God-Given Skills for God’s Kingdom Work
By Shawn Thomas
Jack Sorenson, the Texas artist, is known for his western paintings, including this one of Santa Claus riding a horse. W.F. Strong, in his book, Stories From Texas, tells us that Sorenson once said: “I’ve always been able to draw, sketch and paint anything I put my mind to. I didn’t just discover it one day. I’ve always had it. God blessed me with a gift, and I try to honor that gift as best I can, in every painting.’” (p. 119)
Sorenson is not wrong. The artistic gift that he has, came from the Lord. We see that in Exodus chapters 31-38 where it repeatedly refers to Bezalel, a man to whom God had given skills in craftsmanship.
This passage shows us that God is the source of all the different skills that we possess, and we need to realize that we are responsible to Him for what we do with the gifts He has entrusted to us.
GOD is the source of all our skills.
In Exodus 31:2-3 God says: “See, I have called by name Bezalel, the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship.” The Lord says here that the skill that Bezalel had, was given by Him.
But God also said went on to say that not only did He give Bezalel this skill, but:6 also goes on to say: “In the hearts of all who are skillful I have put skill.” That is a very significant verse. God says there that every person who has a skill, HE has given it to them. “In the hearts of all who are skillful, I have put skill.” This means that there is no such thing as a “natural talent” or ability; there is no such thing as a “self-made man.” Whatever gift or ability anyone has, God, says, it came from Him.
Once I spoke at a church and while I was there I met a young man who was adept at mechanical things and working with his hands. He said he felt like God had gifted him with this ability. I had just “happened” to read this chapter in Exodus in my quiet time that morning, so I shared this verse with him and told him that he was right. According to this scripture, every ability we have has been given to us by the Lord.
Now many of us are familiar with the concept of spiritual gifts. When are saved, we receive spiritual gifts from the Lord. This is part of the Gospel. God made us to love and serve Him, but we rebelled against Him and decided to serve ourselves instead. This is what SIN is. And the Bible says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” But despite our sin, God showed His “compassion” to us, and was “gracious” to us, as we talked about last week, which is the essence of His character, and sent Jesus to die on the cross and pay for our sins, so that we could be forgiven of our rebellion against Him, and return to Him as our Lord & God. When we turn back to Him, He forgives us of our sins, and sends His Holy Spirit into our lives, putting His “seal” on us as belonging to Him. And the New Testament repeatedly teaches that when the Holy Spirit comes into your life when you are saved, that He gives you a “spiritual gift” — a God-given ability to serve Him in the church: preaching, or teaching, or encouraging/counseling, or leading, deeds of mercy, and so on. We all have one of these gifts.
Now, throughout my generation there has been the attitude that these “spiritual gifts” are from the Lord, for service in the church, but then we’ve acted like we also have these “natural abilities” and talents that we just happen to have, that doesn’t have anything to do with God or spiritual things. But what we need to understand is that it is not only “spiritual gifts,” but EVERY gift and ability is from the Lord:
— Like Bezalel, if you are a craftsman, that is from the Lord.
— Like Jack Sorenson, if you can paint or draw, that’s from the Lord.
— Like Eric Liddell, the Olympian in “Chariots of Fire,” one of my favorite movies, if you can run fast, that is from the Lord.
One of the things the Bible shows us in this passage is that every gift and ability we have has been given to us by God.
C.S. Lewis said our talents are given to us by God when He created us. He said we have no more right to be proud of our abilities than we are the color of our hair. They were GIVEN to us. And He said the way to deal with the temptation to pride about our abilities is “NOT to depreciate the good things we are tempted to be proud of but to remember where it comes from.” (C.S. Lewis, Yours Jack, p. 102)
Lewis is saying, you don’t have to put on a “fake humility” when someone compliments you about some ability you have, and say, “Oh I am not very good” — when you KNOW you are! — instead, he says, just humbly remember where it came from. It came from GOD, not YOU! Don’t cut down what God gave you. Just acknowledge that it came from Him.
The Bible shows us here that this is true of every talent, gift, and ability we have. It is all from the Lord. Thank Him for it. Tell others you know it came from Him. As the old song says, “Praise GOD from whom all blessings flow”! GOD is the source of all our skills.
WE are responsible to use our skills to further God’s Kingdom.
In Exodus 36:1 the Lord added: “Now Bezalel and Oholiab, and every skillful person in whom the Lord has put skill and understanding to know how to perform all the work in the construction of the sanctuary, shall perform in accordance with all that the Lord has commanded.”
Those words, “shall perform” are key here. It’s not enough that a person like Bezalel or Oholiab is given skill and understanding by God; He says they are then responsible to PERFORM what He asks of them, USE those God-given abilities He granted.
And this is true not only for Bezalel and Oholiab. This is our responsibility too. Whatever gift, talent, or ability God has given us, we are then to USE in the service He has set before us. We don’t choose the gifts we are given by the Lord, but we ARE responsible for what we DO with them. History is replete with examples of people who were given great talents by God, but who did not “perform” in accordance with what they were given. Perhaps you are aware that you possess certain spiritual gifts; but the question is, how are you USING them?!
After the First World War, President Woodrow Wilson went to Europe for an international peace conference. Attending along with him was the Secret Service agent E.W. Starling, who faithfully served several presidents. Starling wrote of the conference: “From what I could gather a great deal was said and very little was done. On January 15 I wrote in my diary: ‘As we were leaving … it fell to my lot to put a lap robe on the President’s knees, and be said to me in an undertone, ‘I am glad to get away from them. It is nothing but a talk shop.’” (E.W. Starling and Thomas Sugrue, Starling of the White House, pp. 126-127)
President Wilson was frustrated because that international conference, which could have made a difference in the world, did not. All they did was talk. “It was nothing but a talk shop.” But here’s the thing: can the same thing be said of many of our churches? We talk about the gospel; we talk about missions; we talk about how Jesus is Lord; we talk about the importance of serving Him. But are we DOING it? Are we going? Are we serving? Are we sharing? Or are our churches just “talk shops”?
Each of us should apply this personally as well. Do we just talk in church about the gospel, or do we ever share it with anyone? Is missions something we say we “support,” whatever that means — or are we personally really giving, praying, and going on a mission? Is God’s Kingdom work something you are DOING personally, or is all this just a “talk shop”?
God can use whatever gifts He has given you, in His kingdom work. On a recent mission trip, the local missionaries said there were needs for people to teach English to high school students, those who can serve children at a special needs camp, businessmen to train local entrepreneurs in business practice, someone to help local teachers with budgets — even fishermen to fish at a local lake and build relationships with the local population! This shows us that there are SO many different gifts you can use to help share the gospel with the nations.
And it’s not just about missions; it’s the same in your local church too. For a church to function effectively, EVERY person must use the abilities God has given them to serve in some way: praying, serving in the nursery, giving, teaching, on and on. There’s something you can do. Remember, God never intended for this church to be a “talk shop;” it’s to be a WORK shop; where we are all using our gifts and abilities to serve God.
In fact, you are accountable to God for what you do with the skills He gave you. In Matthew 25 Jesus told a parable of the talents, where a master gives his slaves a talent, a measure of money, to invest until he returned. They each invested their money, but one slave was given only one talent, not as much as the others. So he thought he’d just bury it in the ground until the master returned. But when he did come back, the master rebuked that slave for not doing anything with what he had been given. He wasn’t reprimanded because he only had one talent; he was reprimanded because he didn’t do anything what he HAD been given.
And the same thing is true for us. You may say, I didn’t get very much talent-wise from the Lord. I’m not a great soloist, or preacher, or teacher, or some of these gifts churches often value. You are not responsible to God for gifts and talents you did not receive. The question is: are you using what God DID give you in some way?
— So you can’t preach; can you watch kids in the nursery?
— So you can’t sing; can you help mow the grass?
— So you can’t teach; can you visit a homebound person?
The question is not what CAN’T you do, but what CAN you do? You are not responsible to use a gift God didn’t give you. What you ARE responsible for is what God DID give you. Use whatever He DID give you, to serve Him and help advance His kingdom here on earth. THAT is what you will be answerable to Him for one day, just like in Matthew 13. Did you bury the time and ability God gave you, or did you use it?
Every one of us should answer the question: “How will I use the gifts, skills, and time God has given me, to further His Kingdom here on earth?”
Remember: God doesn’t want His church to be a “talk shop.” He wants it to be a “workshop” for His kingdom.
And God doesn’t want YOU to be a “talk shop” Christian, who talks a big game about things you aren’t really DOING anything about. He wants you to USE whatever gift or talent or ability He has given you, to advance His kingdom here on earth.
Shawn Thomas has been a Southern Baptist pastor for almost 35 years, he currently serves as Senior Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Angleton, Texas. You can read more from Pastor Thomas Here.
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