For who do you know that really knows you, knows your heart? And even if they did, is there anything they would discover in you that you could take credit for? Isn’t everything you have and everything you are sheer gifts from God? So what’s the point of all this comparing and competing? You already have all you need. You already have more access to God than you can handle. (I Cor. 4:7-8)
Scripture bears witness to the fact that even the most gifted of individuals don’t start out feeling that they possess the gifting or talents they need to accomplish that which is laid out before them. If we just take Moses as an example, we can see this struggle clearly in his original struggle with God when he was called to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt into the Promised Land. He argued with God that he was not a good leader, nor could he speak eloquently enough to inspire them to follow his lead. At first, I even believe that he thought he’d have to single-handedly deliver the people in his own might. He bantered back and forth with God about the insurmountable task of getting Israel out of Egypt. Even after God had miraculously shown himself mighty on behalf of Moses, backing him up with tremendous signs and wonders in the courts of Pharaoh, Moses still needed lots of props from God to go on with God’s purposes for his life.
Isn’t it amazing how much we desire for God to use us, and then when he begins to use us, drawing out from us significant gifts he has placed deep within us, that we draw back in fear and disbelief? The first time I was asked to deliver a message publicly to my Bible College class, I remember losing sleep over the exact words that I thought needed to be shared. I polished that message to the letter, reviewing it for scriptural accuracy, ensuring that each verse was thoroughly outlined and elaborated on. On the morning I was set to deliver that message, I remember my deep emotional struggle with fear as I walked to the podium, opened my Bible and pulled out my neatly written notes. I chuckle now to remember the mannerisms I used in delivering the message. I’d imitated what I’d seen in the delivery style of other preachers and teachers, using hand gestures, and even grabbing the sides of the podium and leaning into the crowd. I’d like to tell you that the outcome was extremely positive, with God coming in to “back me up” with tremendous signs and wonders, but exactly the opposite was true. In fact, I bombed! The message was good enough, but the message seemed to fall on deaf ears (or so I imagined). There was no response to the altar call, no acknowledgement that the message had rung true in the hearts of my hearers. I was so certain just 24 hours prior to that time that God had given me that message for that group, but now wondered if I’d been called to teach or preach at all.
It took God nearly two weeks to bring me back to task again. In those two weeks, I had come to discover that I had a problem relying on him to do what I was not capable of doing in myself. You see, the message was right, the audience was right, the intended result was correct, but the timing was not. I had not been sensitive to the leading of the Spirit and I was in deep emotional conflict because I took it upon myself to do the work of the Spirit. I had delivered a message speaking deeply to the apathy of heart of some of my fellow classmates without the anointing of God’s love, mercy and grace upon that message. I was like Moses, who in seeing the need to deliver the Israelites from their slavery, took up a sword and chose to kill the Egyptian task-master - all in his own ability. If you don’t know the rest of the story, he spent a great deal of time alone on the backside of the desert after that! As you can probably imagine, so did I. When I finally emerged from the “desert” and was given the opportunity to begin to speak publicly again, I was filled with fear.
It took many years for God to change my reliance on self to bring forth a teaching. I was always trying to measure up to others around me – comparing myself to the success of others as a measurement of my own success in teaching. I needed the compliments of my hearers to acknowledge that I had not gone too far or that I was indeed “right on” in my message. I looked for confirmation from them, not God.
It wasn’t until God finally got through my hard coat of self-reliance that I began to see the power of the anointing of God on a message. I was working with the youth group of a local church as one of the youth sponsors. I was approached by the youth pastor to be part of a panel of adults who would be asked candid questions by the youth during an “all-nighter” event at the church. The purpose of the panel discussion was to allow the youth to connect with us, to ask tough questions that they would not have any other venue for asking, and then for us to pour into their lives the “wealth and wisdom” that God had worked into ours. As the microphone came to me, the young girl asked what I thought about premarital sexual relations. All eyes were on me. The youth pastor and his wife were nervously shifting in their seats and I think I even saw him begin to move to the platform to deflect that question. I remember feeling the anointing of God so strongly on me as I began to share. For the next five minutes or so, no one spoke, no one moved; everyone sat quietly listening intently to what God allowed to flow out from me. I am unable to recount all that came forth that evening, but I can tell you this – lives were impacted. I had allowed God to take over and he had come through.
It was exactly as Paul states in this passage we’ve considered today: “Isn’t everything you have and everything you are sheer gifts from God?” The testimony I had to share that night and the ability to do it was directly a result of God’s gifting in my life. Nothing more, nothing less. The testimony you have to share and the ability to share it is simply a direct result of God’s Spirit moving in the core of your inner man. The talents you bring into the workplace, the gifts with which you perform your daily tasks, and the abilities you manifest in accomplishing the acts of service you are engaged in are a direct result of his grace, mercy and love in your lives. Never second-guess God. Never be content relying on what you think you can do yourself. Never limit his flow. He has much more for you than you could possibly imagine. Give God your heart, your mind and your soul – he’ll do the rest.