Hard work and persistence describe the career of the New England Patriots' premier quarterback, Tom Brady. Without that wholehearted dedication, he might not have even continued his football career.
Flash back to his sophomore year at the University of Michigan, when he was spending a lot of time on the bench. Concerned about his lack of opportunity and considering transferring to another school, he talked with his coach. His coach's advice: "Go out there and do everything you can to control what you can control and quit worrying about how many reps [how much practice time] you get or the other quarterbacks, the skills they have and you don't. Worry about things that you do well" ("Brady still has something to prove," USA Today, Oct. 31, 2006). The result: Brady was the starting quarterback for the next two seasons and led his team to bowl games both years.
The coach's advice reminds me of the guidance given in the parable of the talents – a story Jesus told to help illustrate a spiritual point. The master of the house was going on a long trip, so he called his servants together and entrusted them with his property. To one he gave five talents (an amount of money); to another, two; and to another, one. Then he left the country.
Right away, the first servant went to work and doubled his master's investment. The second servant did the same. When the master returned, he praised each of the first two servants: "Well done, you upright ... and faithful servant! You have been faithful and trustworthy over a little; I will put you in charge of much."
But the man with the one talent had buried his money. He said: "I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground." The master said: "You wicked and lazy and idle servant!... You should have invested my money with the bankers.... So take the talent away from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents" (Matt. 25:14-30, Amplified Bible).
The point of the story to me is: Don't worry about the amount of talent you've been given. Instead, focus on making the most of what you've got. Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, wrote: "In order to apprehend more, we must put into practice what we already know.... If 'faithful over a few things,' we shall be made rulers over many; but the one unused talent decays and is lost" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 323).
We can't be made to overlook or ignore the one talent that we do have. Comparing ourselves with others and feeling that we don't have as much talent as another can be tempting. But that's just a dead end that keeps us from valuing what we already have.
I've found that turning to God for the strength to persist with what steps I know I should take – "being faithful over a few things" – helps silence the negative voice that would tell me I'm inadequate or inferior. It's also helpful to understand that the distracting voice is the carnal mind – a mind opposed to God, the one divine Mind. Whether we have one obvious talent, or many, if we listen to this voice, we won't move forward. Knowing this stops me from comparing myself with others and makes it easier to reject the distraction.
The truth according to God's view of my life and yours is that God doesn't compare us with others; God knows how He made us – with unique talents and gifts. That means I have something vital to give, and so do you, and everyone. To discover our talent and develop it may take persistence, wholehearted commitment, and even strength. But each of these qualities is God's gift to us, and they support the development of our talent.
I'm learning that I can be willing to use what I've been given – no matter how small or insignificant it may seem. And when I do, I go forward.