The year? 1973. The pre-cellphone age.
The event? A Youth for Christ meeting with more than 80 kids.
The problem? No speaker.
We, the committee members, were just kids like the rest; there were no adults in our midst and there was only so much singing we could do.
We could have ended the meeting, I guess. But we didn’t. Instead, at 17, I agreed to share something God was teaching me. That was the first time I had done any public speaking. I shared from Galatians 6:6.
Was I any good? I don’t know. Probably not. Yet several students decided, in the midst of their own lack, to give. Years later, I found out that we were the only school club that made a monthly gift to YFC Singapore.
Since then I have taught and preached to different groups in a number of places... And have been able to make a difference in some lives.
Did I have the gift of teaching? Or was it a skill I developed because I had the opportunities?
Probably both. Even if you have the gift, you will need both the training and the opportunities to exercise the gift to become good at it. Timothy might have had the gift of teaching but Paul called him to “study to show (himself) approved…”
Spiritual gifts inventories are popular today. I wondered what people did before there were inventories. How did Paul know he was a teacher? Or Barnabas, an encourager? Was Barnabas generous because he had the gift of giving? But aren’t all Christians called to be generous?
And the call to make disciples. Is that not for everyone? And does that not involve teaching? Or the call to gossip the gospel? What if you do not have the gift of evangelism? Are you then off the hook? Of course not.
Someone asked me if he should get involved in administration at his church even though that was not his spiritual gift. When I probed further, I discover that the person currently doing it was constantly botching the job, resulting in much confusion in the church and no little frustration for the administrator himself. Can you do a better job?, I asked. Sure, he replied. But that is not my spiritual gift, he added.
What a dilemma. Am I the only one who thought that it was a no-brainer? Of course he should take over the administration. His skillset meant he could do the job efficiently. True, that is not his primary gift. It is probably not his calling. But he is the one who noticed the frustration; he is the one concerned with the impact that would have on the people doing ministries; and he has the time and ability to do the job. So, no brainer. Do the job.
Recently someone told me that if you spend a thousand hours on something, you are bound to be good at it; Or at least decent. Say you share the gospel with someone every day. Even if God were to grant you but a modicum of success, you’d probably be considered an expert on evangelism in your church.
Don’t believe me? In a study by Lifeway in the US, 80 percent of those attending church at least once a month feel they have a responsibility to share their faith but 61 percent admitted they have not done so in the previous six months. Not once. So any success you have is going to be 100 percent over those who never shared the gospel. And when others look to you as an expert, you would be encouraged to do more.
When I was a teenager and a young Christian, I was told that God uses FAT Christians (Faithful, Available and Teachable). Maybe it was a way of encouraging young first-generation Christians to step out in faith. But I believed what I was told. So I ended up doing a lot of stuff that, had I known better, would probably not touch with a ten-foot pole. Things like song-leading.
Those who know me know I can’t sing. And I have not led singing for some 40 years (to the relief of many, I’m sure).
But here’s the thing: my lack (in every area, whether it was in counselling or speaking or leading) created in me a dependence. Christ’s words, “Without me you can do nothing”, were not simply a platitude I agreed with. I felt it in my very bones. And dependence led to desperate prayers. That was, for me, the greatest key to my own growth.
Second, and this is not to knock spiritual gifts inventories, the only real way to know your gifts is to step out as God gives you opportunities and then see it affirmed (or not) by the Body. It’s by your fruitfulness in exercising those gifts that you will know your gifts. Remember the Sovereign God shapes the opportunities that would shape your giftings. The same Spirit who give gifts opens doors of ministries.
Third, there are things a Christian is to do regardless of gifting. We are to give; we are to pray; we are to share the good news that Jesus saves; we are to teach those God has given into our care; we are to do good especially to those who are of the household of faith. You don’t have to ask if you have the gift to do any of those things. Just do it.
And sometimes we are to stand in the gap until one more gifted than us comes along. The primary concern is not really me and my gift but the Body and its well-being.
That does not mean we must do everything that is out there. But it means we should be motivated by a real concern every time we see a lack in the Body that is not being filled. We should be asking God to thrust out labourers, as Jesus taught us, and maybe we will be the ones He thrusts out.
And there will be occasions you will do something you realise you are not meant to do. That’s ok. Now you know.
On the other hand you might find an area of great fruitfulness.
And, definitely, you will develop a lasting dependence on God.
If you act in love for God and your brothers and sisters, God Himself will empower and protect the work of your hands.
And that is a prophecy you can bank on.
Please visit Impact on Facebook and share with us how you discover your gifts and how God has blessed the body through your gifts. Ask us any questions you may have on spiritual gifts.