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Gift of God
by: Jim Rector
It is possible for believers to live many years literally
unconscious of their wealth of spiritual gifts. No wonder so much
Christian service remains undone. No wonder Christ's plaintive cry,
"the harvest is ripe indeed, but the laborers are few,"
is more true today than when He said it. Unused gifts squander the
grace of God and bring dishonor to our Father. What can be done?
learned early in their Christian experience the truth about spiritual
gifts. When the fledgling church at Jerusalem faced the complaint
of discrimination in the administration of daily welfare, the apostles
urged the brethren to seek out Godly and
men to handle the problem. The result was an increase in the ministry
of the Word and in the number of disciples (Acts 6:1-7).
God would have
simply taken us immediately from conversion to the kingdom had He
no purpose for us here upon the earth. Among other reasons, we are
here to serve. To equip for service, God gives one or more spiritual
gifts to every child of His. He does not want
in the Church!
In the typical
hierarchical approach to church government, the ordained leaders tend
to discourage the development of spiritual gifts. They usually play
the role of church superstar, while the
God-given gifts of the Spirit lie dormant in men and women who should
be sharing in the ministry by teaching, leading, counseling, evangelizing,
and many other ways.
leader (and indeed every individual Christian) ought to have a goal
of helping each member to identify his or her gift, and then to find
the place where that gift(s) fits into the total work of the Church.
Practice of the Biblical doctrine of gifts taps reservoirs of Godly
manpower, thaws out frozen spiritual assets, roots out unemployment
among saints, reflects the universal priesthood of the believer, and
edifies the whole Church.
of the poorest translated passages in the New Testament is Ephesians
4:11-12. It reads as follows in the KJV:
He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists;
and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints,
for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the Body of Christ.
These two verses
have often been used as the basis for hierarchical government in the
various corporate church organizations, but nothing such as this is
ever remotely suggested by this passage. The better translation should
"To some God has given the gift of apostleship,
to others that of prophecy, and to others still the gift of evangelism.
Some are equipped to be shepherds and some to be teachers. All of
these special abilities are granted in order to equip the saints
to do the work of the ministry, building up and strengthening the
Church of God."
What a profound
difference between these two versions. The latter makes it crystal
clear that God intends the gifting of His people to equip them to
partake in the ministry of serving others.
No Ungifted Believers
of God has a spiritual gift or gifts. Our gifts are assigned us when
we are begotten by the Holy Spirit into the family of God. At the
moment of a believer's baptism into the Body of Christ, he or she
is given a gift which should be exercised for the health of the whole
Church. Though gifts may and often do lie dormant for many years,
each of God's true people has at least one and probably more.
emphasized the universality of the spiritual
"Unto every one of us is given grace
according to the measure of the gift of Christ" (Eph. 4:7).
manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal
" (I Cor. 12:7).
you and I are gifted children of God. Since we are also given an outlet
for our gifts, we are ministers too. For every gift that is bestowed,
God has planned a sphere of service. Just as many notes are required
to make harmonious music, and many colors to make a painting, so many
gifts are essential for the proper functioning of the Body of Christ,
"for the body is not one member, but many"
How many gifts
are assigned to each believer? At least one, perhaps several. Could
this not be inferred from Christ's Parable of the Talents in which
one man was given a single gift, another two and yet another five?
Though one servant had only one, the other two had a total of seven
talents. We can also observe multiple gifts in operation in individuals
described in the New Testament. For example, Philip had the gifts
of wisdom, showing mercy, evangelism and possibly others. And, of
course, the apostle Paul was undoubtedly gifted in many areas of spiritual
The Purpose of Gifts
Not only are
we appointed diverse gifts, but we are allocated differing ministries
or spheres of service. Since each believer likely has a different
combination of gifts and ministries, it only follows that each of
us is in some way unlike any other believer in the arrangement of
spiritual abilities and outlets to serve. We may not be created equal,
but we are indeed unique and very significant in God's scheme of things.
has given spiritual gifts as it has pleased Him, no one can or should
boast of his or her own particular abilities. All such gifts come
through the grace of our Father, not by personal merit. Neither should
we ever follow, idolize or become devotees of any human leader out
of mere admiration for his gifts. Paul strictly warns against this
error in I Corinthians 3, pointing out that those who exercise the
gifts must never be allowed to eclipse Him who gave the gifts.
Your gift is
not primarily for your sake. All spiritual abilities are granted to
build up one another, thus enabling us all to better serve and glorify
Christ together. Gifts are therefore for the common good, and never
for personal glory.
The mutual ministry of gifts rules out the lone wolf. No one is gifted
enough, wise enough, or strong enough to live apart from other believers.
We should neither be parasites nor paralyzed members of the Body of
Christ. We are all gifted children, and we will answer for it! Therefore,
"As every man has received the gift,
even so, minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the
manifold grace of God." (I Pet. 4:10).
So many modern-day
Christians go through life blissfully unaware of what wealth God has
given them in the form of spiritual gifts. There will unquestionably
come a day of reckoning in which we all will be judged on how we utilized
what God gave us. It should therefore behoove us to endeavor earnestly
both to discover and develop those gifts.
A sensible estimate
of our abilities is a spiritual necessity. Neither haughtiness nor
self-denigration should hinder a believer from a proper appraisal
of his or her gifts. But how do we go about discovering our spiritual
capacities? Here are several brief suggestions.
1. Become Familiar with the Gifts
If we are to recognize how God has gifted us, it is mandatory
that we familiarize ourselves with the many spiritual abilities
that are possible. There are at least 19 gifts listed in the New
Testament. It is incumbent upon each of us to carefully study
and analyze in depth the information in Romans 12, I Corinthians
12-14 and Ephesians 4. These passages contain the basic teaching
concerning the gifts of the Spirit.
may well be possible that we have somewhat overrated the nature
of the gifts by thinking of them as something impressive, when
in reality they may be quite ordinary. Instead of flamboyant,
grandstand abilities, they may be silent, steady workings of the
Holy Spirit, which does not come in earthquake, storm or wind,
but in the still, small voice and, often, simple way.
Any individual gift may be channeled into a multitude of ministries
by different people. Discovery of our own combination of personal
gifts and particular ministries may lead us into a specific, even
special, almost unique pattern of service.
We are responsible for discovering our gifts. More than once Timothy
was admonished to keep that good thing committed to him by the
Holy Spirit (I Tim. 6:20; II Tim. 1:14). Indeed, brethren, it
may well be that failure to find and foster our gifts is one way
of quenching the Spirit!
Go to Work!
Even if we thought we had no gifts (and many unfortunately think
that), or were unaware of our responsibility to discover and develop
our gifts, there are literally hundreds of New Testament commands
which operate in the area of the spiritual gifts. For instance,
everyone, without possessing the following gifts, is still enjoined
to evangelize, exhort, show mercy, give and help. This second
key is most important, because as we begin to obey in these or
other spheres, God's Spirit will gradually begin to unveil certain
conversion we are granted spiritual gifts and assigned a ministry,
but first must come the preparation, and that can take a long
time. Though Paul was commissioned to his ministry on the Damascus
Road, many years elapsed before he actually began his missionary
journeys. During that time, however, Paul was busy getting involved.
In like manner, we must expose ourselves to various kinds of Christian
service, perhaps first in the area of our natural abilities.
proficiency in a particular area may suggest a potential gift.
We must be willing to do anything if we would know the fullest
use of our spiritual gifts. Willingness to try something new may
uncover a gift we never even knew existed. Or urging by fellow
brethren to some different Christian service may suggest an hitherto
hidden spiritual ability.
Note Your Inclinations
A person may very well tend to be drawn toward a certain area of
service. Desire for a particular gift or sphere of ministry may
well point up the existence of that gift. To a certain degree, the
spiritual gifts shape our future. With a God of order, desire, gift
and calling are all related. A gift, therefore, may often be preceded
by desire and followed by the opportunity to use it. We are commanded
by Paul to:
earnestly the best gifts..." (I Cor. 12:31).
spiritual gifts, but rather than you may prophesy" (I
" This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of
a bishop, he desires a good work" (I Tim. 3:1).
desire is good and often proves to be an indicator of a particular
gift, we must always remember that simple desire for a gift does
not guarantee it. The overriding factor is the will of the Father.
Final assignment belongs to Him who allots to every individual
believer as He so chooses. If we strongly desire a specific gift
that never materializes, we must submit ourselves to God and even
be willing to assess our own motives in the matter.
We are to be instruments, not ornaments. Consecrating a gift should
lead to its cultivation. Desire for a gift should lead to its
development. It is quite interesting that the definitive passage
in Romans 12:6-8 contains no main verb. Read it for yourself in
the KJV. You may find some italicized verbs that have been added,
but the fully expanded meaning of this section should read as
our gift is preaching, let us preach to the limit of our vision.
If it is serving others, let us concentrate on our service;
if it is teaching, let us give all we have to our teaching;
and if our gift be the stimulating of the faith of others, let
us set ourselves to it. Let the man who is called to give, give
freely (liberally); let the man who wields authority think of
his responsibility; and let the man who feels sympathy for his
fellows act cheerfully."
Timothy to make full proof of his ministry (II Tim. 4:5). Faithful
use of a gift brings increased effectiveness in its ministry,
but failure to develop a spiritual ability curtails one's service.
The Weymouth Translation renders I Tim. 4:14-15 as follows. It
is most instructive:
"Do not be careless about the gifts
with which you are endowed. Habitually practice these duties
and be absorbed in them so that your growing proficiency in
them may be evident to all."
may be sharpened through the ministry of the gifts of fellow Christians.
One reason Paul wished to travel to Rome was to bestow the benefit
of his spiritual gifts upon the believers there (Rom. 1:11). Gifted
brethren minister to others, who, in turn, exercise their abilities
in the service of still others. None of us ever get to the point
where we cannot benefit from the spiritual ministries of others.
of a gift mandates it development and use. We are to stir up our
dormant gifts. Significantly, the development of one gift may
lead to the discovery of another. Philip, originally chosen for
his wisdom, went on to exercise the gift of showing mercy, and
later was a powerful evangelist in the early Church. Faithfulness
in one area may lead to a wider and more productive ministry.
When a member
of Christ's Body is rightly related to the Head, that member should
enjoy ministering his gift. Conversely, endurance instead of enjoyment,
frustration instead of fulfillment, suggests that the task is
not aligned with the gift.
a person finds in ministering his gift is subconsciously communicated
to the recipients of his ministry. Because he is turned on, he
will turn others on. The overflow of delight thus reinforces the
exercise of a gift.
It is patently
wrong to assume that just because we enjoy some particular service
that this ministry cannot be God's will for us, or to deduce that
because something is distasteful, this must be God's plan for
us. Wouldn't God more likely assign us gifts that produce joy
rather than misery? Like Christ, we should find delight in doing
the Father's will, not drudgery. It is therefore not surprising
to learn that the Greek word for gift (charisma)
is related to the word for joy (chara).
Indeed, joy comes through employing our gifts in a divinely appointed
Discernment by Others
delight has subjective elements, a person should submit his feeling
of discovery to the scrutiny of loving and discerning brethren.
The crowning confirmation that we do, in fact, possess a gift
is recognition of this gift by others.
As we are
obeying and serving, others may see a gift in us long before we
ourselves are aware of it. One reason for the choice of the seven
men as deacons in Acts 6 was their recognized gift of wisdom.
Certainly one of the vital responsibilities of all Christians
is to encourage their fellow believers when they observe a gift
others often will recognize that we do not possess a gift we think
we have. Solomon wrote,
boasts himself of a false gift is like clouds and wind without
rain" (Prov. 25:14).
self-appraisal may be colored by deception, our character and
abilities are often best evaluated by others. A professor once
It is possible
for believers to live many years literally unconscious of their
wealth of spiritual gifts. No wonder so much Christian service
remains undone. No wonder Christ's plaintive cry,
harvest is ripe indeed, but the laborers are few," is
more true today than when He said it. Unused gifts squander the
grace of God and bring dishonor to our Father.
"It is so strange to meet someone
who claims to have the gift of preaching when no one in his
audience seems to have the gift of listening!"
of Revelation graphically pictures Christ outside the door of
a church (Rev. 3:20). I believe that our Savior may well be standing
at the door of our hearts today, saying,
"I have given you gifts. When will
you wake up and begin to discover, develop and use them to the
glory and service of God the Father?"