December is a month in which we think quite a bit about gifts. We are making lists of what we will give to whom! Or perhaps, even tougher, we have been asked to come up with a list of things we might like to receive ourselves. As we try to stretch both our time and our money to accommodate this busy and expensive time of year, I invite you to consider “spiritual gifts.”
In 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, the Apostle Paul teaches about gifts that the Holy Spirit gives us. Although there are a number of extremely important truths in these verses, in my experience it is the very last thing that this text says about spiritual gifts that is most needful in many of the difficulties we face in life and in ministry. In verse 11, we read,
“…All these [different gifts] are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.”
Let me paraphrase: The Holy Spirit himself has decided which gift would be given to you. Now let me “amplify:” All Spiritual gifts are from the Holy Spirit – whether they seem more or less important to us, everyone one of us has been given spiritual gifts, the Holy Spirit determined which gift and how gifted you would be.
It is this very last part that I have both experienced myself and witnessed other Christians struggle with. You see, often I have in my mind both the gifts and the relative degree of giftedness that I want. I get my understanding of the Christian life exactly backwards on this point – I determine which spiritual gift I want and how gifted I want to be! And then, presuming that I have those gifts in eminence, I proceed to attempt to function in ways that I would like to be used rather than in the manner God has designed me for. Have you ever been there and done that? We cannot approach the subject of spiritual gifts the way we do wedding gifts – we do not “register” for them and then presumptively make space in our cupboards for the exact number of place settings of our favorite fine china!
Some months ago I observed a weakness in Shakespeare’s famous line, “to thine ownself be true.” There is a sense, however, in which there is a fair amount of truth in that statement when considered correctly. The Holy Spirit has determined what gifts you would have – you have been gifted “just as he determines.” Often times we struggle in life because we do not truly appreciate our strengths and weaknesses – which is to say, our areas of giftedness and where we need the giftedness of others. When we are able to identify what spiritual gifts we have been given, then we are able to use that gift for the common good (see verse 7). When we gratefully appreciate who we are and what we are specifically called to do in light of the Holy Spirit’s gifts, then we can most expect to see God perform His wonders through our efforts.
This year, as you make your lists (and check them twice!), take some time to consider what gifts God has given you – not what gifts you want, but what gifts he has determined to give you. Commit yourself to accepting help from and being supportive of others in areas where you are not gifted. And lets all use our gifts to bless and encourage on another!