As human beings, each of us has seemingly inborn talents. Some of us are outstanding athletes while others have natural gifts for music. Some seem to be born standing in front of an easel as their artistic genius flows from their hearts, through their hands, and on to the canvas. Still others display business savvy from an early age, earning money from a variety of projects that others never dreamed of.
Yes, all humans have talents, yet as Christians, we have something further. We have what scripture calls the “gifts of the Spirit.” Different from the talents that seem to bubble up within us from no discernable origin, gifts of the Spirit are God-imparted talents that allow us to be successful at whatever area of endeavor we choose. These divine blessings are God’s way of equipping us to do the work we need to do to further his kingdom mission here on earth, but also apply to our other pursuits as well.
Many sincere believers make the mistake of assuming the their spiritual gifts are intended for their work within the Body of Christ, but have no application outside of the church. Nothing could be further from the truth. This widespread misapprehension regarding spiritual gifts stems from our culture’s tendency to separate the spiritual from the secular. The fact is, for a Christian, there is no separation as our entire life is dedicated to God’s use. Many times, our spiritual gifting will come in the exact areas where we already possess inborn talents. God takes these special talents and hones them to a level we could have never reached on our own. At other times, areas of spiritual gifting may be totally new talents, given to us by the Holy Spirit. I have also seen cases where the Spirit prods a person to explore new interests and subsequently the believer ends up discovering a previously hidden talent.
In either case, if we are to be successful in our profession and in our daily walk of faith, it is imperative that we set aside enough time to discover what our gifts actually are. Many people make this process far more complicated than it need be. First, we can look at the course of our lives, asking God to give us the wisdom of discernment to see those areas where we:
Were (and still are) naturally talented.
Felt most alive, vital, and complete when engaged in their pursuit.
Feel a strong, almost magnetic pull to become involved.
In addition, there are numerous tests and aptitude scales that are specifically designed to reveal your areas of spiritual gifting. You can go to your favorite search engine and easily find what you need.
Once you find out what your specific gifts are, I believe the next thing you need to do is to spend time in prayer expressing gratitude to the Holy Spirit for giving you these gifts and, after that, consecrating yourself and your spiritual gifts to God’s service. After you have done this, ask God for personal revelation regarding how to sharpen your gifts and where your specific combination of gifts are most needed. All too often, articles about the spiritual gifts leave out this vital step. I think this is a mistake. Expressing gratitude, then asking for guidance in terms of its use is a priority when we receive any gift from God.
The next thing you should do is accept the fact that no gift comes fully developed. No matter what your level of talent is in any field, you can always improve. The most common areas available for sharpening your spiritual gifts are through practice and application. Perhaps no other endeavor is as worthwhile as using your gifts. It is often said that the best way to learn something is to teach it. It can also be said that the best way to improve a skill is to use it. The actual application of a spiritual gift can make it even better. This is especially true if there is an aspect of applying your skill where you are aware you need to improve.
For all the scandal, controversy, and tragedy surrounding the career of baseball legend Pete Rose, there is no denying he was one of the best hitters to ever play the game. Rose was once asked how he became so successful. Without hesitation, he responded, “I practice what I am not good at.”
There is a lot of wisdom in Rose’s answer if you have ears to hear.
During the five years I spent teaching English in China I have observed that the one central thing that seemed to separate those who improved their language skills from those who did not was the effort put into it. The harder the student worked and the more positive the attitude with which he or she approached their study, the more their English skills improved. I could cite many examples of this truth but time and space does not allow for that in the context of this article, so I will choose but one example.
I first met Jane when she was a sophomore English major at the university where I was teaching in southern China. She was a pert and energetic girl with a pleasing smile and positive disposition. After having her as a student in my writing class for several weeks, I noticed that not only her writing skills were among the best in her class, but her oral English skills were also excellent. I soon found out why.
I have always been an early riser, usually getting out of bed no later than 5:30 AM. I often went for early morning walks around the beautiful, lotus filled pond that was a landmark of the university. Much of the year the weather was hot and humid in this southern city and the early morning hours provided an opportunity to commune with the natural environment before the heat of the day began in earnest. I usually arrived at the lake around 6 AM and every morning during my walk I usually ran into Jane. She was either reading aloud from an English text, or reciting her lessons in English, or listening to English language tapes on her Walkman.
From the beginning I was impressed by her diligence, her fortitude, her discipline, and her willingness to make personal sacrifices in order to improve her language skills. Further, it was these very positive character traits that enabled her to succeed where others did not. In the spring semester of her sophomore year Jane went on to achieve a high score on the TEM Four examination, a major test that determines whether or not the student is allowed to continue his or her English study without penalty. In addition, her marks were among the highest in all of her classes. In her junior year she placed first in the campus- wide English speech contest hosted by the Business College at our university. She eventually graduated with high honors and is now employed by a major, multi-national company. Why has Jane been so successful? The answer is quite simple. She put forth positive effort!
In addition, Jane made it a point to practice those aspects of her English skills where she felt she was insufficient. Like Pete Rose, she practiced what she was not good at. Your spiritual gifts will rarely come into you at maximum efficiency. God gives you a talent so you can improve on it. Don’t bury it like the unwise servant Jesus told us about in the Parable of the Talents.
Sunday Adelaja, the great pastor who helped bring the Protestant faith to the Ukraine during the collapse of Communism is a man who well understands the importance of hard work in achieving one’s goals and dreams. Adelaja tells us:
If a man does not work, he gives nothing of value to the world. He is a thief. He is useless to God. We are made to bless each other through our labor. Work is good! You will not fulfill your potential in God’s kingdom without hard work. Failure in life never means a person lacks gifts. But it may mean he failed to put his gifts to work. God gives everyone a chance to become successful. The resources you need to impose the kingdom on your sphere of influence are inside you. Each person will give an account before God of how he used these talents and how much of his potential he fulfilled.
Did you catch it? You will not fulfill your potential in God’s kingdom without hard work. There is not easier, softer way. Success of any kind, but especially Christian success, only comes through disciplined, diligent application of your God-given talent and resources. If you fail to use your talents, if you go to your grave with the blessing you could have contributed to the world, if you die with your song still inside you, you are robbing the world of something of immense value – something only you could contribute.
You are gifted for service my friend. And no matter what form that service may take, you can rest assured of one absolute certainty: the Holy Spirit will empower you not only proceed, but succeed. He will make sure you not only survive, you will thrive.
© L.D. Turner 2008/All Rights Reserved