What do you think about the gifts God has given us? Have you opened your package yet? Do you even think that God has given you a gift? Where do you fit in the family of God? The truth is, not only are we who we are in the family of God because of the work of Christ, but we have what we have because of his work in and through us as well.
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. (Romans 12:6-8)
Just before these verses the apostle says in Romans 12 Verse 4: 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.
Most of us have grown up with various experiences in churches, and I’m sure all of us have a mental picture of what the church ought to be because too many of our pictures of what church has been aren’t pretty. And here’s where we need our thinking changed; where we need a new understanding of the church. God has told us that his church is like a human body. If you want a good course in what “Church” is all about, just stand in front of your mirror some morning without your clothes on and examine your body. That’s what the church is like.
The first thing that will impress you is that there’s only one body in that mirror. There’s only one church in all the world. All Christians belong to it, and it doesn’t make any difference whether they have a denominational label or not. If they’ve been born of the Spirit of God, they’re members of that church, and there’s only one church. So wherever the members meet one another, they already belong to each other. Whether you have your name on a church roll somewhere is of no significance whatsoever. There is only one church, one body, yet there are many members.
The second thing that will strike you as you look at your own body is that it has parts. It isn’t just a head, but it has arms and legs and feet and toes and fingers and eyes and ears, and a number of other interesting things that stick out. And they all have a purpose. They’re part of a body, they belong to the body. The church of Jesus Christ has many members, and they are different. I like this about Jesus’ church – I like the diversity of the church.
And please notice something else … nowhere on the body will you find a roof, or a basement, or an auditorium or a parking lot. There are no classrooms, hallways or gyms or kitchens. That’s why the Bible says that God does not dwell in houses made of stones. A building is not the church. People make up the church – God dwells in the hearts of his people!
The spirit of the world strives for uniformity. What’s the latest style? Everybody get tattoos. The world tries to pressure us into looking and acting and talking and thinking alike. You join a club and you have to dress like they dress, drive the same general class of car, or go to “church” in a certain kind of building that looks a certain way. You join another club and you have to change your ways. I don’t know why it is that we have this mentality that we have to Xerox everything. Even in the church, people want to turn out Christians that all look and act the same.
But that’s not God’s idea of the church. His idea is to have diversity within the church. There are many members, and they’re not to be alike. That’s the joy of it. They don’t come from the same class or the same race or the same color or the same language, and they don’t even have the same gifts. They have many gifts. A true church is one where people are diverse and that’s something to rejoice in.
I’ve been with Christian groups in which you could discern who the members were by the fact that they all carried the same Bible under their arms – the same version and even the same color.
That isn’t the way Jesus has designed his church. Paul says that the members do not all have the same function, yet each one belongs to all the others. That’s unique. No other organization in the world can say that about itself. In all other organizations the members are individually there for what each can get out of it. But in the church of Jesus Christ, we belong to one another. We share with one another. Paul says we are to have the same care for one another. How terrible it would be if all Christians were exactly the same.
A few years ago I fell and injured my elbow – it was fractured badly and it was ugly. Well, what happened was that the rest of my body felt so bad about it that it sat up all night to keep my elbow company. None of my body parts could sleep that night. That’s what the body of Christ is to do when one member is hurt. We are tied to one another, and when one hurts, all hurt. But also when one rejoices, we all rejoice.
Paul points out here in Verses 6-8 that we have gifts that determine our function within the body: 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 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.
And this is only a partial list of the gifts that God gives. There are many others mentioned in 1 Cor. 12, 1 Peter 4, and Eph. 4. Put them all together and you get the total list of gifts that are available to us. Paul zeroes in on the fact that God gives gifts. He calls them graces, and we have different gifts, according to the specific gift of grace that is given to us.
I like that term for gifts because it indicates something about them. Graces are graceful. Something graceful is a delight to watch in action. This is true about a spiritual gift. It’s an ability God has given you because he wants you to function in this way. It enables you to do this thing so naturally and smoothly and beautifully that others will take note of it, and ask you to do it, and enjoy watching you do it. And you will enjoy it too.
A spiritual gift is a fulfilling thing when you are using it. You enjoy doing it, and that’s why it’s called a grace that’s given to you. It’s not a hard, painful thing to do; it’s something you delight in doing. And you can improve in it as you do it. It’s one of the things that will make life interesting and fulfilling for you. Imagine how hurt parents would be if they gave gifts to their children, wrapped them all up in beautiful packages and put them under the Christmas tree, and then handed them out to their children, and then each child just laid it aside and never bothered to open it or make any effort to find out what was in it?
Well then you can imagine how the Lord must feel when he has given gifts to us that he intends us to use and we never take the trouble to find out what they are, and never put them to work, and excuse ourselves by saying that we can’t do anything. But the Word of God tells us there is not a single Christian who is left out in this matter of the distribution of gifts. It’s clear from this account that the gifts Paul lists here are intended to be used. That’s what Paul stresses here.
The first gift Paul mentions is prophesying. In 1 Cor. 12 and 14 Paul tells us this is one of the best gifts of all. This is the gift you ought to covet earnestly to be manifest in your midst, because basically it is the gift of expounding Scripture, making Scripture come alive. It comes from a root word in Greek that means, “to cause to shine,” and it refers to the ability to take the Word of God and make it shine. Peter says in 2 Peter 1:19, “We have a more sure word of prophecy that shines as a light in a dark place.” Paul says if you have the gift – then use it. But use it according to the proportion of your faith. Stay with what you know. Don’t try to get into areas that you don’t yet understand. That will come later as you grow in the use of your gift. Start where you do understand Scripture, and help make it clear to people. That’s the gift of prophesying.
There are some who have the gift of serving. This is a very beautiful and common gift. Many people have it. I think it’s the same gift which is called “the gift of helps” in 1 Cor. 12:28. It’s the word from which we get our word deacon. It means to serve, or to provide for believers, or care for widows. It’s the ability to help people with such a cheerful spirit that they’re blessed by it. You know people like that. You’re thinking of somebody right now who has the gift of helps. You just love to have them around because they are so eager to serve and they do it so willingly and cheerfully that everybody is helped and blessed by it. What a tremendous gift that is! The church runs by those who have this gift. Many of you have it, so put it to work. “If your gift is serving, then we want to let you serve.”
Then there’s the gift of teaching. Teaching is the ability to impart knowledge and information, to instruct the mind. Teaching is the basis for much that comes from the Scriptures in terms of gifts, and is widely established in the body. I believe that a lot of people have the gift of teaching. If you have it, don’t wait for somebody to ask you to teach. The church didn’t give you the gift. The pastor didn’t give you the gift. God gives the gifts to us – so put your gift of teaching to work. Invite some friends or neighbors to join with you over a cup of coffee and use your teaching gift to explain God’s word to them. Don’t wait for somebody to come around and invite you to exercise your gift. That may happen, and be glad if it does, but you still have the responsibility to use the gift God has given you, whether anybody asks you to or not. Find the occasion. Find somebody who doesn’t know as much as you know and teach them, if you have the gift of teaching.
Then there is the gift of encouragement. That was the gift that Barnabas had. He was called “the son of encouragement,” which is what Barnabas means. His name was Joseph, but no one called him Joe; they called him Barney. In the stories of Barnabas in the Scriptures he is always found with his arm around somebody’s shoulder, exhorting him, encouraging him, comforting him, urging him on. This is a marvelous gift in the church. If you have the gift of encouragement, start anywhere and use it. God gave it to you, and you don’t need permission to use it.
Then there is the gift of contributing. Giving is a gift – did you know that? If you have this gift, I believe God will give you something to give, and then he will give you a desire to give it. If you have that gift, use it! It stands to reason that the more you use it, the more you will have to give. It’s part of the way you function in the body of Christ, and many can use that gift. Paul says, “Let him give generously.” The more accurate translation of what Paul is really saying is, “Let him give with simplicity.” It means giving without calling people’s attention to it. My friend, James, has this gift and I’ve seen him use it in action. Ask me sometime about Jim, and I’ll tell you his story. He won’t mind.
Someone told the story of a man who stood up in a meeting and said, “I want to give $100 … anonymously.” I know people that that. But you can’t give that way if you have the gift of giving – the gift of giving requires giving with simplicity, without making a big deal out of it. That’s what this gift is all about. It’s just giving as unto God, and then delighting in the opportunity to be used by him.
Then the gift of leadership is mentioned. It comes from a word that means, “to stand up before others.” If you have that gift, there are all kinds of meetings waiting to be led. There are all kinds of groups looking for leaders. And when you use it, Paul says, do it with diligence. That is, don’t wing it. Do it thoughtfully, think it through in advance. Make yourself ready for it, and use the meeting to its fullest purpose. The gift of leadership is a great gift.
Then, finally, Paul mentions the gift of showing mercy. I think we should delight in the people of God who have the gift of showing mercy. Just look around and see if you can catch anyone with this gift. Watch them and learn all about compassion, learn about showing concern for others, and learn about how to listen to people and not talk a lot.
Mercy helps those who are undeserving or neglected by others. The gift of showing mercy is a marvelous gift within the church, and many have it. If you have it, don’t wait for somebody to show you what to do – start doing it. Great and marvelous organizations have grown up out of a single person beginning to exercise this gift.
One example is how World Vision got started. In 1947, Bob Pierce met a teacher on a trip to China. Her name was Tena Hoelkedoer. She introduced Bob to a battered and abandoned child named White Jade she couldn’t take care of, and asked him, “What are you going to do about her?” Bob Pierce dug into his pocket and gave Tena his last $5, and promised to send the same amount each month to help her take care of the girl. And that’s how World Vision got started – and now there are 40,000 mercy showing WV staff members in over 100 countries around the world following in Bob Pierce’s footsteps. This is the way the church is supposed to function.
Now you might think that you’re small and insignificant. Maybe you even think when you look at your body in that mirror that all you are is a big toe in the body of Christ; you don’t think you can do anything, and you don’t amount to much of anything. Well all I can say to you is that you must have never had an in-grown toenail. Because one of those bad babies can cause your whole body to shut down and do a number on your brain!
God has given every one of us a gift-wrapped grace gift to use in serving him. All that matters today is that we unwrap his gift, and start putting the grace gift he has given each one of us into practice. And you don’t need my permission to get started. Just unwrap your gift.
Comments: Thank you for the thousands of comments we’ve received here at the BLKHM (Be Like Him) blog site. Some have been amazing, while others have been something else. We do not post comments received, although we appreciate every one of them. However, if you would like to express your appreciation for the BLKHM blog, the best way is to “Tweet” or “Share” or “Like” below. And something else that would be great is if you got together with several friends, and took some time to read and discus your Bibles together. Have a marvelous day. God Bless!