I attended Christ for the Nations Institute in Dallas, Texas where I earned an Associated Degree in Practical Theology, in 1995. It was a two-year intensive course in Biblical studies, and ministry applications that was well stocked with teachers of the Word, and was frequented by many guest speakers who often spoke in one week segments. After several weeks of being a student in this school, I couldn’t help but feel like a total failure as a follower of God in one aspect or another of my life. I didn’t give enough, evangelize enough, pray enough, have enough devotional time, have enough fellowship time, and the list went on and on until….
Until the day I realized that God gifts everyone differently, and that people will teach out of their gifting, and be passionate about what they teach. One week we would hear from the prayer warriors who encouraged us to spend hours on our knees every day interceding for the world, and the following week we would hear from the street preacher who inspired us to give our lives standing on the corners of our hometowns preaching and bringing our neighbors to Christ. Then there was that inspiring missionary who gave away something every day and traveled around the world with $.30 in his pocket, and let God meet his needs as he went. Every speaker was inspiring!!
I wanted to be just like each teacher described their Christian walk. I wanted to love early morning devotions, and live my life in the 10/40 window of the world where they needed Jesus most. I wanted to preach on the streets, and live with nothing. I thought that I had to be all of these things, and my heart was in torment because of my failure to become.
It took a while, but I eventually learned that the Holy Spirit works on us individually and that His blue-print for me might not look like my neighbors. While I was striving to change my whole life in Bible School, He was working faithfully on my heart and motivations– changing one thing at a time from the inside out. While I was struggling to pray for hours at a time, He was working on my feelings of failure, and need to perform. When I panicked because I didn’t know to live on $.30 a day, He was teaching me what a good work ethic looked like in the jobs He provided for me. When I struggled to be as good of a musician in the glow of so many talented and anointed musicians at my school, He taught me how to listen for His voice, and follow it. All the while He was shaping my character and fashioning my heart.
Now I live in a world even more informational than than the two-year Bible School. While I waited an entire week to hear a new teacher with a new subject matter, now, via the internet, I can listen to 1000 teachers today, if I had the time, teaching on multiple subjects. I guarantee that by the end of the day I could feel like a complete failure as a person because I don’t possess their talents, gifting, or ability. They would inspire me through the things God has gifted them in, and I would strive to attain their level of mastery…and probably crash. So how do I proceed and grow?
First, I need to recognize that God has also invested gifts in me. I need to recognize them and not compare them.
Secondly, I need to learn that gifts are gifts, and I cannot manipulate them, I can only grow in them. Growth is daily, and involves disciplines as well as inspiration.
Thirdly, I need to be reminded not to panic when my gifts seem to “dry up” or go through a latent phase. Sometimes I feel I am thriving in my gifts with more inspiration than I can contain. Other times–sometimes months and years, I don’t feel like I have anything new to share or anything to offer. When that happens, I learn to enjoy, learn and grow from the gifts of someone else God has put in my path.
God’s gifts to us are never revoked, but He does have every right to use them according to His purpose, even if that purpose causes me to feel “shelved”. This is my opportunity to be a student, to dig deeper, to reach out to others around me and grow.
While I have an opportunity to be many things, I will be most satisfied keeping with God’s blueprint for me. While I will be inspired by the person with different giftings than me, God is not asking me to become them. Instead, he teaches me to take the inspiration and faith I glean from others and infuse the work that I do with it. This is why I enjoy painters, photographers, jazz musicians, welders, machinists, chefs, landscapers, architects, preachers, teachers, and children. All of them inspire me.
Sometimes, you have to “pass” on the pressure to become something you are not, but instead, take the passion of others “in” and let God ignite your life in the setting, culture, resources, and gifts He has given you. By all means, stay inspired by others. Celebrate the gifts God has put in other people, and keep growing. Add disciplines to your life, and keep moving forward. Above all, ask the Holy Spirit to empower your life so that when you use your gifts, God is seen and glorified. This is what you were created for. There is no better way to live!! You have come into the Kingdom for such a time as this.**Esther 4:14Photo Credit by Chuck Skeek.