Buckling his seatbelt as we drove away from practice, my son turned to me with excitement. “Guess what, Mom? My lacrosse coach wants me to try out for his soccer team this weekend.”
“Wow, buddy, that’s quite a compliment. I didn’t even know he coached two different sports. I guess we can think about it, but why did you say ‘no’ when I asked you about signing up for tryouts a long time ago?” I probed.
After a moment of thoughtful silence, he answered. “I don’t know. I guess it just felt good to be asked and to know he believes in me.”
My son knew he had potential, but he wasn’t motivated to tap into it until his coach validated it too. With the knowledge that someone else was on his side, his confidence skyrocketed. This was obvious even in his last few games of the lacrosse season as he ran up the field dodging opponents and scoring goals. His athletic abilities hadn’t changed, but his belief in himself had grown exponentially.
It’s a good lesson for all of us. When we know a person recognizes potential in us, we are more eager to develop it. I’ve experienced this in the last few years as others have challenged me to develop gifts God has given me for teaching, leading and writing. I would not be writing this blog if the women in my writers group and an inspiring leader from church hadn’t been there to spur me on. Similarly, I would never have had the courage to start a Bible study for women exploring faith if a friend hadn’t believed in me and partnered with me to do it.
God has given each of us a unique set of spiritual gifts, heart desires, abilities, personality traits and personal experiences to be developed and used for Him. When we take the time to discover and develop them, God uses all of these things to further His Kingdom. Pastor Erik Rees has created some excellent materials for exploring them in his study, S.H.A.P.E. Finding and Fulfilling Your Unique Purpose for Life. He encourages us to consider Galatians 6:4-5:
“Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.” (The Message)
As followers of Christ, we’ve been entrusted with a life changing message and all of the tools we need to share it. Yet we often get tempted to find what’s comfortable and stick with it. We rely on the same people to perform certain jobs in ministries without ever asking God if there are new ways He wants to stretch us. Stepping out to risk facilitating a small group or leading worship may sound frightening. Perhaps there is a group of praying parents in need of a leader, but you don’t think your prayers are eloquent enough. Or maybe you’re great with kids, but fear you don’t have the Bible knowledge to lead them at church. You might have the gift of administration but hesitate, not wanting to commit the time to use it in a certain ministry. Is it possible that you’ve grown comfortable and complacent watching others give and serve? Have you and opted out of using your potential with different rationalizations?
The Apostle Paul was great at coaching and developing the gifts and skills in others. We see this in his relationship with Timothy, a young partner in ministry with whom he traveled. In one letter Paul writes to Timothy:
“For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe. Command and teach these things. Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (1 Timothy 4:8-16)
Paul admonished Timothy to persevere and not let his ministry be deterred by insecurity about his youthfulness. He told Timothy not to neglect his gifts but to use them fully and to continue developing them. The purpose was to optimize his effectiveness in sharing the good news of Jesus. Discovering and using our gifts is about honoring God and blessing others, not elevating ourselves.
Maybe you’re like my son who needed his coach to recognize the potential he had. With an encourager to cheer you on perhaps you’d be more willing to discover new ways God could use you. If you’re intrigued by this idea, pray that He’ll give you the desire and the tools to discover how your gifts, experiences, personality and passion can be used for His glory. Pray for a person who can help you identify them and develop them. If you already know your gifts, pray and evaluate how effectively you’re using them right now. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you courage and confidence if you’re feeling afraid or insecure. Maybe it’s time to branch out and trust Him to take the next step. Once He starts moving in you, you’ll never want to go back to your ordinary way of life.
Casting Crowns has an inspiring new song called “Thrive.” Click on the link to listen, then pray about how God wants to tap into your potential.