How do you responsibly use your spiritual gift? Three things to consider. The first is: Use them Purposefully.
Ephesians 4:7, 11-13
But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it… It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Don’t miss some important observations. First, verse 7 reminds us that since they are given “according to the measure of Christ’s gift” it is the Lord who is sovereign in giving the gifts. They are His, and we are only bailees of them!
Second, this is a partial list (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers). Verse 12 tells us the purpose of these four gifts is to prepare God’s people for works of service. These four gifts are used to develop the other gifts in other people for mature works of service.
For example, I can’t read through a book like the book of Ephesians without getting excited! “Yes, thank you Lord for entrusting the Apostle Paul with the gift of an apostle.” I think of pastors and teachers who have taught me, and inspired me—inspired me to get up and stand up and serve the Lord with all that I am! So I say, “Yes, thank you Lord for gifting those people.”
This is true for everyone, for notice what Ephesians 4:16 says:
From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Gifts have their purpose. The four gifts mentioned in Ephesians 4 have as their purpose to rouse and ignite other gifts into action. The gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher are to mature the gifts in others. These others are thereby equipped or prepared to utilize what God has entrusted to them to do the work of the ministry by serving the body. Pastors are not the only ministers in church—each part of the body is as well! Different emphasis, different gifts, but all work together toward each other’s maturity. Through the exercise of the spiritual gift the pastor prepares others for service, but in turn needs the service of others to grow and mature. Each gift has its purpose.
Second, to responsibly use our gifts we must use them Properly.
1 Corinthians 12:7
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
This verse indicates a common goal even in great diversity of the gifts. Reading further, verses 27-31 shows equal importance yet priority:
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration and those speaking indifferent kinds of tongues.
Notice the priority. Which is first? Which is second? Which is third? Then, which are fourth—all the rest! It looks like this in this:
1st, 2nd, and 3rd then…
The Corinthians had it backwards. They were all excited about the more flamboyant gifts like healing and tongues, to the neglect of the more foundational ones. They had the wrong priority. In the church, the proper function of the gifts is to focus on those which edify the others. Encourage, and support those who teach in your church—for (unless you have apostles and prophets in attendance!) they are our top priority gifts today!
Use spiritual gifts not only purposefully and properly, but, third:
Use them Powerfully.
We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
This is another partial list. The important thing is the description of how the person with one of these particular gifts is to use them—they are all followed by words of power!
It’s like playing an acoustic guitar. If you play an acoustic guitar in a large room, those close can hear it well. But if you put an electric pick-up on it and plug it into a high powered amp and speakers thousands can hear you. What Paul suggests is to use your gifts as if they are plugged in and amplified. He mentions several:
If your gift is prophecy, then with all your might, proclaim the revelation of God.
If serving then serve! as if you’re a high powered waiter working in a five star restaurant!
If you are gifted in teaching then take every opportunity to teach, and work at teaching with all you’ve got!
If you’re given to encouragement, then strengthen that gift so you make use of every opportunity and means to lift others up!
If you gifted in giving then build those giving muscles! Give with from every aspect of your heart and soul.
Lead with great diligence, if you’re a blessing to others in your leadership.
Rather than followed by a word of amplification, the person gifted in mercy is to use it with joy. Here lies the power in this gift—joy even when the person needing mercy is requiring extra grace!
Conclusion: The Best Present I Was Ever Given
What was the best present you’ve ever been given? One on the top of my list was a bicycle my parents gave me for Christmas when I was 14. I told them the model I wanted, knew where they could buy it, even told them the price! And low and behold, that Christmas morning, there it was—my first ten speed!
From that day on I rode that bike everywhere. Rarely again did I take the bus; I rode my bike to school. I rode to the store; I rode to the lake; I even rode that bike over 300 miles across the State of Washington on a five day bike-hike. If it can be said that you can wear out a bike, I did!
As a result of riding my bike my legs grew incredibly strong. I had powerful thighs. I became a decent runner—a good sprinter. It was because of my speed that when the time came for the basketball try-outs in high school I made the team, even though I hadn’t played much ball before. That gave me great confidence and taught me how to be part of a team. In my senior year I made the all city team, and was offered a scholarship from a school in California. Even though I didn’t play ball in college, it bolstered my confidence.
As a result of that bike I was brash enough to be adventurous and try new things. When I graduated from school I couldn’t find a job in the area I wanted, so I started my own business. When a position came open to teach at the University, I applied and told the Dean (in partial desperation), “You’ll be making a big mistake if you don’t hire me.” He hired me! I was 24 years old teaching business law. When the time came for me to decide go to seminary to study to be a pastor, I had the confidence to leave it all behind. Now I am a pastor, using the gifts God has entrusted to me—and I can trace it all back to the bicycle my parents gave me one Christmas!
How different my life would be if I didn’t ride that bike, or if I only used it once or twice! It is because I rode it into the ground that I developed the muscles needed for basketball, which resulted in confidence, and so much influence in my life.