As I've written before, the Parable of the Talents (Matt 25:14-30) is one of the most challenging parables/teachings in Scripture to me. It is clear from this parable that the Lord will hold us accountable for what we do in life with what he gave us. He gives each of us resources and abilities to further his Kingdom, and there will be a reckoning.
Given this reckoning, I want to make sure that my remaining days in this life are devoted to Kingdom work. I am about to turn 38 years old in just a few weeks, and while this would not quite be considered middle-age by most standards, I am feeling more middle-aged than I ever have. Most people probably follow this natural tendency toward becoming more reflective as they age, and I am no exception.
Regardless of how much the Lord gives us (5, 2, or 1 Talents), we are expected to invest what we have. After almost 38 years I have come to realize and accept the abilities and gifts that the Lord has given me. I am not handy - my wife will attest to that. While I enjoy playing my guitar, I am no skilled musician. Stick figures are my idea of great art. While I greatly respect entrepreneurs and those that can successfully run a business, I don't think naturally in those terms. I run for (a perverse) pleasure and to get basic exercise, but I don't have any great athletic skill.
What I am is a scholar. I love to read, to learn, and to study. And I love to teach given the proper audience (as a high school science teacher, the "proper" audience involves those who are interested in the material - a situation relatively rare with the average American teenager). I teach in my local church when given the opportunity and have consistently received positive feedback from both adults and students.
This is how God made me, it is what I am passionate about, and how God will hold me accountable. I will not be condemned for not being able to do a slam dunk or paint the next Mona Lisa. But I will be held accountable for not being me. I am a learner and a teacher, and these are my passion. I will be judged accordingly.
Knowledge of myself causes me to act differently. I recently (in the last year) was accepted into Biola University's Master of Arts in Science and Religion (MASR) program, and I started taking classes last fall. The reason I did this was to increase my skill as a scholar and teacher. I can't teach what I don't know, and so if I want to invest my "talents" for God's Kingdom, I need to develop those talents. My long-term goal is a PhD in philosophy, probably specifically in the History and Philosophy of Science. Not because I covet being a "doctor," but because as a PhD I can have a wider impact for the Kingdom. As William Lane Craig often writes, the university drives our culture. All future politicians, business leaders, and even community organizers will pass through the university. This is a major mission field in our culture.
Self-awareness also causes me to pray differently. This last year, after beginning taking classes at Biola, at the same time I went from two jobs at my school (I used to run an evening classroom) down to just my daytime physics position. I did this to honor my family above the extra income I was making. But it also means my financial resources available for taking classes with Biola has greatly diminished. So I am praying to the Lord asking him to give me the resources that I need not only to take care of my family but also to continue developing my abilities for the Kingdom. Because I know myself and how God made me, I am simply asking him to give me what I need to be more effective at how he made me. If I were a farmer, I would pray for the Lord to bless my crops and farming abilities. I am a scholar, so I am asking him to bless my learning and to expand my opportunities for teaching what I have learned so far.
This is a matter of trust for me and simply placing it before the Lord. The PhD especially would have to be a work of the Lord because I am the sole provider for my family. Not only would I have to be accepted into a program but I will also need funding from the school. If the Lord does not provide an open door for ministry in this area, then I will seek out other ways in which I can have an impact for the Kingdom.
So, what about you, dear reader? How has God made you? Have you spent a season thinking about this and asking the Lord for wisdom to discern your abilities? Have you taken steps to develop those abilities? Are you investing your skills in kingdom work? Have you prayed, asking the Lord to give you what you need to develop yourself and for the wisdom to use your gifts? No matter your age, it is not too late (or too early) to begin thinking about how to have the most impact and how to be the most effective for the Kingdom.
If every follower of Christ in our culture made a decisive effort to engage themselves and their abilities into kingdom work, this world would be better, almost overnight.