Do what you were made to do! I believe that every person is a dream of God, that He designed and created you for a purpose. You are not an accident! You were made on purpose. And that purpose, that dream God has for you, is hardwired into who you are. Each one of you is a unique combination of spiritual gifts, natural abilities and talents, life experiences, passions and personality. God put all those things together to make you a one-of-a-kind masterpiece. God made you for a purpose, so do what you were made to do.
Today, we’re going to talk about your natural abilities and how you can use those for God’s purposes.
ILL: What is this? You know what it is, and what it is made for. But what if you didn’t? What if you had never seen one before? What might you use this for? It could be: a dinner plate, a dog dish, a tiny lazy susan, a semi-hard hat, a gold pan, a drip pan, a digging utensil. It could be any of those, but what is it? A Frisbee! And what is made for? To fly!
Do what you were made to do! And when you do, you fly! You soar! And you have fun! There are very few things as rewarding as doing what you were made to do. This thing was made to fly; what were you made to do? The answer to that question lies within you, in the way God designed you. Just like this was designed to fly, you were designed to do something too.
Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
You are God’s workmanship. The Greek word is poiema; we get the English word “poem” from it. It referred to a work of art, a masterpiece. So God created you and made a masterpiece. Why? He made you to do something…something good. And He even planned out those good works in advance for you to do. You were designed and made for a purpose. Do what you were made to do!
So we’re looking at your design: your spiritual gifts, natural abilities and talents, life experiences, passions and personality. Today we’re going to talk about natural abilities. Look around: we’re all different! Our bodies are shaped differently, and inside all these interesting shapes are a wide variety of natural abilities. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of natural abilities.
Some of you are terrific athletes—you have natural athletic ability. Our junior high pastor, Bobby Moore, played professional baseball in the Texas Rangers organization—and I’ve never seen anyone hit a golf ball as far as he can. He has incredible eye/hand coordination. You can’t teach that—it’s a natural ability. Of course, I smoke him in racketball. Humility comes naturally to me!
Some of you have musical ability—when you were born, you cried in perfect pitch. I know people who can hear a sound and tell you what note it is, and if it’s flat or sharp. You can’t teach that—it’s a natural ability.
Some of you have natural people skills. My oldest son, Andy, is amazing with people—always has been—a natural ability.
Some of you have mechanical ability—you can fix anything. And others of you can’t even find the right end of a wrench!
Name some other kinds of natural abilities. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of natural abilities. And we’re all different. We’re all good at some and not so good at others.
ILL: Reminds me of a story I read about the animals who decided to start a school. The courses included running, climbing, swimming, and flying. They decided that every animal should take all the courses—all the same. That’s where the problem started.
The duck was better than his teacher in swimming, but he made only passing grades in flying and was poor in running. So they made him drop out of swimming and stay after school to practice running. This caused his webbed feet to be so badly worn that his grade dropped to average in swimming.
The rabbit started at the top of his class in running, but because of so much make up work in swimming, he caught pneumonia and had to drop out of school.
The squirrel showed outstanding ability in climbing but he was extremely frustrated in flying class because the teacher insisted that he start from the ground up rather than from the treetop down.
The eagle was a problem student and was disciplined for being a non- conformist. For instance, in climbing class he could beat all the others to the top of the tree. But he insisted on using his own way to get there. Finally, because he refused to participate in swimming classes, the eagle was expelled.
God has designed every creature with certain abilities to excel in certain areas, including you. Where you are not gifted, you’re not going to excel; where you are gifted, you will excel. When we try to force someone to do something they are not gifted for, we cause guilt and frustration, mediocrity and failure. A duck is meant to be a duck because it’s shaped to swim. You are meant to be you and nothing else.
1. A theology of natural abilities.
What is the difference between spiritual gifts and natural abilities? I said last weekend that you are born with natural abilities—they are part of the physical package, your genetic code. And when you become a Christian, you are born again, or born spiritually, and are given spiritual gifts—they are part of the spiritual package. Honestly, sometimes it is difficult to distinguish between spiritual gifts and natural abilities. There are some abilities that are clearly one or the other, but there is some overlap. For example, you may be a great teacher because of a spiritual gift of teaching or a natural ability to teach, or both. Same with leadership. So is it a spiritual gift or a natural ability? Either way, it came from God and is to be used for God. So don’t waste a lot of time trying to define what you have; thank God for it and use it! In the final analysis, both come from God and are to be used for God.
A. Every ability is given by God.
We’ve already seen from Ephesians 2:10 that God designed and created you as a masterpiece, with a purpose in mind, with specific things He wants you to do. So your natural abilities are not the result of random genetic coding; they are part of your divine design. God gave you those abilities. Listen to this example from the Old Testament.
Exodus 31:1-6 Then the Lord said to Moses, 2“See, I have chosen Bezalel…3and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts— 4to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, 5to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship. 6Moreover, I have appointed Oholiab…to help him. Also I have given skill to all the craftsmen to make everything I have commanded you:
Exodus 36:1-2 So Bezalel, Oholiab and every skilled person to whom the Lord has given skill and ability to know how to carry out all the work of constructing the sanctuary are to do the work just as the Lord has commanded.” 2Then Moses summoned Bezalel and Oholiab and every skilled person to whom the Lord had given ability and who was willing to come and do the work.
God gave Moses the plans to build a beautiful tabernacle. And He gave Bezalel, Oholiab, and a bunch of others the various skills and abilities to build the tabernacle. He gave them skills in “all kinds of craftsmanship.” Where did these abilities come from? God. Every ability comes from God our creator. Even the ability to make money.
Deuteronomy 8:18 But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth.
If you have a gift for making money, that comes from God too! And if you have a gift for making money, God has probably given you a spiritual gift of giving along with it. God gave you the ability to make money so that you could channel large resources into His work of helping people.
Every ability comes from God. Whatever natural abilities you have were given to you by the God who designed and created you for a purpose.
B. Every ability can be used for God.
God didn’t waste any abilities on you. Every ability has a purpose, and can be used for God. When we narrow our view of God’s work to what’s done at a church service, only a few abilities can be used. But most of God’s work doesn’t happen here, inside the church walls. We come here to get taught and refocused and recharged so we can do God’s work in the world where we live all week. God’s work happens in your home and neighborhood, on your job and in your school all week long. You are God’s agent in the world, and He has strategically placed you and equipped you to do His work seven days a week where you live. So every ability has a purpose.
Proverbs 16:3 Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.
1 Corinthians 10:31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Colossians 3:23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men,
Whatever you do, commit it to the Lord, do it for the glory of God, do it in the name of Jesus, do it for the Lord. Whatever you do.
ILL: This became real to me during my junior year in high school. I was sitting on the bench on our varsity basketball team—I like to think that the coach just didn’t like me; he’d probably tell you that I wasn’t that good. But it was difficult to work hard in practice all week and then ride the pine most of the game. We were at North Salem High School for a game, and I was dressed and having a quiet moment in the locker room. I was thinking that all the hard work wasn’t worth it, that I might as well just loaf at practice. Then I read these verses from Colossians. Whatever you do—even if it’s playing basketball—do it with all your heart for the Lord. Ultimately, I wasn’t doing it for the coach, or the team, or myself, or the school—I was doing it for the Lord. Whatever we do, we do for the Lord. God wanted to use my ability, meager though it was, for His purposes. So I needed to do it with all my heart.
Every ability can be used for the glory of God. You can repair a car to the glory of God. You can balance financial books to the glory of God. You can make a meal to the glory of God. You can manage an office to the glory of God. You can make a sale to the glory of God. You can catch a football to the glory of God. Whatever you do, do it with all your heart for the Lord. Every ability can be used for God.
C. God matches your abilities and life purpose.
We saw last weekend that God matches our spiritual gifts with our function or assignment on His team. It’s the same with natural abilities. He created you for good works, and equipped you to do them. Hebrews 13:21 is a prayer that God will “equip you with everything good for doing his will.” What God commands, He provides. When He gives us an assignment, He equips us to succeed. When He wants us to do something, He empowers us to do it.
God matches your abilities and life purpose. He doesn’t waste abilities on you; He gave them for a reason. The more you know what God gave you, the better you’ll be able to serve Him and live out God’s dream for you.
Remember the animal school? God made the duck to swim, the rabbit to run, the squirrel to climb and the eagle to fly; and He equipped each of them to excel in what they were made to do. God has equipped you with everything good for doing His will. God matches your abilities and life purpose.
D. Use it or lose it!
If we don’t use what God gave us, we lose it. Jesus told the story of the king who entrusted his property to three servants and went away for a long time. When he returned, he asked the three for an accounting of what they had done with what he gave them. The first two had invested the money and had a handsome return to show for it. But the third man had been too lazy and too afraid to do anything; he had simply buried the money in the backyard for safekeeping. The king was upset and said,
Matthew 25:28 “Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents.”
Use it or lose it. If you don’t use what God gave you, God may take it away and give it to someone who will use it! Don’t bury your talents! Don’t waste your abilities. Use it, or you’ll lose it.
It’s a universal law. If I don’t use something, then I eventually lose it. If I refuse to exercise, I lose muscle and conditioning. If I refuse to practice, I lose my skills. If I refuse to think, I lose my mind—it gets dull. I want to be a lifelong learner, and keep my mind growing! Those of you who are employers, if you have people at work and you don’t use the talents that God has given them, you’ll lose those people. They’re not going to stay and work where they’re not using their potential.
God has given each of you natural abilities, but if you don’t use them, you’ll lose them!
So how do you use them? How do you make the most of your natural abilities?
2. How to make the most of your natural abilities.
Here are four suggestions:
A. Assess your abilities.
Romans 12:3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.
Think of yourself with sober judgment. Have a sane estimate of your abilities. How can you assess your abilities? We talked about this in depth last weekend when we talked about spiritual gifts, and the same principles apply here, so I’ll remind you of them briefly.
Take inventory. There are abilities inventories or tests that you can take. But you could also simply make a list of all the things you like to do and are good at. Researchers reported that the average person has 500-700 abilities. In other words, you have more than you think you do! Make a list.
Evaluate your experience. Where have you already been successful? What do you already do well? Sometimes we do things well and take them for granted; we don’t realize that we have a natural ability in that area.
ILL: My wife has an amazing ability to know what gift would be just right for someone. She can be with you for an hour, and six months later when it’s your birthday, she’ll remember something you said and know the perfect gift for you! That’s a gift! But it comes naturally to her and she doesn’t think of it as an ability.
Evaluate your experience.
Ask for feedback. If you’re good at something, others will notice it. In fact, like the example I just gave with Laina, others may notice abilities you have that you wouldn’t notice because they come so naturally to you.
ILL: I don’t have much plumbing ability. When I get a pipe wrench in my hands, my wife begs me to call the plumber. She says it will be much cheaper in the long run!
Ask for feedback.
Experiment. When you try different things, you may discover that you are good at something and never knew it because you had never tried. This may be the most accurate way to assess your abilities: try!
ILL: I tried singing a solo in our church…once. Afterwards, a very kind lady complemented me. “Your song really touched me.” I lit up! “Oh?” “Yeah, the fact that you don’t have a very good voice made the song more meaningful to me.” “Oh…” I blessed her with my mediocre voice…ok! Not my gift. Experiment.
Assess your abilities. Know yourself.
ILL: In an interview with Peter Drucker, Bill Moyers asked, “What advice would you give to young people who are trying to get ready for the 21st century?” Drucker said, “Know your strengths. The most important thing is to know what you’re good at. Very few people know that. All of us know what we’re not good at. But the reason why so few of us know what we’re good at is that it comes so easy.”
Assess your abilities. Know yourself.
B. Dedicate your abilities.
When you know you have an ability, dedicate it to God. We all know that you can use your abilities for the right purpose or the wrong purpose. Maybe you have the ability to earn money. You can use that selfishly and accumulate great wealth for yourself, or you can use it unselfishly and help lots of other people. Maybe you have the ability to organize: you can organize a robbery or a rescue. Maybe you have the ability to influence people: you could influence them for good or evil.
ILL: Hitler and Churchill were contemporaries; each could move people with his oratory. Hitler moved people to unspeakable evil—millions of people died because of his misguided ability. Churchill used the same ability to mobilize his nation to resist evil and save the free world.
God gave you those abilities; now you need to give them back. Dedicate them to God and His purposes. Use them for what He intended.
Romans 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.
Friday night, Laina and I went to the worship event at the Arena, where Michael W. Smith reminded everyone that worship is a 24/7 deal. “Up and out,” he said. We worship by loving God and loving people all week long. It’s not just singing songs, it’s living a life of love. And in this passage, the apostle Paul says that real worship is offering ourselves to God as living sacrifices. It’s dedicating our lives, our time, our gifts and abilities, our money, all that we have and are, to God. “Here I am God. What do you want to do with me today?” That’s worship.
But as someone pointed out, the problem with living sacrifices is that they keep crawling off the altar. We dedicate ourselves to God, and then we take it all back and wander off. So we have to do it again…every day…sometimes multiple times a day.
“God, here is my life. Here are my abilities. Do what you want with me. Direct me, use me for your purposes. I give myself to You.”
C. Sharpen your abilities.
We all know that natural abilities get better with practice and use. Athletes practice to improve their skills. So do musicians. I’d rather have an experienced doctor or plumber or mechanic than a rookie. Why? I know that experience sharpens skills.
ILL: When Michigan played Wisconsin in basketball early in the 1989 season, Michigan’s Rumeal Robinson stepped to the foul line for two shots late in the fourth quarter. His team trailed by one point, so Rumeal could regain the lead for Michigan. He missed both shots, allowing Wisconsin to upset favored Michigan.
After each practice for the rest of the season, Rumeal shot 100 extra free throws. Practice, practice, practice. Run the tape forward to national championship game at the end of that season, three seconds left in overtime. Once again, Rumeal stepped to the foul line to shoot two free throws. First shot: swish! Second shot: swish! Those shots won Michigan the national championship.
What made the difference? Natural ability? Of course Rumeal had lots of natural ability. But what made the difference? He sharpened his skills.
1 Chronicles 25:7 Along with their relatives—all of them trained and skilled in music for the Lord—they numbered 288.
This verse talks about the temple worship leaders in David’s time. Notice two words: trained and skilled. Natural abilities and skills can be sharpened by training. It takes both skill and training.
Ecclesiastes 10:10 If the ax is dull and its edge unsharpened, more strength is needed but skill will bring success.
You can have a natural ability, but if it is not trained and sharpened, it’s like swinging a dull axe. Do the hard work. Practice. Train. Take lessons. Get better! Sharpened skills will bring success. Just ask Rumeal.
D. Use your abilities.
1 Peter 4:10 Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.
God’s grace and gifts comes in various forms, natural abilities and spiritual gifts. Whatever God has given you, use it to serve others. Manage what God has given you faithfully, as a trust. Ultimately, our lives and our abilities and our gifts all belong to God. We manage them for Him. Someone said, “Your life is God’s gift to you; what you do with it is your gift to Him.” Take what God has given you and use it faithfully—be a trustworthy manager of God’s gifts and abilities.
ILL: Dr. Kurt Fine was given this by his grandmother. “Nobody like me.”
“In all the world there is nobody like me. Since the beginning of time, there has never been another person like me. Nobody has my smile, my eyes, my nose, my hair, my hands, my voice. In all time there has been no one who laughs like me, cries like me. And what makes me laugh and cry will never provoke identical laughter and tears from anybody else…ever. I am the only one in all of creation who has my set of abilities. There will always be somebody who is better at one of the things I am good at, but no one in the universe can reach the quality of my combination of talent, ideas, abilities and feelings.
No one will ever look, talk, walk, think, or do like me. I am special…rare…and there is great value in me. God has given me my value. I need not attempt to imitate others. I will accept and celebrate my God-given differences. It is no accident that I am special. God made me for a special purpose…and has a work for me that no one else can do so well as me. Only one applicant for my job is qualified…that one is me. I am special because God made me special.”
Kurt sent this to me with this note: “I have turned to it many times during my many years of schooling. Unfortunately, in pursuing my dream of becoming a physician, I was constantly comparing myself to many smarter and more competitive classmates and it was this that helped me know that “God made me for a special purpose…and has a work that no one else can do as well as me.” This, along with daily prayer got me to where I am today. Though I may not be the best at what I do, I do know that “no one in the universe can reach the quality of my combination of talent, ideas, abilities and feelings.” I do know that I am using the talents God gave me on a daily basis as I assist in the care of His people.”
I know that I am using the talents God gave me on a daily basis. Do you know that? Use your abilities for God. Do what you were made to do.