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But, What Can I Do?
May 16 and 17, 1998


But, what can I do? Where you put the emphasis is very important. Some, to the joy of pastors and church leaders, put the emphasis on what, and ask what can I do? Others, tending to throw up their hands in defeat, overwhelmed by the challenge, put the emphasis on I, what can I do?-- as if they can do nothing. Others, still putting the emphasis on I, are modest, self-effacing, contending that little-old-them are not capable of doing much at all. What can I do?

What you can do is do what God is asking and equipping you to do. The Lord has a world to save, and created the church to be Christ's body on this earth. Our bulletin states weekly: the members of this church are the ministers of this church. God has a ministry for you to do, and God not only calls you to do it, but gives you the means to do your ministry.

Do you receive large envelopes in the mail with the banner headline in large print, YOU'VE ALREADY WON a gift? If it is not addressed to you personally, it's probably addressed to someone in your house named Occupant! The most common American name probably used to be Smith; now it is Occupant! Just think of all the gifts you might receive, if you changed your name to Occupant!

Let me tell you this morning about gifts you have already received. You've already won! No, you don't have to listen to a presentation on time-shares. No, you don't have to fill out a coupon and mail it in. No, you don't have to send in money to cover the handling charges. No, the gifts you have already won are free with one stipulation: use them or lose them.

I'm talking about spiritual gifts. The Holy Spirit gives each of us special abilities for ministry called gifts. God creates congregations, calls each of us to a congregation, gives work for that congregation to do, and then provides the means by which the members of the congregation can do the work. Ingenious plan. It works when we trust the Holy Spirit.

We've talked about spiritual gifts for several years. We are committed to let the Holy Spirit run our church. Through prayer, we are serious about seeking and doing God's will. We are serious about trusting God to provide the people to do the work by discerning and using their spiritual gifts.

The Stewardship Committee challenges you to manage God's resources. Stewardship means management. God has given each of you resources-- financial, time, skills, talents-- for you to manage. God has given you the means (spiritual gifts) by which you can manage what God has given you in order to do God's work.

We are using the Spiritual Gifts Inventory designed by Pastor Charles Bryant. You are invited and encouraged to take the inventory by coming to a session following supper on May 30, or coming to breakfast on May 31 at 7:30. You will answer questions privately. The inventory will then be tabulated, and you will be given a brief interpretation of your spiritual gifts.

What are spiritual gifts? Let's look first at what spiritual gifts are not.

1) Spiritual gifts are not talents or skills. Playing the piano, singing, carpentry, cooking, playing softball, etc. are not spiritual gifts.

2) Spiritual gifts are not universal. No one has all the gifts. How often has the church been guilty (and I include myself) of trying to recruit all of us to do everything. We preachers have tried to lay guilt trips 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. One of the joys of discovering your spiritual gifts is to discover what you are not called to do, as well as what you are called to do.

3) No spiritual gift is more important than another. There is no hierarchy (Oh, my gift is better than yours!). One reason Paul wrote to the Corinthian Church is that some of them who had received the gift of speaking in tongues thought themselves superior to the others. Three chapters of his letter-- 12-14-- are devoted to telling the tongue speakers their spiritual gift is only one of many.

4) Spiritual gifts are not given for your own blessing, for your own enjoyment, or so you can show-off! You are given spiritual gifts so you can do God's work.

5) Spiritual gifts are not the fruits of the Spirit. Fruits of the Spirit-- peace, gentleness, kindness, patience, etc.-- are given to all Christians as we grow in grace.

Now, let's look at what spiritual gifts are:

1) Charles Bryant has identified 32 spiritual gifts. In alphabetical order, so not to give the impression one is more important than another, they are administration, apostle (acting on Christ's authority), battle (against evil), craftsmanship (using physical materials and artistic skills), discerning of the spirits (knowing the difference between good and evil), evangelism (making disciples), exhortation (encouraging others), exorcism (liberating persons from hindering forces), faith, giving, healing, helps, hospitality, humor, intercessory prayer, interpretation, knowledge, leadership, martyrdom (standing firm), mercy, miracles, missionary, pastor (not ordained pastors, but the gift of giving care), prayer-praise language, prophecy (applying God's word to situations), service, singleness, spirit-music, suffering, teaching, voluntary poverty, wisdom.

2) Spiritual gifts are gifts from God. The list I just read are not the result of your intelligence, genetic inheritance, hard work, or perseverance. They are gifts from God-- special, extraordinary abilities.

3) Spiritual gifts are given by God for the benefit of all of us. 12:7, "To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good." God gives spiritual gifts so that we may all be blessed, so that God's church will be stronger, so that God's work will be accomplished, so that the body of Christ will not be crippled, but whole and complete.

4) Spiritual gifts are given to all Christians, not just a few, but all. Some of you think too little of yourself. You ask, "But what can I do?" Jamie Scott was trying out for a part in a school play. He had his heart set on getting in the play, but his mother was afraid he would not be chosen. On the day the parts were awarded, Jamie rushed up to his mother, eyes shining with pride and excitement, "Guess what, Mom," he shouted. "I've been chosen to clap and cheer!" We all have parts to play, and the gift of exhortation-- encouragement, clapping and cheering-- is as important as any other gift.

Don't sell yourself short. In the Disciple's Study Bible section on spiritual gifts, we read,

If you look down on yourself as being unable to do anything significant for the Lord, you are not being humble. Instead, you are undiscerning and perhaps ungrateful. Therefore, a Christian should never say, "I'm a nobody." Instead, you should say, "I am a child of God. I have received spiritual gifts; therefore, I will exercise my gifts in ministry."

5) Spiritual gifts change. When new challenges come, when God calls us to a new mission, God gives spiritual gifts to meet the challenge. You may find yourself receiving a gift, an ability, you never had before. It's exciting to co-operate with Christ. We are constantly growing, constantly stretching, constantly doing things we never thought possible. You find yourself asking, "Is this me? Am I really doing this?"

6) Using one's spiritual gifts to do God's work is joyful and satisfying. In fact, one criterion by which you can judge whether you are using your spiritual gifts is: Are you having fun? After a seminar on spiritual gifts, a man wrote,

All my life I knew I've always had a tinge of guilt, thinking that I was doing my thing for self-gratification. This morning, while I was shaving and praying about the gifts, God revealed to me that what I had been doing and enjoying all along was coming out of my gift. I got so excited about it that I could hardly finish shaving without cutting myself. I've been singing all day long. And to think that I have felt guilty over the joy of doing what God wanted me to do!

Using one's gifts to do God's work, rather than acting out of guilt, boredom, pleasing and appeasing others, or duty (no one else will do it), gives joy, and prevents burnout. When you use your spiritual gifts, you may wear out, but you will not burn out!

Do you know your spiritual gifts? You have already received them, now find out what they are. I challenge you to take the Spiritual Gifts Inventory, either May 30 after supper at 7:00 PM, or Sunday, May 31, 7:30 AM beginning with breakfast. If you've taken it before, take it again because spiritual gifts change.

What can I do, you ask? Do what God is asking and equipping you to do.

© 1998 Douglas I. Norris