Thursday, August 13, 2015

Gifts Are For the Giving, Not For the Keeping

If someone were to give you a gift that you would consider of great worth or having tremendous meaning, what would it be?

A car, an expensive piece of jewelry, some new high-tech device, or a special item of clothing? Money? Maybe tickets to a concert by your favorite musical group, or to one of your favorite team’s games? An antique? Perhaps something that reminds you of a loved one?

What do you do with your gifts?
When we receive valuable gifts, we typically view them either as something to put into use or something to store in a safe place where they can be retrieved easily. We typically don’t think of them, however, as something to be given away.

From God’s perspective, however, gifts are quite different. They aren’t intended for holding onto, but rather to be utilized for the benefit of others. The greatest gift, the Scriptures tell us, is that of eternal life and a never-ending relationship with God. As the familiar verse, John 3:16, tells us, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

This gift doesn’t end there, however. That’s just the start. When God comes into our lives, we not only learn to appreciate all He has done for us, but become eager to share this gift with others. Granted, some that profess faith in Jesus seem intent only on persuading others to their way of thinking, but the apostle Paul expressed what our pure motivation should be in offering this gift from God to others: “For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died” (2 Corinthians 5:14).

In addition to this gift of salvation and acceptance into God’s eternal family, the Bible says the Lord gives each of His children specific spiritual gifts intended for use in serving Him and the people He sends our way.

There’s not universal agreement on what these spiritual gifts are, even though Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 list a number of them. These include evangelism, teaching, encouragement (exhortation), giving, leadership, mercy, service (helping), prophecy, wisdom, discernment, and others. Some authorities would add gifts such as creative communication, craftsmanship, and even counseling.

The Bible clearly states not one of us has all of the gifts, but all with genuine faith in Christ have received at least one spiritual gift. It also declares that all gifts are of equal importance, even though we tend to esteem some observable gifts more than others. “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is in Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:12).

So from God’s viewpoint, the issue is not what our spiritual gifts are, but how – and if – we’re willing to use them. Will we regard them for what they are, precious and of great value, and consciously strive to employ them for the benefit of others?

Early in my walk of faith with Christ, I envied people with visible gifts like evangelism, teaching and leadership. “Why can’t I be like that?” I wondered. Some people I knew regularly met others asking the biblical question, “What must I do to be saved?” I never encountered people like that. I got to know people with substantial financial resources who were unbelievably generous, without hesitation giving to help others – individuals as well as to charitable causes. I would give what I could, but for whatever reason God never entrusted me with great wealth to pass along to others.

Finally I came to recognize the gifts He had given to me. One clue was the repeated opportunities the Lord sent my way to use them. It occurred to me that while I don’t give a lot of thought to my spleen and liver, I really couldn’t get along without them. Similarly, God was telling me He didn’t intend for me to become an evangelist, or a philanthropist. All He wanted me to do was be faithful with what He did give me – what He had called me to be and to do in the body of Christ.

Years ago in the little town of Tomball, Texas, a little old man named Jimmy liked to recite a poem at our weekly service club meetings. It wasn’t necessarily about spiritual gifts, but the message fits:
A song isn’t a song until it’s sung;
A bell isn’t a bell until it’s rung.
Now love wasn’t given into your heart to stay –
For love isn’t love until you give it away.

In the same way, the spiritual gifts God entrusts to us aren’t intended for us to keep. They truly become gifts when we give them away.

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