It was a humid early June night. Lightning bugs illuminated the darkness as dozens of heeled and coiffed women made their way inside a tastefully decorated room. Tables were set, candles were lit, dessert was served, friendships were forged, and Jesus was worshipped. At this women’s event, I enjoyed delicious food and drank sweet tea that had been prepared behind the scenes. I watched ladies give up their seats so other guests could sit in comfort. I listened to an anointed speaker and heard melodies of praise harmonize their way to Heaven. I caught glimpses of husbands working diligently behind the scenes, managing sound and lighting equipment, directing parking, picking up dirty dishes, and playing instruments. I was mesmerized, and I thought about Romans 12:3-8:
(3) Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. (4) Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, (5) so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. (6) In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. (7) If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. (8) If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.”
When I was younger, these particular verses confused me more than the others in Chapter 12. I wondered what my gift was, and how I might fit into this list. I couldn’t grasp what it meant to be counted as part of Christ’s body, yet be fully equipped to serve Him uniquely. I didn’t grow up attending church regularly, so the visual aids I needed to completely understand were missing until much later in my life. It wasn’t until I began attending churches where loving Jesus and serving others was emphasized that I started to realize the importance of this passage. What once was hazy started to become clear as I watched these verses come to life in men and women serving God all around me.
It seems that mankind teeters between acknowledging or promoting any talent we think we possess and denying or downplaying its existence. Seldom do we evaluate ourselves from an honest, Godly perspective. The reality is, we ALL have been given some sort of ability from birth. Each of us can lay claim to at least one thing we’re pretty good at, and most of us have multiple skills. I think it’s as heartbreaking to God when we resolutely write ourselves off as good-for-nothing as it is when we parade ourselves around looking for personal glory. That’s what verse 3 is saying. God has indeed bestowed valuable talents on you, and He wants you to put them to use – not so you can get one million views on YouTube, but so millions might come to know Him through your unique witness. As a Christian, you are never firing on all cylinders more than when you wrap up your God-given attributes and humbly offer them back to your Savior. That’s re-gifting at its finest…and there’s no need to keep the receipt!!
Then there’s that other thing we like to do: compare ourselves with others. I’m a first-class offender in this area. I tend to look at someone who has a talent I wish I had, review my many shortcomings, and then hang my head and retreat into the shadows of self-pity.
“Why can’t that be me?”
“I have nothing to offer compared to (fill in the blank).”
All the while, someone else is looking at me, admiring a particular gift I DO possess and just wishing I could recognize it in myself. Sound familiar? Please tell me I’m not the only one!! Over the years, I’ve come to realize there’s definitely certain things I should not attempt, like telling jokes (crickets every single time), singing solos, or anything really that puts the spotlight on me. No matter how much I esteem these talents in others, they don’t naturally exist in me. And as hard as it can be for me to admit, there are a few things I’m slightly better than average at. I’m slowly coming to accept how God designed me. And He created you with equally distinct abilities. It’s so easy to get hung up on what we don’t have and ignore what talents we have been given. It’s imperative, however, that we attempt changing our mindset.
Think about it: how boring would it be if we were all good at the same things? How strange would our bodies look if we were made up of only hands, or nothing but eyeballs? Verses 4 and 5 reference the correlation between our earthly bodies and the body of Christ. Each organ and appendage has its own function, and our physical bodies don’t perform at their peak when something isn’t working as it was intended to. The body of Christ isn’t any different. When its members are at war or aren’t behaving in the capacity they were created to, it can be utter chaos. Jesus ceases to be exalted, and His body gets sick. Ephesians 4:11-16 shows the flip side – what happens when the Church is flourishing and giving back to God:
(15) Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. (16) He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
So, if you’re a follower of Jesus, it’s time to give back! Have you opened your present, you know, the one with the faded label, “To: You, From: God?” If you don’t know what your unique skills might be, now is the time to find out. Take inventory of what you enjoy and what comes naturally to you. Ask those closest to you what talents they see in you. And whatever they tell you – own it. Figure out a way to put your gifts to good use. Who can you help? How could you honor Jesus? (1 Peter 4:10-11)
You may not be able to stand in front of a crowd and sing well. You may not have the quick wit required to emcee a huge event and get the audience to laugh. You might not be called to pastor a church or live in a foreign country as a missionary. But you’re called to do something. You have a designated mission. There’s a huge need for you in this fallen world!
Can you strike up a conversation with strangers? Maybe your friendly face is just what church visitors need to see.
When friends are struggling, do you notice before anyone else? Be that encourager as often as you can.
Are you an exceptional hugger? I’ve heard babies in the nursery love to be snuggled.
Is prayer your strong suit? Go boldly to the throne and intercede for those who can’t find the words.
Have you been blessed financially? Re-gift those Benjamin’s back to Jesus!!
And the list goes on. Whatever your talents are, God wants them back. There are endless ways to serve the Father. Let’s not allow fear or a false sense of humility to paralyze us. Let’s strive to be like the servants in Matthew 25 who took their talents and multiplied them for His glory! We were meant to shine for Him, and it’s a beautiful thing when we do!!