So you’re trying to figure out what God wants to see you doing with your life. You’re trying to figure out what it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re always wondering what that might be, and you’re worried your true talent will remain undiscovered: “a sundial in the shade,” as Benjamin Franklin once put it.
But when you mentioned your idea to that family member, he raised an eyebrow. When you told that friend about your dream, it was met with criticism. And that made you afraid. You’re afraid of what people will say, and what people will think. You’re afraid you’ll fail. And, maybe most of all, you’re afraid of leaving the familiar. You know you can keep doing what you’re doing, currently. But that other path, that other life, well, you just never know what bad thing might befall you.
Move or Die
Late one night my friend Mitch Arnold was on the nozzle at a fire in a large sprawling old house, just outside of town. He had two other firefighters backing him as he made his way up the stairs to the second story bedroom where the fire was. But just as he passed through the doorway into the burning room, the roof collapsed, tearing the nozzle out of his hand, stripping off one of his gloves, and cutting him off from the other two firefighters. He was also cut off from his exit. The room was filled with fire, and the hose, his source of water and protection, was now buried under the rubble. Immediately he felt the heat on his unprotected hand. To shield it, he curled up face down on the floor, pressing his hand tightly against his chest. As long as he remained in that position, his hand was protected from the heat. He stayed that way for a few moments. And then, he told me, this thought came into his mind, “If I stay here like this, I will die.”
So he uncurled himself, got up, and moved from that spot. He wandered around in the flames until he found a window. He tumbled through it, escaped the fire, and lived to tell the story. The idea Mitch could remain on the floor in relative comfort and die, or get up and endure some pain so he could live, that same idea applies to you.
Are You Feeling Lucky?
There’s some valuable data that has to do with your desire to know what God would have you do, and that data is all about luck. Ever wonder why some people seem to have all the luck, and others don’t? Well although the principles of probability are always in play, there are other factors involved also. In a ten year longitudinal study 400 people from all walks of life, between the ages of 18-84, were studied for how lucky they were, and how their habits correlated. What was discovered was that the unlucky people tended to succumb to inertia. They tended to gravitate toward the familiar. The lucky people in the study were always trying something new. They would try a different route on their commute to work. They were always trying to meet new people. They were the ones who responded to chance opportunities. The researcher who conducted this study likened life to an apple orchard. If apples are luck, and you’re looking for apples, at first it doesn’t matter where you look, apples are everywhere. But after you’ve picked for awhile, you won’t find any more apples, unless you venture out to places where you’ve never been before. (Richard Wiseman, Reader’s Digest, How to Get Lucky)
That same idea applies to you and your desire to do what God designed you to do.
Nike Corporation Information Technology
Let me share an example. I know this thirty-something who was never the most popular in school. His interests were simply out of sync with most of his classmates. He liked every kind of music, from classical, to Christian pop, to rock. He enjoyed chess. He loved to read, I mean he really loved to read, so much so, he was often in trouble for reading when he was supposed to be doing something else. He also liked pretty much anything that had to do with computers. Most of his peers were into the more common adolescent interests.
His parents enrolled him (against his will) in the Oregon Institute of Technology where he flunked out after two terms. His GPA was somewhere South of 1.0. Not long after he was home from school, he partnered with two other guys his age and started a LAN gaming center business–it failed. Then he started a computer repair business–it failed. Then he tried sales for a cell phone company. Then he bounced around doing entry level I.T. for a couple of local companies. All the while family and friends were hammering him with advice: “Go back to school.” “Move to a better job market.” “Get your degree.” “You’re so not living up to your potential.”
But, vocationally speaking, he understood better than anyone what God had in mind for him to do. He knew he could pay a school for an education, or, he could get his education on the job, while a company paid him. He chose the latter: not a realistic choice for most professions, but in the I.T. world, it’s a pretty common career path. It was also a path most of his friends and family didn’t understand. But this guy decided to live with the criticism and do it anyway. He knew he had to try and fail, repeatedly, to learn where God wanted him to go. And slowly the entry level I.T. jobs grew into mid-level I.T, jobs, and at some pretty good companies including Musician’s Friend. Then he landed a higher level job as an SCCM manager. (Don’t ask me to explain what that is.) Less than six months ago he landed a job doing SCCM for Nike. Today he’s making great money in a great corporate culture doing what he loves to do. And doing what he believes God wants him to do.
How Jesus Loved People
Jesus loved people by taking the initiative, to venture out. Even as a twelve year old he demonstrated this trait. What he did as a twelve year old, when he left his family to enter into a discussion with the rabbis in the temple, went against the grain of his parent’s expectations and against the grain of his culture in general. What he did when he left the carpenter’s shop and entered into public ministry made his family think he was crazy. What he did when he initiated friendships with prostitutes and corrupt bureaucrats violated the expectations of the established religious leadership. But he did it anyway. He did all that to invest the talents God endowed him with, in such a way as to realize the full potential of his capability to love people. (Luke 2:43-50, Mark 3:20-35, Luke 7:36-39, Mark 2:13-16)
Love Like Jesus
Close your eyes for a second and visualize what life would be like on this planet, if Jesus decided not to risk leaving the comfort and familiarity of the carpentry shop. Had Jesus not ventured out the way he did, his sundial would have remained in the shade. Had Jesus remained huddled on the floor of the burning room, so to speak, his love would have died in the flames.
In Matthew chapter 25 Jesus tells the parable about the master who gave his servants talents. To one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one. He left on a journey and when he returned, two of the servants were rewarded for investing their talents. One servant was too afraid to take the initiative, to venture out, and to invest his one talent–so he buried it. (Matthew 25:14-30)
What I’ve never heard anyone talk about is that it took guts for those other two servants to invest those talents. There was real risk involved. What if when the master returned, they were broke?
And here’s the point: Your Father in heaven wants you to take that risk. He wants you to invest your talents. He doesn’t want you to stay hunkered down in the middle of the room and die in the flames. Yes, you might start a LAN gaming center and fail. Yes, you might start a computer repair business only to lose it. Failure is an important part of success. In fact everyone I know who is highly successful has also failed–everyone, except the One.
So to love like Jesus don’t bury your talents. Try things! You can’t steer a vehicle if it’s not moving. Take the initiative to venture out. Go look for apples where you haven’t looked before. Even if it means violating the expectations of those around you. Even if it means criticism from those you love and care about.
If you’re talents are buried, you can’t love like Jesus.
So take a risk. Venture out, and invest your talents.
You can too.
For the kingdom of heaven is as a man traveling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his own ability; and immediately took his journey. Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made five other talents. And likewise he that had received two, he also gained another two. But he that had received one went and dug in the earth, and hid his lord’s money.
After a long time the lord of those servants came, and settled accounts with them. And so he that had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, Lord, you delivered unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.
His lord said unto him, Well done, you good and faithful servant: you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: enter into the joy of your lord.
He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, you delivered unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them.
His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: enter into the joy of your lord.
Then he who had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew you that you are a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not spread: And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the earth: lo, there you have what is yours.
His lord answered and said unto him, You wicked and slothful servant, you knew that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not spread: You ought therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received my own with interest.
Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him who has ten talents. For unto everyone that has shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that has not shall be taken away even that which he has. And cast the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
[Image via Brent Pearson – Creative Commons]