William Carey’s famous maxim was: “Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.” Yet some of us suffer from a nagging fear that we are underutilized in our current field of service. Our preaching ability merits a larger audience or our leadership gifts would bear more fruit if we served a congregation that was more responsive to vision. How can we achieve great things when we aren’t allowed to exercise our gifts to their fullest ability?
It is possible, of course, that we have overestimated our abilities. I know that I am better at some things than I am at others. But I also know that I think I am better at some things than is really the case. This is a conviction based upon common observation rather than self observation. Hardly any of us is really self aware. Overestimating one’s abilities is a common fault. One that is more easily seen in others than it is in ourselves. The kind of denial that causes us to think too highly of our abilities is usually immune to self-scrutiny.
But it is also very possible that we genuinely possess gifts and abilities which are greater than our current opportunities. A pastor who serves a small congregation may preach better than another whose ministry attracts a larger number. An associate pastor may have better leadership gifts than the senior pastor. The race does not go to the swift or the battle to the strong. The world is full of people whose talents go unrecognized.
God who assigns us our field also determines the scope of our influence. Carey offers good advice, as long as we grant that God’s definition of “great” may not be the same as ours.