Grace came home from work at the usual time of 6:20 PM., and as usual she was complaining. She complained about her job and how much she hated her boss. She complained about how unfair he was. For at least thirty minutes every night, she would complain miserably about how she regretted working at Harold's Books.
Harold's Books was a publishing house, and Grace worked in the distribution division. Her daughter, who was usually the one who had to endure such grief, would simply listen to the continual whining of her mother. Sometimes when her mother wasn't looking, she would make faces mimicking the exact words that her mother would say. "Every stinkin' day," her mom would say, "I have to deal with these incompetent coworkers of mine that do nothing but make the day longer. Every stinkin' day, the same routine, the same pay. Every stinkin' day!"
"Well, why don't you just quit?" her daughter blurted out.
"Every day you come home unhappy and tired, and you say the same thing every day, Every stinkin' day, every stinkin' day. I'm tired of it.' Maybe you should just start your own publishing house!"
Grace thought about it for a second, and said, "I don't have the time or the energy to start something. I'm forty-six years old! Where am I going to find the time and the money to open up my own business. I don't even know where to start. Being a single mother while working a full-time job ain't easy you know. I had to make a lot of sacrifices to be where I am today, and working at Harold's Books may not be glamorous, but it pays the bills."
Clearly, Grace was unfulfilled in her career. She worked fifty hours every week and found no enjoyment in her work. She dreamed of owning her own business, but it always seemed like something too far out of her reach. Grace went to church and believed that she should stay at her job because this was exercising patience in her, but in reality, she was just too comfortable to move on. She'd been working at her job for over twenty-one years. Though she had a strong business mind and knew she could run her own publishing house, she never took the courage and the time to step out. Her excuse was that she didn't have the time and money to own her own business.
In the twenty fifth chapter of Matthew, there is a parable that Jesus gave concerning a man who gave three of his servants talents (money). One servant received five talents. Another, two. The last servant got one talent. The important thing to note, however, is that verse 15 states that they each received their respective amounts based on their ability to handle money. Also, in that verse, it states that after the man gave his servants the talents, he immediately went on a long journey.
If you carefully look at that verse, when the man left his servants, each had three things: time, ability, and money. They had the time they needed to use the talents in order to produce, because the master went on a long journey.
We also see that they had ability because they were given those talents based on those abilities. Finally, they were given talents, which in that day, was money.
This story illustrates that even though we have different abilities and resources, we all have one thing in common, and at the same level time. As the master rewarded two of his servants and punished one of them, it is important to see that the only difference between the two that were rewarded and the one who got punished is that the two used their time and ability that was given to them to produce money. The one who got punished sat on his ability and waited for his master to return. Grace was in a similar situation.
A few years ago, the Lord spoke to me about the vital subject of time, ability, and money. It was then that I began to understand those things more. You also will understand more, as you read on.
If you know anyone who isn't happy and fulfilled in their life, chances are, they don't like what they do from nine to five. Your profession, the thing you spend most of your time doing, is critical to whether or not you experience happiness and fulfillment. I am fully persuaded that if you are not doing what you were created to do, and not mastering the gifts, abilities, and ideas that God has given you, you will not find your life to be appealing. The key to living the kind of life you want to live is living the life you were created to live. The life you were created to live is the life where you are putting your creative strengths and divine abilities to use. When God created you, He created you with unique strengths that must be put to use in order for you to find fulfillment.
A few years ago the Lord spoke a word into my heart about three invaluable resources. The first one was time, the second was ability, and the third was money. I then began to understand that the only way to have true prosperity and fulfillment in your life is to spend time developing and fine-tuning your abilities, and then letting those fine-tuned abilities earn money for you. Hence, the following illustration: The above illustration shows that most people spend all their time trying to make money, while ignoring their God given abilities.
Ironically they end up having little or no time or money.
You may be in that pattern now. Perhaps you work a full-time schedule and virtually all your time is going into your job, and still you find yourself with not enough money to enjoy life. Spending all your time working and ignoring the true abilities God has given you, will lead to you making a living, but never really living. You must break that cycle and spend time developing and fine-tuning your abilities, and this will eventually make you money.
The most important thing isn't making money; it's spending time developing your abilities and creative strengths. It's focusing on what you do best. It's concentrating on mastering your God-given gifts. Then money won't be an issue any more. When money is no longer an issue, you can afford to invest even more into those abilities.
For example, you may have the desire and ability to start a line of clothing. You can devote time designing, writing out your ideas, even doing some research on the industry. Even while working your full time job you can begin designing. Or perhaps you like literature and have flirted with the idea of publishing something. Start devoting time to doing what you love, and take definite steps towards that goal of publishing.
Eventually you will find yourself in a position to publish and earn some money. And with some money earned you will be able to reinvest in your writing abilities, whether by taking courses or publishing new material. This will eventually create more wealth allowing you to work a part time schedule and give you more time to do the things you were born to do.
Think of Tiger Woods. Now there are many great golfers, but when you watch him, there seems to be a grace upon him to play. However, with all the grace given to him to play golf, if he didn't take the time to develop that ability, do you think he would have been as great as he is? Do you think he would have been the youngest, most successful golfer in all history without taking time to develop his ability? Probably not. Everyone has abilities, but not everyone takes the time to develop their abilities. When you develop your abilities, you then become skilled in your abilities.
Talent by itself takes you nowhere. Skill by itself keeps you average. Being skilled in your talent makes you dynamic. There are so many people with gifts and talents but little skill. They have all the ingredients necessary, but they haven't sharpened themselves. They have a wealth of untapped abilities -- all they need to do is recognize and sharpen them.
Too often, people live their entire lives improving and advancing someone else's gift, and neglecting their own. Have you noticed that in the world we live in, we were taught to celebrate others but not think too highly of ourselves? We were taught to admire people on TV and radio and see them as "stars," subconsciously embracing the notion that we're not.
People are often afraid to step out because we have been taught to go to school, get a good job, and be secure. This type of training trains you to be skilled and employed. But what great athlete in history focused only on being skilled and employed? Likewise, you cannot focus solely on these things if you are going to live the life you were created to live. You can be average, or you can be a star. That is your choice. Tiger Woods chose to be a star. What do you choose to be? By itself, skill may grant you a job, but it won't grant you fulfillment. Fulfillment will cause you to live your dreams. All it takes is for you to believe that you can live out those dreams, and determine to see it happen in your life.
Think about it, the company you may be currently working for, that comfortable office position you have; chances are, you are only there because someone dreamed you would be working for them one day. Someone believed they had an ability, a niche, a passion. They decided to put time into it, develop it, and fine-tune it, and voila, you are in their world supporting it.
Now don't go out and quit your job. This may very well be the place where your gifts can be fine-tuned. However, wherever you are in life, whether working for someone or not, make sure you don't neglect your abilities and passions. Make sure you take time to develop your abilities and make them develop you. There is a gift inside of you; discover it, develop it, and do it.
There are two reasons why people don't develop their abilities and live out their dreams. The first is the fear of distinction. I find that people often aren't willing to do anything that hasn't been done before. What separates leaders from followers is the fact that leaders believe in themselves. They believe in themselves to the point, that they could care less if they are the only ones taking the steps they are taking. In fact, they even engage in the thrill of changing the minds of doubters. They aren't afraid to stand out. Are you?
If you are afraid to stand out, then you will always find yourself living out someone else's dreams. You will find yourself, like the woman at the beginning of this chapter, dissatisfied with your life and wondering why you cannot get ahead. You will spend your life trying to catch up with the Joneses -- trying to fit in, and be like everyone else. Leaders are trendsetters, who have the Joneses sitting up at night trying to figure out how to keep up with them!
There was once a woman who got a great business idea that she believed would benefit many people. She saw this idea as a potential wealth generator. But then she thought to herself, "I'm surprised no one has thought of this before. It seems so simple and so lucrative. I wonder why no one else has done this. Maybe I'm overlooking something and shouldn't invest in this idea." This kind of reasoning keeps you average. It tells you not to go beyond the conventional means. It tells you that you couldn't be the first person to think of a great idea. It is this type of thinking that hinders people from mastering their gifts because they have never seen anyone else do it.
Why can't you be first? Why can't you invent something? Why should you wait until people deem it as a worthy cause to pursue? Why wait? Step out in faith and run until you can't run anymore! Bring that idea, that business, that service, that ministry to your fellow man. Bring it to fruition, first! When you do this, you become a sign and a wonder to people. When you are a sign, you are [sign]ificant in your world. Let's look at a graphic illustration of how someone did just that in the Bible:
"Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out for fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, "Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid." And Peter answered Him and said, "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water." So He said, "Come." And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus." (Matthew 14:25-29)
Isn't it interesting that of all the disciples on the boat only one of them was daring enough to walk on water? Jesus spoke a word to Peter and that word was "Come" (v.29). Everyone else remained on the boat because that was the place that was safe; the place where you can't fall on your face; the place where you can't fail; the place that's "reasonable." That is the place where most people are. Perhaps it is where you are today. I ask you once again: do you want to be a shining star? Let's read the rest of this story and see what happened.
"But when he [Peter] saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, "Lord, save me!" And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?"
From reading that you might say, "See, he began to sink, it wasn't smart to try to walk on water." Perhaps the other disciples said, "Peter, were you out of your mind? Didn't you think before you tried that?" But the truth is, Peter did think. He was in his right mind. He simply began to get afraid, and it was then that he began to sink. But with all that said, guess what? Peter walked on water! He did what others were afraid to do. He followed his heart which said "If the Lord said for me to do it (that is, come), then I will walk on water." At that moment, the eleven disciples were watching Peter's back as he walked on water looking at Jesus. At that moment, Peter was distinct, and it is for that very reason the Bible doesn't even mention the names of the disciples on the boat but it mentions the name of the person who stepped out -- Peter. When you step out, your name will be mentioned in society. When you don't step out, you are forced to remain one of the nameless many who are "all on the same ship."
God often tells us to come, or to go, or to start, or to invest, or to buy, or to research. We just have to determine to do it. Even if you begin to fall, God will catch you and help you up like He did with Peter. We have to put more faith in Him. He's there to help. He's there to support and catch us, not to watch us sink.
Let's look at another Biblical example of Peter and how he conquered the fear of distinction:
"When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon [Peter], 'Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.' But Simon answered and said to Him, Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net'" (Luke 5:4-5).
I personally believe Peter wasn't really expecting what was about to take place in the next verse. He simply respected Jesus and saw Him as a great Teacher, and out of reverence he did what was asked of him. Everything in the natural was pointing against "launching out." Peter knew how to fish. He did it for a living and had been out there all night. But out of respect for God's word, he did what Jesus said.
"And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink." (Luke 5: 6-7).
The key phrase you should zero in on is in verse 4 -- launch out. When Simon Peter launched out by divine instruction, he instantly increased in wealth.
Don't be afraid! When you begin to devote time to what's in your heart to do, you will see the resources coming together and God, through different people, will provide you whatever you need. People love to contribute to successful people. People love to be a part of success stories. People love to be a part of a dream come true. It makes them feel successful to be a part of success. When people see that you are focused, serious, and determined, they know you are going somewhere, and they want to feel like, when you get there, they had something to do with it.
You will never be a success without people, and people won't want to help you and invest in your abilities if you are not investing time in your own abilities. Step out now, and put a stop to the fear of distinction.