ABILITY – It’s Only Half the Equation
By Violet Nesdoly
You’re sure you have the ability to be a great wife, but the right man just hasn’t come along. You dream of being a leader, but with no followers, those dreams are a mockery. You have entrepreneurial ideas and are sure you have the ability to be a business success, but nothing you’ve tried has ever caught on.
As Christians we want to realize the destiny for which God has placed us on earth. And so we ask, doesn’t it make sense that God would use the abilities He’s given us to accomplish this? Yet so often it seems God and circumstances conspire to keep those abilities under wraps.
What’s happening? Why has God given us desires, talents, and abilities if our efforts to use them always meet with failure, closed doors, and silence? Is ability alone not enough? What more could be needed?
Come with me as we look into the lives of some Bible characters who were also put on hold. As we try to understand what God was adding to their natural ability in the waiting time, we may also come to see how God is working in our lives.
Ability + Growing Up
Sometimes before God can use ability, it needs to grow up. Consider Joseph.
By the age of seventeen, he knew he was destined for greatness. Not only was he the favorite of his father, but he’d also had dreams where his whole family bowed before him. Though his ability was never in doubt, his immaturity got in the way of its usefulness - as he ratted on his brothers, boasted about his dreams, and generally made himself a pariah.
We know the story - how he was sold as a slave into Egypt, served Pharaoh’s servant Potiphar, was lied about by Potiphar’s wife, put in prison - and forgotten. But not by God. For during this time, God was working many needed elements into Joseph’s ability.
In prison Joseph learned responsibility as he applied himself to every job he was given. He developed flexibility as he transferred skills he’d learned in Potiphar’s household, to the prison environment. He practiced approachability as he lived with and served the dregs of society. He left prison with employability, to the extent that when Pharaoh called for him, he stepped from prison life to being the country’s second-in-command without a stumble.
Ability + Trial
Sometimes God refines ability with a time of trial. He did that in David.
David’s abilities were also recognized early. Anointed king as a youth, he became a folk hero when he triumphed over Goliath. Soon he was the king’s employee, son-in-law, and the prince’s best friend. But David’s stint of using his abilities publicly was short-lived. Everything changed the day jealous King Saul decided David must die.
For years David sneaked around in caves and deserts as a fugitive. He led an army, but it was an army of malcontents and misfits. During this time, though, God was refining David’s abilities and adding qualities to them which he would need for future success as king and spiritual leader.
As he moved from palace life to life on the run, he learned movability. As he was forced to depend on God, he practiced accessibility. As he listened to and obeyed God’s instructions, he grew in teachability. The hurt he felt from being hated by Saul, a man he respected and loved, was transformed into vulnerability.
Ability + Time
Sometimes a lot of time passes between the recognition of ability and when it finally gets used. Moses experienced that.
Raised by Pharaoh’s daughter to be a leader, Moses first exercised his leadership ability when he tried to protect a fellow Israelite from his Egyptian slave master. He ended up killing that Egyptian and went from being a potential leader to a hunted man. The result for Moses was forty years of isolation in the desert. But in that time, God was polishing Moses’ natural ability in many ways. When he finally returned to Egypt at age eighty, his ability had become many-faceted.
His desert experience had given him durability - a quality which he needed as he confronted stubborn Pharaoh again and again. He also came out of the desert with a knowledge of the nomad lifestyle - portability. The time he spent as a shepherd equipped him with dependability. God further gave him a miraculous rod so when he faced Pharaoh and his people, he had believability.
Disability + God
The most exciting kind of ability, though, is when there is none, and God provides it. The Bible is filled with examples of God transforming disability, inability and impossibility.
Sarah, Hannah, Elizabeth and others were unable to conceive until God gave them that ability. The army of Israel had no natural hope of defeating the nations of Canaan, but they did again and again through God’s ability. Throughout the Old and New Testaments, God demonstrated through people, His ability to transcend the laws of nature through miracles.
In all this, we must never forget the words of Jesus when He told the disciples to wait for Holy Spirit power before attempting ministry (Acts 1:4,5). God’s empowerment is key. When we go ahead and act in our own ability, we run the risk of being a liability. But if we wait for His time and depend on His touch, God can change our latent ability into usability and capability - and that makes the whole equation whole.
Violet Nesdoly is a published writer of poetry and prose - the latter mostly for children. She has articles for children published at Guideposts for Kids online (gp4k.com) and Focus on the Family Clubhouse Magazine (clubhousemagazine.com). Poetry is published in the “Gallery” and “Poets Places” at Utmost Christian Writers (utmostchristianwriters.com) and in the May 23, 2003 issue of the M. B. Herald(mbherald.com).
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