When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, “I used everything You gave me.” Erma Bombeck
Are you as grateful as I am that a GPS – Global Positioning System – has become available for in-car use and on your mobile phone? I don’t know how I found my way without one. But, a GPS isn’t just for navigating between geographic locations. It represents a great way to consider what God has instilled in us to help us find the road to an abundant life. As we explored yesterday, our individual identity and unique purpose go hand in hand. If we want to know what we’re called to pursue in this life, then we must look at how God created us. We must be willing to activate the GPS that our Creator has installed in us. If we’re going to find our way through the many circumstances and choices of life, we must be willing to use three crucial resources: our Gifts, our Passions, and our Struggles.
God has lavished on us unique abilities, talents and Gifts. In one of his letters to the early church, Paul wrote,
“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.” (1 Corinthians 12:4-5)
Some gifts are the natural talents with which you’re born, and others are the spiritual gifts that come alive when you commit your life to loving Christ. Paul makes the observation that the distinction really doesn’t matter because, whenever you do something well and it brings honor to God, it’s a spiritual thing. Whether they’re natural talents or spiritual gifts, they’re all from God, and He loves it when you use what He has given you. Some of us are good at speaking, others at singing. Some people are good at accounting, others at designing. Some at leading, others at teaching. Living here in Houston, I’ve learned that barbecuing is definitely a spiritual gift in Texas.
We’re all experts at something, and no one excels at everything. Often, we compare ourselves to others and become discouraged because we can’t organize as well as they do, play sports as well, write as well, tell jokes as well. We overlook and minimize the gifts we’ve been given, because we’re focused on what we don’t have or can’t do as well as others.
How do you discover what God has given you? Ask yourself what you do well and answer honestly. Ask your Creator, the One who made you. And ask your friends and family, “What do you see as my main gifts, my primary strengths? Where do you see my talents most clearly on display?” You must ask others, especially those who know you well and see you day in and day out, because when you’re gifted at something, it may come so naturally that you don’t recognize it yourself. You need someone else to hold up a mirror and point it out to you.
As you ask yourself, God and others, don’t slide into false modesty and self-righteous humility. “I’m not a good speaker. It’s all God.” While it’s true that He is the source of all good things, we often hide behind such language as a way of avoiding the full responsibility of our gifting. Be honest with yourself about what you do well and how effectively you use that gift. How you exercise your gifts often depends on what you care about most, your passions.
We find our place and purpose in life when we discover our Passion. The Bible says,
“Never be lazy in your work, but serve the Lord enthusiastically.” (Romans 12:11)
The word translated as “enthusiastically” comes from two Greek words meaning “God within.” Enthusiasm and passion come from God within us. He has placed the passions of my life deep inside me for a reason: He wants me to pursue those passions. If my gifts are the engine I’m given, then my passion is the fuel that keeps me going.
So, how do you discover what your true passion is? Ask Him. Pay attention to what you enjoy doing. Take note when you find yourself caught up in the joy of an experience whether it’s gardening or teaching, running or baking. When you enjoy doing something, the time flies and your emotions with it. It may be hard work, but your love of the thing transcends the sweat and effort. Living amid what you’re passionate about will also delight God. As Eric Liddell says in Chariots of Fire, “When I run, I feel His pleasure.” You’ll have a sense of pleasing God because you’ll know that you’re doing what He created you to do. You will be fulfilling the potential of the abilities with which He’s gifted you.
The third resource God has given us to help us find our purpose may be the most surprising of all to you. It’s our Struggles. Our struggles are every bit as important as the other two. Not as pleasant perhaps, but just as significant. Why? Because, when God allows us to go through struggles, problems, difficulties and sorrows, we learn to depend on Him. This is what I mean by Learning Humbly in the One Month to Live lifestyle. We learn our limits and are reminded to look to Him for what we need most. As we learn to depend upon Him, He fills us with His power and strength.
If we never had any struggles or problems, we would never depend on God and would miss out on knowing what it feels like to have His power in our lives. Not only do our struggles help us rely on Him, but they also help us see what He wants us to do and, in the process, to find our way in life. Being the creative God that He is, our Father always uses our wounds to make us stronger and to help those around us.
“He [God] comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, He brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.” (2 Corinthians 1:4 MSG)
What a great way to view your struggles! God allows problems and struggles into your life so you can come alongside others and help them. Many times, it’s the very struggles I’m embarrassed about that God wants to use to make a difference in other’s lives. If I’ll admit them and share them with someone who is experiencing the same thing, God can take my scars and turn them into stars. One champion of faith in the Bible put it like this when he prayed about the struggles in life that he was going through in 2 Corinthians 12:8-10,
“At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then He told me, My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.” (MSG)
By providing you a GPS system, God has equipped you to avoid the detours and dead ends of the conformity trap. You have creative license to be who God made you to be.
- List five different gifts you know you possess. Then ask at least three people closest to you to list five gifts that they see in you. Compare the two lists. What surprises you most? Why?
- In what ways does your current job or career reflect your passion? If you knew you only had a limited amount of time to live, would you want to continue in this line of work?
- What are the struggles or sorrows in your life that you’ve worked hard at concealing? Prayerfully consider sharing one of your struggles with someone this week as a means of encouraging or motivating that person.