Yesterday we considered how to discern the will of God, and we looked at Romans 12:1-2...
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)
Romans 12 goes on to talk about the way in which God has given each person their own strengths, or gifts...
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. (Romans 12:6-8)
We're all different in many ways. As it relates to ministry, an extroverted person might be a preacher, whilst an introverted person might drop gospel tracts in letterboxes. A technical person might run a Christian website, and a musically talented person might go and play hymns in a retirement home. But the will of God is to live our whole lives for Him, in every aspect of our lives. We could say that just because you aren't involved in a specific ministry doesn't mean you don't have a God-given gift, or a gift that you're not using. But I think it is more correct to look at it this way... we are all involved in “ministry”. “Ministry” isn't just being a preacher, or dropping tracts. Even a “stay-at-home-Mum” ministers every day to her family, as well as to her friends and neighbours. There is not a single Christian who can’t be involved in “ministry”. It may not be official, Church-organised ministry, but each and every one of us is called to be “a light to the world” at all times, in every aspect of our lives. And we are all equipped by God with our various gifts and talents to minister to others. We ought not feel that if we are not involved in a Church-related ministry that we're failing to fulfil our calling, or that we're failing to do God's will. There are no second-class citizens in the Kingdom of Heaven, and as Paul says:
If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? (1 Corinthians 12:15-17)
We exercise our God-given talents to seize opportunities and do the things that God desires. Now we all must teach the gospel to others, but some will do that differently, and we might say that a preacher has a particular strength, or gift for that, whilst others, not neglecting to do it altogether, will not be as confident in doing so. We all must exhort one another, but some will do that more naturally than others. We all must care for the poor, and whilst some are more able than others or have a greater sensitivity to the plight of others around them, this is something that God puts on the hearts of all Christians. We cannot claim that the lack of a certain gift excuses us from any part of the Christian life. But we should be aware of our gifts and talents, and offer our service in those areas where we can be of great benefit.
Now there was a woman who held Bible studies in her home, and people all agreed that she was very good and really knew her theology. One day she offered to teach the children in Sunday school. Her pastor explained that it was a very different situation... children don't sit still for an hour and listen to Biblical exegesis! They need to be stimulated with visuals and illustrations. Well, she went away and thought about it. Later she came back and, having considered it, she agreed that she would not do well in Sunday school. She realised that this was not her gift, and she accepted that. When we feel as though God is calling us to something specific, we ought to consider it carefully. This woman who turned down the Sunday schooling was wise; but she could have been foolish. She could have let her pride get in the way, and say “No, I'm too good a Bible teacher... nobody can teach those kids like I can!” We need to be sober-minded, recognising our strengths and weaknesses. It is very human to see ourselves as something we're not... as more charismatic than we are, or more intelligent than we are. But it is no good saying “I will write a book of theology” when we frankly wouldn’t pass high school grammar. And it is no good saying “I will preach to hundreds” when we can barely give a speech at our daughter's 21st birthday party because we're so nervous. We need to be humble and honest with ourselves. God has given each of us a gift, and exercising it will simply involve being who we are. This isn't to say that whatever our gift is, it comes perfectly naturally and needs no effort on our part to improve. No, the writer ought to study literature, and the preacher ought to study public speaking. But essentially they would only be pursuing their interests in undertaking such study. Even if you can’t pass high school grammar now, you can study to learn it. And if you were committed enough to take it that far, it would be evidence that writing were truly a passion that God has given you.
Serving God doesn’t only ever involve doing what we enjoy, or what comes naturally. No, as I said before, “not having a certain gift” never excuses us from a particular kind of service which God desires of us. But there are helpers; we are one body with many members. Bringing people together is why we all have different gifts. We can consider the story of a certain youth pastor who, when he started out, had very little help. He had to do everything; from preaching, which he loved, to administration which he hated. But as time went on there were those who volunteered to do administration, and that was something they loved to do. Sometimes we have to do things that aren't the most enjoyable things for us. But whatever we do, we do it all for Christ and for His glory.
Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)