Passivity or Purpose?

Are you using your talents or letting them stagnate? Jackie Hendry encourages us to take action now!

Sometimes we wonder where the years have gone.  Perhaps we regret that we didn’t make the most of the time given to us.  Such wisdom may only come when we have turned a corner, like having one of those ‘special birthday’ dates or if we have encountered a crisis such as a diagnosis of illness.  Such events force us to take stock of our lives and we may ask is there anything that can be done to put things right?  We feel we could have done more or helped more people, perhaps, if only we had been able to see as clearly as we do, now that we are older or in a difficult circumstance.
But God doesn’t call us to brood on the past with regret.  Rather, he wants us to have a sense of purpose and hope.  The past may not have been ideal, we may not have used our gifts and abilities to the utmost, but now is the time to do it. 

Some of us sit around waiting for that great big opportunity to fall into our laps so that we can do big things for God.  But that may be a state of passivity.  The parable of the talents is a case in point (Matthew 25:14-30).  The man who hid his one talent was passive; he just let his gift stagnate.  His excuse was fear of the master.  But the master called him lazy and worthless. 

Is our passivity a form of laziness?  Has our get up and go, got up and gone?  My pastor recently said in a sermon: “It’s time some of you got off your big, fat, blessed assurance and did something!”

Time is a very precious commodity and, as a sales pitch says, “once it’s gone, it’s gone”.  If we saw time as money, how would we spend it? Would we spend less or more time in front of the TV, less or more time naval gazing, less or more time thinking of our puny problems?  Sometimes it is frightening to think of what we would say when asked to give an account of our use of time.  We tend to live as if there is a bottomless money-pit of time on earth.

It is said that procrastination is the thief of time.  How many of us put off till tomorrow what we can do today?  We put off offering the old lady next door a lift, we put off volunteering to help with Sunday school, we put off writing the letter that may cheer up a lonely friend who lives far away, that phone call that could brighten up someone’s  day. 

It doesn’t have to be a big thing.  But they soon become big things in our conscience as the guilt builds up and we realise that the good we should have done we didn’t do (James 4:17).  We put off the garden, the laundry, the car, playing with our kids. . . We feel too tired, we have too much on our minds; we just consider our personal needs to be too great. 

Exercising our talent does involve a certain degree of self-discipline.  For example, if you have creative gifts such as music, writing or art, it takes a certain self-discipline to get something produced.  And that makes the difference in whether you put your talent to work or bury it. How many excuses have we made today to put off writing that song that’s going round in our head, the poem giving glory to God, the painting representing God’s wonderful creation? 

What about those who are academically gifted?  Are any of us sitting on qualifications and experience that God gave us in the past but which are not being put to use or updated?  Whatever it may be, discover your talent, creative or academic or even practical, and then do something with it. 

Do not wait until you think the gift is perfect enough to win you credibility or even credit.  If you are waiting for perfection, your skill will never be honed and developed.  Take newly graduated medical students, for example, they enter hospital work and are expected to have all the answers, they are in at the deep end. But, as they come up against each new problem, they learn something that will equip them further, they make new discoveries until they are competent.

Our skills and talents are like anything in life.  If they aren’t used they decay and die.  A bicycle left outside unused will rust and become unusable. 

Our brains actually thrive on stimulation.  The learning part of our brain, the hippocampus, forms new cells, and this is kept going by active, positive stimulation.  This is why the elderly are encouraged to find mental and physical exercise.  Lack of mental stimulation can lead to depression. 

Also, if we do not take exercise our bodies fail away, joints become rusty and weak, and muscles sag and become useless.  The more walking we do, the stronger our joints are, literally!  The same is true for skills; unless they are used they are not honed and they never reach their potential.

God made this world and the universe in which it resides.  God made us in his image; let’s get those creative juices flowing!

Perhaps some of us feel as if we are just victims in life?  Nothing ever seems to go right for us.  Do we just sit by, letting circumstances determine who we will be and what we will do?

We can also mistake our laziness or passivity for religious piety by saying that we are waiting on the Lord to guide us.  The Lord wants us to lean on him completely, for without him we can do nothing, but we also need to step out in faith!  God will guide as we step out in trust and faith, holding on to his promise that he will guide us in the right way (Proverbs 3:5, 6).  It is said that you cannot steer a ship that is not moving, and God may be waiting for us to hoist the sails and get our ship moving before he can steer us in the right direction.  As an editor of a magazine said as she looked at me, wondering whether to employ me or not, “nothing ventured nothing gained!”  I hope she gained; I did by getting the job!

Set goals and set a timetable for action.  Have you dreamed of doing a particular job, but never felt able?  Perhaps God wants you to get over that mental barrier that says you cannot do it, you’re too old or not brainy enough or whatever reason the enemy may be using to stop you from reaching the potential for which God created you for his glory. 

Those who used their talents in the parable brought much joy to the heart of the master.  When we choose to believe that the Lord will help us to fulfill his purposes for us, I believe it brings him much joy. 

Some 20 years ago, when I was a Christian university student, I was given an article entitled Young men, dream your dreams from the verse in Joel 2.  It so inspired me that we gave a copy to all the Christian Union.  At the time it was an encouragement to have vision, to serve the Lord and to be motivated. 

We need motivation, we need a sense of purpose and we need to know that even the little things count.  This is particularly important for mums who are at home looking after small children, cooking, cleaning, and feeling almost imprisoned, wondering if there is something less mundane they could do? 

When I was a mum with a toddler, it seemed that I had so much to do that I didn’t have time to play often with my young son.  Now I wish I had taken more time to play.  Now I wonder why I didn’t.  Yes, things have to be done, but those baby years are precious. 

Everything counts and there will come a time when you may be more free to do other things; so do not despise the day of small things, as it says in Zechariah 4:10. Your experience as a mum, learning the lessons of life at home and providing a secure environment for your children are invaluable.

So why am I writing all this?  This article is a product of seeking purpose, trying to put a talent to work and no longer burying it.  Having turned 40 and had cancer, I think I had better do it. How about you?