7 Stabilizing Principles in a Chaotic World, Part 3


Read the series.

Number 3: Giftedness. You can’t do everything, but you can do something. Do what you can.

A consequence of providence is that God has directed in your life as well as in the life of the planet. Your conception, birth, and life circumstances are not random or accidental; they are purposeful, and better yet, those purposes come from a good and great person, whose interest in you is entirely benevolent.

There are people in Scripture of whom that is said specifically. Jeremiah comes most easily to mind (Jer 1.4-10); God created him for a specific purpose. Of course, we’re not all formed for the same purpose he was; but if you’ll think about the arc of the biblical storyline, everybody fits into the story, bringing it to its next level of development. Purpose runs through all of it.

Now, we’re not part of biblical history; we’re a couple of millennia later. But the biblical story itself indicates that we’re part of the plan too. First, Jesus clearly thought of those of us who would believe on him later, and he prayed for our success in his plan (John 17.20-26). And second, the extensive biblical material on spiritual gifts (Rom 12, 1 Cor 12-14, Eph 4, 1 Pet 4) indicates that the Spirit has gifted each of us individually according to his purposes for us in his church, the body of Christ (1 Cor 12.4-11).

The fact that there have been some odd teachings about spiritual gifts over the years doesn’t mean that spiritual gifts themselves should be downplayed or viewed with suspicion. God has gifted you—if you are a believer—in specific ways to enable you to serve him.

You’re good at something. Or somethings. By divine design, and for powerful purposes. You may need to get some experience before you become really facile at what you’re good at (2 Tim 1.6), but the gift is there.

What does all this have to do with the chaos of the present?


Perhaps you’ve experienced an event where everything was moving so fast that you just froze. Had no idea what to do. There are people whose professions put them in those situations all the time. EMTs arriving at a multi-car accident scene—what do you do first? They’ll tell you that they have to fall back on their training; they have to stay calm and work through the processes that they’ve been taught. Survey the scene to ensure that it’s safe to enter. Then survey the victims to determine which ones are beyond hope. (There are ways to do that, the details of which, for the sake of the squeamish, I won’t go into here.) Then move to those in need of the most rapid intervention—typically, those not breathing.

And so on. Do what you’re trained to do, one thing at a time. Make the difference you can make.

I suspect you’re not an EMT, but you’re very much in a parallel situation. You come across things every day that you find grievous, or fearsome, or enraging. How do you respond?

Well, you can be a sucker, and just get angrier, which is what the social-media poster likely wants you to do.

Or you can do something. You can make a difference.

What can you do? Well, that depends on who you are, and how God has gifted you.

  • Are you a bulldog, with a character that radiates rugged persistence? Then find a need that’s going to take some time and energy to accomplish—just one need—and work on that.
  • Are you characterized by mercy, a heart that breaks for the pain you hear about? Then pick one of those situations that’s within your reach—in your community, in your circle of acquaintances, connected to you in some way—and make the connection and help bring grace and peace to the hurting.
  • Are you more of a thinker than a doer? Then do some thinking about the thing that troubles you, and propose a solution or two, and get it out to the people who can make a difference. (As I’ve said before, if you’re not a thinker, shut up and do the things you’re good at. 🙂 )

You can sit there and stew, giving in to the fear or the anger or the frustration.

Or you can do some good, based on God’s kind providence in your life.

Which is the better choice?

Well, if everyone around you really is in the image of God, then I think the choice is obvious.

Bloom where you’re providentially planted.

Dan Olinger Bio

Dr. Dan Olinger has taught at Bob Jones University since 2000, following 19 years as a writer, editor, and supervisor at BJU Press. He teaches courses in theology, New Testament, and Old Testament, with special interests in ecclesiology and the Pauline Epistles.