While walking down the hallway here at the United Church of God home office, I noticed a beautiful painting in one of the offices. It had not been there before so I had to go in and look. I could not stop staring at it. I was in awe of the amazing details. It was a painting of a group of people gathered for Pentecost. People standing around while being taught by the apostle Peter. Of course, I knew who had painted this masterpiece, because that same person had painted several other paintings that grace our halls.
David Teague, with such enormous talent and patience, painted these beautiful paintings of the different Holy Days. I am sure it takes many hours for him to paint one painting with such amazing details. It took David two years to paint this most recent one, and he also has a full-time job. David is using his talent to glorify God while inspiring and encouraging others. The paintings sure inspire me.
David’s wife Natasha also uses her talents—she translates UCG English material into Russian, so people can read the Church’s literature in their language. That also takes a special talent that many of us do not have.
I work with so many talented people here at the home office with gifts that are special, that blend together, that help make it all work in serving God.
Recently while attending church I had the privilege of listening to beautiful special music performed by a grandmother (and fellow home office employee), Emma Kennebeck, and her granddaughter, Ayla age 9. When Ayla opened her mouth to sing I could not stop saying “wow” to myself. I had enjoyed hearing her grandmother sing many times but had never heard her. Then after they sang, Emma’s husband Richard continued to inspire me with a wonderful sermon about encouraging others. I left church services that day inspired and lifted up by the Kennebeck family—they shared their talents in speaking and singing.
Many of us feel like we have nothing to offer; that we have zero talent. I felt that way as well.
When I was in high school, I tried very hard to be included. I tried out for many different activities but always seemed to be the one sitting on the bench or not chosen. It made me feel rejected, stupid and worthless. I wanted to be a great basketball player or cheerleader, but it did not happen. Because of this rejection, I carried a sense of worthlessness into my adult life. I was afraid to volunteer for things because I felt I had nothing to offer. Afraid that I would only mess up and embarrass myself, it was easier not to try.
While many of us lament that we have little or no talent, that we possess no “gifts” or special abilities, there are others with greater handicaps who are simply doing. We have to step out in faith and ask God to give us talents.
Ask God to give you talents
After much frustration and feeling that I had nothing to offer, I decided to do something about it. I got on my knees and asked God to give me talents that I could use to help others. He answered that prayer in ways greater than I could even imagine! The doors blew open, and I was able to do things that I never thought possible.
God gave me talents to use for His glory. I went from helping out with potlucks to organizing them. I was given opportunities to organize fundraisers and a teen magazine. I went from someone who felt she had nothing to offer to someone who had much to give. Why? Because I asked God. Does God answer our prayers? Yes! However, we have to ask.
John 14:13-14 John 14:13-14 13 And whatever you shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
14 If you shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.
American King James Version× says: “And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.” We also read in Luke 11:11 Luke 11:11If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?
American King James Version×: “If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish?”
God wants to give us things that are good for us that we can use to help others. We must first ask, but is this all we are required to do? Do we just ask God, and then wait for God to magically present us with talents? No! We have to take action, in faith, knowing that God will help us.
Action develops talents
David, who later became king of Israel, had courage to act when everyone else was too fearful to fight Goliath. He asked God in prayer to help him, and then he faced a giant. Each of us has our own Goliaths to face. Mine were feelings of inferiority and worthlessness.
No one is worthless. In Ephesians 2:10 Ephesians 2:10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.
American King James Version×, God tells us: “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” As King David did, I first asked God to give me talents to use for His glory. Then I had to step out in faith and act. Faith without works is dead! Ask and then act. The more you take part in serving and giving of yourself, the more you will develop new talents. The parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30 Matthew 25:14-30 14 For the kingdom of heaven is as a man traveling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered to them his goods. 15 And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. 16 Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. 17 And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. 18 But he that had received one went and dig in the earth, and hid his lord’s money. 19 After a long time the lord of those servants comes, and reckons with them. 20 And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, you delivered to me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. 21 His lord said to him, Well done, you good and faithful servant: you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: enter you into the joy of your lord. 22 He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, you delivered to me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. 23 His lord said to him, Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: enter you into the joy of your lord. 24 Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew you that you are an hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not strewed: 25 And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the earth: see, there you have that is yours. 26 His lord answered and said to him, You wicked and slothful servant, you knew that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strewed: 27 You ought therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received my own with usury. 28 Take therefore the talent from him, and give it to him which has ten talents. 29 For to every one that has shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that has not shall be taken away even that which he has. 30 And cast you the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
American King James Version× clearly shows how one servant, out of fear, hid the one talent that he had instead of developing it. By using the talents given to them, the other two servants actually doubled them.
Never give up!
He failed as a businessperson and as a storekeeper, and he failed at his first attempt to obtain a political office. When finally elected to the legislature, he failed when he sought the office of speaker. He failed in his first attempt to go to Congress. He failed when he sought the appointment to the United States Land Office. He failed when he ran for the United States Senate. He failed when friends sought for him the nomination for the vice-presidency in 1856.
“He’ll never come too much, fur I’ll tell you he wuz the puniest, cryin’est little youngster I ever saw,” said Dennis Hanks, a first cousin of Nancy Hanks Lincoln, on the day Abraham Lincoln was born. However, Abraham Lincoln kept on going despite all his setbacks and all the negative words. What amazes Lincoln buffs was his capacity for growth and his intellectual resourcefulness, given the obstacles and miseries he had experienced during most of his life. Lincoln had a lot to offer and did great things, in spite of his many failures. If Lincoln had given in to feelings that “he had nothing to offer,” the course of history would have been completely different.
One of Lincoln’s famous quotes tells the secret of his success: “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day” ( Lincoln Observed: The Civil War Dispatches of Noah Brooks edited by Michael Burlingam, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 1998, p. 210).
We, too, will face failures in our efforts to use our abilities. We will hear discouraging words from others. However, if we, like Lincoln, seek God’s help for our inadequacies, we will also be able to do great things for Him.
Part of God’s work is to prepare His people for works of service, so that the Body of Christ will be built up. “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12 Ephesians 4:11-12 11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
American King James Version×). It is God’s intention and desire that we are able to serve.
Certainly, David and Natasha Teague are building up the Body of Christ with David’s inspiring paintings of the Holy Days and Natasha translating English into Russian, so the brethren can receive literature in their language.
Richard and Emma Kennebeck, and their beautiful granddaughter Ayla Docken, shared their talents to inspire the congregation with singing and giving an inspiring message. It takes prayer and work to do all of that!
So ask God to reveal your talents and go out and glorify God with it so you will inspire and encourage others to live God’s way. It can be even the smallest things like praying for someone or offering encouragement to others.