Gayla M. Baughman
A warm sensation of nostalgia settled in the room. A young college student sat across from me and expressed her intense desire to be used of God. The memories of my own youthful searching reverberated with her words, “I don’t know what to do with my life. I don’t know what my gifts are, so I don’t really know where to start in ministry.” I smiled as though some inspiration balanced on the edge of our conversation, but in reality, I pondered her words wondering what to say.
How about you? Which side of the desk are you sitting on? Are you saying with a sigh, “Those were the days”? Do you have memories of lazy days that distanced you from dreams and ambitions like an eternal stretch of tomorrows reaching for the horizon of the future? How long has it been since you hoped there was something God could use in you? How many years have passed? Do you feel like an old worn out shoe that has been cast in the closet corner, not sure of how much usage is left? Or are you sitting on the opposite side with a future of opportunity stretched out before you and no clue where to start?
As the young lady in my office and I continued to discuss her dilemma, the Lord stepped in and gave us an idea. As we began working through her gifts and talents, I became the student. We worked through every positive trait imaginable to categorize her gifts and talents. As time passed, I began to realize something very important about availability in the Kingdom of God. The revelation came like a street light in the distant fog, and it gradually brightened as we progressed until it was a brilliant glow of luminosity. God can take just about anything we have to offer and use it for ministry! We don’t have to be accomplished in every area God wants to use us. On the contrary, sometimes God surprises us with a challenge to dig in to a new task, one we have never done before, just to see how willing we are to do “whatever” for God. Or perhaps God wants us to learn some new skills to broaden our horizons and give us a diversified base to work from, making us more versatile and adaptable.
I have heard it said, “God is not looking for ability. He is looking for availability.” Some people who are not born leaders find themselves leading contrary to their lack of self-confidence in their ability to lead. Do you know someone who seems to attract leadership jobs? Are you one of those people? Do you have a “may I help you” look? Maybe you are an “I’ll follow through” or “you can depend on me” person. To some, jobs always seem to fall in their laps whether qualified or not, not necessarily lucrative ones, but important, challenging, and regarding ones just the same. Whatever it is, you find yourself serving on committees, heading up programs, and leading meetings with no clue how you got there. Perhaps there is something to this “availability” thing.
Being available is a key ingredient to opportunities in ministry.
Others have a passion to work for God but the opportunities seem to detour right around them to someone else. It seems there is always someone else who is more talented, or more spiritual. It may be noted that if God had wanted an orator to speak his word, Moses would have never stood before Pharaoh and led the Children of Israel out of Egypt. If looking for God waited for someone with more experience, a young handmaiden named Mary would never have been overshadowed by the Holy Ghost and given birth to the Messiah. If God were looking for someone with more courage, Peter never would have had the chance to proclaim Christ on the Day of Pentecost after an embarrassing denial at the trial. God is not looking for people who fit the mold; He is looking for people … to mold.
Are you willing to step out of the security of inferiority and allow God to use you in any capacity? Wow! If you can do that … you may be the next leader, or the next voice He uses. It doesn’t really matter if you have great gifts or not; He is looking for the gift of yourself … unreservedly given to use in His kingdom. This sounds a lot like “availability” again, doesn’t it? It could be that the first step in being used in ministry is availability.
Gifts vs. Talents
Let’s get back to the young lady sitting patiently in my office. She was ready to be used of God. She felt that the process of “availability” was finished; now she wanted to go on to the next level. Next, we focused on her talents and gifts. We worked through her desire to help people. We separated gifts from talents and decided that some talents are not gifts.
This is the way we described a talent. A talent is an ability or opportunity God gives you. You have the choice to use it, to help it grow as a skill, or to let it lie dormant and just sort of fade away. An area of interest may be a seed of talent. Although you may not be good at this talent, you enjoy it enough to spend time perfecting and growing in that area.
A gift is different than a talent. A gift is something that is extra-ordinary. It is something that comes naturally without any effort. Gifts cost very little or nothing. Gifts are freely given by someone else. A talent, on the other hand, is something you work for and nurture to see it grow. A gift grows naturally. God gives us gifts that are just waiting to be used.
The “gifted” children in school are those who seem to enjoy studying. These children thrive in the environment of learning. Thus, they learn easier, faster and with less effort than the general population of students. I know a woman who is gifted musically. She has perfect pitch, plays the organ for relaxation and doesn’t feel intimidated by others or exhausted after performing either for enjoyment or church. She is gifted. An extraordinary ability of her gift is “perfect pitch.” She can hear a note in her head and touch the organ or keyboard on that exact note. She can hum a note to help an a cappella choir find the key much like someone else might use a tuning fork to perform without accompaniment. Her gift is obvious because of this extraordinary skill, but not all gifts are so obvious.
There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all (1 Corinthians 12: 4-7 NKJ).
Identifying your Gifts
If you are unsure where your gifts are, there are some helpful tools to direct you. Personality tests are available to help you identify your strengths and weaknesses. When you realize your strengths, it is easier to understand why you enjoy some things and avoid others. A weakness can be overcome after a time, but for starters your strengths are the obvious targets in locating your gifts.
Then, of course, there are spiritual gifts that God has given to each of us. In the book Women Mentoring Women, Vickie Kraft describes a spiritual gift as “a supernatural capacity freely and graciously given by the sovereign God at the time of a person’s salvation, enabling that person to minister to others for the purpose of accomplishing God’s work.”
There are many gifts in the Word of God. The opportunities to be used in His kingdom are endless! Although this is not a comprehensive list, some of the characteristics of gifts listed in the Bible are as follows.
1 Corinthians 12
Discerning of Spirits
I Timothy 2:1
Vickie Kraft characterizes the process of finding your spiritual gift this way:
1. Start with prayer, individually and with others. Ask God to reveal your gift.
2. Study what the Bible has to say about spiritual gifts.
3. Ask God’s people what they observe about your abilities and effectiveness.
4. Examine your strongest desires or interests.
5. Look for an opportunity to serve in that capacity.
6. Allow God to confirm by experience and the feedback of others.
7. Notice the area in which you experience joy and ease in exercising your gift with results beyond expectations.
Finding your Talent
What do you enjoy doing? Painting, playing, or praying? How about singing, swinging and sewing? Check off the words that you think you may be interested in:
* Arts & Crafts
* Baby sitting
* Computer graphics
* Elderly care
* Playing an instrument
* Public Relations
* Sound & Equipment
* Support groups
* Graphics & Design
Use your individualized list to help focus on a ministry. For example: if you enjoy exercise, you may want to start an exercise and weight loss program and host it in your church. Not only will you be able to create an atmosphere of fellowship for the women in the congregation, but you can also use this as an outreach to invite others as well. The key is to think “ministry” when you focus on your talents.
If you feel you need a little more instruction in an area of interest, enroll in your local community college or consider adult night classes. The opportunities are endless. You can get involved!
Do you feel inadequate if you are not multiple-gifted? God specialized in using ordinary people like Moses, David, Mary, and Peter for extraordinary missions. He finds some sort of satisfaction in making the simple supreme and the ordinary ornate. What you may think is an old ordinary talent may be a gift wrapped in a plain, brown paper bag. But once that plain wrapping is untied and the contents exposed; what an exquisite product! God has refined your gifts just for the giving! You, a priceless instrument, unwrapped and ready for debut! He chooses to use the gifts he gave you in the beginning to bring about a special purpose in your life. He chooses to allow you to perfect the gift, and in His time He exposes the priceless jewel.
When I am shopping for a birthday present for one of my children, I look for one that fits my special recipient perfectly. The most fulfilling experience is to watch one of them tear into my gift excitedly and exclaim, “This is just what I wanted!” or “I love it! I will use it.” They are
never timid about claiming my gift for their own. They know if it is wrapped and presented to them, it is theirs immediately. Open your heart to the spiritual gifts that are available to you. God is extending these priceless presents with a big bow attached to the top. All you have to do is accept the gift He is giving you. It doesn’t matter that it may take you a little time to open it or to find out which gift He has given you. This is all a part of His plan, but once you have opened it enough to reveal the gift, thank him for it and start using it. I am sure you will be pleasing the Father who gave the gift to you.
Gayla M. Baughman, B.A.
After earning certification in Secretarial Occupations from Idaho State University, Gayla Baughman continued her education at Conquerors Bible College for two years. She then joined her family in evangelistic ministry, the Bible Singing Bibb Family, until her marriage to Terry R. Baughman in 1979. She graduated from Christian Life College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Christian Music in 1999.
Gayla is currently a faculty member at Christian Life College where she serves as Academic Assistant, the instructor of several courses, and the faculty advisor of the Open Door Ministries women’s conference. She is also a member of the Women of the Word commission of the UPCI. Gayla is the author of a Pentecostal guide to social etiquette, Christian Social Graces, as well as other publications. The Baughmans are planting a church in nearby Pleasanton, California.
The article “Priceless Presents” written by Gayla M. Baughman was excerpted from Third Millenium Ministry: Volume One; Christian Life College Faculty Project; 2004.