It is easy to recognize the man with skills, abilities and talents. He’s the man who is able to help the incapacitated widow who needs a wheelchair ramp built up to her front door. He’s the man people call when heavy furniture needs to be moved. He’s the man who can take a young man on his first hunting trip and teach him how to bag a doe. He’s the man who can give a stirring public address when the occasion calls for it. Or who plays music or sings in the band for the family dance. Or who can delight a group of children with his gripping stories. Or who always seems to know just the right thing to say to the person going through trial.
He is active. He makes things happen. He is on call, able to help in time of need.
Many people say, “I have no talents.” They compare themselves to others so much and so negatively that they feel they have nothing to contribute. Such gloomy thinking is terribly limiting. It causes a man to sit back and let life pass him by.
A godly man is not passive. He is not merely a follower. He is active, alert to ways that he can exert a positive influence on those around him. Whatever abilities he has, he uses them, enhances them and increases them.
Take stock of your own life. What are your skills, abilities and talents? Are you using them to improve the lives of others?
Consider this seriously: The more skilled and able you are, the greater variety of means you have to help, to give, to serve—yes, to express love toward others.
Finding and developing your talents is critical to fulfilling your role as a man.
The Most Important Determinant of Talent
Herbert W. Armstrong described three things that determine your talents. The first two are heredity and environment.
“Is specialized talent God-given?” he asked. “Not necessarily, except by ordinary heredity. … Some, by natural heredity, have certain aptitudes; some have others. Heredity does play a certain part in one’s success or failure in this life. So does environment—by which I mean whatever external influences are exerted” (Plain Truth, January 1982).
Then he described the third, most important element: “Yet the biggest factors in determining success or failure in life are motivation, determination, drive, perseverance.” In other words, what matters most is what you do with what God has given you.
Some things come easier to some people than others. But how much motivation, determination, drive, perseverance do you have in developing those areas where there is a need, and where you may have an aptitude? We live in an age of specialization, and tend to want to leave everything up to the experts. It is easy to adopt an attitude of “I’m just not good at that,” and not even try new things.
Nothing worth doing well comes easy. Every expert started as a beginner. And just because you’re not an expert doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t do a thing. Many skills and abilities can be done at a passable level—enough to help other people—with just a bit of motivation, determination, drive and perseverance.
What God Really Wants From You
God will use every ounce of your ability that you let Him.
In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), Christ delegated talents to His servants to see what they would do with them. You can look at this “talent” in the sense we use that English-language word: a gift or ability.
Different people are capable of different amounts. Some have a capacity for greater leadership, others for different responsibilities. For one person, five talents would be too many; for another, too little. God will not give you an office you cannot fulfill.
Adam Clarke comments, “The master has an absolute right over his own goods, and the servants cannot find fault with the distribution. He who has little should not envy him who has received much, for he has the greater labor and the greater account to give. He who has much should not despise him who has little, for the sovereign master has made the distinction; and his little, suited to the ability which God has given him and fitted to the place in which God’s providence has fixed him, is sufficiently calculated to answer the purpose of the master” (emphasis added throughout).
The other part of the picture is this: If you have a certain capability or potential, do all you can to fulfill it! You don’t want to give God any less than what He knows your potential to be.
This parable shows that God doesn’t evaluate solely on how much you produce. He evaluates how much you do with what you have been given. You can earn the same position as someone of far greater ability if you grow at the same ratio. The first two servants, given different amounts, grew at the same ratio and received the same reward: They were made “ruler over many things.”
When the master in the parable reckoned with his servants, he rewarded growth. That is what God wants. Whatever talents He has given you, He wants to see you apply motivation, determination, drive and perseverance to push yourself to use them!
The parable of the pounds (Luke 19:11-27) teaches a similar lesson. In it, Christ gave each servant a pound and said, Work with this until I return. God wants to see what we will do with what He has given us. We must learn to build,grow and produce.
In this instance, one man had 1,000 percent growth; another had 500 percent. How pleased do you think God is when He finds a man who gives Him a 1,000 percent return on His investment? Who wouldn’t appreciate that? That is a precious gift to God!
This parable shows that God rewards us according to our works. Everything we do goes on record. And only God can measure how much we are pouring our hearts into our prayers, how much love we are showing toward other people. God keeps track of our growth—and He is measuring precisely.
Three Keys to Talent Development
You have everything to gain from learning new skills, increasing your abilities and developing your talents. Doing so makes life more exhilarating, it gives you greater means to serve others, and it helps you fulfill your potential as a man.
Here is some priceless advice from Mr. Armstrong on how to develop your talents the right way: “The fact of man’s ability and capacity for development reflects, not the glory of man, but the creative might of our Maker in creating man to have such abilities and capacities. … God gave man talents, mind-power (physical) and abilities that He intended us to use and develop under His guidance, and alwaysfor His glory, and toward our development in the holy, righteous character of God.”
Read that again. Develop your talents under God’s guidance. Use them for His glory. Maximize them to build godly character.
Mr. Armstrong continued, “To this end, God intends man to excel and improve—but never in a way to inflate vanity or detract from reliance on and trust in God. We must rely on God for guidance even in what we are made able to do for ourselves.”
Wise instruction. Ability without humility is a great liability. It makes you susceptible to pride. 1 Corinthians 4:7 puts it in perspective: “For who sees anything different in you? What have you that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?” (rsv).
Exodus 18:19-21 describe how God wanted “able men” of a certain competency. But first of all, these men needed to be “such as fear God.” If you don’t fear God, your abilities will amount to nothing. In fact, they will work against you.
Consider Lucifer. He had unparalleled talent, yet he became so vain about it that it corrupted him (Ezekiel 28:17). He forgot that God created him and he became hopelessly self-obsessed.
Meanwhile, Jesus Christ, who is far more impressive than Lucifer, exudes humility and always puts the focus on His Father.
Which example will you follow?
Grow or Else!
God is like a farmer (John 15:1-2). As He labors with us, His great concern is whether or not we are producing fruit. Nothing else matters if we don’t produce good fruit.
What kind of fruit? Conversion, a spirit-minded perspective, a vibrant spiritual life, active and selfless prayers and intercessions. He wants to see us growing in spiritual knowledge and wisdom, learning how to apply His law, developing our talents so they can be used. He wants to see a growing passion to serve Him and His Family in any capacity.
We must be concerned about our personal growth. If we are not growing, we will never help God’s Family grow, and eventually we will be cast aside (verse 6). We must grow or else! God’s Family will only have people who value growth as He does.
By producing fruit, we glorify the Father (verse 8). He loves that. However, in bringing forth fruit for God (verse 16), there is a much bigger picture we must see, or we will never attain God’s Kingdom.
Your Ultimate Goal
Personal growth is not your ultimate goal. Your goal is to put all of your efforts and abilities toward growing the Family of God!
Ask not what God’s Family can do for you; ask what you can do for God’s Family! The more you share God’s goal of making this the most successful family possible, the more you will contribute.
There are countless ways you can grow God’s Family. Reach out to others. Encourage them in trials. Seek out the person in the corner of the room. Strengthen the quality of your Christian fellowship; you can produce much fruit with that. Pray actively, daily, for others. Visit people if possible. Call them. Have people over, not just to pass time, but to build the Family.
Never allow yourself to think you have nothing to contribute. There is no end to the opportunity in God’s Family. There is as much need in this Family as you have strength to give!
Think of all you do in these terms: Is this just for me, or is this for the Family? Are you building someone else up in the Family? Are you making it likelier that person will attain the Kingdom?
God is watching and evaluating how much He can accomplish with us. As soon as He sees someone taking off spiritually, He grows in excitement and thinks, Now, here is someone who will really expand my Family!
When you volunteer and fulfill jobs, the important thing is not so much that those jobs are getting done, although that is vital. The great thing is that there is another person God can use to accomplish mighty things in His Kingdom!
God can use every talent and every skill to further His purpose. More importantly, He can use every individual who is willing to step out and help build the Family.
Overcome your carnality. Focus on growth. Produce real fruit. The more you do, the more God can use you to inspire others to produce greater fruit!