I’m not forty yet, but in August I will say goodbye to my thirties. I’m really not one to fret much about age. Thirty didn’t phase me. Thirty-five wasn’t that big of a deal. Forty isn’t going to bother me either. I even went and had blood work done last week, and I’m happy to report that aside from a few minor elevated numbers, everything is looking pretty good. I’m losing weight, my blood pressure is declining, a few small tweaks to my diet and next fall when I do the blood work again, everything should be right where it belongs.
I’m not one to really get bogged down in regret or looking backwards at past mistakes. However if there is one thing in the last ten years that I can say I regret, it’s that I didn’t work harder to develop my talents and gifts. This really came to my attention about two years ago.
I don’t know about you, but my prayer life can tend toward a lot of asking. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because God wants us to ask. We ask for things for our friends and family. We ask for guidance. We ask for protection and boldness. There’s nothing wrong with any of that. But my asking had taken a turn. I don’t know if I can articulate it well because I didn’t even realize I was doing it.
One day I was praying, asking for things – I don’t even remember what it was about. I got through, went about my business, and while I was driving God dropped a bomb on me. He brought to mind the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30). I know it well. As I was remembering it, the Holy Spirit slipped this little nugget into my thoughts. “You keep asking for more, but you haven’t even mastered what you’ve already been given.”
You keep asking for more, but you haven’t even mastered what you’ve already been given.
That shook me. As I let this roll around in my heart, it began to dawn on me: in many ways I’ve been the lazy servant. I began trying to justify myself. I mean if I wasn’t using my talents, I wouldn’t be a worship pastor, I wouldn’t be blogging, I wouldn’t be teaching, I wouldn’t be preaching, etc.
But as I let what God had said to me settle into my heart, I began to realize that using a talent and mastering a talent are two different things. In God’s economy, talents and gifts are given for the enrichment and building up of His kingdom. Mastering a talent or a spiritual gift goes way beyond simple usage.
I can use my talents and gifts all day long to make a living for my family, but that alone falls short of God’s purpose. Mastering your talents and gifts means increasing your skill, increasing your reach, and maximizing their potential for making a Kingdom impact.
I’m not trying to go all Tony Robbins on you and make this a motivational speech. This is much deeper. The parable of the talents teaches that God expects a return on investment from the talents and gifts he gives us. This ROI has to do with how his Kingdom was grown and nurtured because of the gifts and talents he invested in you. Mastering what God gives you is what he desires from you.
So here’s where I am in this. I am done asking God for more until I have mastered what he has already given me. That doesn’t mean I’m not asking for things, but only that I’m not asking for anything new. Instead I’m asking for his help to develop what I have. When that happens, if I am faithful to develop what he’s given me, he will give me more without even a request.
I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. (Luke 19:26)
In every way possible, I want my forties to be the most productive decade I’ve had yet. I want to develop and increase my talents and gifts so that people will be enriched and the Kingdom of God will grow wherever I am. And not for my sake, but for Jesus and his rule and reign in my life. I totally understand how this can come of as a prosperity message. I suppose it is, but prosperity in the Kingdom of God is not the same as the American dream. I don’t expect worldly wealth for my efforts. Neither should you. If it happens, glory to God. If it doesn’t, it’s still glory to God!
So here’s to mastering the talents and gifts God has given me! I hope you’ll join me in mastering what God has already given you.