Currently, there are over 7 billion people in our world. And to add to that number is added to nearly every second. However, it would not be a stretch to say that each of these people possess unique gifts for which God has a purpose. Among them, Christian disciples live their life in discovery of these gifts and strive to use them for God. Just like Saint Augustine of Hippo, who upon receiving Christ as savior wrote in his Confessions, “I look forward, not to what lies ahead of me in this life and will surely pass away, but to my eternal goal. I am intent upon this one purpose, not distracted by other aims, and with this goal in view I press on, eager for the prize, God’s heavenly summons.”
We might all be different in our gifts and the kind of active service we ultimately bring to those around us. However, as disciples we are united by the goal of offering our lives and actions to God, to love our neighbors and love God. 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 summarizes it nicely when it says: “4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. 7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”
Serving with our Spiritual Gifts Daily
The Bible says that it is the Holy Spirit who bestows upon us spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:4). Different from mundane gifts, Spiritual gifts are those possessed by Christians, with the specific purpose of assisting our neighbors and spreading the gospel.
Greg Oden categorizes in his book Discipleship Essentials four types of gifts that can be found in disciples. He calls support gifts those that equip others to use their own gifts. Speaking gifts, Oden writes, use words to teach and encourage others in wisdom and knowledge. Sign gifts are supernatural gifts that allow one to perform miracles, healing, and speak in tongues. And finally service gifts specialize in helping, giving, practicing hospitality, leadership, and administration.
These gifts can be exercised in our daily lives through a hug, an advice, prayer, or a welcoming “hello.” They are, of course, different from each other and some may seem more flamboyant or important than others. However, they all are the same in their foundation, which is where their true worth lies: they exist to serve and to show Christ in us. Peter instructs us this way: “10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen”(1 Peter 4:10-11).
Serving with our Occupations
Many times our raw gifts land us on certain kinds of occupations. For example, someone who has a gift for words usually becomes a teacher or a writer. But even in our occupations we are called to reach out to others, help them in what we can, and share the good news of salvation. For instance, John Milton wrote his renowned and exquisite poem Paradise Lost in order to “justify the ways of God to men.”
But of course, forcing our beliefs on others is not the way to go about this. We must respect other people beliefs and be humble in ours. But if we work in diligence, kindness, and love, if we do not use “being considerate” as an excuse and are not afraid to express our opinions and share our experiences, if we remain as disciples even in our workplaces, God utilizes us to move new hearts.
A friend recently went to Rooted Conferences organized by the Christian Community Health Fellowship. What she saw there was people who did not study their MCATs or went into their hospitals only thinking of their status as doctors but who thought foremost about how to serve their patients best, how to be used by God. She saw working disciples.
Like everything else, discovering our gifts and using them is a journey that needs a discerning mind and careful treading. So here are some extra things to take note of:
o Pride: God does not need anything from us. Therefore, when we serve God, let us do so in the motivation of love and not because we think God needs serving. It also helps to remember that all gifts have been given to us out of grace, not necessarily because we deserved them or God owed us. The gifts do not exist for our own self-aggrandizement, but they serve tools and encouragement to serve others in a way that is particular to us.
o Differences: We have mentioned this before, but it is something many of us have a hard time remembering. Our gifts are often different from each other. Be it in type, amount of skill, function, showiness, even social importance—they may be different and feel uneven. This can lead us to compare ourselves with others, grow arrogant or lose confidence in ourselves. However, we must find our worth and value not in the gifts themselves but in the proper usage of those gifts and God.
o Drudgery: Like homework for a core class that has nothing to do with our majors or a chore we are forced to do every morning, we often view service as doing something we do not want to do but must. In here we must note God’s love. A loving God would not allow us to suffer our work unnecessarily, without meaning or purpose. More often than not he gives us particular gifts in which we can thrive and find gladness when serving. The trick is to recognize those gifts and know they are ours.
o Discouragement: There are times we get downcast because we do not feel we are blooming in our gifts, like a Bible study leader who finds his/her students decreasing one by one and starts to ponder whether he/she is the problem. We should not think that this always happens because we are hopeless or incompetent. The body of Christ is designed in such a way that each of us have a valued role uniquely suited for us. We simply must learn to identify it properly and use it in the right context, find how and where we function the best (in a large group, small group, one-on-one, with Children, elderly, peers, women, men, etc). Like Albert Einstein once said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
o Control: We are not the ones to judge the potential of our gifts, that is, what we are able to do with them. When Moses refused to go and talk to his people and inspire freedom, “The LORD said to him, ‘Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the LORD?’” (Exodus 4:11).God gives us our gifts, and only God knows what they can do. We merely have to trust and follow his lead.
o Hiding: Recognizing the gift and delighting in it is not enough. We have been given gifts, so we may be responsible for them, invest in them, cultivate them, bear fruits, like in the parable of the talents. It is our duty to discover and use our gifts for the glory of God. Hiding them out of fear of failure, pain, or commitment is not responding to the faith of the One who entrusted us with something precious.
Recognizing our gifts and serving God with them are no easy tasks. Like we have noted throughout, it takes a great deal of courage, courage to use those gifts and become a light in the world that points at Christ. Let us then serve each other and God with intrepid hearts.