TALENTS - GOD'S GIFTS
She was a true original and a talent beyond compare” (CNN Online News, February 11). This was Quincy Jones (American music producer) reaction to the sudden and unexpected death (accidental drowning) ofWhitney Houston (legendary pop singer) on Saturday, February 11, 2012. Another great American singer and songwriter, Lionel Richie, told CNN that Whitney “had a voice that could just turn on a story, a melody into magical notes.” Reverend DeForest B. Soaries Jr, senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset, New Jersey, and a friend of Whitney, remembered her rehearsal with a choir back in 1977 when Whitney was only 14. He said, “This child had invoked a level of divine inspiration that involved the kind of joyous tears and emotional shouts that were characteristics of the black religious experience. Not only did Whitney’s singing completely transform the atmosphere, but it was clear to everyone in that rehearsal that they were in the presence of an unusual talent and that they were eyewitness to a superstar taxiing on the runway of success and fame” (CNN Opinion: "The Whitney Houston I Knew," February 13).
I saw a depth and a range and soul ... that rarely ranks at the top level. And that's why we've been working together ever since"
So Whitney Houston had an angelic voice and a “talent beyond compare,” but what is a talent? A talent is a natural and unique ability instilled into ones being by God in His act of creation. This deed of sharing something of Himself with us is expressed well in the Genesis account: “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” Genesis 1:27 (NIV). Talents come to us as a gift of His grace at birth, and every human person (Christian or non-Christian) born into this world is endowed with a set of special skills and abilities. For Christians, however, these manifestations of God’s creativity and love are given so we can serve and minister to people everywhere while giving Him, our Creator and Maker, the glory (I Corinthians 10:31).
Can talents be refined, improved, and developed to extraordinary quality over time? The answer is yes, and the singing voice of Whitney was a powerful example of a talent that was trained and coached well. Clive Davis, music producer and Whitney’s mentor for more than 25 years noted, “I saw a depth and a range and soul ... that rarely ranks at the top level. And that's why we've been working together ever since” (Davis on CNN’s "Piers Morgan Tonight," February 9, 2012). But as pointed out earlier, a talent is, first and foremost a God-given ability; and it is given to a person as a “perfect” gift of the Creator (James 1:17). On its own, any talent is extraordinary; and when used and applied at any given time in one’s life, it comes across as a “natural” and normal part of their being. Nevertheless, every talent like any human skill has the potential for further refinement and improvement. This aspect of development and management is an expression of Christian stewardship.
Can a talent lose its shine, effectiveness, and intended impact? Unfortunately, the answer is also a yes. For Whitney, her smoking and use of drugs affected her ability to reach those high notes that used to make her voice one-of-a-kind. The standard of excellence that she set herself in her rendition of the national anthem at the 1991 Super Bowl, or the soundtrack hit “I will always love you” from the movie “The Bodyguard” (1992) was no longer there when she embarked on a comeback Australian tour in February 2010. Her once clean image of a girl with a pristine voice was now tarnished because of an undesirable lifestyle. Perhaps a lesson that we can all learn from the sad ending of Whitney’s life is that we, as followers of Christ, need to value, and take care of, our God given talents.
While a talent (e.g. a voice for singing) may stay with a person for life, their spiritual gifts may vary from time to time and given as additional skills for a specific purpose and service."
Can a talent be a “spiritual gift” as well? Absolutely! In terms of one’s “gift-mix,” all gifts (talents, acquired skills, and spiritual gifts) come from God, and as such it is possible that a talent may be used by God in a given time and place to compliment the needs of ministry. But unlike spiritual gifts which are received as part of the blessings of conversion, talents are received at the time of one’s natural birth. While a talent (e.g. a voice for singing) may stay with a person for life, their spiritual gifts may vary from time to time and given as additional skills for a specific purpose and service. The end purpose for both talents and spiritual gifts, however, is meant to be the same: to minister to others and to bring glory to God.
As Christian stewards, we recognize that life and giftedness, as expressed in people’s natural abilities, acquired skills, and spiritual gifts, are measures of God’s grace given freely because of His unconditional love and mercies. As gifts of grace they are not given for self-exaltation or personal praise, but granted to us to be used in service to humanity and in extending the boundaries of God’s Kingdom on earth. Along with the privilege of receiving these gifts comes the responsibility of developing them to the full, and using them in the process of making disciples, while giving glory to Him who is worthy of our praise. But when we fail to use our talents, or when we abuse or misuse these blessings, we can lose them forever.