PURSUING THE ETERNAL WORD
The Bible teaching ministry of John Lifflander

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HE GAVE GIFTS TO MEN

We all know that people have been given different abilities. The public schools have tried to "mainstream" students, which means they put children of different abilities in the same class and teach them at the same rate. Their thinking is based on a false premise – a socialist theory that we are all the same, and that we lack any bestowed personal abilities. The thought is that we are programmed like a computer by what we are exposed to. This theory has mostly been abandoned now, because it did not work – the slower students struggled to keep up, and the brighter students were bored. God has endowed us all differently, and our gifts and abilities and interests make up what we do professionally, and how we contribute to the world. The world sees this and cries "unfair," but this is because they are bigots – they value some professions or abilities higher than others, whereas God considers them equally important. They also do not understand that if God did not gift people differently, life would be chaotic.

Mankind may have less respect for the seemingly more mundane contributions, but God does not. If we have all doctors and no nurses, the hospital will not run correctly. If we have all airline pilots and no truck drivers, goods will not be delivered properly. If you eat meat, you need the services of a butcher, as much as a veterinarian. Women in business may make a direct contribution to commerce, but as Abraham Lincoln said, "the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world." The fact is that we are like a great mosaic – the single pieces may be almost worthless, but once every piece is assembled into the correct pattern, a beautiful and valuable work of art may be created. However, unlike that mosaic which is static, we are daily in motion with labor, even as the world turns. We are not just working, we are working towards something. The world is going somewhere and we become contributors by using our gifts, even though the divine plan is rarely perceived in the day to day tasks of life. The Christian who is honest and performs his or her job well is contributing positively to society, and is also counterbalancing those who steal and seek to take unfair advantage of society. Those who excel may also stand out in the world, for we read:

"A man's gift makes room for him, and brings him before great men." Proverbs 18:16 (NKJV)

The Spiritual Aspect

Understanding the natural aspect of this is important, because natural things in the fallen world often shadow activities which are of greater relevance and precision in the spiritual world. If the natural world needs different professions and trades to run efficiently, how much more so does the spiritual world, or the church, need them? God has gifted us all uniquely also in the spiritual realm, whether we are aware of it or not. Each of us is called to do something for Him, and this fact is explicitly stated in Scripture:

"Therefore He says: ‘When He ascended on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.’" Ephesians 4:8 (NKJV)

"For I wish that all men were even as I myself. But each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that." 1Corinthians 7:7 (NKJV)

Let us then settle the matter – we all have at least one gift from God to be used for His glory. Obviously we are not all called to the fivefold ministry of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers spoken of in Ephesians 4:11 – in fact most of us are not. Nevertheless, we are all called to minister with our gifts, for we read in 1Peter 4:10 (NKJV), "As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." The word minister in Greek is leitourgos and it essentially means "servant." Consequently, we are to be servants to others, by allowing our gifts to flow freely in the body of Christ, so that His work may be accomplished on earth. And although the gifts are spiritual, they are generally manifest in physical work, and consequently they take effort and discipline to be utilized correctly.

Where God Guides, He Provides

God gives us what we need to equip us for service. His requests are not burdensome, and they are not beyond our abilities. People who say that they are not gifted to do anything for Him are sometimes using false humility because they do not want to put out the effort to do the work. As the perfect parent, God certainly treats us better than our earthly parents could. And earthly parents know the abilities of their children, and will choose the one most adapted and gifted to fulfill a task. If one child loves computers and another does not, a good parent would not ask the second child to figure out a computer program. That would frustrate both children, and the job would not go smoothly. Consequently, it must be true that whatever it is God has called each Christian to do, it is something that he or she can not only accomplish, but can accomplish well, and may also enjoy doing.

Bringing the Gifts to Fruition

Why then are the gifts not functioning as they should in so many churches? One reason is that they are neglected. Paul cautioned Timothy about this:

"Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership." 1Timothy 4:14 (NKJV)

Many of us know what our gift is, but have neglected it because we are too busy with work or play to utilize it. Gifts also need to be honed, and that takes work. Great piano players are born with a musical gift, but they still have to practice, and people who win spelling bees are gifted with good memories and phonetic abilities, but they cannot win without studying. It is likewise with the spiritual gifts God gives us. In the parable of the talents, we read of how God gave different stewards various amounts of talents, to perform the work He had called them to. The one given the least – one talent, buried it and did not use it at all, so God took his one talent and gave it to one who had ten talents. Others questioned why the one with the most, ten, would be given more. The answer seems to be that the one with ten talents used all of his talents, and God knew he would use the eleventh one if it were bestowed upon him. It is still true today that God does not want us to bury our talents.

A missionary spoke to a church about this very matter, recently. He said that many people would come up to him over the years and say, "Oh you have all the talent, that is why God sent you." The missionary deduced from this that if he in fact did have all the talent and these people had none, the reason was because they had not used their talents, and like the man in the parable with one talent, it had been taken from them. Perhaps then, there are many Christians who think they lack a spiritual gift, because they have neglected it for so long that it has become dormant. Thankfully, we serve a forgiving God who is just as ready to restore our gifts to us, as He was willing to reinstate the prodigal son who finally came to his senses. It seems that the gifts can be re-ignited, perhaps with the help of other Christians, for we read further instructions to Timothy regarding this:

"Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands." 2Timothy 1:6 (NKJV)

The phrase "stir up" is one word in the Greek: anazopureo. It means "to kindle up, to inflame one’s mind, to get strength and zeal." We do not think it is strange for football and basketball players to prepare psychologically for their games by encouraging each other. Christians need similar interaction; they need to cheer each other on in the quest to perform good works for God. As a body in agreement, we can do many wonderful things on this planet – more than we have ever dreamed; more even than the first apostles – for there are more of us than them. If we all only used our gifts to the fullest extent, the world would change almost overnight.

Recently our family went to a church to listen to the two American missionaries who had been held hostage in Afghanistan. I was particularly curious to see these young ladies, who had been brought out of obscurity to be known internationally, clearly by the hand of the Almighty. It was a reminder of the verse in James 4:10 (NKJV) where we read, "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up." These young women did not seem to have high opinions of themselves. One of them told of how she did not think she had any particular gift to offer God. She said that her qualifications were the lowest, and she thought she would be at the bottom of anyone’s list to be chosen for the task. She even confided that she would not have chosen herself, had she been the one who made the decision. But God did choose her. She remembered that He had simply asked her if she could love people who were poor and hurting, and she said she thought she could. She felt the call of God upon her, as He asked in ancient Israel:

"Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me.’" Isaiah 6:8 (NKJV)

His Indescribable Gift

This young missionary had the only gift necessary for the mission. She was not a linguist, nor had she graduated from a seminary. She was simply willing to give up her luxurious American life and share the love of Christ in a dirty, poor, and oppressive country. She had no agenda; she was not trying to become well-known for her work, and probably never thought in a million years she would be in the limelight for Christ. And yet her gift or gifts were not particularly apparent to her or perhaps to anyone else around her.

In 1st. Corinthians 12, Romans 12, and other places in the Bible, we read about some of the gifts that God has given to believers. There are gifts of healing, miracles, administrations, prophecy, exhortation, leading people, mercy with cheerfulness, giving, hospitality, faith, etc. Nevertheless, it might be that a believer may also have a gift that cannot be identified as easily. Perhaps it is a combination of qualities that is hard to pinpoint, and yet the fruit of it is apparent. Some may have a peacefulness about their persona which calms people in their presence. Others might have a special joy of the Lord that makes them exceptional at greeting others in church.

In the Book of Acts we read about one of the best loved Christians of the early church. Her name was Dorcas and her gift was sewing. Now not too many denominations would list that as a qualification for Christian leadership, but it was through this gift that this woman spread the love of Jesus Christ. Dorcas was not an evangelist, but her life revealed the life-changing power of God. She was not a teacher, but she taught about the kingdom of God by being an example of it. She was not a pastor, but she cared for others the way a good shepherd should. If sewing can be used in such a manner, then what about cooking and hospitality? What about taking care of babies in a nursery? (and by the way, it would nice for the older ladies to give the younger ones a rest in this area.) What about the way a mechanic works on cars for his customers, or the way a drain cleaner greets the family in a home he is servicing, or a lawyer treats his clients and adversaries? We read in Ecclesiates 9:10 (NKJV), "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might…" Yes, use your gift as your ministry, and although it may seem indescribable, those who work around you will know that a Christian has been in their presence.

The Pastor as a Talent Scout

"For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established." Romans 1:11 (NKJV)

Paul not only encouraged Timothy and others to use their gifts, he sought to pass them on to those who were around him. Perhaps we do not understand this phenomena. Nevertheless, can we not see from this that God wants pastors and others in ministry to be talent scouts for Him? Pastors should not feel threatened or competitive if God brings people into their church with gifts. A pastor might be compared to the businessman running a company. As president of the company, he does not perform all the duties that are needed to keep the company profitable. Rather, he must be an artist of sorts – he must be able to analyze the gifts and ambitions of those around him, and put them in the proper position to make the company run smoothly. Only a very insecure and foolhardy company president would try to perform all the tasks himself – and the company would either fail or limp along. Pastor, if you want your church to grow, and you want to keep the people satisfied, become a master talent scout. If you are not certain whether or not people will work out in a position, put them in it temporarily, so they will not be ashamed if you do not wish them to continue. Until you delegate everything you can delegate, the body will not be functioning as it should, and you will be overworked.

The Prophetic Gift

Prophetic gifts are manifest in many ways – and they are desperately needed at the highest levels of church leadership. Church boards are replete with people who are trying to please the pastor and be loved by everyone. However, if the deck is stacked with only people of this sort, there will no one to advise the pastor from a different vantage point. King David had his "Nathan," and any church without one is a church destined for big problems.

This is an important understanding worthy of reiteration, because there is a temptation for any leader to surround himself with man-pleasers. Pastor, you greatly need the one who does not always agree with you. You may not like that person’s manner, nor feel good when he or she talks with you, but this is normal. Also do not expect perfection in them anymore than other believers. In any event, there must be someone with spiritual depth who will speak honestly with you; someone who hears your sermons regularly and knows what is occurring at the church. And the more important and powerful you become, the more you need this, for unquestionably, "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." Proverbs 16:18 (NKJV) If you do not have someone like this in your church, or if you have chased him out of the church, then pray for God to send someone. We are all blind to our own faults, and the last thing we need on the board is a group of people who always agree with us. Let us not confuse this, however, with people who are divisive.

People with this type of gift are bound to be unpopular, and they pay a price for speaking candidly; even as the pastor pays a price in humility to listen. That is why this gift is the most difficult gift for a leader to nurture in others. It is easier to simply rid the church of anyone who disagrees with us. In doing that, however, we also become an obstacle to the other gifts flowing, for the Holy Spirit wants balance in the ministry. He also wants the members to be intricately involved in the life of the church. As in the previous analogy, no company functions well when only seventy-five percent of the employees are working. No where in the Bible do we find the word "laymen," for there is no such thing. We are all called to minister, to some extent or the other, and are gifted accordingly. This does not contravene and diminish the pastor’s authority – it only means that in addition to his other duties, he should also develop and manage the spiritual resources of believers in his church.

Pray for a Revelation of Your Gift

As we are under the veil of the flesh, we are many times blinded to spiritual realities. Moreover, we have a cunning enemy who does not want us to make a contribution to the kingdom. We need to fall to our knees and humbly ask God what our place in the kingdom is. Answers from the Almighty do not always come when we want them – but they do come when we need them. He will surely reveal to each Christian who wants to know what his or her gift is, for He promises even greater revelations than this when He tells us:

"Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know." Jeremiah 33:3 (NKJV)

Written By John Lifflander
May 12, 2002


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