Summary: Chase the Lion is a 3 part series from Mark Batterson, pastor at National Community Church in Washington, D.C. The sermon is based off of the book, Chase the Lion. You can download a sermon kit at

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Around the turn of the 20th century, psychologist Alfred Adler proposed the counterintuitive theory of compensation. Adler believed that what we think of as disadvantages often prove to be advantages because they force us to cultivate compensatory attitudes and abilities that probably would have lain dormant or gone undiscovered without them. And it’s often as we compensate for those disadvantages that we discover our greatest giftings. For example, 70 percent of the art students that Adler studied had optical anomalies. And some of history’s greatest composers—Mozart and Beethoven among them—had degenerative conditions in their ears.

A more recent study of small-business owners found that 35 percent of them were self-identified dyslexics. While none of us would wish dyslexia on our children because of the academic challenges that come with it, the disadvantage of dyslexia forced this group of entrepreneurs to cultivate different skill sets that set them up for success.

Long story short, perceived disadvantages such as birth defects, physical ailments, or even the environmental challenge of poverty can be springboards to success. And that success is not achieved in spite of those perceived disadvantages. It’s achieved because of them.

John Irving is a great example.

Irving is considered one of the great storytellers of his generation. His book The World According to Garp won a National Book Award. His screenplay The Cider House Rules won an Academy Award. But here’s the thing: Irving earned a C- in high school English. And it took him five years to graduate. His SAT verbal was 475 out of 800, which means two-thirds of us who took the SAT scored higher. But do you have a National Book Award? An Academy Award?

Irving’s teachers thought he was lazy, thought he was stupid. The reality is, he was dyslexic. But it’s that disadvantage that propelled him. Irving said, “If my classmates could read our history assignment in an hour, I allowed myself two or three.” Irving had to study longer and work harder. And it’s his study habits and work ethic that ultimately propelled him professionally. In Irving’s words, “To do anything well, you have to overextend yourself.”

I like Irving’s story for lots of reasons, but one of them is very personal. I took a career assessment when I was in graduate school that showed a below-average aptitude for writing. Writing is not a natural gifting for me, and I knew it. I also knew that I was called to write. So what did I do? I worked harder—I read 3,000 books before I wrote one.

That lack of natural ability is coupled with one of my other weaknesses. Early on in ministry, I could not speak extemporaneously. I had to script and rescript every single word of every single sermon every single time. I thought my inability to speak extemporaneously was a preaching disadvantage, but it proved to be a writing advantage. Those sermon manuscripts, after some adaptations and alterations, would become book manuscripts. Without that perceived disadvantage, I doubt I would have cultivated my writing gifts. Writing, for me, is a compensatory skill.

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