Skilled and willing

I was reading from Exodus (chapters 35-36) about the design and construction of the tabernacle in the wilderness. One story that is buried within the tabernacle narrative is how God had all the skilled labor available that he needed to build his place of worship. The writer of Exodus says that God called up “everyone who is willing” and “all who are skilled” to contribute to the construction process.

I wrote in the margin of my Bible: “There seems to be a powerful connection here between man’s willingness and God-given skill.”

Over and over in this story the Bible uses words like “willing” and “skill” and “ability” and “free will.” There doesn’t seem to be any coercion going on, but generous and skilled craftsmen rose to the occasion to make the items exactly as God intended.

Nowadays, when we talk about worship and skills we usually mean singers and preachers and teachers. But the guitar players and TV camera operators and production experts, as well as heating-and-cooling and maintenance and all those skilled positions, worship when they willingly use their God-given skills for the sake of the rest of us.

While God can accomplish anything he desires, there are some things that won’t happen unless we do our jobs. One Thursday morning I held up my yellow paper with my lesson notes on it and said, “As you know, I really enjoy leading classes like this. God has given me some gifts and skills for teaching, but even more, He has given me a heart to do it and a joy from it. But on this piece of paper, this in NOT God’s handwriting. This is my handwriting. I know that anything I have to say of value was given to me by God, yet God didn’t write it on this paper, I did.”

Even God-given skills have to be nurtured and trained. Its as if God has given us a starter set of skills and a heart and mind to use them, and then waits to see what we are willing to do to develop and improve those skills. Having skills as a teacher shouldn’t make you feel privileged or blessed as much as obligated and responsible. How dare we sit back on a skill God has given us and not be willing to improve it.

Sometimes Christian say," All I am trying to do is get out of God's way." I know they use that phrase because they don't want to be arrogant, but the phrase implies that humans are an impediment to God, that we get in his way, we get underfoot. I don't believe that is true. I believe we have to pursue God and pursue the dreams and projects he has given us and work hard, with all our heart.

Another thing: God-given skills can be used for entirely wrong reasons. Earlier in the Exodus story we read about a time when some of the Israelites got anxious because Moses was away on the mountaintop too long. They gathered up donated gold jewelry and made a calf statue to worship. Once again we see both willingness and skill, but used in a way to break relationship with God rather than to build it.

Sometimes it is hard to know the skills we have from God. If they are a natural part of our personality we may be so used to them and comfortable with them we forget how rare they are. For example, Cyndi and Tanya can watch someone lead a dance step or exercise routine once or twice and they are able to repeat it back flawlessly. They can see a routine once and then repeat the mirror-image of it while in front of a full class. Both women are exercise instructors nowadays and I feel I have to speak up for all mortal normal people to remind them that almost no one else can do what they can do. It is so much a part of who they are they naturally assume everyone can do it.

As I get older, I am becoming more choosy about where to give my time and energy. I want to use the skills God has given me and I have little patience working hard at something I’m not good at.

I think we all have skills given by God, even if we have trouble identifying them. Do you know yours?

One good exercise is to make a list of the things people compliment you on. Make a list of those compliments that have stuck with you for a long time … that certain thing someone said ten years ago and you still remember it fondly. The reason you remember some comments for a long time is because they are the ones that speak to your heart and soul. Try to identify the common skills and gifts that link those stories, and train them and improve them. And give them back to God willingly.



“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

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