Pursue The Gifts You Have, Not The One’s You Want

The following post is based on a lesson on using your gifts from Dave Anderson’s book How to Run Your Business by THE BOOK.


David And Goliath

Do you remember reading about David and Goliath? Do you remember how Saul tried to make David wear armor that would not fit him? I laugh when I try to picture David as a youth trying to walk around in Saul’s armor, potentially bumping into tent posts and stepping into the campfires scattered around. It may not have been as close to a scene out of the Carol Burnett show as I have it pictured, but I imagine there had to be some humor in it.

Finally, David threw off Saul’s armor and wore his own shepherd’s clothes. He left Saul’s weapons in the tent and chose to use the sling and the stones he already knew how to use. These fit him. While he had never fought in a war with other soldiers, he had certainly seen his battles protecting the flocks from predators. Instead of using someone else’s armor and weaponry in this new battle, he went with what was familiar to him.

What Can We Learn?

Apparently, he made the right choice. So what can we as leaders learn from this episode? How do we apply it to what we do on a daily basis?

The first place I think to look is back in the Bible. Let’s consider Romans 12:6-8. In this passage, Paul is telling the Romans that different people receive different gifts from God.

When we receive specific gifts, we should use those gifts according to our faith. If one is given the gift of teaching, then they are to teach. Another may be given the gift of encouragement; they should encourage. You have probably read this and understand it.

I believe this is directly related to the story about David and the armor. You see, Saul was trying to get David to wear armor that was not his. It was not fit for him. It was not comfortable to him. It simply would have been a burden to David. It would have hampered his effectiveness against Goliath.

Gifts From God

The same is true about gifts from God. If God has given me the gift of encouragement, but not the gift of leadership, should I try to lead? Just because I want to lead does not mean that is what I should do. In fact, if God has not gifted me in that area, I will only cause problems if I try to do it anyway. If I am not gifted to teach, but I insist on doing so, what kind of results will I get? I may like the idea of teaching, but if God has not gifted me for it, that is not where I will be most effective.

Look at 1 Corinthians 12 and see more discussion on this. In this passage, Paul takes it further and uses the human body and its parts to illustrate his point. Each part has its job to do. Each job is just as important to the health of the body as the next. All deserve honor. None of the parts should aspire to be another part. Instead, each part should embrace the role they have been given and do the best they can at being that part.

Lessons For Leaders

As leaders, we must do the same.

    1. Discover your gifting
    David quickly found that Saul’s armor would not work. You need to determine your gifting. There are tools to accomplish this, but you can also ask those who know you best. Pray for God to reveal it to you.
    2. Embrace that gifting
    David did not hesitate to reject Saul’s armor and revert back to his own tools. Once you know your gifts, embrace them! Know that the Creator of the universe chose you specially for those gifts! They are worthy of honor!
    3. Learn how to best apply that gifting
    David spent years learning accuracy with his sling and stones. Do not expect overnight results in your gifts. Developing these gifts take time. Through prayer, application, and learning from defeats (as well as successes), you will grow in these gifts.
    4. Go to battle!
    David went boldly into battle with his tools. Do not be afraid to fight the battles with your gifts. Do not forget you represent God and He has your back!

Now, go out there and use your own armor!

What are your gifts?

Are you embracing them and growing in your application of them?

What battles are you fighting?

Original date of post – November 9, 2011

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are snarky, offensive, or off-topic. If in doubt, read My Comments Policy.

  • The application of this is challenging. We want to look at others and see what works for them. Then, we want to use this knowledge to benefit us where we can benefit – while still acknowledging that some things that work for others may not work for us. Knowing what to emulate and what not to is difficult. But, like you said, it’s a long process. It doesn’t happen overnight.

    • Loren, think more in terms of gifts versus knowledge here. I still think it is a good practice to learn processes from those around us. I am not at all discouraging that.

      If you are gifted as a leader, it certainly makes sense for you to learn from other leaders as to what works best for them. It may not always work best for you, but it will likely help you find what does.

      I am referring more to the gifts (or special talents) with which God has gifted us. If you are NOT gifted as a leader of people and you KNOW it, then it is not fitting that you seek to lead people just because you like the idea of it or you admire someone who is gifted that way.

      Instead, find out what you ARE gifted to do and seek to grow in that area.
      Does that make sense?

      • Yes, absolutely. I see what you’re getting at now.
        If you think of gifts as coming from God, then how arrogant and ungrateful is it to pursue others? What a great encouragement to be diligent about developing the gifts that God has given us. 🙂

  • Rupzip

    This is really good. I know so many people who are just in the wrong spot in life. Someone told them that they should teach, or preach , or…sing.  

    And I have forced myself into things simply out of guilt….

    Discovering my gifting is a lifelong quest. And what I find out I need to embrace and celebrate it!

    • I agree David.  Sometimes we see someone else’s gift and want it.  Sometimes someone else tells us what our gift should be and we follow that for a while (unfulfilled).  Then, of course, there is guilt…

      I wonder if the finding of the gift(s) can be fairly obvious when we realize what it is we are trying to find.  I would say the development of the gift(s) is what will last a lifetime (and likely beyond!). 

      Either way, it is certainly worth celebrating!

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  • DougSpurling

    I picture American Idol singers that somehow believe singing is their life. And then Simon says “you do realize this is a singing competition don’t you.”  In my life the battle is an inward lie that says if you enjoy it then God most likely hasn’t called you to it. But I’ve found the reverse is true. If I’ll just delight myself in the Lord then the pursuit of the passion within is where the joy of the Lord gives me strength to prosper in every arena. Great Post – thanks.

    • “If I’ll just delight myself in the Lord then the pursuit of the passion within is where the joy of the Lord gives me strength to prosper in every arena.”

      Well put Doug! Don’t listen to that lie within!

      Thanks for reading!

  • This is a great post, and certainly causes one to think – – what are my gifts, and am I trying to use one that is not truely mine?  I enjoy telling people what to do in certain situations,  how to fix it, and what will make it better.  I am not sure if that is a gift or not, but a friend once told me that I was an exhorter.  There are time, when I need to be quiet, and may the Lord help me to use this gift as well.  The gift of keeping quiet at times. !!  🙂

    • Wow, do I need that gift!!!

      When you learn how, please let me know. I think we can both be much more effective at helping others if we use this gift of quiet and just listen.

      Thanks for reading!

  • I write…but I’m still unsure as to how God wants me to serve him with this gift.  I have a couple of blogs, but…???  How do we know when we are doing what He wants with our giftings?

    • I certainly do not have all of the answers for you, but I will encourage you to pray earnestly about it. If your heart is sincere and your motives are to bring Him glory, then He will reveal it to you over time. Sometimes that revelation can take years. Sometimes it is virtually overnight. It really just depends on the plan He has for you.

      I am sure Joseph wondered the same things as he sat (innocently) in prison. For him, it was years before God revealed the rest of His plan. For you, it may not be that long or it may be longer.

      I think the best advice for the short term (while you are praying) is to do the best you know to do with your gifts as you know them. I do not believe you are responsible for anything He has not yet revealed to you. Just trust that He will answer when the timing is perfect!

  • Karen

    Excellent post!  It’s so true.  Some things I do well and some not so much and that’s how I was designed.

    • You are fearfully and wonderfully made! That is a great thing!

      We would not do very well in community if we were gifted to do everything well, would we?

      Thanks for reading!

  • I wonder if, in our search for our gifts, we are sometimes too self-seeking and self-serving. The gifts we have are given to us by God and their purpose is to glorify him, and him alone. I may have a gift for preaching and teaching, but if I use it to glorify myself, to further my career or anything else rather than to glorify God, it will come to naught.

    Yes, David spent years developing his skills and gifts, but he used them – at least in facing Goliath – to glorify God.

  • I agree completely. There are so many good things that are twisted by the world into bad things. Gifts pursued for ego are bad, but pursued for God’s glory are certainly good.

    It is very easy to get caught up in our gifts, especially those the world applauds, and make them about us. It is critical that we remain humble and on our knees as we serve Him with these gifts.

    Thanks for adding to the conversation!

  • Thank you for this article.  I am dealing with guilt and confusion after leaving a ministry where I was not gifted.  I tend to believe that all ministry must be “work” and allow guilt to keep me from ministering out of the joy of the gifts God has given me.  It is when I try and serve out of place that I realize gifts are indeed gifts, gifts to enjoy, gifts to use, and gifts that God uses when we allow Him to.  Thank you for freeing my heart in this reminder, today. 

    • Cara, I promise you are not alone. Regardless of the reasons, so many people are working very hard to be good in areas where they are not gifted. Some are doing so out of necessity or for a season, but others are not at all aware of the mismatch!

      This is so sad because God designed us with specific gifts in mind. All we have to do is operate within our gifts and we will experience so much more fulfillment. If God’s word is clear about this, should we not rest in that?

      But now God has placed the parts, each one of them, in the body just as He wanted. – 1 Corinthians 12:18

      He has placed you where you are with the gifts that you have just as He wanted!

      Of course, it sometimes takes time and experience for us to figure out exactly what our gifts are. Sometimes they are not as clear to us as they might be to those around us. Figuring this out is often the hard part.

      But once we know where we are gifted, we are FREE to serve within those gifts! I am so glad you have grasped this and can get rid of that guilt!

      Thanks for reading!

  • Anonymous

    I came over from The High Calling, and I’ve been pondering this post all week. What I’m trying to work through is what we should do when we have a gift that can’t be fully realized because of a lack-of-gift. I’ll be more specific. One of my gifts is writing, but writing is only half of the equation: readers complete the writing. And I am not so good at that part, at finding an audience for what I write. 

    Most folks in the business call this marketing, and I suck at it. I’ve tried the I’m-no-good-at-that-so-I-won’t-bother approach, which is a cop-out. 

    I’ve tried the just-let-God-work-it-out approach, which also feels like a cop-out. After all, God works primarily along the lines of human effort and prayer, usually a combination of the two. 

    And I’ve tried the I’ll-just-grit-my-teeth-and-do-it approach, which completely backfired because I had no energy left for the writing itself.

    So, while knowing what our gifts are and working to develop them is important, it seems idealistic or even naive to expect to only operate out of our areas of giftedness. What do we do when, in order to realize the potential of our gift, we have to work out of our areas of discomfort, weakness, and not-giftedness?  

    • k (for short!),

      I think you have a very good question. I bet it is one that many have. I will first tell you that I do not have all the answers. At the same time, I believe I have a couple of suggestions, backed up by Scripture, that may help. At least consider them and pray about them.

      First, Joseph has the gift of administration. That is very clear from Scripture. God even gave him a dream that showed him the result of his using that gift. The problem for Joseph was that it took some time before he was in a position where he was able to operate fully in that gift.

      He could not exercise that gift at home with his brothers around. They would not stand for it. It was not until after being sold into slavery and then sold into Potiphar’s household (Genesis 39:1). Here, over time, God gave Joseph opportunity to operate in his gift of administration and he was very successful.

      Unfortunately, that did not last long and he soon found himself again constrained (literally) in prison. Again, it was years before Pharaoh gave him another opportunity to administrate (Genesis 41:40). Again, he was extremely successful and he realized that dream from years earlier.

      My point is this…God’s timing is perfect. If you are faithful to submit when necessary and flourish in your gift when the opportunity arises, God will be faithful. It is His promise. Though you may not be seeing the fruit (readers) of your gift, do not stop. As crazy as it may sound, the true impact of your writing may not be seen for years…maybe even after your death. Look up Henry David Thoreau, Edgar Allen Poe, and Emily Dickinson.

      While this may not be exactly what you want to hear, it remains true. God has gifted you to write. Write! Do not worry about the audience. Trust Scripture.

      Second, you mention that the second part of writing may be marketing, in order to achieve readers. Consider that Paul (1 Corinthians 12) clearly says that you are a part of the body as a believer. The eye does not both see and hear. The foot does not walk and taste.

      Consider praying for God to show you where your writing can bring glory to Him by being a part of the body. With your writing and someone else’s gift of marketing (not sure where that gift is in Scripture, but you get the idea!), maybe the partnership is how it will happen.

      Like I said, I do not have all the answers, but I hope I have at least helped you to see this in a new light. I will pray for God to reveal direction to you. You do the same. Trust Him!

      • Anonymous


        Thank you for such a lengthy and thoughtful response. You are the first person who has said this to me. Truly. Everyone else I’ve talked to or read–even other Christian writers–has said something along the lines of you’ll-just-have-to-suck-it-up-and-promote-yourself. Thank you for being the voice in the wilderness. I will ponder your words and pray over them. 


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  • excellent lesson on
    Pursue The Gifts You Have, Not The One’s You Want!Exactly something to be wise in … in order to be fruitful!
    There is nothing worse than a tree where the fruit looks promising and then it all shrivels up and falls off the tree 🙂 I don’t want that to be me !

    • Thanks Susan! I don’t want shriveled fruit either!

  • MilestoneMotiva

    Great post Chris…our business model is based on this platform.

    Check out our explanatory video:

  • Wish I used your example many times when coaching. Many times players wanted to play a position they were not gifted to play, or worse they tried to be something their parents wanted them to play. Your post brought back memories. For me I tried to be a receiver but ended up playing on the offensive line and found out I was pretty good at it. Thanks Chris…

  • Lawrence

    I have be trained as a minister for the past 40 years. I did not enter the ministry as I was concerned whether it was my pride or honest calling that had lead me to train. Finally I decided to take up a local preachers position to find that my qualification was outdated. None the less I persevered. Now God has brought me to the stage of realising I was never meant to be a minister but a teacher instead. He has given me such a desire to teach the word and to lead people from being babes in Christ to young men and women in Christ and even fathers in Christ. It has become a burning passion that the church does not operate at the lowest common denominator but that they all grow with His help to maturity

    • I am so glad you have come to this realization! It sounds like God is really going to use you in an awesome way! Thanks Lawrence!

  • Chris, you and Michael Hyatt are addressing a similar theme today ( http://michaelhyatt.com/great-at-everything.html ). You’ve both emphasized recognizing where our strength/gifting lies. A double dose of truth I need to embrace. Thanks.

    • Tom, sorry to be so late in responding! It is GREAT to hear from you again…miss our conversations! I am glad to be on the same page as Michael. That is a good place to be!

      • Glad to see you still writing. I’ve moved to Texas and have been taking on a new role as an associate pastor in Wimberley (if the town sounds familiar, we made the national and international news with the Memorial weekend flood).

  • Funmi Akinmade

    I feel so blessed by this post! Too many times, as Christians, we are put under pressure to do what is needed as opposed to what is gifted. I come alive when I operate in my gifting even when this does not come easily. Thank you for this post; stay blessed!

    • Chris Patton

      I am so glad to hear it, Funmi. You are welcome!

  • Fola S Popoola

    Great post. Very timely.