"What are Gifts?"
WHAT ARE THEY?
I, and you, could go on and on about our kids and their unique qualities and/or talents and abilities. I intentionally mentioned characteristics we noticed in them at young ages so that we could see how God has distributed a wide array of gifts to every single person. I think the problem is that we do not always consider them to be “talents” or “gifts” from God. From my perspective these talents are often closely linked to our unique personalities. It may simply be a “way of doing things” or a difference in communicating. Our “gift” may be noticeable in our relationships with others or within our employment context or with our families. We might recognize that gift as a “desire” within us. Others may not frame it in terms of “a gifting” but might acknowledge it as something “we are good at.”
I (and others) have found that most people are absolutely blinded in regards to a solitary one of their unique abilities. How many here could readily make a list of your talents? Although this can get complex, I think the primary reason for such lack of insight into ourselves is that we do not understand the definition of talents or abilities.
Many of us could not probably even come up with a list of ten talents total…in anyone [think about them for a moment]. We might include musical talent, athletic talent, artistic talent, creative talent, etc. Most of the gifts or talents on our lists would probably be narrowed to categories in the “fine arts” or some outstanding physical ability.
How many would list the following as remarkable talents: adaptability, belief, communication, consistency, discipline, futuristic, positivity, include, and restorative? Not many of us. Yet in his #1 Wall Street Journal Bestseller “Strengths Finder,” Tom Rath and Gallup list thirty-four of the most common talents which include the aforementioned. I highly recommend this book. Included within the book is a code to take the Strengths Finder test online. You can also find it on their website.
In short, a talent or strength or ability can be defined in a broad definition as something inherent within us at birth given by God in order to fulfill our destiny on earth. It is something uniquely ours.
STRENGTH OR WEAKNESS?
This same book emphasizes an important general truth regarding our strengths and weaknesses. The majority of people focus their attention on their own (and others’) weaknesses. We often spend a great deal of time attempting to improve our weaknesses. Rath believes this is oftentimes a waste of time. As he mentions, “the overwhelmingly majority of parents (77% in the United States) think that a student’s lowest grades deserve the most time and attention. Parents and teachers reward excellence with apathy instead of investing more time in the areas where a child has the most potential for greatness” (StrengthFinders, 7).
We love inspirational stories where the underdog or far less talented individual overcomes or wins or saves the day. The author mentions the true story/movie called “Rudy.” Then he concludes,
“The inspirational nature of this story actually masks a significant problem: Overcoming deficits is an essential part of the fabric of our culture. Our books, movies, and folklore are filled with stories of the underdog who beats one-in-a-million odds. And this leads us to celebrate those who triumph over their lack of natural ability even more than we recognize those who capitalize on their innate talents. As a result, millions of people see these heroes as being the epitome of the American Dream and set their sights on conquering major challenges. Unfortunately, this is taking the path of most resistance” (StrengthFinders, 5).
Even though we should continue to improve our weaknesses, we have been blessed with specific talents/strengths for a reason. Common sense (and godly wisdom) tells us to pursue the areas of our strengths and giftings.
Now, before proceeding, let me share one word of caution regarding the author’s approach. The Bible shares several stories about those who overcame overwhelming odds in order to succeed or conquer. Take David facing Goliath, or Moses leading God’s people out of bondage, or Gideon’s victory with a small army of men, or the baby Jesus born in humble surroundings to poor parents yet becoming the Savior of the world.
God is able to do abundantly more when we allow His love and power to flow through us than when we act alone in our own strength. GOD CAN DO ANYTHING! And He oftentimes delights in snatching a victory for us out of apparent defeat or granting a victory despite our limited abilities or resources. Why? Because then HE receives the glory (as it should be) instead of me.
So although this book may approach the subject from a more secular slant, I believe it does present a valid Biblical truth. God does bless us with a particular personality and talents/strengths for a reason. They are given to us in order to fulfill our destiny and glorify God (really, one in the same). Are we using our talents to their maximum potential for God’s kingdom?
Can someone develop a weakness into a strength? Definitely. However, devoting the majority of our attention and energy in an attempt to develop a talent which is not “natural” for us oftentimes leads to frustration and failure.