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Gifted - By Pastor Thomas Engel

As we have been staying home more lately, we have had time to brush up on our talents. Have you been juggling, singing, tap dancing, or fine-tuning your magic tricks?

Maybe you have put your little “show” on YouTube, and it went viral. You are now so popular that you got a call from a producer of America’s Got Talent, and she asked, “Hey, you have some awesome talent! Do you want to come on the show next week?”

If a producer called to ask if you were ready, would you answer, “Yup, I was born ready?”

The movie, The Natural, is about the rise, quick fall, and rise again of a baseball player. In the first scenes of the movie, we see the baseball player as a young boy playing catch with his dad.

The dad says to his son, “You've got a gift, Roy... but it's not enough - you've got to develop yourself. If you rely too much on your own gift... then... you'll fail.”

This dad shared with his son the idea of a growth mindset. The concept of a growth mindset is a strong theme for a successful life, and we talk about it often here at St Philip.

We talk about growth mindset every chance that we get because it is not something that you just learn its definition and say, “Yea, I got that!”

Recently, I saw a documentary that looked at the career of the singer, Dionne Warwick. My favorite songs of all time are her early songs of the songwriters, Burt Bacharach and Hal David.

I will spare you my rendition of “Walk On By,” but you can find it on YouTube soon.

After her early success with these songs, Dionne Warwick went on to a long career of other hits in many genres. In an interview, she said, “Years ago, I learned to be totally responsible for Dionne Warwick. I will not wait for opportunities. I will create them.”

Growth mindset works in two ways. First, we see that every person has some kind of talent. Believing that we have something to share that contributes to the overall goodness of the world is our motivation. Each of us has a purpose and knowing that we are essential to a bigger picture is one of the reasons that we get up in the morning.

So, first, we believe that each one of us is an important part of the whole with a unique contribution. Second, although we know that we have this special gift, this ability that we possess still needs to be nurtured, cultivated, and strengthen. In other words, we need to work at it.

When we see an Olympic gymnast, a concert pianist, or, for me, as I am a terrible speller, a champion of a spelling bee, we want to say, “Wow, such talent! He makes it look so easy!” But we also need to realize that these accomplished people have put many hours of hard work into their crafts to make it look effortless.

Talking about how each one of us is “gifted” can be an odd business that can become a kind of puzzle. Trying to find our “gift” and then to keep working to put it all together as we face challenges takes a dauntless attitude that says, “No matter what, I can do this!”

As we bring the pieces of our lives together, we find, at times, that challenges come, so to move ahead, we need to put our heads down and work through the problems.

During these times, we might want what is confronting us to just go away.

But, it is often that what seems to be blocking us from our goals is the exact thing that we need to work at to get better at what we are doing or to say, this difficulty is to make us overall the best that we can be.

How we get through life defines who we are. The tough times are mostly responsible for our growth. We look at the challenges and can dig into them knowing that something good will come from them.

Even if the outcome is not first place or not knocking down every obstacle, we will know that we have done our best. We have developed our “gift” and valued the opportunity to be part of those who have tried to do what they can to move it all forward.

At first, it might seem a strange thought, but even failure is way of moving forward because our mistakes can be a good teacher. Sometimes, we have to learn how not to do something before we learn how to do it.

God has made us to be forward moving people. As He has made us to be forward moving people, God has also equipped us to keep moving forward, even in the toughest of times.

God has given each of us a unique gift to share with others, and He has also given us all the “right stuff” to make sure we can follow through to make everything work for the “good.”

As you can see, I put the word “good” in italics to emphasize a special meaning of the word.

When a business person opens up a factory, he or she gives needed jobs with good pay and benefits, so workers can have “good” lives. Or at times like these days. we see first responders who are making great sacrifices for the “good” of the community. .

God can use the talents of every person to accomplish His “good” will in the world.

As I am writing this message, I am seeing it is going into the direction of a graduation speech.

For us here at St Philip, graduation is next week. Maybe it is because we have been talking about ways to make graduation that special day while keeping in mind the guidelines of safety - so maybe subconsciously, I got on the theme of talents.

But, also, this is Pentecost, so it fits to talk about how we are all “gifted.”

God has gifted us with something the world does not have. This gift is the Holy Spirit. Since even before the creation of the world, the Holy Spirit hovered over the waters. The Holy Spirit is still roaming the earth.

Although the Holy Spirit is everywhere, God has to give it to people. On the first Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came to many people in a quite dramatic way with a rushing wind and tongues that seemed like fire. In these times, the coming of the Holy Spirit is not so dramatic. The Holy Spirit is still roaming over the waters of the earth, but in these days, it comes to us simply by the pouring of water and several words. But the words are from God, so they are powerful.

Our first birth is the day we get set physically on this planet. Then, by water and the Word, we are born again and enter a spiritual life coming from the Holy Spirit.

Going back to the hypothetical of a producer from America’s Got Talent, or if you are sitting on the bench and the coach sends you in to save the game, or if your boss hands you a project, you say to the challenge, “I was born ready-put me in-I can do it!”

A lot can be said about the human spirit. Looking at a long list of inventions through history, we can do amazing things-just yesterday-we are off to space again.

But, we also have to say the human spirit is not all good, but it can be bent towards harm-just this week-we have seen brutality and destruction.

I might want to give up on everything in this up and down world where it seems like the downs dominate too many times.

As much as I can see the good of the human spirit, it is not enough to overcome the bad. In this world of so much uncertainty, we need an ever-present help in all of our troubles.

This help can only come from the Lord. And the Lord does give his perfectly “good” help in giving us His Holy Spirit. God has gifted us with a “good” that can never do anything but “good.”

In preparing for this message, I looked at some graduation speeches and prayers for graduations. They all talked about using the gifts that students have been devopling over the years, and how students need to use these gifts as their part to help the whole.

These prayers can be used for each of us in our daily work.

One of my favorite movies is Rocky. It’s a story of a mediocre boxer who gets a chance to fight the world champion. I’m inspired as Rocky goes from a flabby out-of-shape guy to a lean strong fighter.

I can hear the theme song as a trumpet blows out its motivating tune. Hearing the song in my head-and I will spare you my singing of it- I, at least, want to do some push-ups and go jog around the block.

Rocky knows that he cannot beat the champ, but he sets the goal to go all fifteen rounds.

Rocky gets knocked down, and his face gets hit so many times that his eye swells shut, but he keeps going all the way to the final round.

When the fight is over, he has lost with nothing to show for it but bruises and cuts. But, he did what he set out to do. In reaching his goal, he won his fight over his old life. He went from mediocrity to putting up a good fight with the best of the best.

As we go out into the world, all that we can do is put up a good fight. We may not win all the time, but we can always succeed at trying. At the end of the day, if we are still standing against all that wants to bring us down, we have done well because we have done what we set out to do.

We can never know how the outcomes of our days. In a way, our outcomes do not matter, for we trust that God controls all outcomes for the “good” as He sees it.

We do want to know that through our days that we will be okay, and, as a matter of fact, we are always doing very well in any day that gives us any kind of trial.

Going out into this chaotic world, we try to do our best with we what we got. And we have a lot by the power of the Holy Spirit that lives in us.

We put up a good fight of faith, and we are always sure to win. In our battles, faith lets us know of the power of a victorious life that we have from Jesus’ death and resurrection for the forgiveness of every sin and the gift of eternal life.

In this forgiveness of every sin, we are perfectly “good” and can do “good.”

We have talked about having a work ethic when it comes to bringing talent to its top game.

When we talk about doing well, we usually mean a lot of sweat and maybe even tears.

With this gift of the Holy Spirit, the work is simple and easy. We simply let the Holy Spirit lead us.

We are in a tough world of many challenges, but God would not let us go through these challenges unless He “gifted” us with what it takes to get through it all.

We are “gifted” with the Holy Spirit that gives us the power to rise above all challenges with a “good” that is certainly with us here in these days and in all times. We are sure to go the distance to the end of whatever comes.

And knowing the end is the gift of eternal life, we have joy.

So, we can say to this world as it dishes out its hard things and tough times, “Hey, I’m “gifted,” so bring it on, by the Holy Spirit, I was born again ready!”

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