Christians who want to teach others about Christ will find pain all around them. In my own extended family I can name people who are suffering from the effects of divorce, anxiety, alcoholism, cancer, imprisonment and infertility — and that’s just my family. I can’t take away the pain, but I can listen. I can write a letter. I can give some practical advice or lend a hand. I can pray for them. I can grieve with them. Most of all, I can tell them that my hope is in Christ and He is the one who has walked with me and sustained me through my own hard times. Gee, I’m starting to sound like some of those people at my church who started teaching me many years ago!
In the 4th chapter of Ephesians, the apostle Paul tells us to “walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time because the days are evil.” Every Christian shows others how to do this through her own example. Since we all have different gifts, some may do this through teaching, others through service, still others through faith, generosity or prayer. I am a person who dislikes change but within my congregation God has given me the rather contradictory gift of encouraging others to try something new (whoever said God doesn’t have a sense of humor!) Maybe it’s because I love to study and learn which seems to inevitably lead to growth and then … change. My husband Terry and I have encouraged many of our fellow members to attend Via de Cristo, Marriage Encounter and Engaged Encounter weekends. We’ve organized and led a number of Bible studies and small groups. I’ve also written our Vacation Bible School programs and planned church workshops. My reward comes from moments like theses …. a VBS teacher telling me, “I learned something, too” … a very shy man in one of our small groups exclaiming, “I love you guys!” …. a young woman returning from a Via de Cristo weekend with the astonishing insight, “I never knew Christians could have this much fun!” Knowing that I showed someone how to grow spiritually gives me the biggest charge. Remember a prior post when I told you about feeling His pleasure? Well, that’s when I feel it. The biggest charge of all comes from realizing that I could never make those things happen on my own. Without Him, I’m nothing, but Christ and I together are an overwhelming majority.
Since those early days I’ve been in many different kinds of Bible study groups. There was the two year “Crossways” study Terry and I attended when our children were small. In that class, for the first time, I began to get the chronology of all those Sunday School stories straight. I made some good friends, too. I could still list for you every person who took that class with me.
Another study that had a big impact on my life was one that our pastor taught on spiritual gifts. I hadn’t really thought about my gifts before. Of course, I knew there were things I liked to do and things I didn’t. But when it came to doing things at church, I was pretty haphazard. I did things because somebody asked me to help, or because something needed to be done, or because I was interested. Sometimes this approach worked out– I was fine at many things like teaching the children, serving on the altar guild, and editing the newsletter–but I also made mistakes. There was the time I agreed to bake a lamb cake for Vacation Bible School. I baked three cakes and the final one still wouldn’t stand up the way it was supposed to! I can laugh now, but at the time it was a frustrating and unpleasant experience and one I certainly wouldn’t want to repeat.
In the gifts class, I learned there was a better way to go about serving. By evaluating my God-given talents I began to sort jobs around the church into three categories– things I was especially good at that included writing, studying and leadership; things I certainly could do like making coffee, cleaning, helping at the yard sale or visiting someone in the hospital; and things I really shouldn’t do– in my case that’s anything involving arts and craft or a high degree of organizational skill.
I’m not finished yet, so come back tomorrow for installment #5!
If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know that I am very interested in spiritual gifts, and this sturdy board book would be a great way to introduce young children to that concept. In it Ms. Gifford explains that each person is uniquely created by God. When He made us, He also gave each of us a gift. That gift might be a talent, like music; it might be a quality like kindness; it could be the ability to help others in a variety of ways.
The narrative highlights the fact that whatever our gift is, it is meant to be given away. We are to use it to benefit the people around us. Of course, the greatest gift, the gift that all others spring from is love. This is the gift we all receive from God, and the gift we can pass on to others.
The illustrations by Julia Seal are bright and attractive. The message is clear and will be easy for youngsters to understand. The examples given are appropriate to the age level. I would highly recommend it.
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10-11
The end of the year is a good time to look back and not only reflect on how I have served others this year, but to make a plan for the coming year. The verse above tells us that as faithful workers for God, serving is our responsibility …. but how seriously do we actually take it?
Sure, I serve others, but rather haphazardly. I wait for someone to ask, for a group at church to choose a ministry or for a donation request to arrive in the mail. I have to admit I rarely sit down and ask myself, “What goals do I have for serving others?” and “How will I reach those goals?”
My “Prevent Diabetes” class has taught me that I can accomplish more than I thought when I have a clear goal and a plan. Our plan for service should include using the specific, individual gifts which God has given. I can’t do everything, so I need to concentrate on those things that I do best.
I don’t have the answers yet, because this thought has just now occurred to me. It’s something I’ll be praying about, and I’m hoping this post will encourage others to do the same. Look for more on this topic in January as I wrestle with myself and God. One thing that will definitely be on my list is this blog, which uses both my passion for writing, and (hopefully) my spiritual gifts of wisdom and encouragement. Have we served you this year, readers? I’d love to hear some responses.
“My sons, do not be negligent now, for the Lord has chosen you to stand before Him and serve Him, to minister before Him and to burn incense.” 2 Chronicles 29:11
This was part of my devotional reading a few days ago, and it brings me back to spiritual gifts once again. The King Hezekiah is speaking here to the priests and Levites. The previous King Ahaz was wicked and had kept them from performing their duties in the temple; now Hezekiah intends to set things right. He reminds them that they have been chosen to serve God and should return to the special tasks they’ve been assigned.
God has chosen us to be his children and to serve Him. In order to do that, He gave every one of us at least one spiritual gift. If we don’t use those gifts, we’re not only being negligent, we’re being disobedient and ungrateful to the Giver! Listen to what the apostle Paul has to say:
“We have different gifts according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” Romans 12:6-8
So my question to myself (and to each of our readers) today is this: how am I using my own spiritual gifts? A gift that is left unopened is of no use at all. Don’t be negligent — use your gifts in the service of the one Who gave them.
We haven’t had a song this month yet, and I was having a hard time thinking of one that dealt with spiritual gifts. Looking through With One Voice in church this week I found this one. If you haven’t heard it before, I think you’ll love the lively calypso beat. It will inspire you to use your gifts to spread God’s Word.l
This prayer comes from the book Prayers of the Reformers compiled by Clyde Manschreck. It was written by John Calvin.
“Grant, almighty God, since thou dost try the faith of thy people by many tests that they may obtain strength from the unconquered fortitude of thy Holy Spirit. May we constantly march under thy standard, even to the end, and never succumb to any temptation. May we join intelligence with zeal in building up thy church. As each of us is endowed with superior gifts so may he strive for the edification of his brethren with greater boldness, manliness and fervor, while he endeavors to add numbers to the cause. And should the number diminish, yet may some seed always remain, until abundant produce shall flow forth from it, and such fruitfulness arise as shall cause thy name to be glorified throughout the world, in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”