The 1981 British historical film Chariots of Fire tells the story of two British long distance runners who eventually competed in the 1924 Olympics. One of the men was Eric Liddell, a devout Christian born in China to Scottish missionary parents, who actually won a gold medal in those Olympic Games.
Eric was expected to follow in the footsteps of his parents by training to become a missionary in China. He knew he was called to be a missionary; however, he was also gifted by God to run very fast.
Eric sister’s felt the time he spent training for his running took away from the time he should have spent preparing to be a missionary. Eric responded to her concerns with these words:
“I believe God made me for a purpose. But he also made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure.”
Did you get that last part: “I feel His pleasure.” I just love that! That tells me God gifts us not just for our benefit or pleasure, but also for His pleasure!
Back in the day (which is code for when I was much younger!); I was a very natural athlete. It was my ‘talent’. I could play just about any sport fairly well, and I truly enjoyed every minute I was able to participate in anything athletic.
I loved being part of a team. I loved the way I felt when I was in good shape. I loved the competition. I loved the sense of satisfaction when diligent practices flowed into game-day victories. Again, having a talent for anything athletic gave me pleasure on many levels.
Over the course of several decades, I entered in different seasons of my life that just didn’t leave room for too many sporting activities. A back injury was one of the main culprits for my need to curtail my focus on athletic endeavors. I do still dabble in some sporting activities, but usually just to the extent that leave me very sore a few days later.
Let’s fast forward to this past spring…
One weekend, during announcement time at my church, the call went out for softball players as co-ed teams were forming for the Spring League.
For a brief second after hearing that, I remembered the days of playing softball and how much I enjoyed every aspect of the game. That thought was soon replaced with the memory of my age and the many years that had passed since I last attempted to play.
While leaving the building after service, I saw the softball sign-up table. I kept my eye on it as I attempted to walk by, but was actually shocked when I walked to it and found myself talking with these folks as if I was really going to play. They were very encouraging to me, so I took one of their information sheets and told them I would think about playing.
Over the course of the next several days during my prayer time with God, I brought the subject of softball up with Him. My thoughts on the matter ranged between remembering how I loved playing and how ridiculous it would be for a woman in her mid-fifties to even consider playing.
One morning, in a rather frustrated tone, I spoke out loud to God and said,
“Why didn’t you give me a talent that would be useful as I aged? Why could I never grasp anything musical or have been an artist? Those types of things I could have done until the day I die!”
“You have a talent that has served you well and has given Me a great deal of pleasure.”
This exchange, along with the recent announcement of softball teams forming, was the catalyst for me to understand, embrace really, a new depth to the relationship God desires to have with me.
Now, I know the joy that I feel being in relationship with Him. I have felt His grace and love in amazing ways over the course of my faith journey. However, I never truly connected that the talents he gave me, or gives any of us, brings Him pleasure much in the same way significant people in our lives love to watch us engage in what God has gifted us to do.
Here is another part of the story to show how God weaves everything together so perfectly. A few years ago, during a healing service at my church, God did grant enough healing of my back issue to allow me to do many things I was previously unable to do.
Well, as you probably have figured out by now, I did play the co-ed softball season last spring.
I enjoyed every minute of it and for the most part was easily able to hold my own. But the most joyful part of the whole adventure was for the first time in my life I played just to give Him pleasure.
I felt His pleasure when I was playing.
I have been involved in athletic activities all my life, but it took until my mid-fifties before I learned to enjoy my talents just for His pleasure. No stats. No accolades. No worries about my performance.
Just for His pleasure.
Perhaps that is true freedom. Doing what we love and were gifted to do by our Creator, first and foremost, for His pleasure. Not as any type of pay back for His gracious gifts, but just because we really can give Him pleasure.
I believe as we allow His pleasure to be our primary focus in anything we do, we lay a solid foundation for success in all we do. God created us because He desired relationship with us. I believe he gave us all talents so we could interact and enjoy the world He created for us. I also believe it is those talents He bestowed on us that are meant to create a unique bond, a special place of meeting, between the Heavenly Father and His beloved child.
I played softball last spring partly out of gratitude for my back healing, but mostly because I love my Heavenly Dad and I understood my pleasure was His pleasure as well.
Do you play musical instrument? Play so He can take in your sweet melody.
Is your talent in gardening? Plant and grow a bouquet He can gaze down upon on a warm spring morning.
Do you love to sing? Sing out loud in the course of your day so He can enjoy the song in your heart.
Are you an artist? Draw, paint, sculpt or create that masterpiece He placed inside of you so He can hang it on His refrigerator.
Do you enjoy writing? Write from your heart each day and allow your words to touch His heart.
Dust off whatever talent you process that has become lost in the busyness of life.
Allow yourself to re-ignite the joy of your talent in the pureness of its original intent.
Allow God to feel pleasure in His gift to you.