Daniel 1:17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.
The biggest point of this verse to me is that abilities are gifts from God. We are accountable for them and need to develop and use them as He intends, but they are from Him and not something we are to take personal pride in. In the example here, “strength and wisdom to understand literature” (as the Japanese puts it) actually implies a lot of studying, which many people would consider very hard work. The Biblical record is that these four young men were indeed faithful, choosing obedience to God over meat and wine (verse 8 and following) and generally applying themselves diligently to the tasks presented to them. As a result they rose quickly in the bureaucracy where they served, arousing jealousy in some of those around them to the point of danger to their lives, as the next few chapters record. The point of the story, however, is that they took what God gave them and applied it fully, staying focused on God in the process. I’m sure each of them was welcomed into heaven with the ultimate accolade: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
This has been an issue for me all my life. God has blessed me with a variety of abilities that sometimes surprises even me. My parents never told me I was incapable of anything, but rather encouraged me to try whatever came to mind (with appropriate cautions, of course). So many things came easily to me that I was slow to learn due diligence, applying myself even when I didn’t feel like it. The result has been a widely checkered work history with few if any major accomplishments, which makes me wonder if I have really made the use God intended of each of those abilities. Focus, planning, and goal setting have been my weakest areas. I am definitely not a “type A” personality! That has been a major problem in my ministry. With not setting goals, other than things like building a building or buying land, I have failed to project a vision sufficiently for the believers. By doing such a variety of things myself, I have failed to involve others in the ministry and give them a sense of participation and being needed. Just yesterday I was talking with someone in the church about how, at almost 70, I need to let others take on various of the responsibilities of the operation of the church, and the matter came up of who could do them? Technical/electronic things are easy for me, preaching is a joy, and I’m bilingual. I feel somewhat like I’m in a “Catch 22” sort of situation. I want to make full use of the abilities God has given me, but I also need to train others and equip them to do the work of ministry, just as it says in Ephesians 4:11-13. Since last year I have been exposed to teaching in coaching, as taught by Benjamin Wong of Hong Kong. That is gradually building, and my prayer is that I will indeed learn how to be a coach who walks alongside others to enable them to be and do all that God intends for them, and not simply be focused on what I am doing. I talk all the time about how being self-centered never leads to true happiness, and yet I find I’m stuck in it myself!
Father, thank You for not giving up on me. Help me keep pressing in to You, growing and changing as You intend, drawing others into full fellowship with You, for the sake of the Body of Christ and for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!