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“Discovering Our Varied Gifts” Part 2

Jan.22, 2012 Rom.12:1-8


“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world,” the apostle writes. One commentator rephrased this: “Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mould.” The media is a powerful tool that tempts us to conform, to follow the pattern of others widely viewed as ‘successful’, ‘beautiful’, ‘famous’. Yet the Bible insists our worth is something we receive as beings created by God, redeemed by Christ - and it’s out of that grace of being welcomed by faith into God’s ‘family’ that we respond by sharing the gifts with which He’s blessed us.
    A current commercial for the TV show “American Idol” bears a striking resemblance to a period in the life of Jesus. Can you guess what time I’m thinking of? [ADVERT - PEOPLE LEAVING ACTIVITIES TO FOLLOW JENNIFER LOPEZ ETC] (responses) There’s a parallel here to Jesus’ calling the first disciples – in Mark 1(16-20), as He walked along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, He invited the fishermen Simon and Andrew, then James and John, to drop their nets and follow Him, for He would make them something more than they were. People who would fish for men, attracting other people into the Kingdom where they could benefit from forgiveness of sin and fellowship with God’s Spirit. By contrast, shows such as ‘American Idol’ tempt us to hop into the spotlight, showing off our talents and saying, “Look at me! Aren’t I GREAT?” instead of being awed by God and exclaiming, “Isn’t HE great?!”
    God invites us on a path of discovery and inner renewal, exploring what it means to be aligned with His will. Romans 12:2, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is— his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Another commentator puts it: “Do not take this age as your fashion plate.” Goddess-like as J-Lo may be, flouncing along in her glowing white dress. Cool as the hippest musicians may seem – God wants something better for you! Whether your talents make the stage or remain relatively unknown, He has special projects for each one who trusts in Christ.


Before talking about specific gifts, Paul sets them in a general context, lest believers get too self-focussed or preoccupied with their own particular strengths. Remember what our four questions were from last week? “Is Christ exalted?” “Is love realized?” “Is the Body helped?” and, “Is the beauty of unity in diversity acknowledged?”
    First, “Is Christ exalted?” Spiritual gifts are just part of the vast grace and goodness of God as they touch on our fleeting lives. V3 has a couple of ‘givens’: “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.” Note the beginning first of all - “by the GRACE GIVEN me...” What the Lord has given Paul he did not deserve, Paul did not work to earn it; grace is sheer unmerited gift. In particular, God has blessed Paul with a spirit of revelation, the ability to know things and understand spiritual truths at a deep level, then communicate those realities in words many people could understand. There’s an echo of v1, “in view of God’s MERCY, offer your bodies...” In view of the ransom of Jesus paid at the cross to atone for your sins, as Paul described at great lengths in chapters 1-8. Paul’s shining the spotlight on how much God has done for him, he’s exalting Jesus by his gift.
    The last part of v3 mentions another ‘given’: “in accordance with the measure of FAITH God has given you.” Faith itself is God’s gift, it would be impossible for our depraved souls to believe apart from His enlightenment. Faith is conviction and assurance of things unseen, a capacity for ‘trans-dimensionality’, to live in God’s zone or Kingdom-space rather than just governed by earthly impulses and appetites. The empty tomb and risen Saviour have become real to us, so we see the whole universe differently as a result.
    As a result of these ‘givens’ from God - grace, mercy, faith - we respond to Him by doing what verse 1 calls offering our ‘bodies as living sacrifices’. The Greek word ‘to offer’ here is a technical term used for offering a sacrifice; to live becomes a priestly act, always presenting your whole self on the altar. That includes your particular spiritual gift. Paul adds, “This is your spiritual [or, soul’s] act of worship” - worth-ship, attributing value to God, saying: “You’re the most! Anything else would be an empty idol compared to the way I treasure You!”
    So, exalting Christ lays the foundation for exercise of spiritual gifts. Look at the pattern or flow of the grammar in verses 6-8: “If a person’s gift is ___, let him/her use it; if it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let her teach...” Whatever your gift is, USE it! Just do it - in view of God’s mercy, you owe it to Jesus to bless others as He’s blessed you.


The other questions Paul posed to frame this subject in 1Corinthians are also echoed in this passage. One question was, “Is love realized” by the way you use your gift? Look at what immediately follows this gift-list in vv6-8: v9, “Love must be sincere(NRSV ‘genuine’).[v10] Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.(NRSV Love one another with mutual affection.)” Clearly, spiritual gifts are meant to be used in a way that amplifies love.
    The other questions had to do with, “Is the Body helped?” and the beauty of unity in diversity being recognized. V5 talks about the ‘body’ aspect: “so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” BBE we “are dependent on one another”; NRSV “Individually we are members one of another.” Try to picture that: You’re members of each other, totally connected, inseparable, what affects one impacts all. YOUR gift’s purpose is to help another member.
    For the ‘unity in diversity’ aspect, see verses 4 and 6: “these members do not all have the same function...We have DIFFERENT gifts, according to the grace given us.” Yet we form ONE body: there’s complementarity, various specialities, not a whole bunch of duplicates. God’s not into cookie-cutter Christians! Our differences and uniqueness are to be celebrated, honoured, remarked.


I just want to touch briefly on a few of the gifts Paul lists in this passage. First he mentions prophesy: v6, “If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.” A prophet is fundamentally a SEER, being privy to things other people can’t detect; not usually ‘fore-telling’ the future so much as ‘forth-telling’ God’s truth for people here-and-now. Some people have a gift in praying for you to know just what you need prayer for. 1Corinthians 14 has more on the subject, especially v3, “But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.” It’s not about inventing ‘new’ scripture but often applies already-revealed Scripture in particular circumstances.
    In Acts 21, a prophet named Agabus comes to Paul at Caesarea, ties his own hands and feet with Paul’s belt and predicts Paul will thus be bound by the Jews of Jerusalem and handed over to the Gentiles.” Paul is not dissuaded by this, but confirms his resolve to suffer if necessary for the name of the Lord Jesus. Think what an encouragement Agabus’ message might prove to Paul later on when he’s bound in chains, under house arrest or in a dungeon: “Yup, this is what Agabus was talking about.Guess I’m right on track with God’s plan.” Far from discouraging, the prophet’s word was affirming!


Encouraging is a gift noted in v8, “If [a man’s gift] is encouraging, let him encourage.” The verb (like paraclete) can mean ‘admonish, exhort.’ When I played ball as a youth, my position was catcher: not as important as pitcher, but I liked the role of calling the plays (“second and first”, “any bag”, “first and home” etc); also it was the catcher’s job to keep up encouraging talk for the pitcher, upon whose skill so much of the game depended: “All right, Mike, have it in here – you can do it!” So in the church some people have the gift of encouragement, cheering others on - sometimes by a thoughtful note or caring gift or phone call. You may be able to guess who the ‘encouragers’ are in our congregation!
    This gift can also relate to admonishment – perhaps confronting you on something in a way that prompts you to greater obedience. When Adonijah was about to claim the kingship, Nathan went to Bathsheba and exhorted her to approach David, who in turn was prompted to take steps that confirmed Solomon as king before it was too late.(1Kings 1:11f)
    GIVING is also pointed out in v8, “If it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously.” Some people find great joy in giving. Before Christmas a farmer in the community polled the churches asking if there were families to whom he could give boxes of meat; that’s just something he loves to do! Psalm 37:21, “The righteous give generously.” God tends to keep re-stocking these folks so they can keep on giving. LifeKeys says givers may relate to statements such as: “I often give generously and joyfully.” “I like to find ways to free up my resources to benefit others.” “I feel a sense of ownership in the ministries and projects I support financially.”
    And, showing mercy is another gift Paul highlights: v8, “If it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” This means to help the afflicted or wretched; as in Mother Teresa’s order of sisters caring for the dying in the streets of Calcutta, when they wipe a man’s brow, do they do it lovingly, as they would for Christ?
    A man went to visit a boy who was dying of cancer. Instead of sitting down beside him, he handed him one of two water pistols he had in his pocket and asked, “Do you want to have a water fight?” The boys’ eyes lit up for the first time in days. The morning flew by as they squirted each other out on the deck. The boy reveled in the gift the man had brought: not only the toys, but the relief of forgetting for a few fun hours that he was so sick. That man was sharing a gift of mercy.
    Now, Gary, our “Prayer and Visioning” Elder, is going to continue with the other half of the steps he began to outline last week, how to discover our spiritual gifts. (RE Logan & TT Clegg, Releasing Your Church’s Potential)

    Let's review first of all the three steps we talked about last week. First came recognizing your motivational pattern or what makes you get inspired to do God's work? To start with, you look for times of personal satisfaction and achievement and then find the common threads that bind them together. What gets you excited for God?
    Second you need to confirm your spiritual gift mix. Of the 20 or so gifts, which ones best fit you. By doing this it helps you to better focus your ministries. The key words that help us do this are Joy, Insight, Results, and Confirmation.
    Third came understanding your temperament and personality. This can be discovered through various personality tests and will help you understand what kind of work environment is helpful to you. It will also help you know how to work with others with different personalities.
    I also mentioned that we must be careful not to focus exclusively on gifts and nothing else. There are certainly lots of commands that we have to obey and the example I used was Evangelism which is both a command and a gift. The gifted are just better at it but that doesn't let you off the hook because you are not gifted in this area. Remember, your actions often speak louder than words - the quiet witness.

    Today we start with step 4 - Assessing your life situation.

    Your life situation and your circle of significant relationships, will affect the possibilities you have in your ministry. Although "the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable" (Romans 11:29) the ways they are actualized will depend in part on several factors. They include age, career, marriage, education, children, health and others.
    Paul tells us that if you are a single person, you have more freedoms and capacity to focus on serving the Lord than if you are married.
    Empty-nesters like Maureen and I have a renewed freedom (some days) so we can give more time and energy to God's work through our ministries than believers who are married with 4 young children.
    This being said, your life situation need not keep you from being obedient to what God is calling you to do now, but you may need to approach your mission with more moderation. We must all consider what steps God is showing us to fulfill his call in our life.

    Step 5 is Identify your Passion:

    Passion, by definition, is a strong emotional stirring, focused on a particular target group or need related to God's kingdom work. Godly passions are:
a.    complementary with what inspires us
b.    accentuated by our spiritual gifts
c.    tempered by biblical responsibilities and life situations and
d.    Directed by God for His global purposes.
Never underestimate what passion will accomplish. The pyramids didn't get built by people aimlessly piling rocks.
What are you passionate about - When they cut you, what do you bleed? As I sit back and enjoy our worship team and the music they provide for us each Sunday, it is obvious to me that they are very passionate about their music ministry. You can sense the closeness they feel to God as they sing to God's glory.
    We were fortunate again this year to be able to help working at the Samaratian's Purse shoe-box depot in Cambridge. The chief organizers are the same people who have been doing it for years and they are no less passionate about their job. It is evident in their eyes, in their actions, in their words that they love this ministry that God has blessed them with and they do this day after day for 2 or 3 weeks starting early in the morning and going to late at night 6 days a week. Some take time off their work to be a part of this ministry. All these leaders are focused on the tasks they have been assigned to oversee. 
    Many believers have lives that are unfocused and they end up going this way and that and nothing is lining up and nothing gets done. Churches can do the same. They spin their wheels trying to do all sorts of things and filling slots for this and that but never moving forward in the direction God has set out for them. Focused believers and focused churches have a sense of direction and are able to discern that this is where God is calling them to go and everythng is lined up to move in that direction. Over time, the focus becomes greater and greater and greater for the advancement of God's kingdom.
When they cut you , are you bleeding mercy, or teaching or administration or prophecy or faith or miracles, or wisdom or giving or serving or WHAT!!!!!!!!!
Speaking of filling slots. We are looking for a volunteer to help us with the gift box distribution. Your specific task would involve organizing where we would distribute the food boxes - who in our communtiy could use a little help each month with a box of food. If you feel that you are gifted in this area please talk to Rick or myself. 

    Step 6 is entitled Focus your ministry calling.

I have already talked a little about this. Ministry calling is the specific contribution that the Lord wants you to make at this time for HIS kingdom in light of your motivational pattern, spiritual gifts, temperment, life situation and passion.
The process to discover this calling involves:
a.    seeking the Lord
b.    examining your heart
c.    getting involved at the level of your availability, maturity and giftedness
d.    seeking godly counsel and guidance (ask other believers who know you well)
e.    developing a plan for personal and ministry growth
f.    seeking mentoring and accountability relationships and
g.    checking your compass regularly.
As was mentioned last week I believe, as do many others more knowledgeable than I, that our satisfaction in life is directly linked to the degree in which we fulfill the God-given calling entrusted to us - our giftedness.
Everything we need to do God's work for this fellowship is already here. What WE need to do, by faith, is maximize the gifts given our church by looking for the common threads that bind us together.
All of us have a ministry. Some ministries are big, others ministries are  small. The ministries themselves are what is important, not their size.
Faith in our ministries are what stop us from being put off by the buts:
"    it's too hard
"    it's never been done
"    it's not how we do things
"    people won't like it
"    the cost is too great
Please help us to find the path God would have our church follow and let's move forward as look glorify our Lord and Saviour.