Similar to family chores, we all have a role to play in God’s family and through our God-given gifts God directs us to particular works of service.
A few initial thoughts:
*God gives gifts to His children.
*God’s best gift is faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.
*God intends us to use the gifts He gives us.
*Using our gifts will give glory to God and build up His Church.
It should be easy, and thankfully sometimes it is.
Prepping for this post, I had a great conversation with Tween. I asked, “What great gifts have you given and received?”
He mentioned a video game we bought him that encouraged creativity and community. And he mentioned two gifts he’d given: his well-loved but in great shape tricycle to a young friend, and “God” to his friends.
Mama’s heart skips a beat: Tween recognizes that he introduced some of his best friends to His Best Friend, Jesus.
I asked what gifts he thought God had given him to serve the church, and at first he didn’t think he had a gift, that God had skipped him or not yet come to his name on the divine list.
But as we talked, he began to realize that he has Faith, that he “knows things about God” that might not come as easily to other people (Teen took the “youth” version of the spiritual gifts test and has the gift of faith, too). And he cares deeply that his friends know Jesus. So faith and evangelism, maybe. He’s still young.
Tween decided that a great way to develop the gift of faith, to be sure he knows the Truth of God and not just his own ideas about Him, will be to keep the Bible and a headlamp next to his bed so he can read the Bible when he can’t sleep. This kid has never slept well and I can’t think of a better thing for him to do when he’s not sleeping.
Other times, evidence of the fallen world we live in, using our gifts isn’t as easy.
I’ve seen the movie “Frozen” three times, once in the theater when it first came out and twice since. It ranks up there with “The Lion King” as one of my favorite Disney movies.
The main story line centers on the relationship between sisters. But I see a story of giftedness and love, one with definite implications for God’s people.
Elsa has a gift. Fear and criticism have caused her to hide not only her gift but herself, have cut her off even from those who should be and long to be closest to her [hide the girl, the gift, and the love]. When an accidental use of her gift outs her she walks away, again, this time determined to let her gift flow free [hide the girl and the love, let the gift out]. But the gift sans love has drastic far-reaching consequences. Elsa’s gift can only be used rightly, and Elsa herself will only be free, when the girl, gift, and love intertwine.
The impossibly catchy, played-to-death song “Let It Go” says what we might like to say to our critics:
Let it go, let it go
Can’t hold it back anymore
Let it go, let it go
Turn away and slam the door!
I don’t care
What they’re going to say…
It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me I’m free!
In other words, I no longer care what you think! I will be myself, use my gifts, see what I can do, rules-free, to hell with your fear and criticism.
But Elsa’s plan backfires, as do our attempts to hide ourselves and our gifts because of fear and criticism.
Fear and criticism can rock us straight out of comfort and onto the ground, beat up and bruised. The temptation to dust ourselves off and walk away, to hide, to stop using our gifts, can be enormous. Likewise with the temptation to stop caring, to think we’re free sans community.
But it’s not true, folks. God designed us to use our gifts, the very gifts He grace-fully bestows upon us, to build up His church and bless the world. Only when we use our gifts with love, in community, to His glory will we truly be free.
So what do we do with fear and criticism? Honestly, I’m not sure I have a good answer, just some thoughts:
*We need to listen, ego aside, to the reasons behind the fear and criticism. Maybe we have used our gifts inappropriately, or untimely, or without love.
*We need to develop our gifts to God’s glory. Maybe we have used them prematurely.
*We need to pray and pray some more. Did we use our gifts prayerfully, under the Spirit’s guidance? Can we together prayerfully resolve the conflict caused by fear and criticism?
*We need to seek refuge in God alone. God will direct us to the proper use of our gifts in His time and place. Maybe God is using fear and criticism to redirect us to another ministry.
*We need to seek the Spirit of peace and unity and resist our own fears and criticisms. Why should we fear someone using their God-given gift? Why would we criticize their giftedness? Sometimes we need to bite our tongues, to step on our egos and let God do His work without our meddling.
*Finally, we need to ask the Lord for courage to be the best US He has created us to be, and to use our gifts despite fear (our own and others) and criticism, because from time to time we will face both.
Lord, give me eyes to see
Lord, give me strength to believe
You give me all I need
So give me courage to believe.
Lord, give us courage to believe that you have given us all we need to believe and to serve You!
Alright, already, on to Ephesians 4 which has some great stuff to say about gifts. I pray that God will release you to serve Him in love and grace.
Describe a significant gift you have given or received. What made that gift special?
Read Ephesians 4:7-13.
Read Ephesians 1:20-23. What light can this earlier passage from the same letter shed on Eph. 4:7-8?
How would you explain to someone the significance of Christ’s ascension into heaven (vv. 8-10)?
For what purpose did Christ give the gifts mentioned in this passage (vv. 11-13)? In other words, what is Christ’s desire for His people and His Church?
God gives gifts to people and He gives people as gifts to the Church. Describe some people you appreciate as gifts from God.
Paul lists other spiritual gifts in Romans 12:6-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, 28-30. How do these gifts add to the list in Ephesians 4? Where do you see your gift(s) listed?
What “works of service” do you particularly enjoy? Which works of service would you like to try?
How have you been equipped for service? How have you equipped others?
What is Jesus saying to you through this passage and how will you respond?
Pray that your worshiping community will experience the unity of the Spirit as we each exercise works of service.