Hey church! Today's blog will build off what we talked about yesterday in regards to our talents as a form of stewardship. However, I also have discovered with talent that you either "use it or lose it." We'll consider how that's true and set intentional efforts in place to avoid that from happening. To set the stage for our reflection I'll have you read John 5: 1-9 which is a story of Jesus healing a paralyzed man who wanted to be made well. While I recognize that paralysis is entirely different from atrophy caused by lack of discipline, I believe that the premise here remains effective for each of us. If you still have that list from yesterday available now is a great time to grab it. Look at your list (or recall it mentally) and make a note on how often you "practice" that talent. For example, I try to run 5 days a week and practice guitar once a week, but it has been a few months since I last looked at my coding classes. As such, my confidence in those 3 things is based on how often I engage with them. How frequently do you engage your talents and passions? Where are you seeing gaps? As you consider these things turn your attention to scripture for comparison.
Scripture to Read
Once I grew into my body my sophomore year of high school, I discovered that I was pretty decent runner. I realized I had a natural affinity for the sport and was efficient with my stride and breathing and all of this led to being a top performer in the state for the remainder of high school. I had momentum behind me as I had a goal in front of me each week - win the next meet. I was eventually recruited to run D1 at Youngstown State, a program I'm proud to say has built upon my team's legacy and is now a top contending state in the conference each year. However, college running was tough for me as I was too stubborn to make a shift in my goal. I continued to believe that winning was possible (but I was good in a sea of great people) and the more often that did not happen the less momentum and passion I had for the sport. Without purpose, my talent stopped working very hard. Runners who were far less talented than me on the team began to beat me and I grew more and more frustrated. I projected blame at my coaches, at my training, at my teammates, at my shoes, at anything that I could....but never myself.
After graduating college and getting my first job I "proudly" proclaimed to the world that I was done with running and have taken on a new identity - pastor. I sat in a chair for 15 hours a day eating chips and drinking a case of coke every day. While I didn't gain any weight (again, thank God for a natural affinity here) I did lose a ton of muscle mass. For 3 years I didn't run and while I wasn't necessarily in a bad place, I wasn't happy. I started running again in 2019 and it was atrocious to begin. I would run a mile and be coughing up a lung. I used to run 15 miles a day at 6:00' mile pace and call it an easy run and now celebrated when I broke 8:00' mile pace for a single mile! So what happened? I stopped being a steward of my God given talents and I was paying the price for that. Fortunately, through a network of good friends (Ross) and a wife that wouldn't let me forget she could not whoop my butt I was able to get back to about 80% of what I used to be. Doing so has brought me joy, confidence, and purpose. I feel the weight of responsibility to myself (and to God) to steward this fitness and do something with it. (Race.)
We all have talents that go beyond our work talents (though those are important too!) Some of you like to sing, dance, play an instrument, knit, paint, or something else entirely. But, I suspect in the busyness of life and the allure of "work more play less" it has been too long since you engaged something that brings you joy, confidence, and purpose. How might you combine your love of God (church) with your talents? Could the church be a space to engage those talents in a creative and new way? Could you form a dance ministry? Painting therapy small group? Knitting for the homeless or home bound families?
I believe that God wants to help us accomplish the things that we want and I also believe that God is the sole provider of that help. Why? Because God is the provider of all things! In the scripture story for today Jesus approaches a man who wants to be "made well." He seeks to be "renewed" and is hoping that Jesus will carry him to the water. Jesus does not carry him, but instead gives him the means to do it for himself. (Remember, that stewardship is also dignity and empowerment.) Jesus won't carry us when we stop working out our talents, but Jesus will renew us and give the responsibility to get our "fitness" back up.
What's the fitness level of your talent? Is it time to ask God for a little renewal and guidance on how you can express your purpose and gifts in new ways? May it be so. Amen.
Questions to Consider
How much time per week do you spend expressing your gifts? Are you happy with that number?
If Jesus were to ask you: "are you well?" what would you say? If Jesus were to ask you "do you want to be made well?" would you say yes even if you did not know what that result would be? (the man expected to be carried but Jesus made him walk.)
Think about one of your talents that means the most to you - what is the dream you've always had for that talent? What has held you back from trying to employ it?
Praying through Praise
Today we'll celebrate our gifts by joining in for this song from artist Susan Kay Wyatt who wrote a song called "We All Have Gifts to Share." While this isn't specifically a Christian song it has heavy spiritual influences inspired by the Fruits of the Spirit. Enjoy and see you tomorrow!