Some of the best gifts I've ever received have been ones I never wanted! I'm a gadget guy. So when I receive a gift that has no "on" button, I'm quietly confused. But I have to admit that all of the best gifts I have ever received have not been gadgets! Take the present that David Outhred gave Kim and me for our wedding. It was earthenware, pink, and went in a bathroom. It held tooth-brushes and tooth-paste...we used that gift for the first 15 years of our marriage! Then recently, Lynne Parry gave me a small, hand-made, wooden box. I had no idea what it was. But I now use this box nearly everyday! Some of the greatest, most practical, helpful, gifts in life come camouflaged with apparent ordinaryness. There is a profound life lesson here.
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them...
At our home group the other week, we asked the ice-breaker question: If you could have two super-hero powers, which two would you choose? Those in our group mentioned- flying, x-ray vision, mind-reading, auto-repair, super-fast, hyper-learning-capabilities, super-strength, and so on. Disappointingly, God doesn't offer us any of these super-hero powers in the list of gift categories in the Bible. I also wonder if we sometimes regard the gifts that God has given each of us as if they were of no value - in much the same way I responded to my earthenware and wooden box?
I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.
First Corinthians 7:7
I suspect that the list of 'spiritual' gifts in the New Testament are not exhaustive. That is, of the gifts mentioned in Romans 12, First Corinthians 12, and First Peter 4, I strongly suspect that God has not limited the type of gifts He gives to His children just to those mentioned in these lists. Thus, God may give someone a unique gift. It may look like a glazed pink, earthenware thingy with holes in it, or a thin, teak coloured, hinged, wooden box. And like these sort of gifts, over time you grow to deeply appreciate them - or at least you should appreciate them. I have met people who are clearly gifted - but they didn't recognise it! They do not recognise the incredible value of their 'spiritual' gift. Compared to the publicly acclaimed gifts, they feel their abilities are not even gifts - they are merely the result of training or experience. But which gift isn't developed by the God ordained means of training and experience?
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
I admire people who are great gift givers. I don't know how they do it (maybe they hav a gift for it?). They don't need to spend a lot of money to get someone a really valuable present. But imagine how they feel when the recipient of their much-thought-out gift seems to reject the gift they have been given. I wonder how God feels when His children also almost seem to despise His gifts to them? Have you met someone gifted with compassion but it was packaged in making teas and coffees (or baking, or cooking a meal, or baby-sitting)? Have you ever met someone who was gifted at organising but their gift was the package for preparing rosters, keeping records, buying supplies, putting up posters, setting out chairs, being on committees?
There are some people who cherish their God-given gifts. These are the people who gladly use them. The don't despise them. They are content with them. They regard the exercise of their gifts as a privilege. Therefore, while they appreciate it when they get it, they don't depend on the applause / acclaim / acknowledgements, of others for the significance of their gift.
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace:
First Peter 4:10 ¶
God gives particular gifts for very good reasons. More often than not, we may never know exactly what those reasons are. But because we know God, we know that He only gives gifts strategically. For example, I suspect that those with the gift of giving may have an extraordinary ability to make money. But I similarly suspect that if they fail to recognise this as an essential part of their God-given gift, they may think that their money is merely the means for them to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle. Inevitably, such a squandered gift leads to anguish and frustration - not comfortable contentment! The one with the gift of stewardship (managing things) may rise in the ranks of their company or organisation. They may never realise that their God-given gifts have been strategically bestowed upon them to help further the Church's potential to fulfil the Great Commission.
Do you know what gift/s God has given you? Have you embraced this gift? Are you using your gifts in the way the above Bible verses prescribe? God has an amazing (perhaps, uncanny) ability to place His children in the exact place where our particular gift is needed. The Apostle Paul discusses this in his famous chapter on how the body of Christ is fitted together with people who have different gifts. He reminds us that some gifts are prominent while most gifts are not. He helps us to see that each person's gift is needed and valuable. It reminds me of the story of King David leaving the baggage behind with those who were too tired to go on. After completing his rescue mission with his weary warriors, his men were reluctant to share their spoils with those who had remained back with the baggage.
And David said to his men, "Every man strap on his sword!" And every man of them strapped on his sword. David also strapped on his sword. And about four hundred men went up after David, while two hundred remained with the baggage.
Who would listen to you in this matter? For as his share is who goes down into the battle, so shall his share be who stays by the baggage. They shall share alike."
First Samuel 25:13, 30:24
Our church will only grow to our potential when we each contribute and pool our gifts. Those with the gift of faith tell us that they see our church much larger than what it is now. Those with the gift of encouragement remind us of this. Whatever your gift from God, it is strategically vital for God's purposes at this time that you gladly use it and surrender it back to God. Please, I beg you, do not feel that your contribution doesn't matter - or worse still - is not needed! We needed ushers who have a deep sense of their God-given gifts - and who recognise that by simply showing someone (who is struggling to see where they can sit) to where there are seats available, they may have just made it possible for a soul to come to Christ! We need intercessors to get to work. We need leaders to lead. We need those with the gift of music to play. We need those with the gift of serving to serve as if they were serving Jesus Himself. And then we each need to gain from the gifts of our brothers and sisters and pool our gifts back into our church so that we make the gear-change from being a good church to becoming a great church! By doing so, you will be playing your part in our team and literally making a difference for eternity in the lives of those yet to come to know Christ.