I was talking to someone the other day about how God placed a gift of writing in me and has enabled me to use it for His service as well as in other areas of my life, building on it over time and adding to it in very gentle ways.
It is so amazing how patient and gracious God is. As someone who had very little faith in my own academic abilities and no confidence to speak publicly, I ended up with a calling to preach (that’s another story) and completed 4 years of training. During that time, I had to write academic essays (having left school at 16, some 20+ years previously), write sermons and lead church services, mainly unaccompanied.
I enjoyed writing the essays and using numerous sources to try to answer the questions. Essay writing was not something that I had been taught in school, and neither was grammar, but I seemed to have a natural ability and got good marks. I enjoyed writing sermons too, expounding scripture and connecting what the Bible said to every day life.
On the other hand, because I am inherently very shy, I didn’t have a natural ability to speak publicly or with adults in social situations if I didn’t know them well. I had always disliked being asked to do readings at church and when I did, my heart would feel like it was thumping right out of my chest; I would forget how to breathe and run out of puff by the time I came to the end of a paragraph. Thankfully over time, by walking in God’s strength, I was able to overcome my fear of public speaking and the more I preached, the more I was able to place my confidence in Him.
I had to learn to do the same when it came to talking with people after the services. In the Methodist Church, preachers visit all of the churches in the Bristol circuit so I didn’t know many of the congregations. At the end of the service, it was usual to stand by the door and speak with the church members as they left or had their cups of tea. This was the most painful part of a Sunday for me...so out of my comfort zone! I quickly developed the ability to present a ‘confident me’, or the ‘me’ that God sees. I reminded myself that I was His child (Romans 8:16), in whom His Spirit lives (Romans 8: 9).
Over the years, God has used this ‘New Me’ in other areas of my life as well as preaching. My gifts of writing and public speaking were utilised when, as a very mature student, I enrolled at uni and essays and presentations were required for assessments. The completed degree helped me progress in my work as an educational practitioner as did my more confident ability to interact others. I then transferred to a pastoral role in an inner city school and this pastoral experience was useful when I became a self-employed celebrant officiating wedding and funeral services where my writing skills were, once again, utilised to write ceremonies and eulogies. Again, I found myself behind a lecturn leading services.
I can trace the growth of God’s gifting and how it has been used to glorify Him both in my own faith walk, in my ability to encourage other members of His body and in the progression of my livelihood. Yes, our work life is important to God too! (Colossians 3: 23-24).
So why have I blathered on about me in this week’s blog? Aren’t I meant to be encouraging and challenging YOU in YOUR Christian walk? Well, I do want to challenge you: to challenge you about your own innate giftings, ones that God placed in YOU when He knit YOU together in your mother’s womb (Psalm 139: 13). What strengths do you already have that aren’t being used in service of God at the moment?
All are called to serve God in some way (1 Peter 4: 10-11). God’s gifting can utilise our own natural talents, as with my gift of writing, and like me you may be able to trace where your own strength first became apparent. You may be able to see how God has increased that strength over the years in other areas of your life, but now is the time for that strength to be used in service of Him too.
What is scarier is if God calls you to step out of your comfort zone and serve him in an area where you feel weak, as with my lack of confidence to speak publicly. All I can say is, if He is calling you, he will equip you (Hebrews 13: 21) and strengthen you (Philippians 4:13) and you can step out knowing that He is with you every step of the way (Joshua 1: 9).
Search your hearts today and ask if any of your giftings can be used for His service. Paul tells us we are the body of Christ and each of us a part of it (1 Corinthians 12: 27). Which part are you?