Step Towards Transformation
Today is my third message in a series on DISCOVERING GOD’S UNIQUE CALLING FOR YOUR LIFE. Each week I am addressing one of the five indicators of what God has designed you to do—
Today we will be focusing on SPIRITUAL GIFTS as one way God equips us for a special purpose and ministry…
PRAYER: Lord, remove from us nowCHECKING anything that would distract us from encountering You and Your Word. Speak to each of us personally so that we will all know more clearly Your calling in our lives. Through Jesus, Amen.
We are on a spiritual journey to discover God’s special purpose in your life. God has designed YOU to do something unique—something that He has created no one else but YOU to do. Some of you don’t believe this, but I’m here to tell you that somewhere God has a grand mission with your name on it. And when you find it, your will say, “This is what I was born to do.”
God prepares you for this particular purpose by GIVING YOU CERTAIN SPIRITUAL GIFTS. In order to discover God’s unique purpose in your life, you must IDENTIFY YOUR SPIRITUAL GIFTS.
SOME IMPORTANT POINTS TO KNOW ABOUT SPIRITUAL GIFTS:
By office, I am your PASTOR; the word “pastor” means shepherd or caregiver. Some of you who have the spiritual gift of shepherding and caring for others, but that doesn’t mean your calling is to be a pastor. You don’t have to be a pastor to exercise the gift of shepherding and care giving. In fact, there are members of this church that are better pastors than I am. Don’t expect everybody to have your gifts and to serve and do things the way you do.
Illustration Narrated by Ps Ruth: My husband has the gift of administration and organization. After we were married , he expected me to be as organized as he is; when I wasn’t, he became angry and frustrated. Over time he realized there was no chance of my ever becoming as organized as he is, so he began extending grace to me. We’ve gotten over this hurdle, and our marriage is better.
My another strongest spiritual gift is ENCOURAGEMENT. In my work as a pastor, I deal with a lot of discouraged people in a lot of discouraging situations: divorce, disease, depression, disability, death, and so on. God has given me a capacity to go into almost any situation with any person or congregation—no matter how dark or discouraging—and be a positive person and give encouragement and hope for the future. I don’t have a degree in this; no one taught me to do this; it is a SPIRITUAL GIFT from God.
Illustration: What if one day your lungs cried out, I’m tired of all this huffing and puffing; I’m going to let some other member of this body do all the breathing. Or what if your kidney said, I’m tired of cleaning up all the mess around here; I’m going to take a vacation; some other members will have to start cleaning up. Of course, THE RESULT IN BOTH CASES WOULD BE YOUR DEATH.
Illustration: One of my spiritual gifts is TEACHING GOD’S WORD. I have discovered this by experience and feedback from others. How I really know that I have the spiritual gift of teaching is that I am not a natural public speaker. In fact, I have always been DEATHLY AFRAID of getting up and speaking in front of people. I have always had this deep fear of public speaking. I remember having to give an oral book report in my English class in high school. It was required to pass this class. I worried myself to death over this, but I wisely spent many, many hours preparing for this oral book report. I wrote a complete manuscript of everything I was going to say, memorized it word for word, and practiced it in its entirety many times. It took a full week for everybody in the class to present their reports and that week finally arrived…Guess whose name the teacher called to go first? That’s right. MINE! It took my breath away; my heart started jumping; my mouth dried up like a desert…but that was okay, because I was prepared. When I got up in front of the class, my mind went completely blank; I couldn’t remember the first word I was going to say. BUT I HAD MY FULL MANUSCRIPT so looked down, and MY HANDS WERE SHAKING SO MUCH THAT I COULDN’T READ A SINGLE WORD. An AWFUL SILENCE came over the classroom. I WAS PETRIFIED; my heart was pounding; I thought I was going to pass out.
My teacher, came over, put her hand on my shoulder and said, Melwyn , why don’t you go sit down, put your paper on your desk and just read us your report. I did, and that’s the only way I got through that embarrassing experience in front of my friends. THANK GOD my teacher, had a compassionate heart! Soon after that, a group of us were discussing what we were going to do after passing school. I blurted out, I know one thing. I’LL NEVER BE A SPEAKER! Over the past 18 years, a number of people have told me that my preaching and teaching have helped them in their personal lives and relationship and relationship with God. If what they have said is true, then it has to be a spiritual gift that God has given me, because I couldn’t do this on my own. I GIVE GOD THE CREDIT AND THE GLORY.
BENEFITS OF IDENTIFYING SPIRITUAL GIFTS
Identifying your spiritual gifts, however, can help you in a number of ways.
In 2 Timothy 1:6, Paul tells Timothy to “fan into flame the gift of God” which was in him. Initially a spark may go unnoticed. If it makes contact with fuel and oxygen it can be stirred up into a major fire. Similarly, a spiritual gift may be that small spark inside of us that needs to be developed and nurtured to reach its full potential. If a fire is neglected it will die out. Likewise, gifts need to be used if we are to evidence them. The best way to develop gifts, to fan them into flame, is to use them.
If you are able to define and identify characteristics of the various spiritual gifts, you will not only be able to discover the gifts you have been given but also help confirm other people’s gifting. Having the confirmation of fellow believers encourages them to see how God is working in their lives and pursue their best fit in ministry.
Numerous passages show the purpose of spiritual gifts to be the effect they have on the Body of Christ:
As you can read in these references, spiritual gifting is not for personal benefit or selfish gain. Rather, the gifts are for the benefit of the body of Christ.
Determining your spiritual gifts helps you discover WHAT God wants you to do with your life IN MINISTRY
HOW CAN YOU IDENTIFY YOUR OWN SPIRITUAL GIFTS?
Discovering your spiritual gifts doesn’t take a lot of detective work. You just need to know what to look for.
As you explore the different ministry areas, you will soon discover if you are gifted for these ministries.
Envelop the whole process in prayer. The Lord will lead you to an identification of your gift(s) if you allow Him to guide and direct you in all your endeavours. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. (Prov. 3:5,6)
While labeling your gifts is helpful, using your gifts is more important. Do what you know to do even if you can’t put a name to it. The benefit of being able to specifically identify your gifts is that it can make you more effective as you learn how to better develop that gift and relate to and understand others better.
Turn with me now to the HANDOUT you were given today. it is a list of spiritual gifts entitled UNWRAPPING MY GIFTS. It contains a clear definition of all the spiritual gifts in the Bible. I encourage you to study this handout at home this week. It will help you better identify your spiritual gifts.
SPIRITUAL GIFTS are one way God equips us to carry out the unique calling and special ministry He created us for.
You don’t want to make your primary way of serving God something for which you are not gifted.
Illustration: If you have ever sat under the teaching of someone who doesn’t have the gift of teaching, you know what I mean. Likewise, there are people who have the gift of teaching who are not teaching. This isn’t the will of God either.
When some members of a congregation DON’T DO their part of the Lord’s work that God has called them to do, everybody else has to work harder and can become burned out. IT PUTS A DRAG AND DRAIN ON THE WHOLE CHURCH– HOLDING THE CONGREGATION BACK FROM FULFILLING ITS MISSION.
I Timothy 4:14 says, Do not neglect the spiritual gift that is within you.
This is the way it is with God who has already given us a gift or gifts. Think of what might bring pleasure to His heart as He sees your use and appreciation for what he has given you. On the other hand,
In Matthew 25:14-30, the master gives his servants various amounts of money according to their ability to handle it while he went on a journey. For the sake of financial ease, let’s say he gave one servant five talents, which were equal to Rs5000. To the second servant he gave two talents or around Rs2000. To the third he gave one talent, or Rs1000. He didn’t specifically tell them what to do, but the first two “went at once and put his money to work and gained five more and the other two more.” (v. 16). The third servant “went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money” (v. 18).
What can we get from this? Especially if we look at these parables as concerning unwrapping the gifts which God has entrusted to us?
First off, there is desire. Wanting to be used by God is the first step in unwrapping our gifts. In a very real sense, we bar our own doors. We set our own limits because we don’t really desire to be used of God.
Paul encouraged the believers in Corinth by saying: “Eagerly desire spiritual gifts.” (1 Cor. 14:1) Often, our personal priorities come ahead of God’s and we leave His gifts unwrapped and in the box. Many of us don’t value or appreciate them very much, mostly because we don’t have a clue as to what they are! We never get past the wrapping paper.
If we have identified our gifts, the next question is: “What are we willing to do with them?” In the parable, the servant was afraid to run the risk of investing his money because he knew the master was a hard and exacting person. One reason we don’t unwrap our gifts is fear. We fear what people will say, we fear looking stupid, we fear failure, or fear of getting hurt. Rather than risking that, rather than chancing the negative experience, we leave our gifts wrapped up. But, you know, the master didn’t say, “because you have been very SUCCESSFUL in a very small matter” but “because you have been TRUSTWORTHY –I will put you in charge of many things.” (v. 21).
So, first we need to desire to be used of God, but we go beyond that to actually putting the gift to use. We have to become a risk taker.
As you first begin to unwrap your gift, you probably won’t feel entirely comfortable. You may feel scared
You stretch yourself beyond your current limits. You extend your current borders. When you are asked to do something, do you autoSPIRITUAL GIFTS ASSESSMENT SHEETmatically say, “Oh, I couldn’t do that! Oh, it’s not a good time. I am not worthy!” When we say, “I can’t,” it usually means, “I won’t.”
Unwrapping our spiritual gifts is usually a process over a period of time. It doesn’t happen quickly or easily. As the Lord finds you trustworthy and faithful, He will add more. If He gives you a word of knowledge or a word of wisdom and you apply it to the situation, then He will be able to use you the next time. You begin by taking baby steps in the use of your gift after you unwrap it. This is where your faith comes in. St. Paul tells us “we have different gifts according to the grace given us. If a person’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.”
It takes our faith to begin to operate in our gifts once they are unwrapped. Just do it.
Faith helps us to move out of
A little step of faith gets you started. When praying for someone who is sick–just begin to speak the words–more will come. Fear says, “What if I fall flat on my butt?” Faith says, “More will come.”
As we walk in faith with our eyes and ears open to the leading of the Holy Spirit, ideas will begin to come. The idea comes and you step out in faith to do it–to speak or to serve. You just attempt to do it. You become more concerned about being faithful and trustworthy than being perfect.
To those who were actively doing something with the talents they had received, the master said, “Well done–because you have been faithful and trustworthy, I will increase what you already have.”
How have you been doing at investing the divine talent that God has given you? Ask yourself this question,
What have you done with what God has given you? Have you invested it or have you wasted it?
On the other hand, we can also hope to hear the master’s praise, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
In modern terms we might use the sports cliche of “what counts is not whether you win or lose but how you play the game.” That’s a true statement. God gives us many things. Why He does so is not always clear, but what God expects of us is clear. God expects us to try to develop the good things we have. God expects us to invest what he has given to us in His work.
What counts is not whether we are successful at the attempt. But whether or not we are willing
God believes in us. He trusts us to do well with the gifts He gives us. If we have tried to work with what God has given, if we have invested ourselves as well as we are able in his work, then God will be pleased with us will invite us to enter into His joy and give to us even more than we first received from Him. Thanks be to God for His mercy and grace.
What talent is He asking you to invest? How will you respond?
5 Reasons People Don’t Pursue Spiritual Gifts
Although spiritual gifts are one of God’s ways to build a healthy Church, many Christians aren’t operating in them.
And consequently, the Church isn’t benefiting from their gift nor is the individual experiencing joy from operating in their gift. The Body is dismembered.
But the Bible exhorts us to pursue spiritual gifts because we form one body. My preferred definition of a spiritual gift is:
“A spiritual gift is a special quality given by the Holy Spirit to every member of the Body of Christ, according to God’s grace, for use within the context of the Body.” (C. Peter Wagner)
Here are five reasons we don’t pursue them:
If your local church has not incorporated spiritual gifts into its culture, the majority of members won’t embrace spiritual gifts. There may be a few “marginal” people who do, but the majority won’t. However, New Testament Church life involved the active use of spiritual gifts. For example, the Apostle Paul devoted three chapters to explain how gifts operated in the Church (1 Corinthians 12-14). I suggest a gifts-based church culture has vision, discovery, and operation of spiritual gifts.
Has our modern church changed so much that we ignore the example of the early Church?
The belief that the paid church staff should do all the ministry paralyzes the use of spiritual gifts. If paid church staff members are the only ministers, then why should the “lay people” learn their gifts and operate in them? They should sit back and let the ministers do what they get paid to do, right? Wrong! This belief simply isn’t biblical—“to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:7). This verse doesn’t say “to each paid church staff member;” it says to each one—every Christian.
Is the responsibility to minister for every Christian in your church or to just the paid church staff?
1 Corinthians 14:26 says, “When you come together, everyone has a hymn or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.” When the believers gathered, everyone expected to bring something to bless others. Everyone was a minister who used their gifts to strengthen the church. They didn’t expect to sit back and be served. They didn’t expect to be entertained–the sermon better tickle me, the songs better be my taste, the building better be comfortable. In short, the early believers didn’t have a consumer mentality, they had a servant mentality.
Do you operate as a consumer or as a servant in the Body?
If you’ve had a bad experience with spiritual gifts, it may deter you from embracing them. Or maybe you view them as “a charismatic thing.” Those television preachers seem so fake and showy, why would you want to be anything like them? I understand—I’ve been there. But do we stop listening to all sermons if we hear one bad teaching? Of course not. Do we abandon Christ if we encounter one messed up Christian? No. We press into the things—maybe a little wiser—that God says to press into.
Are bad experiences or stereotypes keeping you from pursuing spiritual gifts?
Since spiritual gifts are vital to the health of the Church, it’s reasonable to assume that Satan will interfere with them. Satan, after all, wants to steal, kill, and destroy from the Kingdom of God. Believers who encourage one another through the gifts God has given them are to Satan like nails clawing the chalkboard—he can’t stand them. A stronger Church means a weaker kingdom of darkness. A believer full of joy because she has discovered her gifts and is using them, is harder to pull away than a believer who doubts her place and worth.
Has Satan tried to interfere with your spiritual gifts?
If you’re not pursuing spiritual gifts, you’re handicapping yourself and the Body of Christ. For God’s sake, figure out what’s holding you back so you can begin moving forward. The Church needs you.
To prevent being neglected, the gifts must be “stirred up” (see 2 Tim. 1:6-7).
On a more humorous note, a few times when God could not find a person to speak, He used what was available—including animals! The prophet Balaam was stubborn, ignoring God’s will, so God opened the mouth of his donkey to rebuke him. The odd part is that instead of realizing the supernatural element of a talking animal, Balaam began to argue with the dumb beast (Num. 22:25-30). In the New Testament a rooster crowed three times, and Peter came under conviction and repented for denying the Lord (Mark 14:72). God will use whom and what is available to enact His purposes and lay out His will.
If every one of you here today were to begin serving in a way God has gifted you, this church and community would be transformed; and the Kingdom of God would become a reality here on earth as it is in Heaven. Amen.