“I’m not sure that I have a spiritual gift.”
A friend told me this over coffee one evening – the kind of confession that comes from believing that you’re the only one who feels this way. I’m not sure she’s alone, though. It’s a common experience – to question what you have to contribute to the church and to undervalue the part that you play.
There’s also an opposite extreme, which is to overvalue your individual part. Personally, I tend toward this extreme, believing (in my pride) that it’s my responsibility to meet all the needs that I see.
Romans 12:4-5 addresses both these extremes, using the familiar New Testament picture of the church as a body. “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”
Considering the “one another” commands in the New Testament helps us to accurately see our place in the body. Each command is given to the church corporately: love one another, welcome one another, pray for one another, comfort one another, stir up one another to love and good works. They’re not given to a solitary Christian, but to the church – the body of Christ. But because we are individually members one of another, they’re given to us all. None of us are exempt from them.
What does this have to do with spiritual gifts? In 1 Peter 4:10-11, the apostle Peter gives the church a “one another” command:
“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies, in order that in everything God might be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 4:10-11)
These verses give us a lens through which to view our spiritual gifts and their purpose in the body of Christ. They make it clear that each and every one of us has been given a gift as a member of the body of Christ. Ephesians 4 describes the body when each part is working properly – a body that “builds itself up in love” (Eph. 4:16).
Varied Gifts by Grace
When we fall into under- or over-emphasizing our role in the body, we’ve likely forgotten that we have received “varied gifts of grace.” These are all good and perfect gifts given by our Father. The word “varied” gives us freedom, regardless of which extreme we’re drawn to.
For the one who tends to shy away from serving, believing they don’t have a gift to contribute, there’s the freedom not to compare your gifts with another’s. You have received a varied gift of grace. You have been wired in such a way that you see unique needs and are able to meet those needs.
I love listening to others pray, because you hear these varied gifts of grace in their prayers. Try it. Listen to three different people praying for the same situation. You may hear one person praying for tangible needs like provision or healing; another praying for the hearts of those involved; and still another praying for those who are affected and may be overlooked. Each of these three is showing evidence of varied gifts of grace – unique perspectives on the needs of those around them and unique abilities to respond to those needs.
For the one who is likely to go all in, there is freedom in knowing that you are not required to be all things to all people. There are others within the body of Christ who have also received varied gifts and are able to use them for the building up of the body.
This may sound counterintuitive, but my faith in the way that God is at work in his church has most often been strengthened by seeing the ways he’s working through another person. Seeing another woman caring for someone I’ve been praying for privately is a reminder that we are members together of one body. Seeing answers to prayer through the ministry of another is an evidence of varied gifts of grace. One prays, and perhaps another has the opportunity to be the answer to those prayers.
Steward Your Gifts
The church needs your gifts, in all their God-given variety! Peter calls us to be good stewards of our gifts and he gives us two purposes for them.
First, gifts are given to be used to serve one another. The gifts that we’re given are not for the building of our own platforms. They’re not given to draw attention to us or to place us in the spotlight. No, they’re given for the good of others. As Paul said in Ephesians 4, they’re for the building up of the body of Christ.
Are you stewarding your gifts by using them? Is your gift of encouragement being used to stir up the people in your community group to love and good works? Is your gift of service identifying and meeting needs that others may have overlooked?
Are you using your gifts to serve others? Is your gift of teaching drawing attention to your own abilities or is it equipping others to know and love God more? Is your gift of hospitality focused on creating the perfect environment or on warmly welcoming others?
The second purpose is the greater purpose. It’s the ultimate purpose for the giving of varied gifts of grace. It’s the ultimate design for the body of Christ. It’s the ultimate aim for each one of us as members of that body:
“…in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.”
This is the goal. It’s at the heart of our mission statement as a church: “Providence Church exists to glorify God…”. Brothers and sisters, we have been entrusted with varied gifts of grace to serve one another, in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, the head of the body, his church.
What is Your Gift?
Maybe you’re in the same place as my friend, questioning if you even have a gift. As I sat across from her that evening, her gifts were clear to me, even if they weren’t to her. So I challenge you: ask the people around you to help you identify the gifts you can be using to serve others. Ask them what they hear in your prayers. Ask them how they’ve seen you serve. Even without a formal volunteer role, you may already be using your gifts! The people in your community are often able to hold up a mirror to show you the ways God is using you.
If you’re one of the people who is in the church every time the doors are open and who wears a dozen different hats, my challenge to you is this: look for the gifts in the people around you. Identify them…out loud. Tell them the ways you’re encouraged by their gifts. Exhort them to use those gifts to serve the body of Christ. When you see a need, prayerfully consider whether another could meet that need. Include others in your ministry and be encouraged by seeing the body built up through their gifts.
We are one body in Christ, and we are individually members one of another. May we, as members of Christ’s body, use the gifts he has given, in the strength that he supplies, to serve one another, and to bring him glory now and forever!