Talent is nothing to God – oh really?

Okay, here’s a sticky theological question from a reader:

Dan, I love to share my faith with others and I seem to have many natural talents, skills and abilities suited for a minister. Many people have even suggested I enter the Ministry. However, I believe that no matter how suited someone may be for ministry they must be called of God in order to be a Minister. Talent is nothing to God. He rather wants a fully surrendered and obedient individual. I suppose my question is how do I know whether I’m called to be a minister or just an entrepreneur with an idea I’m passionate about? – John

How does God “call” us except through giving us skills and abilities, personality traits and passions that draw us in a particular direction?  To think that God will ask a “fully surrendered and obedient individual” to something where there is no alignment with natural talents opens the door to heartache and misery. 

Let’s just play out John’s thinking here.  How would you like to attend a church where the pastor has no talent, skill or passion for that position – but he was just “willing and obedient?”  How long would you attend that church?

Apply this thinking to any work.  Would you want a doctor who had no skill but thought he was “called” to the medical profession?  How about a teacher who had a passion for being an artist but was convinced through well-meaning family that she was “called” to be a teacher? 

I’ve met with too many pastors, missionaries, and teachers who were obedient and willing, but whose natural skills did not line up with what their attempts to do something “Godly.”  Many confused “calling” with the family tradition or the expectations of others.  And their work was frustrating, spiritually depleting and ultimately led to a crisis that required change.

When there is an alignment of our skills, abilities, talents, personality traits and passions we will recognize God’s “call.”  We will experience work that is fulfilling, meaningful, purposeful – and profitable. 

****************************************************

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Frederick Buechner

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30 Responses to “Talent is nothing to God – oh really?”

  1. Autumn Nakkula Says:

    God has called my husband and I to be missionaries currently, but in a non-traditional way. Our skills and talents lie in the media arts, so we are helping fellow missionaries fundraise their projects through video and print, and also making DVD’s of discipleship bible lessons to send throughout India (where we are working). Someday we want to form this into a business for non-profits, but right now we are receiving donations that are more than enough! Sometimes we can’t believe this is what He’s lead us to do and how its actually working!

  2. Pat Says:

    Dan, I both agree and disagree with what you’re saying. I believe God very often gifts us with those talents He wants us to use for Him and others, and that’s often one way (though not the only one) to find His path for us. Sometimes, though, He calls someone who does not seem to have many related talents to a certain calling, and they do an outstanding job.

    Why? Because if it is God Who is calling them, He can outfit them with what they need, IF and WHEN they heed the call. This requires great faith and yieldedness. Though He often works the way you said, He is not bound within that framework. Think of how many great missionaries were simple “little people” who heard God’s call and followed, against incredible odds! Mary Slessor and Gladys Aylward are two who come to mind, but there are many more. The missionary society turned Miss Aylward down, citing lack of gifts and talents, and look at the utterly amazing job she did without their backing and support!

  3. Allen Says:

    My thought is this. What if you are called to a certain field of work, talented and blessed with the ability to do it but are still feeling depleted and wondering if you should move on.

  4. Robert Says:

    I disagree, God calls us to what He wills. Take Moses for example, he was called to lead Egypt without the natural speaking ability and skills that the world would call necessary. I believe that often God calls those who are weak in an area to step up with faith so the He will be glorified not the person’s talent. This may or may not cause the person pleasure or pain but with the knowledge that God is in charge and the he loves us and with the true surrender you mention, it will always be fruitful.

  5. Pat Says:

    Allen, that’s a very good question, which I’d like to communicate about, but can’t right at this moment. I’d like to come back to it, or communicate personally with you.

    Good point, Robert.

  6. Dan Miller Says:

    Thanks for the comments here – I know this is a tough issue and each of us are challenged to find the application in our own lives. As to Allen’s question – I really beleive that if we are operating in our calling we will be energized and experience joy – even when others would grow tired and depleted. I’ve seen this borne out hundreds of times over, where common sense would expect exhaustion and yet that person continues to find energy to do the work. Obviously balance is required even if we are in the zone of our calling. We must breathe – meaning at times we need to stop and inhale.

  7. Cynthia Spencer-Clark Says:

    Thank you, Dan, for a great newsletter today! I am in agreement and find it frustrating that some Christians seem to think that one is more spiritual and more godly if one chooses the path of minister, missionary or gospel singer. In reality, we are all to be engaged in our culture in the ways God has gifted, created and called us so that we can be salt and light.

    He creates within us a desire to do His work in so many different ways — and if He truly calls us to do something, He will certainly equip us for the task — just as He did with Moses.

    We are to live our lives to bring honor to God and to do so with the talents and unique gifts and abilities with which He endowed us.

    Thank you for the way you minister to so many of us — in the ways God created and called you to do!

  8. Mark Says:

    Dan,

    On this topic I must so disagree with the idea that God calls us by our skills and the words of others. The are irrelevant.

    To be surrendered may or may not be a call to full-time ministry, that is true. I believe that the call of a person to ministry has much more to do with the inner spirit of a person. If a called person wakes up, eats, works, plays, and goes to bed feeling the need to share the gospel of Jesus Christ or to encourage others in their faith, then and only then are they called.

    Called to what? The church is a so formal (traditional) term. We must be servants of the Lord everyday, where we are. Jesus came to earth for one reason only. To seek and to save the lost. So must our mission be. In all areas of our life.

    Talent has nothing to do with it. Moses did not have the talent, David did not have the talent or skills, Peter did not have the talent, Rahab did not have the talent or resources, and on and on it goes.

    All things are possible with God, by whom all wisdom is given. Rarely does God give us wisdom to do something until after we commit and begin to act on the faith to do it. That is the meaning of “surrendered and obedient individual.” Surrender to God all the things that could bring glory to yourself and be obedient to God to give all the glory to him, through the time, talents and treasures you have and will be given.

    Be faithful in the little things and be rewarded with greater things. Being faithful is not management, it is recognizing and giving the glory to God for who you are and all you will be. God is able and willing to bless us, but for His glory not ours, to seek and save the lost.

    All the best,

  9. WEC Says:

    God doesn’t seem to call many of us as clearly as we might wish. But that doesn’t mean we haven’t been called.

    To expect a perfect match in work (as in marriage) is to assume that all our efforts are best aimed outward and none at all inward. Recall the ancient Greek orator practicing with pebbles in his mouth to overcome the gift of a speech impediment.

    There is no answer to Reader John’s question–or none that anyone can give him. “Fully surrendered and obedient” is closedness trying to sound like openness. The “question” is really an assertion: “I know x.” Now, are you really listening when speaking so stridently?

  10. eddodds Says:

    The holy writings speak of believers as a royal priesthood — so in that sense we are all called to be (and are) full-time ministers. Our skills just indicate what we can do “best” most of the time — though preachers sometimes teach, vice versa, encouragers administrate and administrators encourage, etc. I’ve found the advice “Look to see what God is doing — and go join Him” to be helpful. In addition, spiritual gift inventories (they are all over the ‘net) can help you ask yourself questions to determine your own perception of strengths and weaknesses — approaching leadership for their advice and experience is helpful as well especially concerning “perceptions” — but the Holy Spirit is the power behind anything which will be accomplished — getting caught up in particulars is a “human thing.” Since God teaches us over a lifetime we don’t have a static bag of gifts — we develop. But regarding experience, God has also given this age Google — so don’t be afraid to explore if He is moving in a new way which may run parallel to an “inclination” you might have. Remember, Paul’s version of full-time ministry included making tents and teaching school to pay the bills so that he would not be a burden to the young and still burgeoning churches and Luke was both a doctor and an author. In the end, regardless what approach you choose or feel led to, a network of friends to keep you honest will be the greatest blessing God will provide.

  11. Mark Says:

    Follow-up… As far as a call to ministry, I have to assume he (John) is referring to the “church” as a pastor. This is by all accounts the most difficult job in all the world. To be a shepherd to the lost and weary is at the heart of what caused Jesus to sweat blood.

    The call to be a “pastor” is meeting the criteria of Timothy and Titus, to the best of our fallen, sinful bodies we can. Are we remorseful, to the point of trying harder the next time when we fail? Are we heeding the rebuke and correction of those God has placed in authority over us as leaders and counselors?

    A Shepherd is willing to give his life and all that he is to take care of others. The ability to balance that “call” with the priorities of God, Wife, Children, Social and Job, in that order is tough, but possible through God who strengthens us. It is truly a miracle when this happens.

    As to the perceived lack of talent of some preachers — If God has really “called” the person the people will hear and listen and grow. Otherwise the words are like the seed scattered on the rocky soil… (the perception of no talent)!

    All the best!

  12. Tim Says:

    I believe we are all supposed to minister if we are a follower of Jesus. Some of us minister in the marketplace, some at home, some in the medical field and some in the military etc. We are to represent Christ no matter what our trade or skill is, our work is just another way to worship God and to show Him to others.

  13. Cynthia Spencer-Clark Says:

    Simply and well-said, Tim!

  14. P. W. Says:

    I find this to be a very interesting subject. I only completed 2 years of college pursuing a degree in Elementary Ed. because well-meaning family members felt that I was “called” to be a teacher. I had no other passion so that is what I studied. Only now, at 47 years old, am I starting to see where I think God was directing me. It is through my own personal life challenges (death of a child, child w/ an eating disorder, another child with a health issue) that I developed a deep longing to help other women who face similar issues in life. I wasn’t going about trying to find a “career” or a “calling”, but God was softening my heart to this need after having put me through the fire. I can’t think of a clearer “call” than to have endured the pain, looking for answers, and come out feeling like I need to help others make it through by clinging to Christ.

  15. Ulrick Graham (Coach U!) Says:

    It is said that God doesn’t call the qualified but He qualifies the called. In essence God equips those whom He calls to perform their kingdom assignment to advance His kingdom in the earth. Many are called but few are [have] chosen to respond to their calling for a number of reasons:
    1. Like Samuel they have no experimental knowledge of God hence they cannot discern His voice from anothers
    1. Like Gideon they are afraid
    2. Like Jonah the have their own agenda

    …just to name a few.

    All His biddings are enablings. So when He calls answer but first make sure you know His voice (“My sheep hear my voice and they follow me.”).

  16. Tony Hollowell Says:

    The significant point here, I think, is that your talents can be a guide to your vocation. I think it would be difficult to disagree with that premise after reading the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30).

    Don’t burry your talents in the sand. Expose them, nourish them, and let them bear fruit. That’s Gospel, baby!

  17. Steve Says:

    I agree with you Dan. God calls us because He KNOWS us. He knows our talents. He CREATED them! As for Moses, he HAD the talent or God would not have called him. The problem was, he was , like most of us, AFRAID. I can relate to Moses’ objections. I think I know what God would have me do but I am afraid to leave my “secure” job.

  18. Pat Says:

    Ulrick, I think you put it very well. Tony, I agree with you, too. These two aspects of the question aren’t really contradictory when looked at that way. And Steve, if God is calling you to do something, if you follow Him in love and faith, I believe you will never regret it. I admire your honesty, and being honest with yourself like that is an important first step.

  19. Theresa Says:

    Dan–I’ve been thinking about this post quite a bit since yesterday. As I watch my 15-year-old build yet *another* fort and spend hour upon hour in his workshop working on electrical projects and inventions. He tells me he’s had trouble sleeping because just when he’s falling asleep, he’ll figure out a problem that had puzzled him during the day and become wide awake.

    And I wonder….What has God put into this child? And I can think of nothing more spiritual of a calling than allowing Daniel to be….Daniel.

    I feel sad for people who see things through religious filters and little boxes that prevent them from becoming fully alive and realizing the unique gifts He places in each one of us….be it leading a Bible study or wiring a house.

    To live and love passionately….that’s what it all really comes down to.

  20. Bobby Rosa Says:

    Dan,

    whitout a doubt one blog I will be reading for years to come! Your thoughts and words are so powerful! As I was thinking I was interupted by a thought. Actually a verse, I hope you can help me put the two together. Here is the verse, Psalms 16:11 You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy, at Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.
    If I remember right the “;” means that what I’m about to say directly refers to what I’ve just said! If that’s the case, King David is saying In the presence of God; He (God) makes known the path of life! So if we can find ourselves in His presence, then the by-product is knowing our intended future or purpose; Thus allowing us the experience of the fullness of joy! It makes sense…. I think. If I fully know the path I’m to take then I in return would have a life full of Joy and the pleasure would come from everyday experiences with a “Godly purpose!” What would you say? If God is speaking to us thru our gifts, thru our talents, thru our abilities; in the natural and speaking to us thru being in His presence; we should be living a life that would truley be worth living. Life more abundant and like Peter wrote: Full of Glory!

    I hope to get your insight!
    Thank you Dan!
    Bobby~

  21. Dan Miller Says:

    Bobby – I think you’ve nailed the issue here. If we’re walking with God daily, we should not have all the confusion and lack of clarity that often seems to be present. Walking with God allows us the confidence to trust our sense of purpose and direction — and there’s no better way to recognize that direction than through the “talents” God has already given us. God has not made us puppets or robots to be moved about blindly with no thinking or action on our part. We are unique and bring our gifts, personalities and passions to bear on anything we do – and active participants in carrying out His will. “Life more abundant” engages all that we bring to the table.

  22. Mitch Maloney Says:

    Dan,

    I prepared for seven years to be a minister (pastor) in my Lutheran denomination because I had no idea what I wanted to do in life and everyone said what a fine minister I would be.

    I stopped two years short from being ordained because I knew, deep down, that though I had many of the gifts a minister needs and had no problem getting up in front of people, my desires and passions were not aligned with the commitment I would have to make.

    I’ve been in sales for 25 years now and really enjoy the industry I have been part of for almost 30 years. I use most of the same God-given gifts to influence people to use my services while I still am involved in ministry through many avenues. I believe that God uses me today to influence people for His kingdom just not on a full-time ministerial basis.

  23. Dan Miller Says:

    Mitch – thanks so much for sharing your story. What a great example of understanding your gifts and understanding that selling is an honorable application of those skills. And you are absolutely right – that’s a wonderful opportunity to still be involved in “ministry.” We’ve got to erase this artificial dichotomy of thinking that only by standing in a pulpit on Sunday morning can one be connected to ministry. I will pass your story on to others who need to have the freedom to make similar choices.

  24. Carrie Says:

    I’ve had experiences in church ministries that confirm what Dan says here.

    Several years ago I signed up to be a greeter at my church, under pressure from one of my parents. There was a need, so the selfless thing to do is fill it, right? Well…I spent three years hating it, and finally got up the nerve to walk away. I don’t recall making a difference in any way as a greeter.

    While I was also pressured to join the drama troupe, at least I had some talent there. As a child I had performed for family, and tried out for a play. So when I started acting in the church, I enjoyed it more and people were actually ministered to. It was a blessing to them. Other talents I have, like drawing and singing, were utilized, and I had been too scared to put them to use until then.

  25. Pastor Rob Says:

    Just curious….Where in the Bible does it say that God qualifies us? I have read through a few blogs and the saying is famous, but where is the scripture that says “Whom He calls, he also qualifies?” Justified and qualified are two very different things!!!

  26. Dan Miller Says:

    Pastor Rob – apparently that phrase, “Whom He calls, he also qualifies” is tucked right in there next to “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.” Sounds great but is not really in the Scripture.

  27. Pat Says:

    Well said, Dan! And well done, Rob, to challenge that one!

  28. Joshua Says:

    Pastor Rob,
    Considering 1Cor7:20, is it correct to say we are called to the vocation where we already are?

    1Cor7:20
    Each one should remain in the situation which he was in when God called him

  29. Pat Says:

    Joshua, I think maybe the KJV makes it a little clearer: Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called. (1 Cor. 7:20)

    One definition of ‘wherein’ is ‘in what place’, but another is ‘in what way; how’. If we read it understanding the last definition, it simply means (and this is the way I understand it) to do whatever it is that God called us to do.

    And I would add, again according to my understanding, that we’re to persevere in the calling God has called us to, even when the going gets rough, or we don’t see much fruit being borne, etc.

    But, implicit herein is making sure that you ARE doing what GOD called you to do, where He called you to do it. And it’s not inconceivable in any way that He might change something about your calling, such as where you’re to exercise it, or how you exercise and express it, or among whom. That’s one of the reasons it’s so important to have a yielded heart, and close communication and communion with Him–so that if He wants us to change something (or ourselves), we’ll know it.

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