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The 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?

Apostolic believers 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 gifted 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 deadwood 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.

Every church 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.

Perhaps one of the poorest translated passages in the New Testament is Ephesians 4:11-12. It reads as follows in the KJV:

"And 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 read:

"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

Every child 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.


Paul emphasized the universality of the spiritual gifts, saying,


"Unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ" (Eph. 4:7).

"The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal " (I Cor. 12:7).

So, brethren, 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" (I Cor. 12:14).

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 service.


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.

Because God 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).

Discovering your Gift

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.

It 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!

2. 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 gifts.

At 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.

Some 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.

3. 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:

"covet earnestly the best gifts..." (I Cor. 12:31).

"...Desire spiritual gifts, but rather than you may prophesy" (I Cor. 14:1).

" This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desires a good work" (I Tim. 3:1).

 

While 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.

4. Development

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 follows:

"If 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."
Paul told 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."
Our gifts 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.

Possession 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.

5. Delight

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.

The delight 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 ministry.

6. Discernment by Others

Because 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 in operation.

Conversely, others often will recognize that we do not possess a gift we think we have. Solomon wrote,

"Whoso boasts himself of a false gift is like clouds and wind without rain" (Prov. 25:14).
Because self-appraisal may be colored by deception, our character and abilities are often best evaluated by others. A professor once said,
"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!"
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.

The Book 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?"



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