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Unique And Essential
September 10, 1995

ROMANS 12:1-8

This is the last in a series of four sermons on spiritual gifts. I am excited about discovering spiritual gifts, and using them in our church's ministry. I am indebted to Charles Bryant's book, Rediscovering Our Spiritual Gifts. God gives every Christian spiritual gifts to build up the body of Christ and do God's work. What are your spiritual gifts? So far, we have looked at the spiritual gifts of wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment, tongues (also called prayer/praise language), teaching, and serving or ministering.

Of course, we all have faith, knowledge, etc., but spiritual gifts are extraordinary abilities given by God. Every Christian is given spiritual gifts. Each of you has some. The body of Christ--the church--is dependent upon you using your spiritual gifts or we all suffer, we all are crippled. Sometimes it is not possible for you to use all of your gifts all of the time. Through prayer, let God guide you in understanding what you are being called to do.

There are four passages in which spiritual gifts are presented. We have looked at three; today we look at the fourth passage, Romans 12:1-8. The letter of Romans is unusual in that Paul did not write the letter because the Roman church was fighting and squabbling. The Roman church was not started by Paul; in fact, he had not yet been there. He wrote to the Romans to introduce himself in anticipation of his visit to Rome. In the first eleven chapters, Romans is the most comprehensive and systematic statement of the Christian faith in the Bible. The latter half of the letter, beginning with chapter 12, is a practical application of the faith that is described in the first eleven chapters. In the first eleven chapters, Paul teaches; beginning with chapter 12, Paul preaches

Paul begins his sermon with an appeal to make a total commitment to God, and to use our spiritual gifts as members of the body of Christ. Not all are the same in the body of Christ. We all have gifts that differ. How often the church has been guilty--and I include myself--of trying to recruit all of us to do everything. Preachers have tried to lay on the guilt by preaching, "You all ought to be evangelists. You all ought to be missionaries. You all ought to teach Sunday School." Taking spiritual gifts seriously means we don't all have all the gifts. Taking spiritual gifts seriously means you are to discover what gifts God has given you. Discover your spiritual gifts, so you know what you are not called to do, as well as what you are called to do.

You are each unique and essential. You have gifts that others don't have. You are not a carbon copy. You are not a clone. You are you, uniquely you. But, being unique is not enough. Do something positive with your uniqueness. Use your spiritual gifts to do God's work. You are essential. Do what God calls you to do, because we are, verse 4, members one of another. Not all members have the same function, so if you do not use your gift, that function is denied to the church. The body of Christ is then crippled. You are unique and essential in the body of Christ.

Keep a perspective as well. Verse 3, I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think. The opposite is also very true, Do not think too little of yourself either. It is tempting to think too highly of yourself because of your gifts; but it is also tempting to think too little of yourself and deceive yourself into thinking you don't have anything to offer.

We are not able to discuss all 32 spiritual gifts, but let's look at three more this morning. Romans 12:8, exhortation. We don't often hear the word exhortation these days. The original Greek word means being with and for one another. Synonyms for exhortation include standing with, strengthening, inspiring, motivating, consoling, urging, comforting, and encouraging. Of course, we all have the capacity and the need to encourage one another, but the spiritual gift of exhortation is the extraordinary ability to encourage others. How the church desperately needs the gift of encouragement. Some of you have been given the gift. Please use it.

How many months pass before a Sunday School teacher is thanked and encouraged? How often are adults who work with youth given an encouraging word? Dave, the custodian, hears about it when the floor is dirty, but how often is he appreciated when the floor shines beautifully? Barbara hears about it when there is a mistake in the bulletin. How often is she appreciated?

I don't care how dedicated and committed a Christian is. A parent, a spouse, a teacher, a housekeeper, a singer, an organist, cannot long endure and prevail without some encouragement, a loving word, a pat on the back, even the silent presence of one who communicates love and support.

In Acts 4:35-37, we read how the apostles in the early church changed the name of Joseph to Barnabas, because the name Barnabas means Son of Encouragement. Those of you with the gift step forward in a quiet, gentle, unassuming way and offer encouragement. The body of Christ needs you.

Paul next lists, in Romans 12:8, the spiritual gift of giving. Giving is at the center of the gospel. We are all called to give, and the biblical standard of giving is the tithe, 10%. But the spiritual gift of giving is the extraordinary willingness to give far more money, time, and skills than are expected. They with the gift give quietly, without fanfare, and receive ecstasy in return! They particularly experience joy when they learn that their gift is an answer to someone's prayer. When their church is in need of extra giving, which I suppose you have noticed is quite often, they respond joyfully, believing it to be a privilege to be able to give.

Charles Bryant tells of a golfer he knows who won $20,000. As he left the clubhouse for the parking lot, he saw a young woman crying. She told him that her child was sick and needed an expensive operation, but she had no insurance. The champion golfer was so moved by her plight that he endorsed the $20,000 check and gave it to her. A friend ran up to him and told him he had been conned. The woman had no child and had obtained money from others with the same story. The golfer replied, "You mean there is no child who is that ill and in need of expensive surgery?" "That's right," he was told. The golfer exclaimed, "Praise God. I am thankful there is no sick child."

An elderly widow discovered she had the gift of giving. She gave her pastor a large check for a piece of property the church had needed for a long time. The officials of the church were concerned. They returned the check and said, "We don't want to take your money. You can't afford to do this." She replied indignantly, "Do you mean to say that you will stand in my way of receiving such a joy in giving? Don't you dare keep me from the joy God wants me to have!"

If your spiritual gift is giving, God will provide the resources to do the impossible.

Let's look at one more spiritual gift this morning. It is not listed in the Romans passage, but it is of extreme importance to the church; the spiritual gift of intercessory prayer. Yes, we all can pray, and experience the joy of communing with God. We all are called to pray for others which is what intercessory prayer means. But, the spiritual gift of intercessory prayer is the extraordinary ability to know when, how and for whom or what to pray with effective results. They who have the gift feel the need to pray until they sense a release. They pray until something happens.

Prayer is a ministry for them. Many receive flashes of insight or urgent feelings about people. Often, they have not thought of or been in touch with someone for years. Suddenly, they have a strong urge to pray for him/her. They know the person needs their prayers. Many of us have these urges, but gifted intercessors find these occurrences to be normal.

In his letter to the Colossians, Paul praises Epaphrus and, in so doing, gives us a definition of the spiritual gift of intercessory prayer. Colossians 4:12, Epaphrus is always wrestling in his prayers on your behalf. Jacob wrestled with God. If you've experienced the call of God, especially when the call doesn't seem to fit your wishes and desires, you know what wrestling with God means. Intercessory prayer is wrestling. Intercessory prayer is work-- meaningful joyful work--designed to accomplish something.

I highlight intercessory prayer this morning because God's church--and our church in particular--needs to be sustained in prayer. We need what used to be called prayer warriors-- people who will wrestle with God for the well-being and success of our church. I need prayer. The children and youth of our church need prayer. The children, youth, families, and singles out there in the community who need to be reached by our church need prayer. Young people today need Jesus. I believe our church can do mighty acts for God in Merced. I believe a church is limited only by the amount and depth of prayer offered. How desperately our church needs to be undergirded by the spiritual gift of intercessory prayer!

What are your spiritual gifts? God gives each of us--including you--spiritual gifts to do God's work.

© 1995 Douglas I. Norris