“I cannot, but God…”

We all have them. Some of us use them wisely, others unwisely as our focus is on building our own kingdom. I’m talking about gifts. Dictionary.com defines a “gift” as a special ability or capacity; a natural endowment or talent.

The Bible says it this way: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights” (James 1:17). Biblically, there are different types of gifts. For instance, there are tangible or physical gifts, like a natural talent or personality trait that can help someone become a great athlete, musician, pastor, etc. These types of gifts are generally easier to identify. There are also spiritual gifts, like prophecy or discernment, less tangible but just as real. If you are a Christian, you have a spiritual gift. The Bible teaches that both physical and spiritual gifts are given to people from God. Have you ever asked the question: what should I do with my particular gift?

I love seeing how God works through people. It’s one of the reasons why I love meeting new people. I get excited to see the world through their particular gifting. Unfortunately, our gifts can become a major point of arrogance. If we’re not careful, we can believe the lie that our gifts should be primarily used to better our socioeconomic status, build our platform, and protect our kingdom from perceived threats. In other words, they become all about us.

The story of Joseph provides a great example of how we should use our gifts. Joseph was a guy who experienced profound trails yet never turned his gaze from God. A guy who had many opportunities to curse the Lord’s name, yet, remained faithful and in tune to God’s work in his life. Joseph had plenty of reasons to live a life full of bitterness and anger, instead, he chose to remember God’s faithfulness and steady hand guiding him through the ups and downs of life.

You may know the story, Joseph was the eleventh of Jacob’s twelve sons. He was Rachel’s firstborn. His brothers sold him into slavery because they were jealous of their father’s favor toward him. His life and story seems to go from one bad situation to another, yet, the Bible tells us that “The LORD was with Joseph so that he prospered” (Genesis 39:2). He prospered while living in Potiphar’s house. He prospered in prison after being placed there for accusations involving Potiphar’s wife. Finally, he greatly prospered while overseeing the whole land of Egypt. The story is fascinating. You can read the whole thing in Genesis 39-50.

Joseph was extremely gifted. God had blessed him in several important ways. One gift we see in the story is Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams. For instance, while in prison, Joseph interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh’s officials, which, eventually led him directly to Pharaoh to interpret other dreams.

When Pharaoh was distressed about two dreams, he sent for magicians and wise men of Egypt in hopes of receiving an interpretation. None came. Where do you turn when you need interpretation of a dream, vision, or word from the Lord? Some people today go to fortune-tellers or psychics. Pharaoh tried that but eventually turned to a man who loved and feared God.

Here’s how it played out: In Genesis 41:15, Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it” (emphasis mine). Stop for a second. I think I’d be tempted to puff out my chest and declare, “You are very wise, Sir Pharaoh, and you have heard correctly! In fact, I’m considering getting a PhD in dream interpretations because I’m that good.” That’s not what Joseph said.

“I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires” (Genesis 41:16).

Did you catch it? Joseph said, “I cannot, but God…!” He gave the credit to the gift giver. He acknowledged the power of God. When you are excelling with your gifts, are you ever tempted to take all the credit? Do you ever feel like people should acknowledge your special ability or capacity in a specific area? Are you looking for the praises and high-fives of others?

Joseph is a great example of someone not seeking their own glory and fame. There is certainly a lesson here. Thank God for your gifts and use them for his glory and the edification of others.

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