It's Your Serve, Part 3
Discovering Your Purpose
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
June 26, 2005

 

Main Passage: Romans 12:3-11 (NLT)

 

During the reign of Oliver Cromwell in Britain there was a shortage of silver to be used for making coins. So he had his people examine all the available options. Until finally, his advisors told him that most of the available silver was in the Cathedrals. It was in the statues of the saints. So Cromwell decided…

“Let’s melt down the saints and put them in circulation.”
~ Oliver Cromwell

Well, the truth is, whenever the Bible talks about saints, it’s talking about Christians. Not a special class of Christians, just Christians in general. You and I are called to be saints. And we need to be put into circulation. We need to serving and meeting needs. That’s what ministry is all about... providing a service in the name of Jesus.

Another term that tends to be misunderstood today is the term “minister”. Who is a minister? If you ask most people on the street, you’ll get one of two responses: “The leader of a church” or “a federal politician.” Well, I am no politician, but I am the leader (pastor) of a church. Does that make me a minister? No. What makes me a minister is my relationship with Jesus Christ. Because all Christians are called to be ministers. I hold the position of “pastor”, but we are all called to be ministers. We are all called to minister to and serve others.

For the past two weeks we’ve been discussing this concept of servanthood. First, we talked about why we should serve… we should serve out of obedience, love, and to follow the example of Jesus, the radical Servant. Second, we talked about how we should serve, and we saw that we should serve with humility and the heart of a servant. Today we’re going to finish up this series by addressing the question, “Where?” Where should I serve? Where should I focus my time, my energy, my resources? Where should I invest myself in ministry?

So to answer that, let me suggest to you three areas where you can and should serve. We’ll spend most of our time on the first, and then cover the next two fairly quickly. Okay? Let’s go. Where should I serve?

 

Where Should I Serve?

1. Where I’m gifted.

The Bible talks about things called spiritual gifts. Maybe you’ve heard of them. There are one or two spiritual gifts that seem to get the most attention, but the truth is that each and every gift is important… every gift is critical… to the health and growth of the Church.

And it’s important for you to know specifically what your gifts are. Why? Because that will give you a glimpse at what God’s will is for your life. God has gifted you so that you can accomplish your purpose in life. He’s pretty smart that way. In the Bible in Romans 12 verse 2, it talks about how you can know God’s will for your life, and then it goes on to describe spiritual gifts. There’s a link between what God is calling you to do and how He has equipped you. So this is an important discussion we’re having today. Check this out…

Romans 12:6-8 (NLT)
God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out when you have faith that God is speaking through you. If your gift is that of serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, do a good job of teaching. If your gift is to encourage others, do it! If you have money, share it generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

It seems pretty clear, at last to me, that if God has given you a specific gift He has given it to you for a reason. He intends for you to use it.

1 Timothy 4:14 (NLT)
Do not neglect the spiritual gift you received…

1 Corinthians 12:1 (NIV)
Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant.

So spiritual gifts are important. But what are they? Let me define for you what spiritual gifts are…

 

What are Spiritual Gifts?

  • Spiritual Gifts are SPECIAL ABILITIES

    They are abilities God has given to us to make our own unique contribution.

    1 Corinthians 12:6 (NLT)
    God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well.
     

  • Distributed by the HOLY SPIRIT

    Spiritual Gifts are given to us by the Holy Spirit to be used in meaningful service. It’s not up to us which gifts we receive… it’s up to Him to distribute the gifts as he sees fit according to His wisdom. Therefore, there is no right or wrong spiritual gift, and every gift is important because it was given by the Holy Spirit for a reason.

    1 Corinthians 12:11 (NLT)
    It is the one and only Holy Spirit who distributes these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have.
     

  • To every BELIEVER according to God’s DESIGN and GRACE

    Every believer is a minister and has at least one Spiritual Gift. If you have accepted Jesus Christ into your life, then you have a spiritual gift. You may not have discovered it yet, but you have at least one spiritual gift.

    1 Peter 4:10 (NLT)
    God has given gifts to each of you from his great variety of spiritual gifts.
     

  • For the COMMON GOOD of the Body of Christ.

    The Spiritual Gifts that God gives us allow us to serve each other better, to meet needs, and to build up the church in love and unity. They’re for the common good of everyone in the church, not just for personal enjoyment. Therefore, if you neglect your gift and refuse to use it, the entire Church suffers the loss.

    1 Corinthians 12:7 (NLT)
    A spiritual gift is given to each of us as a means of helping the entire church.
     

So you put the whole thing together and you have…

"Spiritual Gifts are SPECIAL ABILITIES distributed by the HOLY SPIRIT to every BELIEVER according to God’s DESIGN and GRACE for the COMMON GOOD of the Body of Christ." (Definition by Bruce Bugbee in Network)

That’s a pretty thorough definition of what a spiritual gift is. But what specific kinds of spiritual gifts are there? What special abilities does the Bible identify as spiritual gifts?

Well, there is no one specific passage of Scripture that lists all of the spiritual gifts. But pulling from a variety of passages, here’s a list…

 

What Spiritual Gifts Are There?

(List compiled from Exodus 31:3, Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12:8-11, Ephesians 4:11-13, and 1 Peter 4:9)

Administration, Faith, Languages/Tongues, Shepherding/Pastoring, Apostleship, Giving, Leadership, Teaching, Craftsmanship, Healing, Mercy, Translation/Interpretation, Discernment, Helps, Miracles, Wisdom, Encouragement, Hospitality, Prophecy, Evangelism, Knowledge, Serving

We don’t have the time to go through each and every one and describe it in detail this morning. We get more into it during CLASS 301 which we’ll be offering again next fall, so you can plan to be a part of that, and in a little while I’m going to give you a website where you can go and download a list of these gifts along with a description of each.

But just for fun, let’s try this. Let me read for you a description of a spiritual gift, and from the list in your notes you tell me which gift I’m describing. In fact, let’s do it this way: I’ll give you the definitions, you write down someplace on your notes what gifts you think those are… maybe put a number beside the gift you think it is… and then we’ll go back and see how you did. Okay?
 

  • The God-given ability to build up those who are discouraged in their faith (Romans 12:8). [Encouragement]

  • The God-given ability to minister cheerfully and appropriately to people who are suffering (Romans 12:8). [Mercy]

  • The God-given ability to care for people by providing fellowship, food, and shelter (1 Peter 4:9). [Hospitality]

  • The God-given ability to understand, clearly explain, and apply the Word of God to the lives of listeners (Romans 12:7; 1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11). [Teaching]

  • The God-given ability to facilitate ministry by constructing necessary tools (Exodus 31:3). [Craftsmanship]

  • The God-given ability to provide vision, motivation, and direction for people doing the work of the ministry (Romans 12:8). [Leadership]

Okay, how’d you do?

 

Let’s move on… The big question in regards to spiritual gifts is…
 

How Do I Discover My Spiritual Gifts?

God has given you at least one spiritual gift. We’ve already determined that. But what gift did He give you? I mean, He probably didn’t leave you a note or send you an email telling you what gift He gave you. So how do you discover what gift or gifts He has given you? Well, there are four ways that you can discern how God has equipped you with spiritual gifts…
 

  • Through ministry experience

    The fact is, you’re not going to know how you’re gifted until you take the opportunity to experiment in different areas of ministry and see what you’re good at and what you enjoy. Because that’s really the test of a spiritual gift… are you effective and are you fulfilled? Do you experience joy and success?
     

  • Through personal observation

    Again, are you effective and fulfilled? Do you enjoy it? Do you see results? Look inside… what does your gut tell you?
     

  • Through feedback from others

    Other people get a pretty good idea of what you’re good at. They can tell you where you’re gifted. A month or so ago, Chris MacMillan emailed me from Calgary to ask for some input about his spiritual gifts. He was taking a course to help him discern his gifts, and part of that course was asking for the observations of others. And after I told him what gifts I thought he had, he emailed me back and said they were pretty consistent with what he was discovering on his own. So go ahead and ask for someone to give you some feedback. And when they do, don’t be insulted and don’t get mad at them. They’re doing you a favour in clarifying how God has gifted you, and there are no right or wrong spiritual gifts anyway.
     

  • Through gift tests

    There are such things as gift tests. Typically, they are composed of a series of questions that you read and rate how you feel they apply to you, and then you add up all the numbers and figure out what gifts you seem to have. Now, the thing about these tests is that they basically clarify what you’ve already discovered. If you’ve never experimented in different ministries and you’ve never observed what you enjoy and seem to be good at and if you’ve never listened to what others have to contribute, then chances are a gift test isn’t going to do you much good. I happen to like gift tests and think they can provide some valuable insights, but by itself it’s really not going to help much. That’s why I listed it fourth.

    Now, if you do want to try a gift test, then here are a couple of opportunities for you. First, our third Christian Life And Service Seminar, CLASS 301, includes a discussion of spiritual gifts and a gift test. As I mentioned earlier, we will be conduction the CLASSes again beginning this fall. But if you can’t wait until then, I have posted a gift discovery test online at the address mentioned in your notes. You can download it and complete it for yourself. And if you do that, please let me know the results.

 

So where should I serve? I should serve where I’m gifted. That’s just common sense. Secondly, I should serve…

 

2. Where I’m passionate.

Like spiritual gifts, a passion is something that is God-given. That passion drives you and compels you to make a difference in a particular ministry. You are passionate about the purpose God has given you. It’s the beat of your heart. It’s the focus of your mind.

Romans 12:2 (NLT)
…let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is.

It’s God’s design that each of us cares more for some things than others. And we don’t all care about the same things. God gives each of us a passion according to His plan and purpose for our lives. So what do you find yourself lying awake at night thinking about? What do you daydream about while driving down the highway? What thoughts of ministry preoccupy your mind? That’s your passion.

Isn’t it true there are some things you love to do and there are some things you just hate to do? That’s your passion. That’s your heart. Where did you get that inclination? God put it in you. Contrary to popular opinion, God wants your ministry to be a blessing, not a burden. He doesn’t want to call you to do something you’re going to hate. So He gives you a deep desire to accomplish His will. So it’s a legitimate question to ask yourself, “What do I love to do?” Why would God give you a ministry that He hasn’t given you a heart for? He wouldn’t.
 

Passion can be for…
 

  • People

    Maybe for the homeless, maybe for troubled teens, maybe for caring for the elderly, maybe helping single mothers.
     

  • Causes

    Maybe for speaking against abortion, maybe defending marriage, maybe reaching the lost, maybe addressing domestic violence, maybe building the church.
     

  • Functions

    Maybe teaching and educating people, maybe organizing special events, maybe providing an atmosphere for ministry to flourish, maybe showing comfort and mercy to those who have lost a loved one, maybe preaching and proclaiming the truth of God’s Word.

 

You should serve in ministry primarily in areas where you are gifted and where you are passionate. That is the theoretical ideal. But the reality is, sometimes you do need to serve in areas where you are neither gifted nor passionate. That should never become the norm, but it will be the occasional reality. That’s the third area where you should serve…

 

3. Where I’m needed.

God designed the church as the Body of Christ, with each of us having a very special role to play. We have each been equipped with spiritual gifts and with a passion to fulfill our specific ministry. And when every part of the Body of Christ is functioning and fulfilling his or her purpose, it can be a beautiful thing and the effectiveness of the Church would be unlimited.

But there are a couple of facts that alter that picture a bit. First, the sad reality is that many people don’t understand their spiritual gift and have never identified their passion. Or maybe they just don’t care. They neglect their gift, and therefore the church goes without. So unless someone steps in to fill in the vacancy, their area of ministry goes unfulfilled.

And second, sometimes things just happen. Emergencies arise. And we need to step in to meet immediate needs.

Titus 3:14 (NLT)
For our people should not have unproductive lives. They must learn to do good by helping others who have urgent needs.

Just because I’m not gifted in an area doesn’t mean that I don’t have periodic responsibilities in those areas. Let’s say I don’t have the gift of mercy and I see somebody fall down. I can’t say “It’s not my gift to go help them.” Or how about the Tsunami victims in Asia? Back in January, several of you donated financially to meet the need. Does that mean we all have the gift of giving? No, but we all recognized that we had a role to fill in meeting the immediate need. In your notes…
 

  • My PRIMARY MINISTRY should be in the area where I am gifted.

  • My SECONDARY MINISTRY includes serving in any other area of the Body when I am needed.

So here’s what I want you to do. If you’re already familiar with spiritual gifts and you’ve already identified yours, then ask yourself if you’re really using them the way God intended. If you are, great. If not, what will you do to put them into practice in ministry?

If you’re not all that familiar with spiritual gifts and you’ve never identified yours, I want you to go home this afternoon and look through the list of gifts found on your notes. Consider which gift you might have. And remember, you may have one, or you may have two, three, four, or maybe more. Some of you are multi-gifted.

Perhaps go to your computer and download the gift test that I mentioned earlier. Complete it, figure out the results, and let me know what you discover.

And most importantly, start using that gift in regular ministry. Get involved. Look for opportunities to use your gift in accordance with your passion. Talk with me or other ministry leaders about getting involved.

And don’t neglect those times when you simply need to step in and serve because there’s a need. Together, we are the Body of Christ. We are the church. Can you imagine a church where everyone is using his or her spiritual gift in meaningful service in areas where they are passionate, where needs are being met and people are growing in their faith? Where leaders are leading and givers are giving and teachers are teaching and servers are serving and helpers are helping and administers are administrating? We would be a Biblically functioning community of believers, glorifying God and edifying each other. That’s the church I want to be a part of. As Paul wrote…

Ephesians 4:16 (NLT)
Under his direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

 

 

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