christian I’ve met that you’re really a Christian, and I respect you. I disagree with everything. I hate everything you represent, but you’re living it out. I’m done messing with you. It’s not fun anymore.” He never did. There was a complete change of heart. I would love to say he knelt down later, trusted Christ, but the last I heard he got picked up. Things didn’t go well for him.
I have watched wives, husbands, business partners, people in dorm rooms bless those who persecute them and see God really work. This doesn’t mean you’re a doormat. Chapter 13 is very clear that the government at times—this doesn’t mean that you don’t take some legal action in certain situations.
The Bible prohibits personal retaliation. You can’t be bitter and resentful. It’s pouring gasoline into a fire when I give evil for evil. It puts it out when I give good for evil.
Bob: When you taught on this passage at your church and you shared that story, you used an illustration that was powerful in the lives of the folks who were there.
Chip: We asked people to think of the person that hurt them, wounded them, abused them in the most difficult, painful thing ever in their life to really get it clear. We taught through this passage. When they walked in, they got not a pebble but they got a rock. They held it the entire service.
Then, I asked them to visualize that rock as the burden they’ve been carrying and the hurt and the wound all those years and to make a choice that day to release that rock, to bless them, to forgive them, to release them from their desire for pay back. Then, it was dead quiet. We said, “People, you respond to God.” I remember sitting on that stage with my head bowed; and then, I begun to hear rocks, “kink, kink, kink, kink, ki-kink, kink, kink, kink.”
People walking out that worship center with tears coming down their eyes. A guy walked up to me, “I’ve been a Christian thirty-five years, and I’ve carried a rock for thirty-five years. I let go of it today of a person who did something unmentionable to me. I feel like the world has been lifted off my shoulders.” I’ve got to believe that’s God’s will for those listening to us right now.
Dennis: Yes. My advice to those who are listening maybe you have somebody—maybe it’s not somebody you’re playing basketball with like Chip did a number of years ago, but you’ve had somebody who has done evil to you and maybe that’s the application for you out of all of this. We’ve talked about a sober self assessment, doing life with people in community. We’ve also talked about overcoming evil with good. What’s God want you to do about what you’re carrying right now?
If you find you’re carrying that yourself and it’s becoming too heavy, maybe it is time you let go; and you forgave that other person. You may need help in your own Christian faith in terms of growing from this point forward because just letting go of that hatred or anger or resentment that’s represented there should be the beginning of a process not the end of one. A time of growth and becoming like Christ and getting on with life as God designed it.
Chip, I am just grateful for your book, Living on the Edge and how you’re calling people to that edge and to follow Christ. I just appreciate you as a friend. I hope you’ll come back and join us again soon.
Chip: Well, it is a joy to be here. We have put the lot of this information in small video vignettes that if someone is here thinking I wish I could get that book but I can’t afford it. They can go through this process and pathway—absolutely free on the website. I’m sure you guys have all the information on that.
Bob: Yes. We’ve got a link on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com to the website you’re talking about if folks want to dive a little deeper into what we’ve been talking about today. Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click on the link to the Living on the Edge website and watch through some of these videos online.
If you’d like to get a copy of the book—I’d encourage you to do that, it is a terrific book. You can request a copy from us at FamilyLifeToday.com. Order online or call 1-800-FL-Today; 1-800-F as in “family,” L as in “life,” and then the word “TODAY.” When you get in touch with us, we’ll let you know how you can get a copy of Chip Ingram’s book, Living on the Edge, sent to you.
Let me also mention that Chip was here a couple of years ago, and we had an extended conversation about a book he had written at the time called Love, Sex, and Lasting Relationships. This was a book that really talked about the difference between counterfeit love and the real deal. How can a single tell whether the relationship you’re in is really the right kind of relationship to go ahead and pursue marriage? How can you identify that kind of genuine lifelong love?
When we aired that conversation of FamilyLife Today, we got a great response. We’d like to make the CD’s of that conversation available to those of you who can help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today this week with a donation. If you go online today at FamilyLifeToday.com and make a donation and you type the word “LOVE” in the online key code box, we’ll send these CD’s out to you.
Or if you call 1-800-FL-Today, 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-F as in “family”, L as in “life”, and then, the word “TODAY.” Just ask for the CD’s from Chip Ingram when you make your donation over the phone. We do appreciate your support. We could not do what we do without folks like you standing with us; so, thanks for your partnership and your interest in the ministry of FamilyLife Today.
Let me encourage you to be back with us tomorrow when we’re going to talk about autism. Dr. Laura Hendrickson joins us to talk about the Autism Spectrum and how families can find their way along what can be a very challenging pathway. I hope you can be back with us for that tomorrow.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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