What is your spiritual gift? Do you know? Have you discovered how you fit into the puzzle of Christ's Church? If not, join Stephen now as he helps you discover it.
“Three Gifts of Great Passion”
Once upon a time, there were four people. Their names were Everybody, Somebody, Nobody and Anybody. Whenever there was an important task to be done, Everybody was sure that Somebody would tackle it. When Somebody didn’t do it, it fell to Nobody . . . and Nobody gladly did it. But, when Nobody tackled the job, Everybody got angry because it was Somebody’s job. So, Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done in the first place.
Did you get that?!
Today, we come to the conclusion of our study on the subject of spiritual gifts, finding your fit in the Body of Christ.
We have defined a spiritual gift as a Divine enablement to serve the body of Christ and the cause of Christ with special effectiveness.
I would be remiss not to mention several warnings however, as we come to the close of our series.
I need to warn you of three or four wrong attitudes about this subject of serving God in the arena of your special gift.
The first wrong attitude says:
1) I will not do anything except those things related to my special gift.
In other words, I will serve in the area of my special gift only.
Try that at home. Your wife asks you to take out the trash, you say, “Honey, my spiritual gift is not service, but leadership.” Haven’t you been listening on Sunday mornings?”
Don’t pull me into it . . . just take out the trash!
You tell your son or daughter to clean their room and they say, “But, Dad, didn’t you know, my gift is not helps; I have discovered my gift is mercy.”
You’ll say, “That’s good, because you’re gonna need a lot of it!”
The believer who sort of cocoons his life around the statement, “that’s not my gift” is not only ignorant of how the body works, he is merely masking his lack of commitment to the work of Christ, as well as his own self-centerdness in the Body.
On the other end of the spectrum is the exhausted servant of Christ who hasn’t really attempted to find God’s special gifting in their life because they’re running back and forth.
Their attitude, which I also warn you of, is this:
2) I will do everything in any area, as long as there are needs
Commendable service . . . yet eventually self-defeating, especially when needs arise in areas where you have no desire, no training, no experience, and no objective.
The church needs much more than warm bodies filling ministry slots.
Have you ever been seated by an usher, and you could tell, he didn’t really like people? And seating you was his way of getting rid of you? Not here, of course.
Have you ever been taught by someone you knew didn’t like to teach and had no ability to teach? But a 4th grade teacher was needed and they good-heartedly volunteered to fill the slot. And every year, they torture a new class of 4th graders?!
Needs do not constitute the will of God.
Another attitude that needs a warning before we complete this study is the attitude that says:
3) I will never change my arena of service.
One of the interesting things to note as you work through the New Testament, is that most, if not all of these special gifts could be described as developmental in the life of the believer.
In other words, as you grow in Christ, you begin to teach others truth – maybe not one to many, but certainly one to one. You begin to have a heart for service and compassion for the needy. You desire to see God’s work advanced and so you give to the cause from your resources.
Let me put it this way, “while every believer is empowered to serve effectively in at least one area of ministry, every believer will develop in other areas of ministry.”
Which means, what you are doing today in some special investment of time and energy, may change later on. That’s why you continue in prayer as you grow in Christ.
One more attitude that needs a warning is the attitude that says;
I am waiting for God to give me a special sign before I begin to use my spiritual gift.
Consider this sermon series the sign!
God has given you the sign now for 7 weeks in a row!
Here it is . . . in neon letters called Romans . . . God has spoken!
Hear also the words of Paul, written to Timothy; hesitant, reticent, timid, Timothy – Timothy, fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you! (2 Timothy 1:6)
For Timothy, his special gift and place was in teaching. Paul encouraged him, don’t neglect it . . . don’t let it die out . . . use it . . . fan the embers into flame!
The truth is, every one of us has a place in the puzzle of Christ’s church – which means everyone of us has a role to play. So play it!
And remember, as in any puzzle, there is no such thing as an insignificant piece, anywhere on the board. All the pieces directly or indirectly interlock .
We borrow and depend on each other’s special contribution as we display the full puzzle picture to the world of the grace and glory of our Designer, Jesus Christ.
Now, in Romans 12:8, the final 3 gifts are provided in this short list by the Apostle Paul. And they immediately stand out because each one is given a description by the Apostle Paul as to how they should be exercised.
Notice in verse 8. he who gives – here’s the description – with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
The first of these last three gifts is the gift of giving.
This gift could be defined as “sharing whatever you have with joy and generosity.”
We already know that God loves a cheerful giver, right?
We already know about many passages that challenge us to give financially to the work of Christ.
The truth is, God must change all our hearts to ever bring us to give anything away. Yet, the one empowered with a special gift of giving, has a hard time keeping anything for themselves.
Like the heart of a child who so easily gives, the older we get the more we learn to hoard and clutch.
I remember sitting in church one Sunday morning along with my three brothers . . . and the offering plate was coming past us . . . my younger brother Tim, who was normally in children’s church, but that Sunday was sitting with us older boys, held the offering plate when it came to him, took off his clip on necktie – you remember those? and put it in the plate. We whispered, “What in the world are you doing?” And Timmy’s whispered back, “He said we were supposed to give our ties and offerings.”
Now, many years later, I would say my brother Tim was already beginning to evidence a special gift of giving.
The word Paul uses is a compound word – metadidoi – and it implies giving with abandon.
Like the other two gifts at the end of this list, this is a passionate gift.
Let me make some observations about this gift:
- It is not reserved for the wealthy.
Don’t think that giving has anything to do with your career or your salary . . . it can be evidenced by a group of poverty stricken Christians, living in Philippi, were commended for their generous gifts (Philippians 4:16).
You might be interested to know that people who make less than $50,000 dollars a year give more of their income to charitable causes than those who make more.
The truth is, the more you make, the harder it is to give it away!
Imagine it this way . . . if you have 100 dollars, it’s easy to give 10 dollars away (some of you are saying, “no it isn’t!”). If you have 100,000 dollars, it’s a lot harder to give 10,000 of it away. If you have 1 million dollars, it’s even harder to give 100,000 dollars away.
You’re thinking, “Hey, I’d like God to let me test that theory!” Well you can . . . how are you doing with what you have right now?
Would that we were all more like John Wesley, the leader of Methodism several hundred years ago, who wrote, “Money can not stay with me. It would burn me if it did. I throw it out of my hands as soon as possible lest it find its way into my heart.”
Randy Alcorn, The Treasure Principle (Multnomah Publishers, 2001), p. 68
There’s another observation I want to make:
- The gift of giving is not relegated by pride
It doesn’t ask for applause. It doesn’t have to be recognized, like Ananias and Sapphira who strutted down the aisle with their contribution, expecting the Apostle Peter to praise them for their gift.
It doesn’t have to be listed in a program, or have it’s name put on a brick or plaque.
Paul describes the gift of giving with the word, “liberality.” It could be rendered single-mindedness . . . sincerity.
There is no ulterior motive . . . it just wants to give.
- The gift of giving is not related to an amount.
It is the attitude, not the amount that distinguishes the gifted giver.
With single-minded passion, this person resources the work of God and the people of God with everything they possibly can give away.
May their tribe increase.
Paul now mentions another passionate gift, notice verse 8 again; “he who leads with diligence.”
The word translated “lead” can be rendered “manage.” Its appears in the qualifications of an elder and deacon in I Timothy 3 who are to manage or lead their households and their children.
In I Corinthians, Paul speaks of the same gift, but uses another Greek word which means to administrate or organize. It is a word for someone who steers a ship.
This gift has the idea of dependability in Titus 3.
You could define this gifted individual as “one who manages some task for God, providing guidance by example and dedication.”
Godet wrote several generations ago this description of the gift: “Think of the numerous works of charity which believers had to create and maintain! Pagan society had neither hospitals nor orphanages, free schools or rescue missions, like those of our day. The church impelled by the instinct of Christian charity, had to introduce all these institutions into the world; Christian communities took up these needful objects and had of course at their head [leaders] charged with the responsibility of the work.
James Boice, Romans: Volume 4 (Baker, 1995), p. 1587
One of the great needs in the church today is for men and women to grasp this gift of leadership.
But it isn’t easy . . . that’s why there is rarely a waiting list for leaders.
There are plenty of people who will help . . . but few who will lead.
There are plenty who will bring a covered dish, but few are willing to organize the potluck! (I speak in language Baptist’s can understand)
Why so few, willing to organize? Simply put, it means you’re out in front, paying the price of leadership. In fact, the Greek word itself (for leadership) implies someone who steps forward.
And stepping forward is often synonymous with standing alone! And not many people want to pay the price to stand alone.
Dr. Ken Gangel in his insightful little book entitled, “You and Your Spiritual Gifts” gave the account of one scene from a popular show on television from the 70’s. Evidently two children ended up being left alone when their sitter didn’t arrive. The boy was around 8 and his sister was around 6 years of age. And they found themselves alone that evening while their parents were out on a dinner-date. They somehow made their supper without burning the house down and then comes bedtime. The older brother, who had taken the leadership role, decided it was time to tuck his little sister in for the night. As he turned out the light and prepared to leave the room, his sister asked, “But who will tuck you in?” The boy took in a deep breath as the newly appointed leader and said with shaky confidence, “Nobody needs to . . . I’m in charge, remember?” To which his sister sighed and said, “I guess that’s the trouble with people in charge – they have no one to tuck them in.”
Kenneth Gangel, You and Your Spiritual Gift (Moody Press, 1975), p.15
Well said . . . maybe that’s the very idea that keeps you from taking a step forward . . . you know what it feels like to, in effect, tuck everybody in and make sure everybody has their place and everybody has what they need and at the end of the day – stand alone.
You are the one that God has gifted with that sense that tells the rest of your brothers and sisters in Christ, like the Apostle Paul, “follow me . . . as I follow after Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)
The demands and challenges leadership were unmistakably obvious as Paul reminded the Thessalonians when he wrote to them, “For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you . . . but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day . . . in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, that you might follow our example. (2 Thessalonians 3:7-9)
This is the one who takes risks so that others can enjoy security.
This is the one who labors so that others can find rest.
Where are those who will accept the hardships and rigors of ministry demands and lead.
I speak to a core team of leaders over some ministry; I speak to someone who wants to start something . . . or sees something that needs to be organized and put on it’s feet.
You will be the one who goes into a dark room and finds the light-switch and then beckons the others to come in.
You’re the one who walks across an old wooden bridge to see if it’s strong enough for other people to use.
You’re the one with the map and the roads clearly marked out ahead of time.
It’s little wonder that this same gift is considered synonymous with the gift of administration. You just seem to sense where things ought to be and what it will take to get there.
But beyond that . . . you’re willing to pay the price to see that ministry happens.
No wonder Paul added this descriptive word in Romans 12:8: “he who leads – with diligence (spoude) with zeal!
In other words, “don’t hesitate . . . don’t be indecisive . . . you’re the one in front of that class, that ministry, that relief effort, that outreach . . . you know the costs . . . you suffer the pain . . . you pay the price . . . like Paul who offered himself to the church . . . who was willing to pay the penalty of leadership.
The church is in desperate need of those who will take that step forward and:
tackle a job
manage a team
pay the price
turn on the light
for the cause of Jesus Christ.
Now, the final piece of the puzzle, given in verse 8. “he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.”
The gift of mercy (eleew)
One Bible scholar defined the gift simply as the gift of sympathy. The gift that opens the heart of the sufferer.
Godet, quoted by Gangel, p. 50
Note that – this isn’t someone who opens their heart to the sufferer, but someone who opens the heart of the one suffering.
This is the person who constantly looks for the “hurting” people in the congregation . . . this is the gift that provides the salve for both physical and spiritual wounds.
This is the gifted believer who id divinely endowed with special sensitivity to suffering and sorrow.
If you think you have the gift of mercy, but you leave people bleeding all around you and don’t even notice, you probably better keep searching for your gift.
This person has the ability to notice misery and distress and may go unnoticed by others, and then has the desire and passion to help alleviate the affliction. This gift involves much more than just sympathetic feeling. It is feeling put into action.
John MacArthur, Romans: Volume 2 (Moody Press, 1994), p. 177
This is the Good Samaritan who puts the injured in their jeep and takes them to the hospital and then sees that the hospital bill gets paid. In fact, this is the person who builds a clinic for people who can’t afford to go to the hospital.
Frankly, the world is a bit surprised by the mercy givers. That’s because they run counterculture . . . they look out for everybody but number 1.
So whenever someone seems to go out of their way to be kind, you automatically think, “I wonder if they’ve got something up their sleeve!”
I mean, “there’s no such thing as a free lunch and they just brought you a free lunch and so something’s must be up!”
I read in Sam Gordon’s commentary on Ephesians the other day the story of the a Texan who was shopping at Sam’s Club one afternoon with his wife. He had absentmindedly left his keys in the ignition of his car. When he came out of the store, sure enough his Cadillac sedan was gone. He contacted the police department and filled out a report . . .the police gave them a ride home. The next morning when he opened the curtains he could hardly believe his eyes. His pride-and-joy Cadillac was sitting out in the drive-way. What’s more, he discovered that the car had been detailed inside and out . . . carpet shampooed, the exterior waxed, the wheels armoralled. But that wasn’t all. Lying on the front seat was an envelope with a note which read: “Dear friends, I’m so sorry for taking your car. It was a terrible emergency, please accept my apology for any hardship. A want you and your wife to enjoy this Saturday’s home game at the Dallas Cowboys stadium . . . here are two seats at the 50 yard line. Again, I’m so sorry I put you out . . . thank you so much!” Can you imagine?
That Saturday afternoon he and his wife enjoyed great seats and a wonderful time at the game. When they got home, they discovered the entire house was empty. All their belongings stolen by thieves who knew where they would be and for how long! And they had developed plans all along for something much greater than stealing a car.
If that ever happens to you . . . someone gives you free seats at the State/Carolina game . . . don’t go . . . give me the tickets – that way you’ll be safe!
Perhaps you’re on the other end of it where you actually did something good for someone and they repaid you with anything but kindness.
Have you ever treated your waitress with kindness – you knew she was having a difficult day – and you offered her compassion and she just snarled back at you?
You ever held a door for someone and they didn’t say thanks?
I heard one guy say he held a door for a woman and she walked through it and sarcastically said, “You don’t have to hold the door for me because I’m a lady.” He said, “I didn’t . . . I held the door for you because I’m a gentleman.”
I love that line! In fact, I’ve been waiting to use it . . . but no one will cooperate!
My wife and I enjoyed the friendship of an elderly couple as I finished seminary. They were a dear couple in the church who loved everybody. She always had candy in his pocket for kids and he was always quick to show care and concern. One young man in his 20’s had come to church recently. In fact, he had professed faith in Christ. His second or third visit to church one morning, led to an invitation to Sunday dinner from this elderly couple . . . they had a wonderful time. The next day when they been out a while and then returned home, all their valuables had been stolen. He had unlocked a window in the dining room, through which he later came to steal all their things.
Do you really want to show mercy?
Maybe you have . . . and you’ve been burned too!
Isn’t it interesting that the Apostle Paul would specifically describe the demonstration of showing mercy this way – he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
Why that descriptive word? Because you who show mercy to enough people, are going to start to wear thin on getting any thank you’s and bless your hearts.
You will run the risk of being burned. And you might lose your cheerful demeanor which is so important to the distribution of mercy.
All three of these gifts require that internal, Spirit controlled, Spirit generated passion.
- The one who has the gift of giving, might be tempted to not give so liberally next time. They were never acknowledged . . . they were never thanked. But the Spirit gives them the grace to give on.
- The one who has the gift of leadership might be tempted to slack up . . . to shirk from the challenges of managing moving parts . . . to become weary when so few seem to be listening. But the Spirit moves you to step forward anyway.
- The one who has the gift of mercy might be tempted to do it out of duty . . . with a sense of drudgery . . . to lose the cheer and grace and winsome smile that parts the clouds and brings the light of God’s Son into the scene of despair and need.
We might be tempted to say, “I’ll wait till I get a special sign from God to serve . . . I’ll only serve in a comfortable spot . . . I’ll never do more than I really have to do . . . I’ve always done what I’m doing and I don’t want the hassle of change.”
We’ll start sounding like that parable.
I expected Somebody to do that . . . Anybody can do it instead of me . . . Everybody seems to be letting Anybody or Somebody tackle the work, so I’ll just watch Somebody and Everybody and Anybody that wants to serve.
May that never be the picture on the puzzle box we create . . . may that never represent you and me and us!
Father, how we need You, to give us a double portion of passion and diligence and grace and desire to serve with our special gifts . . . help us as we find our fit in the body of Christ . . . that we together might display the full picture of what this puzzle is supposed to be . . . what the church should look like and act like and sound like for this family of believers . . . we pray that we might glorify You, our Divine Designer, and advance Your great name and Your great cause, in Jesus name, Amen.