A handicap is any disadvantage that can make your success more difficult. A handicap is something that severely limits you! A handicap is something that makes you different from others! Some handicaps are a part of your make-up. Sometimes, however, a handicap can be imagined. Whichever one it is, you can overcome your handicaps!
1. Youthfulness can be a handicap. In some circles, a leader is expected to be old. This makes youthfulness a handicap to a leader. All through my ministry, I have been despised because I was younger than most other ministers. I used to resent being so young. I tried to grow a beard so that I would look older. I bought glasses that I would wear to make me look like an older bespectacled man. But one day, I realised that being young was actually an advantage. I began to notice how older people fell asleep helplessly during church services. I found out that there are many jobs that could only be done by young people. I found out that Old Testament priests were supposed to minister from the age of twenty-five to fifty. I became empowered when I found that young people had a great place in the work of God. That is why Paul said, “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). Today, I am excited about being young, having young church members and preaching with a youthful style. I consider it an advantage and not a handicap.
2. Having your headquarters in Africa can be a handicap.
Africa is generally poor, disorganized and despised. Anything that is based in Africa will be affected by the poverty and the disorganisation that is prevalent there. In fact, when Africans see an item made in Africa, they consider it lower than those made in other continents. This can be based on an imaginary thing and not fact.
When I began to have crusades, I felt that if my ministry were not based in Africa, I would have greater financial support to conduct crusades. I truly felt limited because I did not know any rich Americans who could give money to have a crusade. However, I began to look for the advantages with what I had. I realised that being based in Africa made me understand the terrain much better than Americans did. Being based in Africa, I was able to conduct a crusade at a fraction of the price that it would cost Americans to conduct the same crusade. A famous American evangelist saw a photograph of one of my massive crusades in Africa and said it would cost him nothing less than half a million dollars to have that crusade. I smiled to myself because it did not cost me that much. My advantage was that I was based in Africa and I knew how to get things done much more cheaply! That handicap was overcome.
3. Your colour can be a handicap.
Being half African and half European has its amazing challenges. When I am in Europe and America, everyone sees me as a Blackman. When I am in Africa, everyone sees me as a Whiteman. In effect, I do not belong to any of these places. I used to feel sorry for myself because of my brown colour. ‘I don’t belong anywhere’, I thought to myself. As I began to travel around the world, I found out that I actually fitted into more countries than I thought. In South Africa, I pass for a ‘coloured person’. At different places, I have been asked whether I am Somalian, Ethiopian, Malaysian, Indian, Indonesian, Pakistani, Columbian, Brazilian, Latino, etc. As my international ministry grew, I found out that my limitation was actually an advantage.
Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.
Matthew 10: 16
There is always sufficient grace for every problem. Remember that every problem has a solution. Just as every engineering problem has an engineering solution, every problem has special grace provided for it. Whether the handicap is youthfulness, your colour, your origin, where your headquarters is located, what you look like, your pronunciation, the languages you can speak, the languages you cannot speak, your education, your lack of education – you can overcome that limitation. May you be a leader who is not limited by mere handicaps! May you be one of those who have successfully overcome their limitations, whether they are real or imagined! Overcome handicaps by thinking of a way to turn a handicap into an advantage. Think of how you can turn your particular problem into an advantage for the ministry.
By Dag Heward-Mills