Monday, January 18, 2016

Spiritual Gifts

In about a handful of places, the Bible discusses in plain terms some of the gifts that God has given His people. Among these gifts are many:

The gifts of speaking with wisdom, speaking with knowledge, courageous faith, the ability to heal, to work miracles, to speak what God has revealed, to tell the difference between spirits, speaking in different languages, and interpreting languages are all mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12. Romans 12 includes speaking what God has revealed, serving, teaching, encouraging others, sharing, leadership, and helping people in need. Ephesians 4 notes the persons that God has given to His church: apostles, prophets, missionaries, pastors, and teachers. 1 Peter 4 mentions only speaking and serving.

And for most of us reading these passages, these lists, we have but one concern: what, exactly, is our gift?

We read these lists and try to figure out where we fit, where God has put us. There's a huge market in the Christian industry for spiritual gift inventories and assessments and questionnaires, even spiritual gift training and development programs (which is, you have to admit, a little bit hilarious. What could a book or video series teach you about your gift that the God who has given it wouldn't teach you if you simply asked Him?). We invest a lot of resources - both church and personal resources - 'discovering' which is our gift and how best to use it. 

Of course, as my parenthesis notes, we spend precious little of this discovery and development engaging with the God who is the giver of these gifts, despite Paul's repeated reminders of God's role in the whole thing. There are different spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit gives them. There are different ways of serving, and yet the same Lord is served. There are different types of work to do, but the same God produces every gift in every person. (1 Corinthians 12:4-6) So clearly, we are missing an essential element of the gift.

But are we missing even more than that?

There's nothing wrong with taking the time and investing the energy to figure out just what God might be doing in you, to discover what gifts He's given you. That's essential to fulfilling your God-given potential in this world. Whatever gift you discover that God has planted in the depths of your heart comes with certain responsibilities, and these Scriptures speak to those a little bit, too. 

The problem is that in all this self-discovery, for all the time we spend poring over these lists and seeking to discover something about ourselves, we are missing what may be at least as essential as the gift that we discover: it's the gifts that we don't discover, the ones God hasn't blessed us with. It's what we do with the rest of the list, and it's about more than just trying to figure out who among us has those gifts, who in our churches fills those roles.

The gifts that God has not given us are just as much about who we are as the ones that He has. How is that even possible? 

Stay tuned.

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