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In my book, A Talent Is Never Enough, I communicate that while talent is important, there are millions of talented people who have ability but never get to use it and never reach their potential because they lack the characteristics that separate successful people from unsuccessful people. Those who neglect to make right choices to release and maximize their talent continually under-perform. These choices may be as simple as being punctual, giving effort, showing patience, or being unselfish. None of these choices require talent but they sure enhance talent. Below is a list of those choices and characteristics that enhance a person’s talent and advance them in life, along with biblical examples of men and women who illustrate the characteristic.
1. Belief lifts your talent.
Consider young David, in 1 Samuel 17. He visited his brothers in the battlefield as they faced the Philistine army. Goliath was the Philistine champion, a giant who taunted the army of Israel day after day. No one in Israel believed they could face this nine-foot-tall giant and beat him. That is, until a young teenager named David entered the scene. He believed his God was bigger than the giant, and he believed his God-given ability to defeat enemies—demonstrated as he tended sheep and slew a lion and a bear—were enough to take on the giant. He was right. His belief enabled him to use his talent from God and show the world what a miracle looks like.
2. Passion energizes your talent.
Consider Elijah, in 1 Kings 18. This prophet confronted 850 false prophets on top of Mount Carmel. He was outnumbered greatly, but one man with passion can defeat several hundred men who are no more than curious. Elijah was fed up with the apathy of his own people and wanted to prove to them that the Lord was the true God and deserved their commitment. Elijah’s passion enabled him to confront the false prophets, call down fire from heaven, and direct the people back to God. The fire from heaven was a picture of the fire already burning inside of Elijah. It allowed him to bring everyone to a point of decision—and cure them of apathy.
3. Initiative activates your talent.
Consider Paul, in Acts 9 and 27. Three times in the book of Acts we read of his conversion to faith in Christ. Each of the accounts not only reminds us of the sovereignty of God, but of the power of initiative. Paul went directly to Damascus, where he had planned to arrest and imprison followers of Christ, but now he wanted to begin ministering to them immediately! He wanted to preach of his marvelous conversion and start helping the world find Christ as well. In addition, Acts 27 is a vivid account of Paul’s initiative. He was a prisoner on board a ship, with no rights or authority. But he took initiative when the ship and crew encountered a storm and saved the day.
4. Focus directs your talent
Consider Noah, in Genesis 6. You remember the story. Noah was confronted by God and told to build an ark—a huge vessel that could preserve him and his family during the flood that was coming. Noah had likely never even see rain and probably never built a boat before. Yet he stayed on task for 120 years. No doubt he withstood criticism and was the brunt of jokes as he prepared for the flood. Can you imagine the focus Noah must have possessed? Staying true to God’s instructions despite all kinds of opposition enabled him to use his abilities and succeed in sparing the human race. You and I are the beneficiaries of his great focus.
5. Preparation positions your talent.
Consider Moses, in Exodus 2–4. He grew up in Pharaoh’s palace in Egypt and was given the benefits of all the education and resources he needed to succeed in his adult life—except for one small ingredient. God had to prepare his heart. Moses killed an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew slave (Exodus 2:12). God sent Moses into the wilderness for forty years where He could prepare him for the job of leading the Hebrews out of slavery in Egypt and into Canaan. Think about it. God took forty years to get this man ready for his mission; the job was too big for a novice. God made sure Moses’ head, hands, and heart were ready before turning him loose.
6. Practice sharpens your talent.
Consider Daniel, in Daniel 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, and 10. Daniel was a young man when his country was overtaken by the Babylonians. While in a foreign land, he never left the practices that made him such a sharp young leader. One of his gifts was the ability to interpret dreams and visions. All through his years he had the opportunity to practice using this gift—and practice made perfect. One king after another needed his talent, and Daniel was always ready. Late in his adult years, Daniel was called in to help a king who didn’t even know him. Fortunately he wasn’t rusty, and because of his sharp talent he attracted still another king to his great God.
7. Perseverance sustains your talent.
Consider Joseph, in Genesis 41. Joseph was given a dream from God as a young man. He was gifted to be a leader, and one day he’d have the opportunity to play that role. What he didn’t know was there would be incredible obstacles to face along the way. His brothers were jealous of him and treated him abusively. Later they sold him into slavery. He served in Egypt until Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him. When he refused to violate her marriage, she blackmailed him and had him thrown in prison. Soon he was forgotten. Joseph eventually got to use his talent to lead when Pharaoh needed it, but only after persevering through severe hardship. What would have made most people bitter simply made Joseph better.
8. Courage tests your talent.
Consider Deborah, in Judges 4. This woman possessed amazing talent to plan strategy and lead the people of Israel. In her story, however, she faced an intimidating enemy in the army of Canaan. They were ruthless, possessing 900 iron chariots. They seemed invincible. Deborah recognized, however, that this was the number problem to be solved for the oppressed Israelites—so she called for Barak, the commander of Israel’s army, and gave him a plan to defeat the Canaanites. Even Barak, a soldier, feared facing them, and refused to do so unless Deborah went with him! This was the ultimate test for her: Do you trust your plan enough to use it in the face of a bigger enemy? She did, and her talent helped set her people free.
9. Teachability expands your talent
Consider Simon Peter, in Acts 10. Peter was a talented preacher. He was the one who preached the first sermon as the church was launched in Acts 2. He spoke all over Jerusalem and clearly was the “senior” leader, and spokesman for the gospel in the first eight chapters of the book of Acts. However, in Acts 10, God challenges Peter with a new insight—that the gospel was meant for the Gentiles too, not just the Jews. Peter had a difficult time embracing this idea, but thankfully, his teachable spirit opened a door for him to take the gospel (and his talent) to those outside the Jewish faith, and a whole new ministry was born.
10. Character protects your talent
Consider Samuel, in 1 Samuel 3. Beginning from his boyhood working under Eli, young Samuel was a person of strong character. He was honest and forthright in all of his relationships, from the lowliest to the kings of Israel. Consequently his influence was great, and his career spanned two generations. In 1 Samuel 3:19, 20 we read how everyone looked to him, from one end of the nation to the other. Samuel’s talent was perfect for the job of a prophet and priest, but his character kept him in the game long enough to become the most influential man in Israel. Eli, his mentor, was removed from office because he failed at home. Saul, the first king, was removed from office because he failed at work. Samuel’s talent outlived them because of his character.
11. Relationships influence your talent
Consider Rehoboam, in 1 Kings 12. He was appointed king following his father Solomon. There was every reason why his reign would succeed, just as his father and grandfather’s reigns had succeeded. Sadly, that’s where this truth about relationships enters the scene. Relationships can make or break a person. In Rehoboam’s case, they broke him. He had both good people and not-so-good people around him, and he chose to listen to the wrong crowd. Afterward, he made some devastating decisions that ruined his reign. The nation of Israel split and was never the same again. Rehoboam’s talent was sufficient—but was affected negatively by his relationships.
12. Responsibility strengthens your talent.
Consider Gideon, in Judges 6, 7. Gideon was the runt in his family, belonged to a runt family within his tribe, and many would argue that the tribe was the runt tribe within a runt country, Israel. In other words, he was the least likely to accomplish anything. But he did. Once the angel of the Lord cast a vision for defeating the oppressive Midianites, Gideon stepped up and took responsibility. In fact, it was his sense of ownership of this problem that attracted so many men to fight with him. He actually recruited too many troops and had to cut back the volume. His talent got discovered only when he demonstrated responsibility enough to use it.
13. Teamwork multiplies your talent.
Consider Nehemiah, in Nehemiah 2, 3. Nehemiah saw the need to rebuild the wall around Israel’s capital city of Jerusalem. However, he wasn’t a builder by trade, he was a cup bearer to a foreign king. Once he decided to act, however, he attracted others by expressing the need for resources and people to participate in the solution. After all, people support what they help create. Nehemiah shrewdly cast vision to the folks that lived within the city, who had the most to gain by a strong wall protecting Jerusalem. He harnessed their time, gifts, and energy and built the wall in 52 days. He soon became governor because he was a great broker of not only his own talent but that of others too.
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