Friday, March 22, 2013

Using Your Gifts

Another way that the Holy Spirit helps us with our mission is by giving us gifts, or abilities. The most popular scripture passage for the gifts of the Spirit is 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 but there are also gifts listed in Romans 12:6-8 and Ephesians 4:11-12. I also believe that there are many other gifts not listed in any of these passages. In fact I believe that God has given us every talent that we have and that He wants to use these talents for His glory. In Romans 12:6 Paul admonishes us:

“Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them...”

Whatever gifts God has given us, we have a responsibility to use them. Sometimes we make things way more complicated than they need to be. We think that we need to improve our weaknesses, prepare our talents, and wait for the perfect opportunity before we can use our gifts but Paul makes it real simple here. He says that we’ve been given gifts and we simply need to use them. According to this statement, it doesn’t matter how many or how few people are listening, it doesn’t matter if you’re full time or part time, and it doesn’t matter if your professional or amateur. If God gave you a gift use it.

Sometimes we get so focused on our weaknesses that we forget our strengths. We see where we are weak and we think that we need to improve that area. Then we spend hours, day, months, and even years focused on how we can improve our weakness. We read books on that subject, go to classes, listen to sermons, and make plans for how we can get better in our weakness and through it all we have ignored our strengths. We have allowed our talents to go to waste. I believe that this is what Paul is talking about when he refers to the body of Christ and discusses each different part with a different function. The American society is built so much on independence but God has created us to be dependent on each other and ultimately on Him. If we just step out in faith, in our strengths, then we allow for God to step into our weakness, and as He told Paul, “[His] grace is sufficient for you, for [His] strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9) I do believe that we should always be looking to grow and improve ourselves, but I believe that we should focus on improving our strengths. We need to stop stressing out about our weaknesses and allow His strength to be made perfect in us.
Another thing that holds us back from using our gifts is fear. Jesus told a parable about a rich man who was about to go on a journey. He called three servants and gave them each an amount of money (talents) according to their individual ability. He gave the first one five talents, the second one two talents, and the third servant only one talent. After the master returns from the journey we find that the first two servants had doubled the amount that was given to them. The one with five now had ten and the one with two now had four and the master was pleased. However the third servant comes and explains that he had buried the talent given to him in order to keep it safe. He was so afraid of losing the talent that he did nothing with it, he played it safe. Of course the master is not pleased with this servant saying that at the very least he should have put it in the bank so it could gain some interest.

I believe that many of us are like the third servant. We are so afraid of messing things up that we simply hide our talents and our gifts. We think that it is better to play it safe than to take risks and possibly fall flat on our face. But the Bible says in Hebrews 11:6 that “without faith it is impossible to please God”. It pleases God when we are willing to step out and take risks, placing our full trust in Him. Sometimes that is what we need to do with our gifts. God will open an opportunity which may frighten us, it may scare us, but we need to face that fear and step out in faith. God will catch us every time. Whatever it is that caused you to bury that gift it is time to dig it up and put it to use.
When I was twelve God called me to be a preacher, teacher, and a writer however I was terrified of public speaking. It would have been easy for me to be like the third servant and simply bury my gift and calling to teach. I hated giving five minute speeches in class but God had given me a vision of preaching full sermons to thousands. I knew that I needed to do something so I took every opportunity I could find to be in front of a group. I tried out for every solo in choir, took opportunities in my youth group to preach and ultimately joined speech team. I remember going to the first day of speech class and I was terrified but God honored my step of faith and miraculously delivered me from my fear. I have preached in multiple countries on multiple continents, and have even preached in a second language, and I have not felt that fear since I was 16 and started that speech class. Sometimes we feel afraid like that third servant but God is calling us to take a step of faith. Step out into the water and count on Him to catch you and walk with you.

Lastly, I think that sometimes we hold back from using our gifts because we are looking for the right opportunity. We are waiting for God to open some great and grandiose door for us to walk through and until then we just sit on our gifts waiting. These are the people that Romans 12:6 is really talking to. “...let us use them...” It doesn’t matter what the circumstances are, it doesn’t matter how many people are around to be affected by it, we need to simply take advantage of every opportunity that comes our way to use our gifts and if no opportunity comes then we need to make an opportunity. If you’re a preacher and no one is opening their pulpit then preach to the mirror. If you’re a singer and you don’t have an audience sing in your car, sing throughout your day whenever appropriate. If you’re a writer and you don’t yet have an idea for a book then write a journal, or start a blog. Whatever your gift might be find a way to use it and allow God to steer you to the right audience.
Often we tell God that once He puts us in a position to use our gift we will start using it but God tends to work the opposite way. He is waiting for us to start using our gifts and as we do He will open up opportunities for those gifts to reach people. Once we show Him that we are going to be faithful with the gifts He has given us, He will expand and grow that gift. As Jesus told us at the end of the aforementioned parable “to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.”

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