Question TIme - Can I use my natural skills in the service of the Lord?
Richard Collings, Caerphilly, Wales [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
Can I use my natural skills in the service of the Lord?
Throughout the book of Acts, and in the Epistles, there are numerous examples of servants of the Lord engaging in a diversity of service for God. However, within the New Testament there are at least three sections that specifically catalogue the variety of abilities, or responsibilities, suitable for, or relevant to, divine service. Those three sections are 1 Corinthians chapter 12, Romans chapter 12, and Ephesians chapter 4. Interestingly, in each of these chapters the word ‘gift’ occurs, and, although the word employed by Paul in the Ephesian letter is different, the principle holds good, the things listed are spiritual in character and are given gratuitously to the recipient. Such abilities are not natural talents; they are not the product of the recipient’s skill or commitment, but are divinely given.
In his first letter to Timothy, Paul exhorts, ‘Neglect not the gift that is in you’, 4. 14. These spiritual gifts are not meant to be left dormant, nor are they given for the exclusive benefit of the one to whom they are given. They are to be utilized ‘For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man’, Eph. 4. 12-13. There is no doubt that the more a gift is used the more it develops, and the user becomes more competent in his service for the Lord.
A closer study of the New Testament will show that some of the gifts listed in the three sections mentioned above have now ceased; they were given for a specific time, and for a specific purpose. For example, the writer to the Hebrews, in chapter 2 verses 3-4, teaches us that some gifts were given to authenticate the ‘new’ message of the gospel, which was first spoken by the Lord, and was continued by those that heard Him. Miraculous sign gifts accompanied their preaching, thereby showing that their message was of divine origin and not of man.
Thus far we have focussed on gifts that are spiritual in character, to highlight the point that they are different to natural skills. However, the questioner has raised the issue of ‘natural talents’ – can I use my natural skills in the service of the Lord? Space does not permit a full response, but the direct answer has to be, ‘Yes I can’. A brother, or a sister, may be linguistically skilled, and devote that ability to translating the word of God, commentaries, or other Bible helps, into the language of people who would otherwise be deprived of such material.
Other examples of natural skill-sets being used for the furtherance of the Lord’s work could easily be cited. Builders, mechanics, electricians, hymn-writers, teachers, farmers, and a host of other abilities possessed by brethren and sisters have been sacrificially yielded to God’s service. The probability is that every reader of this magazine owes a debt to those currently living, or of a former generation, who have not only exercised the spiritual gifts given them but have dedicated their natural talents to the furtherance of the Lord’s kingdom.
Of course, we need to be careful. Natural talent alone is insufficient to qualify a person to hold a particular place of responsibility in the service of God. A man endowed with the gift of oratory does not necessarily make a competent Bible teacher. The managing director of a company, or the chief of a village, is not automatically qualified to be an overseer in the assembly. It is quite possible that within an assembly there may be a master and a servant fellowshipping together. In the realm of employment, the servant would be subservient to his master, yet within the assembly the servant might be an elder and the master might not.
At the age of 38, just 5 years before her death, Frances Ridley Havergal penned the hymn ‘Take my life and let it be, consecrated Lord to thee’. The last verse ends with the words ‘Take myself, and I will be ever, only, all for Thee’. Maybe that line succinctly answers our question.
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Unless otherwise stated all scripture quotations are from the New King James Version