As I’ve explained in previous posts, what you love to do and the things that make you angry are good indicators of God’s call on your life. But you still can’t fix the plumbing with a basketball, no matter how much you like running water. Let me explain.
As a young adult I played on 3-4 different worship teams at my very talented church. I loved playing music. I loved leading worship and participating in worship even more. Many people talked about how passionate I worshiped while playing a bass guitar (I also worshiped passionately while in the congregation). Later I worked in three different churches as a worship director. In general, my leadership was appreciated. But I was simply never talented enough as a musician or vocalist to spend my life in this ministry. I LOVED it. In some ways I was good at it. But I was clearly not talented enough that this could be what God was calling me to do as my primary calling.
I still enjoy leading worship. I get to coach and lead my college students as they become worship leaders. In some sense I can even say this was a calling of mine. But I knew that my primary calling was elsewhere.
No matter how passionate or excited we get about something, we are not called to do what we don’t have the ability to do. That isn’t rocket science. But discovering it can sometimes be heart wrenching.
Sometimes there are needs of the world that also call for abilities that we simply don’t possess. I am very passionate about the lack of clean water and hygiene for the world’s poorest. Our family gives to this cause. I advocate for it with my ministry platform. But I opted not to be a mechanical engineer (my first major in college) and thereby excluded myself from some of the key skills necessary to help provide that water. This happens to be a place where I conceivably could develop those skills, but I don’t sense that this is God’s call on my life.
If you are trying to figure out what to spend your life doing, then the limits of your abilities are a good guide for what you are NOT called to do. Because no matter how well I can dribble, pass, or shoot a basketball, those talents won’t help me when the sink is leaking. You can’t fix the plumbing with a basketball. You need the right tool for the job.
Keep in mind that every need in the world is going to require multiple gifts to achieve the mission. To keep with our example, my decision against engineering training does not keep me from giving to or being an advocate for clean water. I’ve used the gift of teaching and preaching, as well as my position as a ministry leader, to do that. Water providing institutions also need fundraisers, marketers, business managers and accountants, educators, web designers, photographers, and on and on.
I hope that by now you are asking, “Then how do I acquire these tools to use to work out God’s calling on my life?” There are two ways to get these skills.
The first kind of skill is what is commonly called a talent. A talent is an ability that is developed over time by hard work and dedicated practice. Talents require a commitment to excellence. Some people will seem to be born with a natural talent for one thing or another, but they still have to develop that talent or they will never be great. The only way to develop talents is by discipline, like the athlete or musician that repeats a set of skills over and over until they are done excellently.
The second kind of skill is what is commonly called a spiritual gift. Spiritual gifts are abilities that can only be given by the Spirit of God and by his initiation. The difference between the two can be illustrated by an analogy. In the Catholic tradition they have something known as the cardinal virtues and the theological virtues. Cardinal virtues (wisdom, justice, temperance, and courage) are developed over time by practicing the virtue and living virtuously. Theological virtues (faith, hope, and love) can only be given as a free grace of the Holy Spirit. I cannot teach myself to be hopeful or to have faith (love is more difficult to think about).
Similarly, I cannot teach myself the spiritual gift of prophecy or of healing. If God gives me a spiritual gift, then I can learn to be more proficient at it through practice but I cannot have it except by God’s good grace.
These two skills, talents that we develop and gifts that we are given, are key tools that we have to serve God and the world and they help us to know how we will serve those needs in the world that most excite our passions.
Take some time to inventory the skills that you have for ministry to the world. In Part 7 of this series, I invited you to ask a close friend about some of the tools in your tool box. Know is time for you to take a personal inventory of the abilities that you have to minister to the world. You should make two lists. First, make a list of all of the gifts and talents that you know that you are already good at using. This may be high achievement in science, lots of experience in the kitchen, or uncanny ability to sway other’s opinion. Write all of those skills into one list. In another list, write down all of the skills that you think you could learn, given the time and discipline. As I said above, I don’t currently know how to drill wells. But I’m confident that I could learn that skill if work hard to do so. So put those skills in your inventory as well. Together you can include both of these in the inventory that you started at the beginning of this series.
This post is part of a 14 part series to help persons discern God’s call on their lives.
To see all the posts in the “What Am I Called to Do?” series