ARE YOU NORMAL

Bible Book: Selected Passages 
Subject: Talents; Gifts, Spiritual; Commitment; Service; Laziness; Indifference
Introduction

Imagine that you are buying a very special gift for someone you love. You put a lot of thought into this gift because you want it to be "perfect." You spend hours shopping. You pay more than you planned, but it's worth it. You put your heart and soul into this gift. You are looking forward to seeing the joy and appreciation on your loved one's face when you unveil "The Gift."

But then, imagine that when you present this special gift to your loved one, they shrug and say, "What's this?" They lay it aside and never use it.

That would really hurt, wouldn't it?

Well, that's how God must feel when we ignore or neglect or take for granted the wonderful gifts He has given us. Of all the tragedies in life, the greatest is for a person to live and die and never realize the possibilities hidden within. The Scripture tells us that we have something the world needs and we are responsible for using it. Peter said, "Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms" (I Peter 4:10).

There are many forms of service. We are all different. The rain that falls on the beans is the same rain that falls on the cabbage. Yet, each becomes a totally different vegetable. The sun that shines on the roses is the same sun that shines on the tulips. Yet, each grows into a totally different flower. That's because within each plant there is a God given seed which forms it into a unique identity.

In a similar way, God's Spirit pours on each of us and God's grace shines on each of us. Yet, we, like the plants, must appropriate these gifts individually in order to realize our own unique identity. God has placed within each of us the special characteristics that call us toward our particular mission in life.

The two greatest questions are: "Who am I?" And "What am I here for?" Our purpose, our roles, our profession and our avocations are crucial to our success and happiness.

Sometimes we may feel like a failure if we don't measure up to what others do. We may even neglect to follow our own plan, assuming that to be faithful we have to be like someone else. But God has made each of us for a special purpose. We must find our own individual way to live and serve.

Let's use the Vowels: A, E, I, O and U as an acrostic to help us do that.

I. "A" is for Abilities.

First, we must discover our particular temperament, our talents, our strengths and our skills. In short, find out what you are good at! Paul said, "We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully" (Rom. 12:6-8).

Later, he said, "Each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that" (I Cor. 7:7).

And finally, he warned, "Do not neglect your gift . . ." (1 Tim. 4:14a).

We must discover our abilities!

II. "E" is for Experiences.

We must analyze our background, our educational preparation, our past accomplishments and our familiar activities. In short, think about what you have already done. Moses said, "Be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live . . ." (Deut. 4:9).

David drew confidence for future challenges by recalling his past achievements. He said to Saul, "Your servant has been keeping his father's sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; (Goliath) will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God" (1 Sam. 17:34-36).

Paul assessed his track record, saying, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith" (2 Tim. 4:7).

We must analyze our experiences!

III. "I" IS FOR INTEREST.

We must examine our concerns, our desires, our passions and our enthusiasms. In short, acknowledge what you like to do. Paul said, "Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts" (1 Cor. 14:1);

He also said, "Eagerly desire the greater gifts" (1 Cor. 12:31);

Then, he said, "Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things" (Colossians 3:2).

We must examine our interests!

IV. "O" IS FOR OPPORTUNITIES.

We must consider the circumstances, our resources, the time and place, and the specific conditions. In short, be realistic about possibilities. Solomon said, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven" (Ecc. 3:1).

Paul said, "As we have opportunity, let us do good to all people . . ." (Gal. 6:10).

Jesus said, "The right time for me has not yet come; for you any time is right" (John 7:6).

We must consider our opportunities!

V. "U"  IS FOR URGENCY.

We must always recognize and respond to emergencies, needs, difficulties and problems. In short, be practical about priorities. Solomon said, "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might . . ." (Ecc. 9:10).

Paul advised us to adapt to various situations, saying, "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn" (Rom. 12:15).

He said, "I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might (accomplish my mission) " (1 Cor. 9:22).

We must do whatever is necessary to respond to urgent crises!

Conclusion

One Christian psychologist works as a consultant for several large corporations. He says his approach is to concentrate on each person's strengths and ignore their weaknesses. He studies people carefully to make sure that they are temperamentally suited for the task they are assigned. Then he encourages them to discover and use their own particular abilities in the fulfillment of that task.

The solutions to all our problems are here within the universe. But God's greatest treasures are not beneath the sea, within the earth or in the distant heavens. God's greatest treasures are within you and me.

Our human intelligence, understanding and creativity are gifts of incredible value. What is your gift? Maybe it's music or speaking or art; but more than likely it's an ordinary gift, like cooking or mechanics or gardening or even the most overlooked ones of all, such as kindness or friendship or hospitality.

When you see things that need to be done in your family; in your church and in your community, don't say like Moses, "O Lord, please send someone else to do it" (Exo. 4:13).

Instead, discover your Abilities, Experiences, Interests, Opportunities and Urgencies, and say with Isaiah, "Here am I. Send me!" (Isa. 6:8).

It's actually a sin to do nothing. James said it so well: "Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it sins" (James 4:17).

The poet Marguerite Wilkinson put it this way:

“I never cut my neighbor's throat;

My neighbor's gold I never stole;

I never spoiled his house and land,

But God, Have mercy on my soul!

For I am haunted night and day

By all the deeds I have not done;

O un-attempted loveliness!

O costly valor never won!”

Another writer said, "Mr. Franks was a plain person. Levi's and a plaid shirt were his usual attire. In church business meetings he seldom had much to say. He was a quiet little man with no obvious talents; but Mr. Frank's unassuming ways disappeared when one of his many skills was needed.

When it came to the cranky air-conditioning system that kept the sanctuary comfortable, he had no equal. He was an artist with pipe wrenches and screwdrivers. He knew exactly which valves needed replacing. When machinery broke down, Mr. Franks always knew what to do and how to do it.

If there had ever been a popularity contest between a local celebrity and Mr. Franks, there is no doubt who would win."

You see, it's those ordinary people who use their God given gifts in productive ways that sustain the Kingdom.