In the third of a three-part series, I’ll be discussing what you can do if you feel like your talents have been buried by other people.
We all know from the parable of the talents or gold coins in Matthew 25:14-30 or Luke 19:11-27 that God expects us to put our talents and gifts to good use. We should not be like the servant in the parable who buried his talent out of fear. Instead, we should invest them and use them for the benefit of others.
However, what happens if you do try to invest them, but you’re met with resistance? It seems as if it’s not you who is burying your talent yourself but others?
In the Marvel Studios movie Spider-Man: Homecoming, Peter Parker is eager to use his special abilities as Spider-Man to help others and to make a difference in people’s lives.
Having recently arrived back home from Germany where Tony Stark enlisted him to fight a battle, Peter believes he’s well on his way to becoming an Avenger in no time. To his surprise, Stark tells him to finish school and leave saving the world to the big guns. But Peter has had a taste of being a hero and now he feels that life beckoning to him. He constantly waits for a phone call from Stark, hoping he’ll get to use his skills once again as Spider-Man. However, nothing comes.
Peter begins to feel diminished, as if Stark doesn’t consider him ready or worthy enough even though he knows he can’t sit idly by. Throughout the film he feels constantly shut down by Stark. It’s as if Stark doesn’t want Peter to use his talents to help others but simply to sit on his hands while others take care of matters.
Often we may feel like Peter Parker with our talents. We realise that “with great power comes great responsibility”, and so we are eager to use them to help and serve others in church.
But what happens if you feel like you are also shut down and unable to use them?
Here are 5 steps we can take when it feels like your talents have been buried by others.
1. Wait on God’s timing and pray about the situation
If you aren’t merely trying to put yourself forward out of pride, but are wanting to bless others, but people still fail to recognise you, then give the situation over to God.
Sometimes God wants to work on our character and help us become men and women of God rather than us relying on our pure talent and strength. God may need to shape or break us first before He can use us for the kingdom.
In our eagerness to serve, we may not have developed certain essential characteristics needed for ministry. This can have an impact on others when we are interacting with members of the body of Christ.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 tells us how we might be gifted in kinds of areas. However, if we don’t have love, our gifts mean nothing.
In some cases, opportunity can be a long time in coming. A modern example of this is Christian apologist Dr William Lane Craig. He has two PhDs and is an outstanding ability as a debater and speaker with a very keen mind. From watching his debates, he would have made an outstanding trial advocate. However, it’s only really now, when he is in his 60s, that he is really hitting his stride. It is only in more recent years that others have recognised him for his ability and he has become more prominent or successful. In his younger days, he spent time studying for his two PhDs in relative obscurity. It would have been easy for him to become discouraged that God wasn’t calling him to an apologetics ministry.
2. Step out in faith and push through in prayer
Sometimes we need to be more proactive and take a step out in faith. While we can wait for others to ask us, there are times where your gifts never get to shine in the situations you are usually in. That means that people won’t know about the existence of your gift in the first place to even ask you.
Maybe you’re waiting for permission to use your gifts. Perhaps you’re afraid of being too presumptuous about putting yourself out there. If that’s you, then maybe you need to ask God to give you courage to be bold. Sometimes we can become overly concerned about not appearing to be too forward or simply trying to put ourselves into the spotlight. In our efforts to appear to remain humble, we can go to the opposite extreme and only wait for others to ask us and never volunteer ourselves for anything.
We need to find the right balance between humility and understanding that we have a responsibility to use our gifts for the good of others.
If you feel that you could use your gifts to help others, seek God on this matter. Ask him to make a way for you.
3. Find other ways to use your gifts
If your church doesn’t provide you with the opportunity to use your gift, then consider if there are other ways you can use it.
Perhaps you can get involved in other ministries, groups or organisations where the leadership there may be more open. This can also help with providing more references from others as to your abilities, teamwork and willingness to serve.
If you are also that way inclined, you can share your gifts online through blog posts, YouTube videos and many other outlets where others can see and appreciate you. No-one can deny you have the gift if it’s there on video for all the world to see. Then it simply becomes a matter of whether the person in authority in your church is willing to overcome their own prejudice or assumptions formed about you and take a look at the video.
The more you use your gifts in other contexts, the more practice you get, and further opportunities to hone your skills.
Sometimes it can come around full circle. After you’ve stepped out in other areas using your talents, it might open the doors for you to use them in church.
4. Don’t lose hope or give up doing good
Don’t allow others who bury your talents to become the eventual cause of you burying your own talents or derailing your ministry.
The devil will not want you to operate in your gifts. When you do, you will be able to bless others and use them to further God’s kingdom. Whenever you are doing anything for the kingdom of God, you will face opposition. This might appear to come in the form of others even in the church.
Proverbs 18:21 says that
The tongue has the power of life and death,
and those who love it will eat its fruit.
Words spoken carelessly by others can have a powerful and lasting effect on our lives. They can sometimes be the reason we don’t operate in our gifts, because someone has discouraged or criticised us.
However, we need to hold onto God’s word and what He says about us. Sometimes we need to tune out all other voices. As I mentioned in part 1 of this series of articles, the presence of detractors or naysayers does not necessarily negate or invalidate one’s ability to do something well. There will always be critics.
In the parable of the talents or the minas, we don’t know what was the underlying fear or motivation for the servant burying his talent. All we usually deduce is that he was too afraid to invest it. But we don’t know if he had been burned by others in the past. Perhaps he had tried to invest many times before but it always came to nothing. After a while, he could’ve concluded that it was pointless to try to do anything and could’ve grown apathetic. Perhaps it seemed safer to just bury it somewhere himself if others were already doing that for him. We don’t know.
All we see is the end result and not the story behind it.
But it seems that the story behind it doesn’t really matter. It’s the end result that counts. Whether others have burned us in the past, we should still continue to invest our talents and not give up.
5. Keep on being faithful in small matters
We need to serve with (or ‘invest’ or ‘sow’ ) whatever little we have been given. At the same time, we have to be active, diligent and courageous in seeking opportunities. Like the two faithful servants in the parable of the talents, we must seek out opportunities to invest our talents. As we do so, we must trust in God and wait until he brings growth to those seeds and opens the door of opportunity.
Although it may feel that others are burying our talents, we must trust that God can bring them to the surface when the time is right.
We need to reinterpret the burial in a more positive light. Rather than being buried, we should look at them as being planted. Sometimes for plants to grow, God needs to plant them deep beneath the surface to take root. We could think that He or others are burying them, but instead they needed to remain in the soil for a while.
Have you ever felt that your own talents have been buried by others, whether intentionally or unintentionally? How did that make you feel? Did that ever result in you burying them yourself later on?
Do you even struggle to get your head around why others might bury your talents or not allow you to operate in your gifts?
I’d love to know your thoughts. Leave me a comment below.
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Robert is the founder of Drawing on the Word. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Theology and a Master’s degree in Systematic Theology. He also has a degree in Law and was called to the Bar. Robert previously taught religious studies and was a theology lecturer. He is an artist, musician and writer, and has created a graphic novel version of Luke’s gospel. You can follow him below.