REMEMBER “JOHN.” THIS GUY HAD THE kind of personality that would have you laughing so hard you’d cry when he was around. John was animated, vivacious. He was alive! I had to work with him during some course requirement stuff at the seminary at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, so we got to know each other. He would tell me about his family, his loves, and his excitement at working with people. John was the kind of guy who loved life and loved what he did so much it just inspired a person to be better. Until preaching class.
Preaching class required you to write out your sermons, and then you had to deliver them and be critiqued afterward. John’s first sermon was horrible. It was a visual gallstone that wouldn’t pass. It was fingernails on the chalkboard. It was the chalkboard falling down and cracking your skull in three places until your eyes went buggy. I cringed watching him.
All of a sudden, Bam! Mr. Congeniality turned into Mr. Irregularity. John stiffened until nothing but his lips moved. His eyes locked straight; his voice slipped into a monotone chant. His facial expressions were less than a corpse in rigor mortis but more than your average economics lecture. He was just a different guy when he stood up to preach.
“John, what happened to you?” I asked him after class.
“What?” he replied.
“Come on, man. I know you well enough to ask. Who was that preaching today? It wasn’t you. You’re more excited and expressive than that. You’ve got life, enthusiasm, humor--all the stuff I’ve seen in you before.”
“Did you know my dad was a preacher?” he says to me. “I’m following him. I guess all my life I’ve had this image of what a pastor is supposed to be like. At game nights and socials it’s different. Preaching is about being serious and professional. It isn’t anyplace for a comedian.”
I was stunned at what I was hearing. “So are you comfortable being like that up there?” I asked him.
“No, I guess not, but I have to play the part to get into the pastor’s network.”
In my opinion, the pastor’s network is an informal word-of-mouth referral service. It works like any other place. The guys already in the system keep names handy when they get asked about possible candidates to fill open spots. In the Adventist Church, when a position is open, the working pastors pass along names of people they’ve seen and whom they like, and those are the individuals who get the calls.
It makes sense to have referrals from people who are already working and trusted in our church. Just remember that our church is conservative and isn’t quite sure what to do with louder, charismatic leaders. John was making sure he “fit in” so he would have a job later. A lot of the guys at seminary seemed to do this.
When the Car Won’t Start
Here’s my question: When we try to be something we aren’t for the sake of fitting in and finding a job, does it honor and please God?
Here’s my theory. God made us. He built us. We are a lot like cars that engineers at Ford or Honda create. Those engineers pour their life into those new models. The model cars represent all their creative genius and ingenuity, their time, their talents, and their energy. The engineers spend hours dreaming, drafting, and envisioning something that is going to sweep the consumer off their feet and into a dealership. When they’re done with the prototype, what do you think they’re feeling? The drafting and engineering are done, the committees are done, the thinking and dreaming are all done, and now the actual car has been bolted, burnished, and brought to the showroom. It’s sitting under the cloth waiting to be revealed.
Imagine being in the engineer’s place: you’re so pumped you can hardly stand it. Here’s years of work and life invested in this car and now you get to see its performance. When you spend all that time designing a car, you’re eager to see it reach its fullest potential. When that car performs at its best, it makes you look good and gives you pleasure beyond what you could imagine!
The night of the unveiling arrives. Everyone is in the showroom buzzing about the new car. The penguin waiters are palming silver trays of little edibles, and the boss is grinning wide. Finally the boss steps up to the podium, gives his little speech, and the pretty models pull the drapery. You hear the gasp of the audience in amazement. It’s red, racy, and streamlined. It’s exquisite. This masterpiece on wheels has sparkly chrome, bright paint, glossy finish, and dark black rubber racing tires. The vehicle looks like a million-dollar machine.
You’re smiling, the people are smiling, the boss is smiling, and you almost swear the car is smiling too! Expectations are thick in the air. The test driver walks up to the car, gets in, and turns the key.
The engine won’t start. He cranks and cranks and cranks, and you’re getting cranky watching him crank. Everyone is feeling a little embarrassed for you, and you’re mortified. If you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, this first is going to be your last. What the car was supposed to do it didn’t.
That’s How God Feels
I honestly believe this is how God sees things. God created you, molded you, and crafted you with His own hands. He carefully thought through every detail and minutia of all that you were meant to be. He was so excited about you when He was finally finished. He had plans and dreams of your performance for Him and all that you were going to accomplish for His glory and honor. But when the time came . . . you wouldn’t start.
Forget never started--you never left the showroom. You played safe and lived a life in which no one expected anything from you. You were given gifts, but you never used them. You never went out on the track and made the decision to open-throttle your abilities. You never got to see what your life, fully devoted to your Creator with no fear, could do.
God gave you spiritual gifts for a reason. It was so you could tear around the globe doing great things for Jesus in your own unique way. Fear is a gas leak. Fear is a missing spark plug. Fear is no engine. The number one reason people never fulfill what God had intended for them to do is that they’re afraid.
The first step to killing fear is to step out and do something. Anything! No matter how small the gesture, do something with the gifts and talents you have, with the motive to please God, and you’ll leave the showroom.
The Ultimate Success Seminar
If you go to the local bookstore and look up “success,” you’ll find a flood of material from all kinds of people ready to tell you what they think success is. You’ll find thousands of pages filled with experiences, advice, and information. People from around the world will tell you all about how they set a goal, took the steps, dreamed and drove themselves forward till they got there. Success is reaching your goal!
What is God’s definition of success? He has laid it out in Matthew 5:2-16:
“Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. . . . You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."
In the above passage God is saying that if you can aspire and desire those things that He thinks are important, you are “blessed,” a success! The Bible speaks volumes louder about the real measure of success versus the world’s more shallow definition. Catch His meaning in the few words Jesus uses at the end: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (verse 16).
God wants to use you as a light! You were created to be something that catches people’s attention. Then they glorify God because your joy and life have affected them! They are amazed at what a life fully devoted to and in love with Jesus looks like, and they want to be like that also. If you can draw one person in that way, you are a success!
You can do that only by being everything God meant for you to be! You were born, built, and beckoned by our Savior to fulfill your highest calling. Your calling is using the gifts He has given you to rejoice and feel joy doing what you were born to do!
The counsel given by Christ is the purest success seminar ever written. Success is using every one of your God-given gifts to the fullest, and then inspiring others to do the same because they’ve seen how happy you are.
From the Start
Here’s how Paul explains the origin of spiritual gifts:
“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant: . . . There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all. . . . For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free--and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many” (1 Cor. 12:1-14).
Paul has some pastoral problems he’s trying to deal with in the church. He wrote this thinking about Corinth, a rich town with lots of affluence and attitude. Because of Corinth’s location it was a hot spot for trade and commerce. It was the New York City of its day.
The people there were preoccupied with worshipping idols. They had all kinds of stuff they worshipped--very few of them knew about Jesus. That is why Paul said: “You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led. Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit” (verses 2, 3).
Paul is explaining that when the Holy Spirit is present in a person’s life they would not curse Jesus, which some of them were doing. Everyone filled with the Spirit would say that Jesus was Lord over all. Then Paul writes some of the most glorious literature ever. In the inspired Word of God we are told there is a gift God has left with us to use--for the purpose of exalting Jesus in all that we do. It’s called our spiritual gifts!
“But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills” (verses 7-11).
The same Spirit Jesus Himself has given to each of us as a spiritual gift. It’s a talent, something you’re good at. Something that comes naturally to you and that you enjoy doing. When you are immersed in it, you lose track of time. You just get in a groove and go.
Recognize Your Talent
So how can you recognize your talents? For me, it’s preaching and writing. There are times when I get in the groove during a sermon, and it’s transcendent. I am just lifted to another sphere of existence, and I start feeling this euphoria. The congregation is with me, and when it’s over, people are inspired and overjoyed. The glory is palpable! I recognized early on this was one of my gifts because:
1. I was good at it.
2. I looked at others who were struggling with it.
3. It seemed to come naturally, although it required work to polish.
4. I felt God’s presence and joy when I was using it to the fullest.
Writing for me is the same. There are times where I start to write out ideas and two hours will pass before I look up again. There is just a “flow” to it.
Preaching and writing are obvious gifts. There are, however, other kinds of gifts. There are gifts given by God that are backstage support gifts. This set of criteria may work for you as you determine what your gifts are and how you might fit into God’s plans.
Paul, in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11, says very simply: Hey, look. We’re all in this together. God has assigned us to this earth for a short production play. The whole idea behind this production is to inspire others to want to be part of the stage crew. The more people we accumulate on the stage, the happier Jesus is.
Now there will be some that are actors. Some that are pit crew. Some will be ushers for the seats, and others greeters in the foyer. Some will work the lights; others will pull the curtain. They’re all equal gifts! Everyone does a different job, but the goal is to seamlessly flow this play so the audience is awed at the power of the Playwright.
That is what we’re doing. We the crew are promoting the Playwright. Jesus is thrilled when the light guy that Jesus designed for the purpose of mastering the art of lighting makes the production sparkle. God will look upon that man or woman and say, “Well done; you’ve achieved everything I was hoping!”
Can you imagine what Jesus feels when the light guy thinks: Ah, all I know how to do is lighting. I haven’t got the personality of the actors, so I’m nothing great. I guess I’ll just go work some other job that is more acceptable to the world? God has to be frustrated by that.
No gift from God is insignificant. Even faith is a gift. Your strength of belief is a positive sign of encouragement to someone else! There are a lot of people who don’t have strong faith, and God sends someone like you who speaks faith, walks faith, lives faith, and exudes faith. The weaker believer needs you!
The Purpose of Your Gift
Your gifts will give someone else the courage and motivation to finally make the decision to live their lives in harmony with the Savior. That’s serious stuff! It’s all about eternity with Jesus. That is what happens when the play is over and we the cast and crew are finished here on earth.
It’s the same spirit but differing gifts. God wants unity without uniformity. Jesus is looking for people who do things their own unique way, but still keep the same goal in place. That goal is a beautiful production that inspires others to join. Of course, I’m talking about the church: “Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues” (verses 27, 28).
Next to you the church is the highest priority to God. He calls it His bride: “And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a beautiful bride prepared for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, ‘Look, the home of God is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will remove all of their sorrows, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. For the old world and its evils are gone forever’” (Rev. 21:2-4, NLT).
If you’re married, you know already the value of your bride or groom. It’s the second biggest decision you will ever make in your life! I remember when Grace and I got married. There
I was, a single man about to be married. When the pipe organ started, when the air shimmered with anticipation, when the congregation stood in approval--when that beautiful woman I was going to spend the rest of my life with started floating down the aisle, I understood the glory of marriage.
Since the ceremony we have lived and changed over the years. And I have learned one key lesson in marriage: “If she ain’t happy, nobody in the house will be.” It’s one of the universal laws of success. When the wife is happy, the home runs smooth, but when the wife isn’t happy, the house won’t work well.
That’s the power of the bride and why it’s in my best interest to keep the wife happy. The close intimate relationship I have with my wife means that when she is happy, I am also. When her life runs well, so does mine. We are inextricable. Our emotions and passions for our home, each other, our kids, and our futures keep us continually communicating and living at peace in body and spirit. That is the exact way God intended for you and Him to live together.
If you are living a life that is pleasing to God, you live with a peace in your soul knowing God is happy. If Jesus is happy with you and you know it, there is an alignment between body and spirit that is transcendent of this world. God loves you! Your love for Him is shown by how hard you try to please Him. Making my wife happy makes me happy. Same principle. Want to know how to please God?
How to Please God
Live your life to the fullest, using the gifts and talents that God gave you. If you do that, He takes full joy in watching you grow!
I have two girls. One is already reading. She sits on the couch with a book and starts reading aloud. Slowly and meticulously Karisse reads and learns, and it’s a thrill to watch. I get so excited when I see her at an early age starting to take such an interest in reading.
I think about how much further ahead she will be [when she starts school] because she is reading early. I get a thrill thinking about how her future will be filled with opportunity because my little girl, when she just learned to read, was reading a lot. I see Karisse, and it brings joy to my heart to see my child starting to use her gifts and talents at so young an age.
Give God the same gift. Do for Him what Karisse does for me. Do what you were born to do. Use the talents and gifts God has given you to their fullest, and when you do, God will watch and feel joy because you are His child doing what He longed for you to do!
And the world changes for Jesus Christ!
That is the potential when you examine your life, think about what you’re good at, and then ask the Holy Spirit to help you use those talents in some way to reach one person for Jesus!
No gift is too small. They all matter because God gave them to you. The gift is measured by the size of the Giver.
Pat Grant is the associate pastor of the North Cascade Seventh-day Adventist Church and the Bible teacher for ninth and tenth graders at Skagit Adventist School in Burlington, Washington. Grant lives with two beautiful daughters, one marvelous wife, and two fish.