No matter what your gift is or how much success you may have with it, there are times you get discouraged. No matter how much you enjoy, there will be times you get weary. That goes for a lot of dedicated folks you may not even think of, who generally enjoy their work. At a regional meeting of ministers, ask the same simple question to every one of them: “Are you enjoying your work?” You may be surprised, but those who know will tell you, almost none respond with a smile and enthusiastic “Yes!” You’re more likely to hear something like this: “Well, there are times when it is fulfilling but…” or “Well, the church politics gets to me but…” or “Well, it certainly has its downside.”
St. Paul wrote to young Timothy who was just starting his ministry, to “Rekindle the gift.” Indeed no matter how great the gift, it must be rekindled now and again. No matter how high you are today, you are going to face challenges that will take away the luster. When I was a boy, we would visit a backwoods cabin in Arkansas that had an old wood stove. That’s where I learned about kindling—small slivers and slices of wood that helped to get a really good fire going. You could roll up a newspaper and stack a little kindling around it, and then lay a big log on top of that. As the kindling got going, it would start the log burning, slowly but surely almost every time.
No matter how much bliss you find in your work, the fire is going to get low now and then. Sometimes you get a good idea and the internal wet blanket will say, “Why do it…no one will notice or care…it won’t do any good,” etc. The only way to handle an internal wet blanket is to put some kindling under it and get the fire going. Unless we become our own best encouragers, we will falter and fail. It is good to have friends to support us and to appreciate what we do. They can stoke our fires, but we must be our own best friend. It helps to realize what we do well IS a gift. How many people can do what you do? One thing for sure: no one can do what you do exactly like you do it. And if you don’t do it, it won’t get done.
Maybe we should not just tithe our money, but also “tithe” our time and talents, because if we don’t do what we are here to do, it will never be done. Take time to nurture yourself and your gifts. Gratitude for them is a little pile of kindling. No matter how little or how great a success we may feel ourselves to be, be grateful you are here to do the work you are gifted to do. Marry your gifts. Dedicate yourself to them for better or worse, for richer or poor. That may be in part what the virtue of “longsuffering” is all about too: dedication to cause, to mission, i.e., to the gift God gave you—even under adverse circumstances or a depressed personal mental attitude.
Cal Ripkin said that hard work is the process through which you obtain your results. It is true for baseball and true for life. Hard work at your particular gift is a way to glorify God in particular—a way to glorify Him in a way that nobody else can. “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone” (James 2:17 , see 14-26).
Excuse me now. I’ve got to cut some more kindling.