I remember the day we were in chapel in high school when they announced that a girl was going to come up and sing a special. We all looked at each other and said, “She can sing? She doesn’t even talk!” About that time, this shy girl was escorted up on stage. She looked terrified and the microphone was shaking in her hand. Without warning, and with no music playing, she started singing. It was incredible! We sat there shocked as she sang this song. As soon as it was over, we all jumped to our feet and cheered. She went on to win several singing competitions and is a worship pastor at a church today.
The Bible is full of people who were timid and shy about using their gifts and talents. Moses had a speech impediment, but God chose him to lead Israel out of slavery and through the desert. Timothy is another example. He was young and inexperienced, but God chose him to be a pastor. Paul’s letters to him were always encouraging him to continue to step out in faith into his calling despite his fear. I grew up quoting several of Paul’s messages to him because I needed to hear those words. We simply cannot allow fear to hold us back from using the gifts God has given us.
2 Timothy 1:7 says, “God doesn’t want us to be shy with His gifts, but bold and loving and sensible” (MSG). Almost every other version starts out with, “God has not given us a spirit of fear.” In the verse before, Paul reminds Timothy to fan his gifts into flames. We fan them into flames by pushing through the fear and doing what God put into us to do. Almost anyone who uses their gifts experiences fear. The ones who push past that spirit and embrace God’s spirit of power, love and a sound mind get to experience the satisfaction of fulfilling their purpose. It’s up to each one of us to find the encouragement we need, step out in faith and do what God has created us to do. Pushing past the fear isn’t easy, but it is necessary.
You may have heard it said that hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard. There are people who have acquired a skill, and work hard at it, that out perform people who are gifted and talented naturally with the same skill. I’ve learned that if a person will exercise or use their natural, God given talents, they will exponentially increase in their effectiveness. A person who isn’t naturally gifted with something will have to work much harder to increase their effectiveness, but they can do it. In both cases, it’s a matter of using that skill often and learning how to be more effective with it. That’s where the hard work comes in. The problem is that many people become lazy with their God given talents and don’t work to improve what seems to come naturally.
When David was just a boy, he killed a lion and a bear. That’s God given bravery and talent. Most of us would run the other direction in those circumstances, but he went at them. He used what God put in him. I can also imagine him practice his slingshot skills while he watched the heard. It takes hard work to aim one of those, and he was clearly ready when the time came for him to face Goliath. That skill, combined with his God given talent of bravery and fighting is what caused people to rally behind him. He didn’t just sit on his talents, he used them often to expand the territory of Israel. It wasn’t until he stayed home from using his talents that he sinned with Bathsheba. Instead of going to the war, he stayed behind.
In Romans 12:6, Paul writes that God gives each of us gifts and talents. He then goes on to say, “So if God has given you the grace-gift of prophecy, activate your gift by using the proportion of faith you have to prophesy” (TPT). He says something similar in the next verses about other gifts. We activate them or increase their effectiveness when we use them. Too many times, we’re like the person who buried their talent (a term for money) and didn’t increase its potential because we didn’t do anything with it. Whatever gift God has given you, it’s time to dig it up and use it on a small scale. Remember, we have to be faithful in the little things first before he can put us in position to do greater things. Look around you today and find at least one instance where you can use your God given gifts and talents.
Taking risks and being open to failure are a couple of things I try to teach my nieces and nephews. Those who aren’t afraid to fail and take risks are some of the most successful people on the planet. The greater the risk, the greater reward. However, when you fail, fail fast. Don’t keep going in that direction just because you’ve risked a bunch and you’ve committed. There are times to cut bait and run. At that point, figure out why it didn’t work and where it went wrong, then take another risk. If you can have the courage to push through a few seconds of fear, you can do just about anything. All of these things hold true for money and God’s blessings in our lives. Hoarding them does no good and stunts their growth.
In Matthew 25, Jesus told a parable we’re all familiar with. A man was going to take a long journey and decided to entrust some of his property to some of his servants. He gave one five talents, one two talents and one talent to another. The one who had five talents invested it and was able to get a return of ten talents. The one who was given two talents also invested his and doubled it. Then the person who only had one dug a hole and buried. He let fear keep him from taking risks with what was given to him. In the end, his fear cost him everything. If he had done something risk free like putting it in the bank just to get a little interest, it would have been better than succumbing to fear.
In verse 29, the master said to him (and the Master says to us), “For to everyone who has [and values his blessings and gifts from God, and has used them wisely], more will be given, and [he will be richly supplied so that] he will have an abundance” (AMP). Part of valuing the gifts and blessings of God is being willing to risk failure with them. God invests different gifts in each one of us, but He’s watching to see what we do with them. We will have to give an account for our actions (or inactions) one day. If you’ve been letting fear of failure dictate your decision in risking them, it’s time to get enough courage to push past that fear and to do something with them. Start that blog, sign up for that course, ask for the microphone, stand on stage, send that letter or whatever it is that fear is keeping you from doing. God is counting on you to value your blessings enough to risk failure with them.
I consider myself somewhat of an expert when it comes to building campfires. I spent years in a scouting program, and I know to build a fire it requires three things: oxygen, fuel and heat. One of my favorite things to do on a camp out is to restart the fire in the morning from the embers. I move back all the ashes, find a small ember, add some kindling and blow on it. It doesn’t take long before I get a roaring fire and can start cooking breakfast. To me, there’s just something cool about starting that fire from the embers. It reminds me that it doesn’t take much to get a fire going.
When I read 2 Timothy 1:6, I think of starting that fire in the mornings. It says, “That is why I remind you to fan into flame the gracious gift of God, [that inner fire–the special endowment]” (AMP). Paul was reminding Timothy, and us, that each of us have God-given gifts inside of us that we have to keep going. They may be embers right now, but they can be fanned into a great flame. Just like a campfire, they need oxygen, fuel and heat in order to keep growing and to stay ablaze.
The heat comes from God. He’s the one who put the gifts in you. It’s up to you to add the fuel. The kindling required to ignite it is spending time in prayer and reading God’s Word. The oxygen needed to keep it going is putting your gifts into practice. When we neglect the gifts in us, we choke out the flame by cutting off its oxygen. God has created you for a purpose and has given you the tools you need to accomplish that which He created you for. It’s up to you to breathe new life into them and fan into flame those gifts.