WHAT I DO WITH THE TALENTS GOD GAVE ME - Sandeep Poonen
Some time ago, I got an email from someone who asked me why I was not in fulltime ministry like my Dad was and how I could possibly put the Lord and His kingdom first in my life, when I was a software engineer. Here is the substance of my reply to him:
Thanks for your e-mail. I appreciate your honesty & earnestness to be authentic where you are.
At the outset, let me say that we are grappling with an immense issue here - the complete surrender of all our selfish ambitions and goals to God. I do not know of anybody who would claim to have achieved this totally. But I do know a number of people who are wrestling with it, and who are honestly seeking for total freedom in this area.
I myself struggle often with the questions you are raising, and I find myself wondering whether I am pursuing my career for more than a livelihood, whether I have slyly set up idols in my heart besides the Lord Jesus, and so on. So let me say at the outset that this is something that I struggle with very much.
Rather than telling you some fool-proof way to be free from all idols (because I don't know of any such way), let me simply share with you some thoughts that have helped me wrestle with this issue:
1. God Wants Us To Help Those Around Us
To be in fulltime Christian ministry is an honor reserved for those whom God specifically calls to it. ("No one takes this honor to himself, but receives it when he is called by God"-Heb.5:4). God has not honored me with such a call as yet. And that is why I have not quit my job and gone into full-time ministry. So God must be wanting me to be of help to others who are like me - who enjoy working in a profession (for me it's the Information Technology industry), who enjoy cricket, football, basketball, etc., who enjoy music and discussing current affairs, and who have regular jobs and families, etc.,
I enjoy being with such people, because I want to show them that there's a wonderful life in Christ that we can lead (amidst all these other interests), that can increase our usefulness and joy - because it would be a life of submission to our Creator. I want to show those around me that a life lived in submission to a loving heavenly Father, is a very wonderful life indeed.
2. God Gave Us Our Talents
I am convinced that it is God who has gifted me with the talents that I have - computer skills and the desire to be excellent in whatever I do, etc. This has enabled me to do well at work, to study hard, and also to prepare and preach meaningful sermons, etc.
It was God - and not the devil - Who gave me my skills and talents. So I do not despise these talents (even if they are earthly), but try to use them and enjoy them.
3. To Excel At Work Is A Godly Virtu
Since I am working in this environment, I believe that it's best that I do well at my work - and that I am not only nice and kind and honest, but also hard-working and diligent and creating an atmosphere of excellence for those around me.
I believe that we were created to work hard on this earth ("to earn our bread by perspiring" Gen 3:19). As Christians, God doesn't give us an easy way out of this, where we can just sit around doing nothing. No. We have to work hard just like the others around us. But we are also to find fulfillment and satisfaction in our work - as we put our "work" in its proper place.
4. No Two People Will Be Judged The Same
God has given us different abilities. Some are able to achieve more, because of the special gifts that God has given them. Others have been gifted differently.
I personally believe that God has given me a whole lot of gifts. Here are some of the things that I see that God has given me (I am not proud of these. I am just looking at the facts as they are):
"I have a wonderful wife who is the perfect helpmeet for a person like me with my peculiarities - and who supports me in all that I do.
"I have wonderful parents who raised me in the love and fear of God, and who are shining witnesses of the sacrificial love of God.
"I have three wonderful brothers and three wonderful sisters-in-law who constantly affirm me, bless me, and tell me how valuable I am to them.
"I have been blessed with the ability to understand the I.T. industry and to understand software for the business world.
"I have been blessed with the ability to communicate clearly with people, and to have a personality that is even-keeled and calm.
I could go on, but these are just some of the wonderful gifts that God Himself chose to give me. So I cannot glory in any of them. Rather than regard myself as great because of these gifts, I see all these as a responsibility that I have been entrusted with and that I must use faithfully for the Lord. I am convinced that much is required from those to whom much is given. I have been given a whole lot. So I know that God will expect much from me - and will hold me to a very high standard.
I do not know what you have been given. But I'm sure that God has given you some unique gifts and skills. And God will only ask you how you used them.
Let me end with this final thought: I do not look at the Christian life as a test - where we are given marks, like "I got 70, he got 73, and she got 87", etc., No. I see my Christian life as a journey - and not an examination.
There's a journey called life that I walk every day. And every day, the only question that is asked of me is whether I want to walk with Jesus. Do I want His company, as I sit at my computer, and at the company-meetings that I attend, and in the conversations and ambitions that I have. And I know that Jesus is my Friend, and not some strict teacher giving me marks.
So I try to walk with Him. And I tell Him about the people who annoy me at work. I tell Him about my craving to be successful and rich. I tell Him about how I am struggling to overcome greed. And I tell Him about others around me who appear to be nice people but who don't know Him. And so on. I try to tell Him everything, because He is my Friend, and not a teacher or a judge!
And like any good friend, Jesus listens to me, holds my hand and deigns to walk with me.
But these are the choices that I have to make:
Walk with Jesus through everything.
Walk with Him - and listen to Him.
Walk with Him - and enjoy the gifts and skills that He gave me.
Walk with Him - and enjoy the earth He created - the foods, the nature, the views, etc.,
And as I walk with Him, He shows me the idols I am still clinging to, the unhealthy habits that I am holding on to, etc., etc., And the best part of it all is that He never despises me or condemns me when He does this.
He will be with you too, as you slowly yield everything to Him and walk closely with Him. So just walk with Him.
I hope this helps.
Your fellow-pilgrim in this walk,
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