THE HOLY SPIRIT GIVES TALENT
WE NOW EMBARK upon a teaching called “common grace”—God’s goodness to everybody whether
they are saved or lost. God causes His sun to shine and rain to fall on the just and unjust (Matt. 5:45).
It is God’s special grace in nature. We call it “common” not because it is ordinary but because it is
given commonly to all people—saved, lost, young, old, Americans, Brits, Indians, Chinese, rich,
poor, red, yellow, black, or white. When I refer to special grace in nature, I refer to one’s natural
ability, talent, intellect, or gift. The Spirit of God is the explanation. Though it is our “natural” ability
or talent on display, it is nonetheless the Spirit of God who is responsible for our IQ; our ability to
play an instrument, practice medicine, or drive a truck; and whether we are cerebral, gifted in
athletics, able to work with a computer, or to teach. Such people, as I said, may or may not be saved.
I have no idea whether Sergei Rachmaninoff was a Christian, but I love to hear his music. Albert
Einstein had one of the greatest intellects in the twentieth century, but there is no evidence he was a
Christian. Sometimes highly gifted people become Christians—such as St. Augustine, John Calvin, or
Jonathan Edwards—and the church is all the better for it. But most of us are ordinary (1 Cor. 1:26).
The teaching of common grace emerges early in the Old Testament. A man named Bezalel was
gifted with a special skill. It pertained to “ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts—to make
artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to
engage in all kinds of craftsmanship” (Exod. 31:3–5). And where did this talent come from? “The
LORD said to Moses, ‘See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri . . . and I have filled him with the Spirit
of God, with skill, ability and knowledge” (vv. 1–3, emphasis added).
Have you ever heard of Jubal? “He was the father of all who play the harp and flute” (Gen. 4:21).
What do you know about Tubal-Cain? He “forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron” (v. 22).
These were talents that have their origin in the Spirit of God.
When Solomon began to build the temple, he turned to Hiram and said: “Give orders that cedars of
Lebanon be cut for me . . . You know that we have no one so skilled in felling timber as the
Sidonians” (1 Kings 5:6). “The craftsmen of Solomon and Hiram and the men of Gebal cut and
prepared the timber and stone for the building of the temple” (v. 18). In other words, in order to build
the temple, Solomon went outside Israel to get some of the work done. He would be thankful that
there are people in the world with particular gifts and talents. The explanation: the Spirit of God.
Common grace is what keeps the world from being topsy-turvy. Thank God for traffic lights, for
hospitals, for firemen, for policemen, for doctors and nurses.
You have a talent that God gave you. It is not necessarily because you are a Christian. You
received this talent from your parents and the influences of your environment, peer relationships, and
education. Thank God for these. “For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have
that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (1 Cor.
4:7). Have you thanked God for His goodness to you at the natural level? Did you know that it is been
proven by a group of psychologists that thankful people live longer?1
“By the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10). You have the blessed Spirit of God to thank
fo r everything good in your life. Sometimes spiritual gifts overlap with what may be called
motivational gifts. Gifted people in the church are given positions and responsibilities not necessarily
because they are more spiritual but, simply, more able. Such ability is often to be derived from
common grace—whether serving, teaching, encouraging, or leadership (Rom. 12:7–8). God uses
one’s natural ability in the church to advance His kingdom. Charles Spurgeon used to say that if God
calls you to preach, He will give you “a pair of lungs”—especially in days when there were no
public address systems!2
We should pray that God would raise up more men and women in the church with great natural
talent. It is a pity when able people offer their gifts to the world when, in fact, they came from the
Spirit of God.
For further study: Psalm 45:1–6; Matthew 5:43–45; 1 Corinthians 4:6–7; James 1:17
Gracious Holy Spirit, teach me how great God is! Thank You for all the things you give
us because You love Your creation—flowers, food, change of seasons, people You put in
our path, our natural ability and grace in us we so easily take for granted. In Jesus’s
THE HOLY SPIRIT OVERRULES
MY FAMILY AND I moved to Oxford, England, in 1973 in order for me to do my doctor of philosophy
degree. I had my heart set on writing a thesis on the theology of the puritan John Owen (1616–1683).
On a pivotal occasion my supervisors Dr. B. R. White and Dr. J. I. Packer had lunch with me to give
me news I did not want to hear. “Shall you tell him or should I?” Dr. White said to Dr. Packer. They
brought their verdict that I should “minimize my liabilities”—that I must give up my plans to do a
thesis on John Owen but take a different line. My supervisors had overruled my plans. I was
devastated. I went home with a migraine headache. But, in fact, their advice was the best thing that
happened to me at Oxford. I eventually came to see it as God kindly overruling my plans.
To overrule means to disallow by exercising one’s superior authority. Have you lived long enough
to appreciate God overruling in your life? The first time it is written that the Spirit of God overruled
in the life of Israel was when the false prophet Balaam attempted to prophesy against Israel. Balak
king of Moab asked Balaam to curse Israel because “those you bless are blessed and those you curse
are cursed” (Num. 22:6). But when Balaam attempted to prophesy, “the Spirit of God came upon
him,” and he uttered a prophecy that positively blessed Israel (Num. 24:2–9). Think of that! The
Spirit of God overruled the intentions of a false prophet. For generations this event would be looked
back upon with great fondness by Israel. Moses observed that Balak, Israel’s enemy, hired Balaam to
curse Israel, but “the LORD your God would not listen to Balaam but turned the curse into a blessing
for you, because the LORD your God loves you” (Deut. 23:5; see also Josh. 24:10; Neh. 13:2).
The history of Israel is replete with instances when God overruled in the life of Israel because He
loved Israel. God overruled the plans of Pharaoh to keep the Israelites in bondage. He sent plagues
upon Egypt and enabled the Israelites to cross the Red Sea, and then He destroyed the Egyptians who
tried again to defeat Israel (Exod. 14:29–31). God overruled the plans of Sennacherib to destroy
Israel when He sent an angel to put 185,000 men to death (2 Kings 19:35).
The history of Israel is also full of accounts when God overruled for the sake of individual
servants. When Korah challenged Moses’s authority, God overruled and destroyed Korah and his
rebellious followers (Num. 16:31–35). King Nebuchadnezzar was determined to annihilate Shadrach,
Meshach, and Abednego by casting them into a burning furnace. God overruled. The Son of God
joined these three men—which amazed the king when he saw four men walking in the blazing furnace.
The fire had not harmed them, “nor was a hair of their heads singed” (Dan. 3:27). After that the
administrators of King Darius were motivated by jealousy toward Daniel. They manipulated the king
into signing a decree that put Daniel into a lions’ den. God overruled and “shut the mouths of the
lions” (Dan. 6:22).
The high priest arrested the apostles of Jesus and put them in the public jail. But God overruled.
“During the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out” (Acts 5:19).
Peter was extremely biased toward Gentiles. He piously said to God, “I have never eaten anything
impure or unclean.” God said, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean” (Acts 10:14–
15). God overruled. Peter learned a lesson: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show
favoritism” (v. 34).
If it were not for the overruling grace of God, none of us would be preserved, taught new lessons—
or even saved. Saul of Tarsus was on his way to kill Christians in Damascus. God overruled.
Suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him, and he fell to the ground. The result was that he
prayed, “What shall I do, Lord?” (Acts 22:6–10). Paul wrote to the Ephesians, noting that “we all
once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by
nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy . . . made us alive . . .
and raised us up with him” (Eph. 2:3–6, ESV). But God.
The gracious Holy Spirit overrules in our lives all the time. I predict that when we get to heaven
we will ask God to let us see countless DVDs of how angels intervened and overruled in our lives—
when we were not conscious of all that was going on. Thank God for the Holy Spirit’s overruling
For further study: Psalm 124; Daniel 6:3–24; Acts 9:1–15; Ephesians 2:1–9
Blessed Holy Spirit, thank You for the ways You have overruled again and again in my
life. I blush to think about it. Just make me thankful for Your exceeding kindnesses. In
Jesus’s name, amen.
THE HOLY SPIRIT TRANSFERS ANOINTING
I HAVE SAID MANY times that I would rather have a greater anointing than anything. I suppose that is a
God-honoring request, but I am not so sure. I want it so much that I cannot tell whether this desire is
natural or spiritual. The anointing is the power of the Holy Spirit that makes our gift function with
ease. When I live within my anointing, my gift works without effort, but the moment I go outside my
anointing, I find myself struggling.
God does not want us to struggle. He wants us to cast our anxiety on Him (1 Pet. 5:7). But at least
twice in his life Moses struggled. First, he was overwhelmed by people coming to him in droves to
get his verdict on civil matters among the children of Israel. His wise father-in-law, Jethro, saw all
that Moses was doing for the people and said to him, “Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these
people stand around you from morning till evening? . . . What you are doing is not good. You and
these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you
cannot handle it alone” (Exod. 18:14–18). Jethro then advised Moses to designate authority to others
—appointing capable men as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens—letting them handle
the simple cases and Moses the more difficult (vv. 19–26).
The second occasion was when the people complained about the food—pining for what they ate in
Egypt and lamenting that they now “never see anything but this manna!” (Num. 11:6). Moses brought
this to the Lord and told Him that he could not bear the burden of their constant complaining. Moses
was then instructed to choose seventy elders. God assured Moses that He would lighten his load: “I
will take of the Spirit that is on you and put the Spirit on [the seventy]. They will help you carry the
burden of the people so that you will not have to carry it alone” (v. 17). After that the Lord came
down in a cloud and spoke with Moses. God “took of the Spirit that was on him and put the Spirit on
the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied, but they did not do so again” (v.
25). However, two of them who had remained in the camp prophesied, and Joshua was upset. “Stop
them!” he said to Moses. “Are you jealous for my sake?” he asked Joshua. “I wish that all the LORD’S
people were prophets and that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!” (vv. 28–29).
Why would Moses want everybody to prophesy and all to have the Spirit on them? Because when
one person is in leadership and sees people struggle with their maladies, he realizes he needs all the
help he can get! Joshua had not yet inherited Moses’s mantle and wrongly assumed that Moses wanted
to be the head and center of everything. How wrong Joshua was. The transfer of anointing to others
lightens the load of the one with whom the buck stops. When all the people have the Spirit on them, it
will mean that the work of God functions with ease—and with no rival spirit in control.
We learn from this how God can take from our anointing and pass it on to others. We are not told
that Moses laid hands on the seventy elders. The impression is given that God merely did it by
Himself—taking from Moses’s anointing and passing it on without Moses losing any measure of the
Spirit in the process. This is the wonderful thing about Christian ministry; what we give away we
Nothing would be more thrilling than God taking from one’s ministry and passing it on to others. I
have longed for the day that not only would my anointing change lives and increase their measure of
the Holy Spirit but also even heal people’s bodies under my preaching. But if we want to keep the
Holy Spirit to ourselves, it is unlikely that God will use us much.
We also learn from this account that God does not want us to bear a heavy load. He knows how
much we can bear and will step in—never too late, never too early, but always just on time.
For further study: Exodus 18:9–26; Numbers 11:4–30; 1 Corinthians 14:1–6; Revelation 10:8–11
Sovereign Spirit of God, I ask You to grant me an ever-increasing anointing and that it
might be transferred to many people for Your honor and glory. In Jesus’s name, amen