Waste Not A Good Thing

What are you doing to develop the gift God has given you?

Scripture: 1 Timothy 4:14, Colossians 4


Alright, thank you very much. And hello again, radio friends. How in the world are you? Yes, it’s your friend Bob Cook and I’m glad to be back with you. Believe me, I look forward to these times of sharing from the Word of God. I pray every day that God may put His truth and His power and His love into the words that I say. You get yelled at enough, don’t you? And I want what I say to be of help and comfort and inspiration and real benefit to you.

So that’s my prayer again today as we come to 1 Timothy 4:14. “Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.” Now, we got started in this the last time I got together with you. And I reminded you that it would be a very good idea to give some thought to the answer to a question such as this, “What am I doing with the Divine components in my life, that which has been given me because I belong to the Lord Jesus Christ?”

The first gift, of course, is the gift of a born-again experience. You’re born from above and you’re a child of God, that’s a great gift. “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift,” says Paul. But then God has given you some abilities that you may not have realized before and you need to think about that. “Neglect not the gift that is in thee.” It’s something that belongs especially, especially to you because of God’s gracious provision. You didn’t work for it, you didn’t inherit it, you didn’t go to school for it. But it’s a gift. All right?

Well, then, what do I do about it? I realize that it is Divinely given. “It was given thee,” it says, “By prophecy.” Now, prophecy is a word that has a number of meanings, obviously. But it has to do with a concept that is Divinely given and spoken under the power of the Holy Spirit of God. See? Prophecy is our English equivalent of the Greek word “propheteias.” It has to do with the verbalization of a Divine truth that is spoken under the power of the Holy Spirit of God. That’s what I take prophecy to mean.

In many churches, you’ll have someone stand up and give what they call a “prophecy.” What is it? They’re speaking under the impulse of the Spirit of God to give a special message to God’s people at that place and that time. Prophecy. Now, he said, “This gift was given to you by a prophecy.” What is it? Someone under the power of the Holy Spirit of God said, “This young man is to be set aside for the work of the Lord.” And they laid their hands on him and prayed over him, ordained him, in other words.

The closest thing to that concept that we have today is the idea of ordination where after having examined a candidate for the ministry, other ministers will gather around and lay their hands upon him and pray for him and ordain him to the ministry. I remember when that happened to me back in 1931. Can you believe it? It’s a long time ago. [chuckle] Of course, I was very young at the time, you understand. [chuckle] But I remember, so clearly.

I remember the afternoon that I had to sweat out as the brethren asked me all these theological questions and it was a custom in those days to have a notebook full of notes to which you could refer, but they said to me, “Now, brother Cook, we’ll just dispense with any of the notes that you may have. We’ll just ask you to find out what you really know.” And so there I was, before these learned brethren, and they grilled me for a whole afternoon, starting at about 1:30 in the afternoon and finishing up just at supper time. I really had had it. But thank God, He brought me through.

As a matter of fact, there was one funny part about it because somebody asked me a question, a ticklish question, having to do with church procedure. And God gave me wisdom enough to say, “Well, now, my dear brother, I think that there are differing points of view on that. Even in this crowd, there would be some who would disagree with you, wouldn’t there?” And they started to argue among themselves and got me off the hook. [laughter] I didn’t laugh out loud but I was smiling inside, I can assure you. Ah, well. And so then, the evening came and they gathered around me and laid their hands on me and I could feel the combined, increasing weight of those hands. 15 or 20 ministers gathered around, each one laying a hand on me, you know? It was a solemn occasion.

Well, that’s the nearest thing that we have in these days to what Paul was talking about with Timothy, the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. Now, he says, there is a spiritual dimension to your life that has been given you by a Divine intervention into the very stuff of which your personality is made. Spiritual gifts have nothing to do with what you’ve been inherited. Spiritual gifts have nothing to do with that for which you work as an achievement that you’re looking for. Spiritual gifts are a Divine, sovereign intervention in the very stuff of your life for God’s glory. God gives you that gift.

Some people have the gift of an evangelist. Percy Crawford, my predecessor at the college, the man who founded the college in 1938. An evangelist, God gave him the gift of evangelism, now there is no doubt at all about that because he would, even in limited circumstances where he only had a few minutes to speak, he would speak very clearly of the Gospel and ask people to receive Christ and they would come by the dozens and scores and sometimes the hundreds in meetings where he was just speaking for a few moments. He had the evangelist’s gift. Great heart for souls, always out for winning souls. He had that gift, God gave it to him.

I’ve heard people growl and complain and say, “I can preach better sermons than that, how is it that he’s so effective?” I heard the same thing about Billy Graham. I was sitting beside a minister in our brother Graham’s first Pittsburgh crusade, way back in, it would have been the ’50s, I guess. I was seated just behind this minister and I heard him say to his friends beside him, they were just in front of me. I heard him say, “I don’t understand how this man is so successful. I can preach a much better sermon than he is preaching.” [chuckle] Well, maybe so, maybe no. But I’ll tell you, the gift was there and is there.

Our brother Graham has the gift of an evangelist. All right, not to say that he doesn’t have a lot of other gifts, too. He can write books, and he can manage, and he can lead, and he’s a great man of God, and my dear friend, bless him. But see, it’s a Divine intervention in your life in the stuff of which your destiny is made. He says, “Don’t neglect that.”

Now, you can’t work for it but you gotta work at it. There’s the difference. My father used to say to me, seriously, when he was talking about this subject, “Use or lose, my boy. Use or lose.” When he was encouraging me to practice the violin, at age seven, I was taking two violin lessons a week and practicing two hours a day at his command and sometimes, it got a little wearisome for a seven-year-old boy and he’d say, “You gotta use that gift, my boy. Use or lose.” Well, he was right, wasn’t he? You gotta work at it. What are you doing to develop the gift God has given you? That’s the question. Now, you’re not too old or too young or too constricted in your circumstances to do something. There’s always something God can do through you- that’s a great lesson that I’ve learned and had to relearn through the years.

You’re never at a dead end street with God. Aren’t you glad that’s so? There is never a point at which you say, “Well, it’s all over. I can’t do anything more,” because there always is something, something that you can do. Hallelujah. So, what are you doing, beloved? Let me ask you now, in love and in great concern, because this is one of the most important questions you will ever be asked to answer. What are you doing to develop the gift God has given you? Some can write, and some can speak, and some can manage, and some can sing, and some can be of comfort and inspiration and help. Oh, lots of different gifts, huh? What are you doing about it? Well, he says, “Don’t neglect it.” You can’t work for it, you got it as a gift but he says, “You work at it now. Develop it.”

Paul said to Archippus as recorded in Colossians 4, “Say to Archippus, ‘Take heed to the ministry that thou hast received in our Lord Jesus that thou fulfill it.'” You can transpose those syllables and make the thing make sense that, “Thou fill it full.” Fill your ministry full, do something today that will be greater, better, deeper, more effective than anything before. Don’t you think about your physical handicaps, I’m speaking, I know, to some folk who are on the shady side of 60 and you tend to think, “Oh, well, I don’t have the strength I used to have. I can’t see as well as I used to see. I can’t hear as well as I used to hear. Can’t get about like I used to. So I don’t think I can do anything more for the Lord.” Nonsense! You can talk, can’t you? You can think, can’t you? You’re as near as the telephone to people that you could comfort and encourage. A lot of folk are so lonesome because nobody ever cares about them and you could care about people. You can care, can’t you? Ah, yes.

Thoughtfulness has no boundaries and no limitations. Use the gift, use the gift, use it, use it, work at it. “Neglect not,” he said, “The gift that is in thee.” It’s a Divine intervention, a Divine intervention in your personality. I was in meetings in Sioux City, Iowa. It was a hard meeting and all I know to do when I’m up against it is to pray. I take that verse, “Call unto Me and I will answer thee and show thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not.”

I’d brought in some folk to help swell the crowd if I could. Rudy Atwood was among them. He played piano for many years for Dr. Charles E. Fuller. Rudy Atwood, dear man and a wonderful musician. People came to hear him play rather than to hear me preach. [chuckle]

Well, I got him into an all-night prayer meeting and we were praying around, and it got to be his turn and he prayed a very good prayer and then he got to praying for me. [chuckle] And he said, “Lord, bless Bob Cook. Here’s this man, got this great administrative gift and he thinks he wants to preach, bless him, Lord.” [chuckle] Well, it broke the prayer meeting up. Everybody had a hearty laugh at that point and we went on and prayed. I didn’t know I had any administrative gift then, and maybe not now, but he did. He thought I did. [chuckle]

Listen, find out what your gifts are and work at them. Not for your sake, but for His dear sake. Remember the parable of the talents? Those servants didn’t work for the talents, they were given them, but it was their job to multiply them. It was their job to multiply them and my responsibility and yours, beloved, is to multiply the effectiveness of what God has put sovereignly into our lives by His grace. Will you work at it? See that you do.

Dear Father, today, O may we work at this matter of making more effective the gifts that Thou has sovereignly given to us through Jesus, our Lord, Amen.

Till I meet you once again by way of radio, walk with the King today and be a blessing!

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