“For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints” (2 Corinthians 8:3,4).
AS WE REACH FORWARD TO HEAVEN, THERE IS SOMETHING ELSE WE NEED TO REACH FOR IN THE MEANTIME, AND THAT IS GREATER ABILITY IN THE LORD’S WORK. Participation in the Lord’s work is the greatest privilege a human being can enjoy in this world, and we ought to want to contribute to that work in every way possible, including some ways that may be beyond us right now.
What we CAN do is important. It is a sin to undervalue our abilities and waste them. Recognizing that these abilities would not be ours if it weren’t for the Lord’s grace, we ought to have Paul’s frame of mind: “I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10).
What we COULD do is more important. If the Lord gets the glory for what we are, He should also get the glory for what we could become, if we would accept the help He wants to give us. When we minimize what is possible for us, we call into question the bounty of the Lord’s grace. But there is no limit (practically speaking) to what He would provide for our growth if we were only willing to stretch. “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8).
The problem of the “plateau.” When we first started out as Christians, most of us went through a growth spurt. In the early excitement of our faith, we eagerly availed ourselves of opportunities to grow in our knowledge and abilities. But after a certain amount of growth, most of us leveled off, and sadly, it has been a long time since many of us learned how to do any new thing.
I have long preached the truth of this equation: ability + opportunity = responsibility. If the Lord returns today, we’ll be held accountable for our use of the abilities we’ve acquired up to this point. But what if He doesn’t return today? Tomorrow, will we be content to have no more ability than we had today? Out of all that we can’t do, isn’t there something we could learn to do?
“Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow” (Ronald E. Osborn).