Well, Thanksgiving is over and now we are beginning our cultural obsession with… gifts. We are making lists of what we will give to whom. Or perhaps, and even tougher as we grow older, we have been asked to come up with a list of things we might like to receive ourselves. As we try to stretch both our time and our money to accommodate this busy and expensive time of year, I invite you to spend some time considering “spiritual gifts.”
In 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, the Apostle Paul teaches about gifts that the Holy Spirit gives us. Although there are a number of extremely important truths in these verses, in my experience it is the very last thing that this text says about spiritual gifts that is most needful in many of the difficulties we face in life and in ministry. In verse 11, we read,
“…All these [different gifts] are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.”
Let me paraphrase: All Spiritual gifts are from the Holy Spirit – whether they seem more or less important to us. Everyone one of us has been given spiritual gifts, and the Holy Spirit determined our gifts.
This last part is where many of us sometimes struggle. I think we tend to operate with wish lists and preconceived notions. We do this in our marriages, our families, our neighborhoods, our work environments, and perhaps even our spiritual life and health. If I may pick on myself for a moment, I usually have in mind both the gifts and the relative degree of giftedness that I want from God! And I get my understanding of the Christian life exactly backwards on this point – I determine which spiritual gift I want and how gifted I want to be. And then, presuming that I have those gifts in eminence, I proceed to attempt to function in ways that I would like to be used rather than in the manner for which God has designed me. Have you ever been there and done that? We cannot approach the subject of spiritual gifts the way we do wedding gifts – we do not “register” for them and then presumptively make space in our cupboards for the exact number of place settings of our favorite fine china!
Shakespeare was on to something when he penned Polonius’ line: “To thine own self be true…” The Holy Spirit has determined what gifts you would have – you have been gifted “just as he determines.” Often we struggle in life because we do not truly appreciate what our God-given strengths and weaknesses actually are – which is to say, our areas of giftedness and where we need the giftedness of others.
When we are able to identify what spiritual gifts we have been given, then we are able to best serve others (see verse 7). And we are also best able to, with genuine appreciation, be blessed in turn by the giftedness of others. Yes, “eagerly desire the greater gifts” as 1 Corinthians 12:11 commends, but do so recognizing that none of us is truly a master of all trades spiritually speaking and that even Adam needed help before the ruin of our race.
This year, as you make your lists (and check them twice!), take some time to consider what gifts God has given you – not what gifts you want, but what gifts he has determined to give you. Commit yourself to accepting help from and being supportive of others in areas where you are not gifted. And let’s all use our gifts to bless and encourage one another – “ministering God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4:10)