Spirit of Grace Ministries
Spirit of Grace Ministries
-- Feeding Jesus' sheep
-- Equipping His servants
-- Proclaiming His Gospel

Natural and Unnatural

Mule and Racehorse

by Dennis Pollock

Way back in 1932, the track and field star, Babe Didrikson, was in Los Angeles competing in the Olympics in the javelin, hurdles, and high jump events. On one of her days off, she met a sportswriter named Grantland Rice who convinced her to go out to the golf course and play a round of golf with him and two of his buddies. Babe, never one to back down from a challenge, agreed to join him. Never having played the game, she only had time to take a quick two-minute golf lesson before teeing off. Her first drive went nearly 250 yards, easily outdistancingĀ  the men who were with her. Although she barely knew the rules of the game, she ended up finishing the round with a score of 91.

Didrikson_babeIf you don't know anything about golf, that may not impress you, but believe me, as a golf hacker who in my youth worked like crazy to try and rise above the level of mediocrity (and failed miserably), a score of 91 on a major golf course is a real accomplishment for many golfers regardless of how long they have played. For someone to achieve that level their first time on the golf course is absolutely incredible, nearly unbelievable. But Babe Didrikson was no ordinary athlete. She has been compared to Jim Thorpe, and is considered the greatest female athlete of the twentieth century. She could throw a baseball from centerfield to home plate without a bounce, she could type 86 words a minute, and was outstanding at baseball, billiards, basketball, volleyball, swimming, diving, boxing, bowling, skating, and any other sport she set her hand to. After her first round of golf, she took up the game seriously and became the greatest female golfer of all time, at one point winning 13 tournaments consecutively.

Hard-Wired from Birth

It is one of life's great mysteries that some skills and abilities seem to come to us very naturally, even with little training or previous exposure, while others are so minimal that no amount of practice or instruction seem to make much difference. There are some singers, for example, that without any vocal training whatsoever, can out-sing and outshine other wannabe singers who have taken voice lessons and studied music for years. There are entrepreneurs who have made a fortune in business without reading a single book about business principles, while others who read book after book on the subject don't attain nearly as much success. As much as we hate to admit it, we all come into this world hard-wired with certain instincts and abilities in some areas, and conspicuously void of certain aptitudes and skills in others.

Does God have something to do with all this? If you believe the Bible, the answer is an unqualified yes! In fact He has more than something to do with this; He has everything to do with this. Psalm 139 is the classic chapter which deals with the way God fashions us as we are growing inside our mothers. The psalmist writes:

I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them. (Psalm 139:14-16)

The Bible informs us that we are not an accident, a chance combination of sperm and egg, a random mingling of DNA, genes, and attributes. We are an amazing design of our magnificent Creator, formed and shaped for His glory and uniquely gifted that we might be a blessing to our fellow human beings. The Scriptures further reveal that this potential within each of us can only begin to be fulfilled when we have been regenerated and transformed through Jesus Christ. You certainly don't have to be a Christian to have talent, but you do have to have a relationship with Jesus in order for your talent to be of any eternal use in the hands of God. Jesus tells us, "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing." (John 15:5)

Saved to Serve

Once we are safely in Christ, we come to realize that our talents and abilities have not been given to us merely to increase our self-esteem, or for our own pleasure. They are given us that we may glorify Jesus, and bear the "much fruit" He has promised to all His abiders. From our earliest days as believers, we must begin to separate the wheat from the chaff, and learn precisely how God intends us to bring honor to His name and blessings to others. Often it is a process of elimination. Desire alone does not always perfectly correspond to the will of God for our lives. Nor can we determine the purpose and plan of God for ourselves based upon someone we know and admire, in an attempt to be exactly like them.

The Bible compares believers to a body, and calls us the body of Christ. Paul writes:

The body is not one member but many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.

Paul is making a couple of points as he addresses believers here. First he is saying that we are all different, and secondly that we should not envy those who seem to have superior gifts. Just as a body needs ears as well as eyes, and feet as well as fingers, so the church of Jesus needs all its members, all its parts. Thirdly, Paul declares that God has supervised this division of talents and abilities, distributing to various members gifts, and the lack thereof, "as He pleased." We had no say in the matter initially, nor will it make much difference if we pray and fast for weeks on end, if we are trying to move the Almighty to give us a gift which He has no interest in bestowing upon us.

As we ponder and wrestle with discovering the exact nature of Christ's calling and gifts in our lives, we will find that certain talents and abilities flow much more freely and naturally than others. In many cases there is a genetic component to this. We can no more change this than we can turn a mule into a thoroughbred race horse by repeatedly showing him videos of Kentucky Derby races, and hiring the world's finest horse trainer to work with him. Despite all the videos and the training, a mule he will always be. He has his purposes, but running flat out on a track with the thoroughbreds is not one of them.

The "Prince of Preachers"

Charles SpurgeonCharles Spurgeon is considered to be one of the finest preachers in the history of the Christian church. He had no formal training; he never graduated from any college or attended any seminary. And yet he was preaching regularly by the age of seventeen, and was called to preach in London's largest Baptist church at the age of nineteen. His preaching was electric. His sermons were filled with Scripture, saturated with Jesus Christ, and deeply touching. People in his congregations found themselves laughing one moment and in tears the next. No church building was able to hold the massive crowds that came to hear him, and even when a church was built to seat 6,000, people were required to pick up tickets during the week in order to be assured of a seat in church on Sunday.

Like Babe Didrikson, Charles Spurgeon was a natural. He did instinctively what others have to spend years learning to do, and he did it far better. Of course, Spurgeon had some help. He was clearly anointed with the Holy Spirit, as every minister should be. But he was also highly gifted as a speaker, something not necessarily true of every pastor. It was not as though Spurgeon never studied nor grew in his gift. He read constantly, and prepared thoroughly for his sermons. He took his preaching so seriously that nerves sometimes made him physically sick before preaching. But once he stood behind the pulpit to speak and the words started to flow, all the fear and nervousness would leave, and his amazing gift would be powerfully evident. The Holy Spirit would stir hearts, and countless men and women would be moved to receive Jesus.

One might be tempted to ask, "Why doesn't the Lord make more Spurgeons? Or why not make every preacher as gifted as Spurgeon was?" There is no answer to that. You'll have to ask the Lord about it when you get to heaven. But the Bible does give us some wisdom when we get discouraged about the fact that our particular gifts don't seem to shine quite as brightly as someone else's, or when we wish we had been given an entirely different skill set. Paul writes: "Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, 'Why have you made me like this?' " (Romans 9:20). It is not our job to question our gifts or lack of gifts, but rather to discover which gifts we have been given, little or much, and then get about the business of using them in cooperation with the Holy Spirit to glorify God and bless others.

Grace for All

Everyone will be a natural in one thing or another. Every Christian will find blessings and a measure of grace in some area of service. The Bible says, "To each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift" (Ephesians 4:7). We will not all be as exceptional as Spurgeon but in our own unique sphere and calling we will be effective. We dare not go through life bemoaning the fact that our gifts don't turn us into celebrities, or make us wealthy. In Jesus' parable of the talents, a wealthy man was going out of town and entrusted money to his servants to invest. Jesus tells us "And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own abilityā€¦" (Matthew 25:15). The master of these servants knew that they were not all able to handle the same amounts of money. They were unique with differing abilities and differing temperaments. To use a "one size fits all" approach in handing out the talents would prove disastrous. So it is with our Heavenly Master. God knows what is best for us. And He is entirely fair. He does not condemn us for bringing Him smaller returns on smaller investments. He simply asks us to be faithful with whatever He has invested in our lives, little or much. Widows with their two mites sometimes get commended more than rich folks giving much larger amounts.

We are All Unnatural

The one area which is entirely unnatural for all of us is righteousness. When it comes to living a life of love and holiness, in the matter of forgiving our enemies, turning the other cheek when we are wronged, meekly bearing with insults and criticisms, and reaching out to the hurting and the weak, we all fall miserably short of God's standards and expectations. Apart from Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit's influence, we find these things so unnatural as to be ridiculously beyond our reach. In the area of righteousness, we are the plodding mule trying to run with the race horses. This is why God has sent His Son Jesus Christ into the world. Jesus is God in human flesh, and godliness is totally natural to Him. He has died on a cross and risen from the dead that we might be transformed and forgiven, given the Holy Spirit so that we, too might find the love of God a natural part of our lives. The Scriptures tell us, "Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us" (Romans 5:5). We may not be able to play golf like Babe Didrikson or preach like Charles Spurgeon, but we can love like Jesus loves, through the power and ability of the Holy Spirit.


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