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.
>> You can read Part 1 here, where I discussed what we should do when we find it hard to operate in our gifts at church.
>> And Part 2 is here, where I talked about what to do when others in church don’t recognise your gifts.
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.
>> I’ve written here about how sometimes we need to take small steps in faith which can lead to other opportunities in life.
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.
>> Remember however, that often our gifts or our calling will be opposed by the enemy, as I’ve written about here.
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.
This Post Has 6 Comments
Mz_Ola16 Apr 2019
These are practical steps that people need to know. I particularly love the fourth one. Great post
Janene Eldred17 Apr 2019
Thank you, Robert. I am sharing this on FB. God bless you!
Q26 Nov 2019
My problem with calling and talents is that the only things I am good at are things that aren’t really useful to help others or to help spreading the gospel. How do I know that I don’t spend my life doing the wrong things? I long to hear “Well done faithful servant” when my life on earth is over, but I’m afraid I will never hear that. I have no clue what God wants me to do, if anything. I try to help others with the menial tasks I can do, but constantly helping out, never having a dream of my own, also enhances my confusion. Maybe I’m doing it all wrong? Or maybe the expectation that everyone has a specific talent or mission in life is wrong? Maybe God can be pleased with my life even if I never accomplish anything tangible or visible? Lots of question, no answers. Have asked and asked God for years to help me understand, but I don’t. At least not yet.
Robert Sang17 Jan 2020
Thanks for your comment. Without knowing your exact situation or abilities, it’s difficult to respond to whether your talents are useful for spreading the gospel or not. But there are many things in life we do that we can easily underestimate how God can use them for His glory. Have you read Tim Keller’s book “Every Good Endeavour” before? That deals with some of these issues and how even some of the things we don’t particularly see as explicitly Christian or evangelistic are still useful for service in the Kingdom.
As for achieving something specific or tangible, again we aren’t always able to measure our effectiveness for God in this life. Is this something you’d like to hear or read more about? If so, it is an idea for a future blog post that I can write about in more depth than a reply to a comment like this. Let me know. Thanks.
Marina9 Jul 2020
Hello my name iis marina and ive been resding you most of the afternoon.to the person who feels unappreciated perhaps and wants to extend what they do. There are no menial gifts or jobs.just Christ work to do
The person has got something’s important.they ate avtalyy serving with the little jobs that need doing that more acknowledged people are getting for what may seem like greater gifts but aren’t.not when we see like God sees which is the heart. It’s about intention.having said that I can sense that the person has some restlessness and could perhaps consider a church member or someone they feel comfortable with what they think they see as their gifts or what else they might be good at.aldo ask yourself what you wish you could do and seek advice and training.i once lived in a Christian community for five months and the spiritual head of the place cleaned toilets like me. Not for show. He just did when it was busy or someone was out of action or he just noticed.the teenagers made the best latte in Tasmania. And do what you enjoy and what suits you at church. Is there a particular job you’re attracted to.study that person and speak openly about your longings.and read a few psalms where the writer complains to God.and do the best whatever you do.and rest assured that God appreciates your faithfulness in doing the little things.what are you really good at. Notice any compliments you receive about anything about you. And good luck and God bless.your honesty was touching and answers will come.have a lot of nice days and give yourself a break. Blessings.em.
MJ29 Aug 2020
This was great and has confirmed some things in my life.