Able and Available

The winner of this weekend’s drawing for my “Speak Lord, I’m Listening CD is Heather! (Thanks tiggerdaisy for your reminder :->). As a continuation of the She Speaks Q&A we did this weekend, I promised to share a story about the thank you note that launched my speaking ministry. Today was my radio recording day so I am getting online just before bed. I hope this story of very small beginnings will encourage your heart….
This is the best thank you note I’ve ever read,” Janet insisted. “Renee, you have a writing gift and you need to use it.” I was confused. It was only a thank you note. Yet, later that day I wondered if God could use me to encourage more than just one friend with my writing. I‘d been asking Him for a place to serve in our church.

His answer came while I drove home from a women’s dinner that Fall. I’d taken notes on a napkin but I wished I had the message outline to look over. Then I got the craziest idea: Maybe I could write a study guide for the dinners to give women who want to go deeper, too. Doubt filtered my idea through reality. Who was I to think I could write something women would want to read?

Several weeks later, I told Janet my idea. She was on the women’s ministry team and told me they’d prayed for a gift to give women after the dinners. Much to my shock they asked me to write a study guide! Although I felt unqualified and insecure, with Janet’s prayers and prodding I wrote it. Over 1000 copies were given away. I wrote another the next year and then another. I never felt able, but I wanted to be available.

I hadn’t always been available. I was more like the third servant Jesus described in Matthew 25:14-30. The servant worked for a business manager who was going out-of-town. He gave each of his three servants individual projects to complete according to their abilities. The first two were given bigger assignments. Maybe they had more experience or were better at multi-tasking. Both gave their time and talents to serve their boss. He was pleased with them when he returned.

The third servant was given less responsibility and he neglected his assignment. Perhaps he thought, “Oh, this little project isn’t much, why worry about it? My boss will never notice.” I’ve thought that before.

Were the others given more visible responsibilities? Perhaps envy turned to anger toward his boss making him apathetic about his assignment. His manager was not pleased. I wonder how God feels when I’m not faithful with what He’s assigned to me.

Our Boss is on an out-of-town assignment. He’s asked eachof us to oversee something in His kingdom, according to our God-given abilities.With each ability comes an assignment that holds the possibility of reward or the potential of regret. It doesn’t matter how much or how little God’s given us. What matters is how we use what we’ve been given.

It’s been several years since I wrote that first study guide. It’s funny how that was actually the beginning of my speaking and writing ministry. Eventually, God gave me more assignments and just as promised He gave me joy I’d never known. It started with the simple encouragement of a friend and her prayers. But God had more in mind and He took that seed and watered it with the calling of another woman who was simply available. It was all God. He’s the One who made me able to give back what He’d given me.

Let’s pray…Dear Lord, what abilities have You given me that I don’t see? Show me little things that can make a difference for You and others. I lay down my doubt, my envy and comparison. I want to know the joy of serving you! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Read Matthew 25:14-30. List abilities you or others think you do well. List steps you can today to be a good steward of abilities God’s given you.

Click here and scroll down to “How did you get started?” at the bottom of this weekend’s post if you want to find out what happened after that first study guide.

About Renee

Renee Swope is a Word-lover, story-teller, heart-encourager and grace-needer. She's also a wife, mom, friend, daughter and author of A Confident Heart, a Retailers Choice Award winning book that became a best-seller and has been published in six languages, with over 150,000 copies sold. Renee is speaks around the country at women's events and and serves on the writing team for DaySpring’s inCourage blog. For twenty years, Renee served in leadership at Proverbs 31 Ministries and as former co-host of the ministry's radio program, “Everyday Life with Lysa & Renee.

Comments

  1. Hi Renee! The Lord has pricked my heart after reading your blog today. I have read the parable as suggested and have listed what I can think of as my abilities or talents. I am stuck on listing steps for being a good steward. Could you provide an example(s)? Some of the things that I listed are: encouraging others, hospitaltiy, details (all of which are good in writing), reading and proofreading, mucis, painting… Thanks for your encouragement and mentoring! Much love, Dawn

  2. Hi Renee, thanks for the inspiring story of how you surrendered to God to be available. My writing too has been birthed out of letter-writing and friends encouraging me to write more. They too have commented that I write the best letters. I don’t know about that, but they are the honest expressions of my heart. I find writing to be a great joy and I know this delight comes from the Lord because I feel His pleasure. I don’t feel ‘able’, but I am willing to be ‘available’ and that’s what God desires. Surrendering again to Him today. Surrendering my doubt, envy and comparison. (So strange you should write that – I just wrote that yesterday on a comment to Lysa – I struggle so much with feeling threatened by how ‘able’ everyone else appears.) Again, God has used you to speak to my heart.
    Thanks my friend,
    Joy

  3. Digging for Pearls says:

    Renee,
    Thank you for your post today. God prompted me with an idea about six months ago and I have not done anything with it because of insecurity. But I have read this story of yours a couple times now and each time I am reminded of the idea so here goes. 🙂

    I am a Gather & Grow leader and I wondered if P31 has considered having a Bible study that covers the seven principles of Proverbs 31 Ministry. I thought it could be a great way for new ladies coming in to get a real vision of your ministry. I have written several Bible studies and I still keep thinking about one for P31 that covers the mission of the organization.

    Blessings,
    Jodie

  4. Your story is encouraging. I think the third servant in Matthew 25 also did not act out of fear and doubt. Your story and the story of the servants are great examples of how important it is use what we have been given, so that God can bless use with more.

    Thank you for overcoming your original doubt and following God’s lead. It is inspiring to me, as I struggle to focus on what God wants me to do now and not worry about planning it all out. I trust God to take me where he wants it to lead.

  5. Yes, thank you for your words of challenge and encouragement. I can identify with what you are saying as well. The fears of the 3rd servant have made me nervous as I identified with them. What would God say to me regarding the talents He has given me? I, too, feel weak and inept. This has caused me to ‘hold back’ at times…not believing that I had much to offer. Or,just not knowing what I had to offer.

    I have had the same experience with people coming to me even months after I wrote a note or something and telling me they still read it from time to time to be encouraged. It has baffled me, but perhaps your sharing has helped to make things a little clearer.

    I will pray the prayer you put at the end of the blog…and expect God to direct my path.

    One question I have had is of timing. I wonder if there are seasons (because of raising children, etc.) that God only asks for smaller investments of the gift.

    Also, do you think that perhaps writing the notes, etc. (which may seem insignificant) could be the very thing God is asking of us? Since Jesus spoke of leaving the fold for one lost sheep…perhaps touching that one disheartened soul is exactly what the LORD is asking? Just a thought… But, of course, if we are holding back out of fear when God is trying to lead us onward…that certainly needs to be addressed…

    Hmmmm…something to ‘chew on’…

    Thanks again,
    C.J.

  6. Thanks for sharing your beginnings, and the encouragement. I too have had people comment about my writing. I had no idea. There are so many wonderful writers and authors out there, how could I possibly contribute? But maybe in some way, with God’s help, I can be an encouragement to others.
    BTW, package recieved! Bracelet gorgeous, coffee will be consumed, and book devoured! A thousand thanks!

  7. tiggerdaisy says:

    I’ve got to do some major searching on this one. I know some of my abilities, but I want to search myself as well as ask others what they see in me before I complete my list. I know for certain that I am a teacher and encourager. Always have been. Sigh…that’s where I feel my best!

    On a side note, when will you have the winner to the drawing you posted last week? 🙂

  8. MrsProverbs31 says:

    Renee, Thank you so much for such an encouraging post. All you ladies at Proverbs 31 are always so encouraging and helpful. Praise the Lord for your talents and gifts.

  9. Heather@Mommymonk says:

    You know what I hear from this story? God rewards faithfulness. You weren’t seeking glory, just being faithful in thanking someone for their ministry to you. You were caring for others, which is what ministry is all about. Sometimes, it’s easy (for me at least) to get caught up in the “up front” parts of ministry and diminish the work of something like a simple thank you. What a blessing you are!

  10. Amy L Brooke says:

    Thanks for sharing your heart!

    Thanks too for the “goodies”. I do like the bracelet and it went on immediately. I was having a horrible, rotten, no-good kind of day and dreading the fact that it is only Tuesday! And then I came home and opened my mailbox. SMILE

    Thank you. I can’t wait to check out the guide.

  11. Love you back friend! Thanks for the beautiful words on the blog…you made me smile. I appreciate you!

  12. Hey Renee! Your post has really ministered to me today. My, how many times have I fallen into the third servant catergory! I’m embarrassed to say, but I have thought sometimes that maybe my task wasn’t as important as others and just kinda let it slide(sometimes altogether, and sometimes waiting to the last minute, and not giving it my all.) As I read your post I was struck with what you said about our “Boss” being on an out-of-town assignment and we, being His servants, being left in charge of His kingdom. Honestly, I have heard this parable countless times, and this is the first time I have really thought about it this way! It made me stop and think…”Am I making the most out of my time here on Earth?” “Am I being a good servant and reaching people for His kingdom, telling others of a wonderful savior who died for them, and wants to wash their sins away?” “Am I being a good steward of what God has given me?” “Am I being “all that I can be” as a woman, wife, mother?” So many questions, so much soul searching. I can answer “sort of”, “kind of” to some of those, but I want to do better than that. I want to be the good and faithful servant, and do everything as unto the Lord with excellence. Now, I know I’m only human and will make mistakes and stumble(and grumble)from time to time. And that’s alright, that’s how we grow and mature. It’s all one step at a time, one opportunity at a time. Thank you for inspiring these ponderings! I know I’ve rambled on and on, and this might not have been the direction this was supposed to go… But there’s something freeing about pouring one’s heart out on “paper”! God Bless! April

  13. Chris @ Come to the Table says:

    Thanks for sharing this Renee.

    I love to hear about faithfulness in the life of His servants. It is so encouraging.

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