SPIRITUAL GIFTS – FOR WHAT?
“We have different gifts according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil, cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord.” Romans 12:6-11.
Have you noticed how Paul focuses on the non-spectacular functions in the church here? Are these any less gifts of the Spirit than, say, speaking in tongues or healing? What makes us think that it takes the power of the Holy Spirit to do a miracle but not to be generous or to show mercy? The one reveals God’s power through you, the other, in you, otherwise the old natural selfish nature will still be controlling you attitudes.
The use of spiritual gifts is not so much the issue but the motive for which they are used to benefit others. If you use your spiritual gift as a platform to gain anything for yourself, be it visibility, popularity, admiration, accolades or any other personal glory, there will be consequences in the end. Ananias and Sapphira are a case in point. They sold property, gave some money to the church as if it were all, wanting to appear generous in competition with Barnabas; but they were quickly exposed by the Holy Spirit through Peter and put to death!
Is not this the reason that Paul warned his Roman readers (and us) not to be conceited but to think realistically about ourselves, and not suppose that we are indispensable or have to do everything. It takes humility to admit that we can do one thing well but not something else, and to be content to be who we are. When we can take responsibility for our part, and not try to do what we cannot do, we fit in comfortably with the other members of the body and, in partnership with one another, we can accomplish what Jesus wants His body to do.
Once again, it’s not about us – it’s about Him. Our task, in harmony with one another, is to bring restoration to each member through the use of our gifts and, in this way, to mirror Him to the world around us. The gifts He gives us are His, not ours, and are for the benefit of others, not ourselves. But, like everything God does, the blessing always boomerangs back on us!
We do what we are gifted to do through His grace, but it our attitude that determines whether we are blessed in return, or whether we stand in line for judgment as did Ananias and Sapphira. Behind the attitude with which we use our gifts lies another attitude – our attitude to God. The Bible calls it “the fear of the Lord”. When we have the right attitude towards Him, it will regulate the motives and attitudes we have towards ourselves and the ones we serve.
Solomon summed it up aptly in Proverbs 9:10. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Wisdom is, very simply, doing the right thing. When we have a reverential awe of God, remembering who He is, and hating anything that infringes on His glory, we will not take what He says lightly or treat Him with contempt because, as Solomon concluded in Ecclesiastes 12:14, “For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether good or evil.” In the end, God is inescapable.
Every thought, attitude and motive will one day be exposed in His light. I am sure none of us would like to see our selfish and self-seeking motives in neon lights for everyone to see! How can we prevent our old corrupted nature from intruding into our ministry and service in the body of Christ?
Paul gives us some simple but effective steps:
1. Give God your body for His use and change the way you think – from your thoughts to His thoughts. That comes about as we spend time in His Word.
2. Put yourself in the right perspective. You are not the whole – only a small part. You cannot be and do everything.
3. Do what you are gifted to do and do it faithfully with zeal and fervour.
4. Keep the bigger picture in mind and fit into it with joy. It’s not about competition but about harmony, working towards a greater goal, the health of the whole body.
5. Wrap it up in a blanket of love – for Jesus and for His body. Put Jesus and others before yourself Meet the needs of others at your expense.
Imagine what the church would look like if we all did that!
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