What about Spiritual Gifts?
Ken Rudge, St. Austell, England
Sooner or later all young believers come up against the subject of spiritual gifts. This may arise because someone is urging them to "use their gift", or simply because a reference is made to some "gifted" speaker.
Sadly, the subject is rather perplexing to many young people — perhaps to you. One thing is certain: it will remain of little personal value to you until you are prepared to ask yourself, "What does this mean for me? Do I have a gift? What should I do about making use of my gift?" It is to help answer such questions that this article has been written.
Each of us needs at the outset to be convinced that we really do possess at least one gift. Many do not realize it, but one of the important results of the Lord's ascension to heaven has been that He has given gifts to members of His church. You can check this for yourself by reading Ephesians 4. 7-13.
It is worth noting that, when he wrote about gifts, the apostle Paul was careful always to stress that all believers have been given them. Observe his use of the word "every" in Romans 12. 3; 1 Corinthians 12. 11 and Ephesians 4. 7. In each of these verses he insists that everyone of us has a spiritual gift. Peter did the same in the passage he wrote about the subject: "as everyone has received a gift. . .", were his words, 1 Pet. 4. 10 lit.
When the Lord Jesus told the parables of the "talents" and the "pounds", He made the same point by using the word "every" in both cases, Matt. 25. 15; Luke 19. 15. Let no Christian ever say, "I have no gift"!
Neither should we doubt that we have the ability to use the gift which God has given us. Jesus said that the "talents" were given to each servant "according to his own ability", Matt. 25. 15 lit. Again, the Holy Spirit, who distributes the spiritual gifts, supplies the power to use them, 1 Cor. 12. 11. All believers are indwelt by the Spirit, and therefore have the means to utilize the gifts which they possess.
The main reason given in scripture for the use of one's gift is the benefit of the church, whether local or on a wider scale, 1 Cor. 14. 12; Eph. 4. 12. It is vital to understand this, because it is in the local assembly that your gift will be best developed, and it is there that it will be missed if it is left unused. The illustration which Paul gave of the human body says it all. You should read it for yourself; it is found in 1 Corinthians 12. 12-27. Each member of the body plays its part for the good and benefit of the whole. Equally, your gift is necessary for the wellbeing and proper balance of the assembly to which you belong.
"But how", you may ask, "am I to know which gift or gifts I have?" Experience has taught me that it is by involvement in a variety of Christian activities that a person's divinely-given ability reveals itself. In my own case, I was early involved in teaching a Sunday School class, in visitation at homes for old people, in taking part in "open air" preaching, in helping at week-night children's meetings and in participating in a young people's Bible study group. It was through my response to the demands of these differing activities that I discovered where I was best suited and where I could best contribute. One of the simplest ways to find out if you have a gift for a certain kind of work is to become involved in it.
Personally, I owe a great debt to older Christians who gave me encouragement, and who forced the pace a little for me by providing further opportunities for me in the Lord's work (older readers to note please). Very often it is the confidence of other Christians and their recognition of a young believer's gift which helps settle his own conviction about it. Certainly, nothing is ever going to happen to tell you what your gift is if you just sit on the sidelines all the time and refuse to commit yourself.
There will be no need for you to push yourself forward or go around broadcasting to others your opinion about your gift(s). The Lord Himself will open up for you that sphere of service for which you are best fitted. This may take a little time. But do not despair — no gift has ever been properly developed overnight. God's school usually involves years of training and experience before a Christian's gift fully matures. My conviction is that two years in Bible College is no substitute for the scriptural way of developing gift in a local assembly context.
It is not that you need aspire to be an evangelist or great Bible teacher, although spiritual ambition is a great thing. If the Lord has gifted you for these ministries then they will gradually unfold for you. True elders will be quick to recognize and encourage you in your work for the Lord.
Never turn up your nose at any branch of the Lord's work. Any sphere of His service, however humble, is a tremendous privilege. One of the greatest mistakes which we can make is that of insisting on doing that for which we have not been equipped.
Possibly in reading down Paul's lists of spiritual gifts (Romans 12. 6-8; 1 Corinthians 12. 28; Ephesians 4. 11) you feel that there is nothing mentioned with which you can identify yourself. If so, you should bear in mind two things, (i) On the one hand, several of the gifts listed were limited to the foundation and establishment of the church in the apostolic era. That is, they were temporary in their nature. Such are the gifts of apostles and prophets (see Eph. 2. 20) and the miraculous "sign" gifts of tongues and healing, (ii) On the other hand, the lists are not exhaustive. There is such a vast variety of needs to be met that the lists illustrate rather than detail all the kinds of gifts which there are. If you sincerely seek the Lord's will for you, He will confirm to you the gift with which you have been entrusted and will also indicate the way in which it should be used.
Failure to recognize, develop and use your gift is going to deprive your whole spiritual life of purpose. It will also mean your failing both the Lord and His people. Without a doubt, the work of God suffers greatly today because it is often only the few who are sustaining it with matured gift. Many of the Lord's people remain in the infancy of their Christian experience. Don't let this happen to you! Putting it bluntly, it is not enough just to occupy a seat at the meetings. We all have a responsibility to pull our weight and to contribute all we can. We can only do this effectively by using the gift(s) which He has given to us.
Rest assured, there is a rich reward for the faithful use of our God-given gifts. The Christian's great ambition should ever be to hear the Lord say to him one day, "Well done, good and faithful servant"; see Matt. 25. 21, 23; Luke 19. 17. It will only be as a result of full commitment and devotion to Him that we shall ever reap such a blessed reward.