Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Lazy Christian's Guide to Gifts and Talents

It's not what the world holds for you; it's what you bring to it. 
- Anne Shirley, Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery -

So many times, I've looked at the world and wondered, "What opportunities are out there for me?" Seems pretty selfish. Rarely do I stop to think what my offering is to the world. But from a Christian perspective, that's what we should constantly ask ourselves:

How can I use my gifts to serve God and bring him glory?

That first requires figuring out what your gifts are. Here are a few suggestions:

Photo courtesy of 2355 Photography
What do you love to do?  Now, I'm not saying that what you love to do is automatically your gift. I mean, I love to sing, but that's not my gift. We've talked about that before. Several times. No matter how badly you want something to be your gift, it may not be. But look at what you love to do, and perhaps that's where your giftedness lies. This is true for both spiritual gifts and general talents. If you despise having people over to your house, hospitality is probably not your gift. Just sayin'.

What have others told you you're good at?    This is a key component that a lot of people forget. A short story: A friend of mine was feeling ill. I asked him if he was feeling OK, and I said he didn't look so hot. He replied, "Yes, I'm feeling terrible. No one else has asked me. But if I wear a green shirt, all of a sudden everyone's asking me if I feel well. I don't look good in green! I get it! But, Rachel, you're the only one who actually knows when something's not right with me. I've noticed that before. I think you have the gift of discernment."  

So. There you go. I didn't think of discernment as one of my gifts, but someone (and, actually, a few other people) noticed that about me and mentioned it to me. Who goes looking for the gift of discernment? Not me. But if other people mention that it's your strong suit, it probably is. This is a good rule of thumb for general talents, as well. And just because your mother thinks your're good at something doesn't make it true. Look for a third party. Please. Before you show up on American Idol.

Your gifts may change over time. That discernment thingy? Yeah, no one has pointed that out in several years now. I don't know if I've gotten other, stronger gifts that make that one sink to the bottom, or if I didn't really pursue it enough. Who knows? God may have needed me to be discerning then and not now. It's caution to the wind these days! Woohoo! 

Well, not really.

But there are other gifts I have the opportunity to use now that I didn't then. As a Christian, you may be capable of exhortation and hospitality, although you may not be great at them. But you may have been born completely tone deaf and will never be a worship leader. Talents are different. Sometimes our spiritual gifts shuffle because of the opportunities presented for us to use them, sometimes we just get out of practice, or sometimes life changes just give us different strengths than we've had before. Regardless of the reason, try to reassess your gifts and talents frequently so you can...

Get in where you fit in. Once you figure out what your gifts are, use them. Don't just sit on them. And, heavens to Betsy, if you're serving in a place where you're not gifted, GET OUT. Yes, that was capitalized and bold and italic. I hate doing that, but it's important. There are two reasons you need to move along:
  1. There could be a ministry that needs your gifts. If you're serving someplace that's a poor fit—even if you feel an obligation or you don't want to leave anyone high and dry—you're not using your gifts to the best of your abilities.
  2. You may be taking up a spot for someone else who is gifted in that area. Say you've been working in the nursery on Sunday mornings because you wanted a place to serve, but working with kids isn't really your gift. And, maybe, because you're volunteering, the nursery is flush with workers and doesn't need any more. They don't advertise for more volunteers, so someone who is actually gifted in working with children misses out on an opportunity because you're holding their spot. 
If that doesn't make you want to follow that advice, I don't know what will. Pray that God will open up the right opportunity for you to serve, not just any opportunity for you to serve. Which brings up my final point:

Talk to God about your gifts and talents. If you're having a hard time figuring out what the Dickens you're supposed to be doing, ask God. He's more than happy to tell you—or, more likely, show you. You may not like the answer; you may not want to follow through. But, you know, that's kind of what you get for asking. Ask and ye shall receive, right? Just be prepared for the answer and be prepared to respond appropriately.

So that's my basic advice for gifts and talents. What are your gifts and talents these days?

9 comments:

  1. I have been trying to convince my wife for years that sarcasm is a gifting. I try to use the "force," so to speak for good but she insist I sway to the darkside to often. She's not buying it.

    Seriously though, your advice of "GET OUT" is so dead-on. There is an inner fight as Christians with that old saying "bloom where you are planted." However, if we were blooming in another area (our talent/gift) God probably wouldn't stop us to move us to something else where we would do damage.

    ReplyDelete
  2. My gifts are teaching and exortation, but I have definitely had seasons where they have waned, simply because I did not use them. I believe that although they are gifted to us, we are responsible to use ans nurture them.

    Great post.

    Thanks for making me self-evaluate.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I can remember when I longed to be a sweet women with a gentle quiet spirit whose gifts were mercy and service. I'm not that girl. I'm the one God created with gifts of teaching, wisdom and knowledge. I love being me and am truly content now to use God's gifts.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I've been told my gifts are encouragment and discernment. Sometimes, I wish I'd take my own advice! thanks for the thought-provoking post!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I relate to this on so many levels! All my life I was headed down the art path, but when it came to actually making a career out of it, I didn't want to. I dreaded going into my studio, and I would pick loafing on the couch over working on it any day. But then I would agonize over it. Little did I realize that I had kind of outgrown it. I now see writing as my true gift. It was always there in the background.

    And about getting out if you find yourself somewhere that your talent doesn't lie? I worked at a financial institution for 6 years, and it was slowly killing me. And I'm actually currently working a work from home gig that just doesn't seem to fit. You may have just given me a push in the right direction.

    Wonderful post, Rachel.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Mine are compassion and serving. But for years, I would sign up for ministries that required administrative and organizational gifts. Then I'd cry every night because I hated what I was doing and was making mistakes because I'm not organized or administrative.

    I found a small soup kitchen nearby and I started serving... not organizing or heading up or arranging anything - just plain, old serving and I LOVE every second of it. If I was in charge, I'd hate it.

    I also think that people feel if they aren't in charge, they aren't really doing something big for the kingdom. Once I got over the whole being in charge idea, I was able to do what God really called me to do.

    Good post, as always :).

    ReplyDelete
  7. Rachel you speak the truth in this blog about gifts...and as with the other blogs I have read today God is hitting me where I have been struggling lately. Isn't He just AWESOME like that. Thank you Rachel for using one of your Gifts to make us all think where does God want us to further His Kingdom agenda and not our own agendas.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Honestly...the one talent I have that I discovered that is not a gift is in singing as well. I love to sing...and get responses from people just like you did when I do sing publicly...but it's not my ministry. I figured out my main ministry...it starts at home with my family and extends out through my computer 5 days a week through my blog. In turn, I am about to let it leak over into the revamped version of the book I have been working on over the summer. Summed up...my ministry is writing. It's in connecting with people through the words God has given for me to share. How else, or whatever else, He brings about other gifts as I continually grow...I leave that up to Him. He brought about this ministry to me and it blindsided me. I always wanted to sing...to be on stage...but that isn't where He needs me. He needs me right where I am...and whenever and whereever He promotes me (keeping me rooted in this ministry, through) I leave it all in His very capable hands. :) He knows what He is doing...and thank goodness! Because most of the time, I surely don't! haha

    ReplyDelete
  9. You have inspired me to think more of my talents and gifts. I am wondering if I may not be preventing someone from using his gift and talent for the glory of God. Its a thing I really do not want to do; but may just be doing it ignorantly. May God help me to discern what he wants me to do for him with my gifts and talents; and grant me the courage and grace to do just that for him.

    ReplyDelete

I wrote the thing. You read the thing. Don't be too lazy to comment!