Friday, July 12, 2013

The Grace of Spiritual Gifts

At the congregation I attended in Alabama, there was a wonderful and hardworking family.  Ashley, Emily and their mother Martha were almost never seen in an adult Bible class.  While most of us teachers looked forward to our quarter off, these ladies happily taught all ages of the preschool wing each and every quarter.  They developed curriculum; they bought supplies; they taught our children with infinite patience, smiles on their faces, and obvious love in their hearts.  Teaching was their gift, and they were diligent in using it for God's glory and the building up of the church.  

There is a lot of misunderstanding about spiritual gifts out there, and sometimes the confusion leads us not to talk about them.  It's a real shame because these gifts are part of how God manifests his grace to us.  There is no doubt that forgiveness of our sins is the most important grace we receive, but God didn't stop there.  His "unmerited favor" continues to shower us with blessings, including some measure of spiritual gifts. Romans 12:6-8 puts it this way: 

Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

Notice that most of these gifts are not miraculous in nature.  Teaching, exhorting, giving, these are gifts that many are blessed with today, and they are a form of grace from God.   If the gift I have is teaching, I can't brag about what a good teacher I am.   It's a gift from God.  

When we think of gifts, we often think about keepingConduit them. The wonderful thing about the grace of God is that we are more like pipes than reservoirs.  As we continue to use our gifts to build up the church, he continues to shower us with grace.  It can't run out, and He expects us to be a conduit for his grace to other people, partly by using these gifts.  

Another metaphor for sharing grace through using our gifts is found in 1 Peter. "As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God" (4:10).  In today's world, we are not as familiar with the concept of stewards.  In the 1st century, a steward managed the household, particularly the financial aspects.  Using his master's money, he made sure the house ran smoothly.  He wasn't afraid to spend the money because he knew that his master intended him to use it to buy food, pay the bills, and generally keep things going.  

In fact, Jesus told a story about a man who was a bad steward and didn't use the money his master had entrusted him.  His judgment was harsh: "Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 25:30).  

God is serious about us using our gifts for His glory.  Just like a steward used his master's money to keep the house running, we are to use the gracious gifts God has given us to keep His house, his Church, running smoothly.  Each one of us is needed; we are placed where we are with our specific gifts for a reason. "But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired" (1 Corinthians 12:18).  

God has put you just where He wants you.  Your gifts match the needs of the Christians around you. Take "mercy" for example.  Mercy is defined as "to help the afflicted" or to "bring help to the wretched."   I know some people who are part of the body of Christ that are afflicted.  The faithful older Christian who is homebound for physical reasons.  The beautiful young lady suffering depression brought on by infertility.  The child with a terminal illness.  Are you drawn to these people?  Do you ache for them?  Paul says you should help them!  Take communion to your older sister in Christ; let the young lady who desires children cry on your shoulder; go with a sick child's parents to the doctor appointments.  Show mercy.   

Are you a natural encourager?  I'm sure you can name five people off the top of your head that could use a word of exhortation today.  Call them.  Let them know that God sees their works and is ready to reward them.  

When you use these gifts that God has given you, you are acting a conduit for his grace.  More than that, you are building up the church.  So be like my friends in Alabama.  Use the gifts God gave you to pour blessings on his people. 


Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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