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 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:
- 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.
- 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?