God's Pleasing Will for You: Spiritual Gifts, Part 2 (Romans Sermon 94 of 120)
March 05, 2006 | Andrew Davis
Introduction: The Giving of Gifts
Greek mythology, tells the story of how the ancient city of Athens got its name. Two deities were competing for the privilege of being the patron god or goddess of that city, and the people of Athens, it wasn't named that yet, but the people of that city decided that whatever deity gave the better gift, they would choose that deity. So it's like kind of democratic voting for your god or goddess, but that's how the story went. And so, Poseidon, submitting to the process, took his powerful trident and struck the top of the hill that later became known as the Acropolis, and a fresh water spring was opened up, and fresh water flowed down, beautiful, clear, cool water, ready to drink. And the people were suitably impressed. So that was good for Poseidon, until Athena, the goddess of wisdom, stepped forward with her gift. And it was a tree that they had never seen before, it was an olive tree. And the fruit, it was proven, was good for eating, it was nutritious. When pressed, olive oil came out, that was good for burning for lamps, the wood of the tree was good for construction, it was an incredible gift. And even better, it could multiply, so there would be harvest of olives. It was suitable for the climate, it was a winner across the board. And so, Athena had the right to claim that city as her own, and the people named it after her, the city of Athens.
None of that ever happened, but at any rate, it's a good story, and I was thinking about the gifts that God has given us through Christ. Now, obviously, I could stand here and talk forever about the gift of salvation. "For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not of yourselves. It is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast." Romans 6, "The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus."
If you've never trusted in Christ, you should know that salvation is a free gift, it's offered to you freely today. Jesus said in one place, "Freely you have received, freely give." God has freely given us salvation. So we could talk for a long, long time about that gift, of the gift of salvation. But this morning, for the second week, I want to talk about a different gift. I want to talk about the gift that God has given us, not that we would receive from Him a fruitful tree that we could eat from, but rather that we would ourselves become fruitful to His glory, that He would make us a tree planted by streams of water yielding its harvest, season after season. That we would become a branch in a vine bearing fruit to His glory, and so prove ourselves to be His disciples. That we would ourselves be transformed from narrow, small, hard lives that are worthless, that accomplish nothing, that are dust in the wind, that we're freed from all that, and that we actually are given a role to play, an eternally significant role to play in the advancement of the kingdom of Jesus Christ. That's a gift, isn't it? We're freed from living a worthless life, that's the significance of spiritual gifts. God has given to us a gift, He's given to us, each one of us, if we're Christians, given to us a role to play in the body of Christ. It's different for everybody, a different combination of gifts that come together, but you have a role to play. And so it says in Ephesians 4, that "when he ascended on high, He led a host of captives and gave gifts to men," or so it says here in verse 6, "We have different gifts according to the grace given to us."
I. What Are Spiritual Gifts?
Now, last week, we talked about spiritual gifts generally. We said, what are spiritual gifts, we tried to understand them, this is all review. I showed how in Romans 12, it's in a key place in the unfolding of the epistle, how after 11 chapters of incredible doctrine, we get chapter 12 of life application. Two verses, in which we're told to present our bodies in living sacrifice, general application, and then immediately we go from there into the topic of spiritual gifts. Therefore, it must be very important. If this is about the first, or really the second thing that he tells us that we should do and be as Christians, this must be important. So it is. We get the same thing in Ephesians 4, we get the same thing in 1 Corinthians 12-14, really all about spiritual gifts, 1 Peter 4, throughout the Book of Acts, we saw the significance of spiritual gifts.
Secondly, last week we gave a definition of spiritual gifts. Spiritual gifts are special abilities given to each one of us by the grace of God through Christ and through the Holy Spirit, that God uses to build up the body of Christ until it reaches full maturity in Him. And so each one of us has a special gift, a special role to play in the building up of the body of Christ. And so, we have different things listed here, look at verses 6-8, we have different gifts according to the grace given us. "If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith, if it is serving, let him serve, if it is teaching, let him teach, if it is encouraging, let him encourage, if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously, if it is leadership, let him govern diligently, if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully." So there are some of the gifts, there are other gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12. Other gifts listed in 1 Peter 4, some others that are really looking for gifts find them even back in the Book of Exodus.
And so, because all of these lists are different from one another, I have concluded that they're meant to be suggestive and not exhaustive. You're not going to get an exhaustive list of gifts, but rather, you start to get the idea of a place you can serve in the body of Christ. We talked also about how these gifts are called grace from God. And I've already mentioned why. Isn't it a wonderful gift from God to be freed from a worthless life? Isn't it a wonderful gift from God to have something worth doing, something of eternal significance, that you don't have to live a life that's dust in the wind, but you can live a life that has eternal consequence? We also talked about Paul's body analogy, used here in Romans 12, "Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ, we who are many form one body and each member belongs to all the others." So we have this body analogy, it's more developed in 1 Corinthians 12. And if you put the whole concept together, it's the idea, if there's one body, many members, members have different functions, the members are arranged just as God wants them to be. All members belong equally to the body, all members belong equally to one another. No member is more important than any other, no member is useless. And as members do their function, they build up the body of Christ to full maturity. So that's the body analogy.
We also talked about the significance of this topic to each one of us. And now, you may not think it's significant to you, but it is, and you know why? Because you are going to have to give an account to God on Judgment Day for what you did with your spiritual gifts. You're going to be called to account, and so you must be ready. And the Lord, through His spirit, I believe, this morning urging you to get out and trade with it. Take that talent, or five talents, whatever you have, and get out and use it, because some day you're going to be called to an account. And I talked last week about the significance of this issue for us at this time in our local church history. We need people to step up and use their gifts, and this is going to actually be accelerating more and more as we go on. We need everybody to be serving in some way.
II. How Do We Discover Our Spiritual Gifts?
Now, last week, I gave three key steps on how it is this is going to happen. We talked about discovering your spiritual gifts last week. This week, we're going to focus in on developing and using your spiritual gifts. Last week I talked about this, there are certain steps you can go through to discover your spiritual gift. You need to understand that God has a special will for your life, a plan for your life, you need to know that. Secondly, you need to present your body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing him, every day. You need to be thirdly, transformed by the renewing of your mind, and in that way you'll be able to test and approve what God's will is for you. And fourth, you need to think about yourself, you need to think about yourself properly, you need to think about yourself humbly, according to faith, but you need to think about what you do, think about what you like to do, think about what you're fruitful at doing, you need to think about yourself. Fifth, you need to serve God constantly in a variety of common ways that all Christians are called on to do. We're all called on to do certain things in the body of Christ, even if that's not your gifted area.
And so if you don't know what your gift is, and we're in the discover section, so I'm assuming you're discovering, because you don't know what your gift is, then just get active in serving in a variety of different ways. And then the final step was, wait for validation from the body of Christ, for people to come and tell you, "Listen, what you do is wonderful. When you did that, that was greatly encouraging to me," etcetera. The body will talk to you and tell you what your gifts are.
Now, that's what you can do for yourself. Last week we talked also about what you can do and really should do for others. And here, I think, the churches tend to be greatly under developed. I don't think we really focus on each other the way we should. We need to think more about each other. And Hebrews 10:24 says we should do that. It says, "Let us consider one another to stimulate to love and good deeds." You're supposed to think about each other, think about your brothers and sisters, think about them by name in your Sunday school class, people that you come with, people that you know you're going to meet up with here at the church, in your home fellowship. Think about them by name, spend some time on them in prayer. Say, "What is his gift? What is her gift?" We talked about that last time, discovering your spiritual gift. Alright, that's all review.
III. How Should I Develop My Spiritual Gifts?
Let's talk about this morning how to develop your spiritual gift. How to develop your spiritual gift. Now, the bottom line here as we begin is that spiritual gifts need to be developed, they don't come fully formed, you need to work on them. Mozart was one of the most overwhelmingly talented musical geniuses in history. And at the age of five, he's already traveling around Europe, people are listening to his talent, they're just astonished. He's already writing music and composing at that age. But I was amazed to find out that he dedicated himself to 14 hours a day of piano practice. 14 hours. Now, there's some people in this congregation, I won't embarrass you, but I know that 14 hours a day would be torture for you. 14 hours a day. But here's this genius, and he doesn't say, "Look, I'm a musical genius. I don't need to spend any time developing my gift." He put 14 hours a day in. Then there's Michelangelo, who was probably the greatest sculptor in Renaissance Europe, maybe the greatest of all time. He has the ability to take a block of marble and make it seemingly come alive, like it's breathing. And yet, he was a scientist and a student of art and design, he wrote treatises on it, even to his old age, he's studying how art and design could flourish and could work. He's studying the other thing... The people, the other sculptors, the works that other sculptors and painters are doing, and he's adjusting his own practices.
Charles Spurgeon, is probably the most naturally gifted preacher, perhaps in history. He was gifted with an incredible eloquence, a great memory, great intellect, solid knowledge of doctrine, a winsome personality, and before the age of 20, he's preaching to thousands of people. But he made a lifelong study of his spiritual gift of preaching. I think often about the fact that, regularly, perhaps even weekly, he would sit down with a milkmaid that he knew, a humble, working class girl, and he would preach his sermon to her, and if she didn't understand it, he would change some things, until it was understandable and clear.
Over and over again in history, we've seen incredibly talented men and women, take their talent and develop it into something magnificent, something beautiful. But you know something? It doesn't always happen that way. When I was a student at MIT, I got to study with some of the best and brightest from around the world. And one thing I noticed when I was there is that if you said that somebody has great intelligence you've said almost nothing else about them. They could be great athletes or not, they could be nerds, or not. I didn't want to say it, but it's true. There are actually some of those at MIT. Of course, I wasn't one of them, but at any rate.
There's all different kinds of people, but one thing I notice is that there are some people that just coasted on their talent, they just coasted. They had the ability to just wing it, and they spent a lot of time partying, they spend a lot of time relaxing or doing fun things, they didn't develop a gift. And they got good grades, they even got good jobs, but I thought, "What a waste. What if they had taken that and really applied themselves, what could they have achieved?" And maybe at some point it kicked in and they did. We cannot coast on the spiritual gifts, they need to be developed.
Now, I get this, especially from two verses in Timothy. They're right in your outline. 2 Timothy 1:6, it says, "For this reason, I remind you," this is Paul speaking to Timothy, "For this reason, I remind you, to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you, through the laying out of my hands." Timothy, add fuel to the fire of your spiritual gift. It's just a flicker right now, or it's a small flame. Make it a bonfire. Make what a bonfire? Your spiritual gift ministry, fan it into flame, make it something big, something magnificent to the glory of God. Fan your gift into flame.
And even better, is 1 Timothy 4:14-16, there it says, "Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters, give yourself wholly to them so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and your doctrine closely. Persevere in them because if you do, you'll save both yourself and your hearers." 1 Timothy 4:15, is the key verse in the entire New Testament on how spiritual gifts should be developed. Look what he says, he says, "Be diligent in the matter of your spiritual gifts. Give yourself wholly to them so that everyone may see," What? "Your progress," that is the development of a spiritual gift.
So the gift comes ready to be developed. It's like a seed that needs attention, it needs cultivation, it needs watering, it needs the Lord's work. And so therefore the work and effort and zeal involved is a large measure, in my opinion, of the worship we give to God by doing our spiritual gift ministry. As you're developing, that is your act of worship to God, the work you put in. And also, friends, it's in complete harmony with God's usual way of dealing with this, isn't it? God wants to see growth, he wants to see development. And so, like it says in Corinthians, "I planted, Apollos watered, but God made it grow." And so it is with spiritual gifts. Now, how do we develop them? Well, we're going to get more to this in a minute, but we develop them by using them. We just do. Just as we use them, we're going to be developing them. I'll talk more about that in a minute.
But we also develop these spiritual gifts by studying them, by applying ourselves to the matter of the spiritual gift and learning how to do it better. Each gift ministry has its secrets of the trade, trade secrets, so to speak. You think about the medieval trade guilds, and they knew how to do certain things, and just little by little, your expertise grew and grew. And so we have to study these spiritual gifts. A great example is Timothy's gift of teaching, 2 Timothy 2:15, and there it says, "Study to show yourselves approved unto God, workmen who don't need to be ashamed," and there it says, "Rightly dividing the word of truth." Well, that was his work, but I think the same thing applies to any spiritual gift. Study it, so you can show yourself approved, so that you don't need to be ashamed, but you use your gift well.
And so I think you have to study your gift. I think that's what's going on here in verse 6, it says there, that we have different gifts that differ according to the grace given us. If your gift is prophecy you should use it in proportion to the faith. Now, what I think this means, literally, the analogy of faith, if your gift is prophecy, my interpretation of that is that you're going to be speaking the Word of God directly in the New Testament setting to the people, but be sure that what you say lines up with the body of doctrine, known as the faith. You know how it says in another place? "Keep the faith," or, "Examine yourselves to see if you're in the faith." The words "the faith" means a body of doctrine that we recognize as Christianity. So if your gift is prophecy be sure that the things you utter, the things you speak, are lining up with that which has already been revealed. What is our faith? So study in this way, it's a matter of studying your spiritual gift.
Other gifts, I think, require as well careful study. Those with the gift of administration still need to learn the best way to organize ministries and to lead people winsomely. Those with the gift of giving can study how other great givers in history have used their gift, and then they can get some ideas. In our home fellowship, we're studying Randy Alcorn's incredible book, Money, Possessions and Eternity, and he's a big believer in this, Randy Alcorn is. You know we have prayer warriors and everybody knows in the church who the prayer warriors are? He said that we should also know who the giving warriors are, as well, because just by knowing the way that they think about material possessions, the way they use their spiritual gift can motivate other people.
We looked at a little DVD of some stories of some of these great givers from church history, and one of them was RG LeTourneau, and this man, he's called the father of the American earth-moving industry, talking about these huge machines that just can shape whole areas of the earth, monstrously big machines. As a matter of fact, many of the large machinery that landed on the shores of Normandy on D-Day, he developed, his company developed and gave to the government, so he's an amazing man. And he considered his business a partnership between him and God, and he gave, get this now, 90% of all that he earned for over 50 years. When think about that, it's like, "Oh, wait a minute, I guess he never got good teaching on tithing, it's supposed to be the other way round, you give the 10%, and 90%." He didn't think that way, he just totally reversed the thing and gave 90%.
Listen, as you study a man like LeTourneau and you listen to how he thought, if your gift is giving it will help you develop your spiritual gift. And the same is true really of any spiritual gift. You just study it by learning how others have done it. Those with the gift of hospitality, could still learn and develop their gift by learning how to perhaps open your home to internationals, and how to be culturally sensitive, or do certain things with foods or whatever. There's some women that are incredibly gifted in the area of hospitality, and you can just learn different things by kind of a cross-pollination. And so, we should develop our gifts by studying them and by submitting to the input of others. Bottom line is, we must develop our spiritual gifts so we can be more skillful.
IV. How Should I Use My Spiritual Gifts?
Now, the final step is to use the spiritual gift. In my opinion, that's the main idea of Romans 12, that's what Paul is getting at. He's not going into an extended treatise on what spiritual gifts are, basically, he's urging people to use their gifts. Look at what he says, "If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve. If it is teaching, let him teach. If it is encouraging, let him encourage. If it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously. If it is leadership, let him govern diligently. If it is showing mercy let him do it cheerfully."
Bottom line is, just like the parable of the talents, you have received a talent from God. Remember the parable, how he gave five talents to one, and two talents to another, and one talent to another. And the one with the five talents, went out and put his master's money to work, and he gained five more. And the one with the two talents, he went out and put his master's money to work and he gains two more. But the one with the one talent, he's afraid, and he thinks poor thoughts of his master, and he goes and pulls in and hide the thing in the ground, don't be like that. You've got to go out and trade with it, you've got to use your spiritual gift, that's what He's getting it.
And he talks about it. Using them consistently, just get out there and trade with it, use it, and also I think we need to use them in a focused way. The whole idea of spiritual gifts is to know, this is what you should concentrate on. If your gift is teaching, you should teach. It means concentrate on, focus. If your gift is giving, you should think about giving, how to increase your giving, how to develop it. Concentrated on them, focus on them, use them also skillfully. Paul uses descriptive phrases, for example, if your gift is prophecy use it in a certain way in proportion to the faith. If your gift is giving, give generously, lavishly. If your gift is leadership, you should govern diligently, and if it's mercy you should do it cheerfully.
So he's saying there's certain ways that we do it. And I think the whole focus on here is love. You should use your spiritual gift lovingly. The bottom line is that spiritual gifts are expressions of the love of Jesus Christ through you to another person, it's a way that Christ is loving other people through you in a very marvelous way. And so therefore it's for this reason that he ends this whole section in verse 9, with, "Love must be sincere," love must be un-hypocritical, literally. So let the spiritual gifts flow in a way that the body of Christ is built up, and there is a great deal of love. One of the most interesting insights I've had recently about spiritual gifts, is the idea that... Look at verse 5, "In Christ we who are many form one body and each member," look what it says, "Belongs to all the others." What that means is that spiritual gifts, my spiritual gift doesn't belong to me alone, but it belongs to the body of Christ. Your gifts don't belong to you alone, but they belong to the body of Christ.
It's similar to the whole marriage analogy with marital relations in 1 Corinthian 7, where it says, "The wife's body does not belong to her alone, but also to her husband, and the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife," and as they come together, there's such a beautiful unity there. In the same way, in the same way, the spiritual gifts are meant to be shared together. I cannot deprive you of my gift, and neither should you'd be depriving me of yours. They belong to each other, we need it from each other, so therefore we need to use these gifts lovingly. It's for this very reason in my opinion that Paul ends this, we're right in the middle of 1 Corinthians 12-14, he's talking about love, and spiritual gifts was an issue in the Corinthian church. They were using them, but they were boasting and arrogant about them, there was nothing loving about the way they were using their gifts.
And so he writes, 1 Corinthians 13, to teach us how to use the gift. "Love is patient," he says, "Love is kind, it doesn't envy, it doesn't boast, it is not proud, it is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it's not easily angered, and keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." In context, Paul is writing there about how to use your spiritual gifts, use them lovingly.
Now, we have looked for the last two weeks at spiritual gifts. We've talked about discovering your spiritual gifts, ways you can do it. We've talked this morning about developing your spiritual gifts, so that they grow into something magnificent for God. And I've just exhorted you for the last number of minutes to use your gifts. Just by way of application, the whole sermon's been application, but by way of application. I want to speak to different kinds of folks that might be listening to me this morning. You might be sitting there saying, "I don't think that anything that I do is ever going to make a difference. I've tried different things and I've never had anybody encourage me about anything I do." What I'd urge you to do, is to come again to the scripture and to realize, first and foremost, even though you may have those feelings, you don't have the right to hold back that gift that God has given you. You must get out and trade with it.
You can't be like the person who's got the talent and hides it in the ground. Step out in faith, but ask God for what you want. And if what you want is for somebody or a group of people to come alongside and find out what your gift is and exhort you and encourage, then ask God for it. Trust him and then watch what happens, is you get out and start ministering in a certain way, you're going to find people will come up and start speaking to you words of encouragement. Don't imagine for a moment that your gift is insignificant. There are no insignificant spiritual gifts.
I may be speaking to somebody who knows what their gifts are, and they're using them, they're using them a lot. All I can do is exhort you to keep going, do not grow weary in doing good, keep using your gifts. Let the harvest be in the future. The apostle Paul said, I don't even judge my own ministry, I leave that to the future time. Discouragement nips at the heels of fruitful Christians. Keep using your gifts, keep being out there trading, don't get weary, don't get discouraged, keep using your gifts.
Then there are others that feel you may be disqualified because of sin, you feel like you've sinned and you know what your gifts are, but you just can't use them because some sin has happened in your life. God's grace is there to restore and renew. Look at Peter the Apostle, look how God restored and sent him back up and made him an apostle and he's preaching a great Pentecost sermon, incredible grace of Christ toward Peter. He's the same gracious God today. Don't hide your gift because you think you're disqualified. If you need to confess sin to Him, confess; if you need to repent, definitely repent. But once you've done that, then get out and be active. If on the other hand, you just don't know what your gifts are, you're really not sure, then follow the instructions I gave last week, if you weren't here, get the tape, I gave much more details on how to discover what your gifts are. Friends, there's no excuse for us not to be using our gifts, we need to be out there and doing it.
Now, pretty soon we're going to be looking to start what we call a host ministry, and I think this is going to be an avenue for lots of different gifted people to get involved. What we'd like to do is make our church more user-friendly, friendly to visitors. People who've never been in here don't know where to go on a Sunday morning, don't know what kinds of ministries there are in the church, etcetera. We would like a whole bunch of people that are ready, willing, able and gifted to greet them and bring them into the life of the church, not just on Sunday morning, but in every way. We're going to need people with gifts of administration and leadership, we're going to need people with gifts of service, people certainly with the gifts of hospitality, people with gifts of evangelism, these things are needed. And as we behind the scenes are organizing and putting that together, please watch for that, it's coming soon, and you'll have an opportunity to get involved. Don't hold back, get involved, it's going to be a very fruitful, fruitful ministry.