I can’t really describe the circumstances that precipitated the epiphany. I just recall sitting at my desk in my office several years ago on a normal day during a regular workweek and in a moment of introspection and evaluation, acknowledging that my preaching and teaching and leading of late had just been … well, lackluster.
Sure, I had been busy, even productive. I had developed sermons and series and teachings on topics that were relevant and perhaps even memorable. I had instructed classes and led trips and planned activities that would befit any youth leader in a full-time ministry position. From any outside perspective, I could argue that I was a good youth pastor. Yet, in that moment at my desk, alone with only my thoughts and observations, something stirred in me to acknowledge how all my recent preaching and teaching and leading had no demonstrable life-changing power. Good messages, yes. Doctrinally sound, yes. Forward progress in the Kingdom, … well, that was the rub.
I knew that God had gifted me with certain abilities, certain natural strengths… and I also had come to realize that in wielding those gifts for Him, with a little education and with a little experience, I could get by with my responsibilities without really seeking God—without really spending the time in prayer necessary to present His word with anointing, or shepherd His people with compassion.
That day, a new revelation arrested my spirit. I had been operating on talent…on natural ability…
I’m ashamed now to admit I was in a season of life where I was merely ‘getting by,’ doing good things, making good noise, but not realizing the promises of God in each situation. I realize now the worthlessness of all I had been doing: messages and prayers, speaking engagements and ministry opportunities that had all the right words, but none of the power from having heard directly from God. … And sitting alone at my desk, I also realized how far that would take me.
It would get me a few speaking engagements. It would offer me a few ministry opportunities. It would offer a modicum of job-security.
But it would not bring me to the place God had promised.
My talent would only take me as far as MY TALENT could take me.
Moses had a similar epiphany. When he realized that same truth in Numbers 11, he turned to God in desperation, suicidal desperation. Can you imagine the burden of leading more than 600,000 people across the desert on foot? He was coming apart at the seams! He had heard the complaints of the rebellious, ungrateful rabble-rousers until he could go no further.
Do you remember God’s provision for Moses’ dilemma?
God did not remove Moses from the adverse circumstances; he was in the middle of God’s will, as a matter of fact. God’s provision for Moses was the Holy Spirit; when Moses reached the impasse of his own ability, God sent the Holy Spirit to accomplish what Moses could not do by his own strength.
God HAD called Moses to lead those people.
God DID instruct Moses to shepherd those people.
God WAS sending them through difficult circumstances to an inheritance.
And here’s a critical insight: God did send Moses into a situation from which he could not deliver himself. Moses needed to realize, yet again, that he could not accomplish all that God had called him to do by himself. He needed to acknowledge that even though he had been called and anointed for the leadership task, God had designed His work to be accomplished through a community, a team, and not an individual.
So how do we make application of Moses’ epiphany in our own journey? Let’s start with one truth and two applications.
TRUTH: Your talent will only take you as far as your talent will take you.
- Your TALENT is not enough to accomplish the purposes of God in your life, family, and ministry. Until you reach that desperate point when you realize your absolute need of the Spirit to accomplish anything of eternal value, you’ll continue trucking along under your own steam… and only going where your STEAM can take you.
- YOUR talent is not enough to accomplish the purposes of God in your life, family and ministry. Just like Moses, as leaders and shepherds, we need Spirit-empowered men and women surrounding us, helping us to shoulder the burden of leading His people to their promise. As long as we continue trying to hold onto positions and keep people under us, we cannot realize the greater promise that awaits us. As long as we continue operating under the false assumption that we can fulfill the purpose and plan of God apart from a network or community, we will only know success to the point that our skills and abilities can propel us. Until you reach that desperate point when you realize you don’t have the wisdom, skills, and stamina to accomplish God’s plan for your life, family, and ministry, you’ll continue trucking along under your own steam… and only going where YOUR steam can take you.
I don’t want to exist in a place where I’m satisfied with the results of my own talent. God’s designs for my life are infinitely bigger than my abilities! I want to walk in the power of His Spirit to accomplish His purposes for my life, and I don’t want to do it alone. I want to know the power that comes with unity in the Spirit, the one-mind-and-one-accord kind of Spirit- led community that turned the world upside down. As best I can understand, that’s the difference between Talent and Team.
Rev. Stephen Jones currently serves as the Pastor of Student Ministries at Whitnel Pentecostal Holiness Church in Lenoir, NC and the IPHC Student Ministries Advisory Team Leader. In 2002, Stephen earned a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Christian Ministries from Emmanuel College in Franklin Springs, GA. In 2008, he completed a Master’s of Divinity degree from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC.