by Randi Peck
For many years, whenever I heard the words “spiritual gifts”, my heart would sink… For it seemed to me that I had none.
I would read through the varied gifts listed out in 1 Corinthians and Romans, failing to find where I fit into those passages. My frustration was only exasperated when one semester, my Bible College class broke up into groups to take the “spiritual gifts test” and then discuss our results.
My classmates were confirmed in their abilities to prophesy or teach, lead or give. But when it came turn to announce my results, I was embarrassed at my “score”. It seemed there was no consensus. Maybe helps? Maybe knowlege? Maybe encouragement? Apparently, it’s possible to fail a spiritual gifts test- because my results were inconclusive.
As everyone stumbled through attempts to “find” a gift for me, I burned with shame… I felt like Buddy the Elf, floundering in his own incompetence as his fellow elves tried to console him:
“You… you have lots of talents, uh…”
“You change the batteries in the smoke detector!”
“You sure did… Triple A’s!”
“And you’re the only baritone in the elf choir… You bring us down a whole octave!”
What was wrong with me? Did God overlook me when it came to purpose? Was I void of the Holy Spirit?
Have you ever felt ungifted? Have you ever considered yourself to be completely useless in the mission of building up Christ’s church?
Honestly, the whole subject was a discouragement to me for years and years.
But then, as the relationships I had within the church deepened, something happened…
As some families I love, dearly, experienced healing; and while others broke into a million, painful pieces…
As stories were celebrated and grieved and told… My focus shifted. I stopped spending so much time looking inward, trying to identify my purpose and gifts. And instead, I started to see the needs surrounding me…
One of Angie’s first memories- hearing the words “Jesus Loves You” from her Sunday school teacher- remained with her through a childhood of abuse and despair.
Christina stepped out of her comfort zone to volunteer in the church nursery, for the first time ever. But then, fear and feelings of “not fitting in” to the church crowd caused her to give up coming all together.
The rejection and shock that Robin’s church family would surely react with upon learning of her unplanned pregnancy, contributed to her decision to abort her child.
All of these testimonies involve the church. And do you think, in the heat of the moment, these women cared about who had which spiritual gift? NO. All they needed was to be seen, heard and loved.
As Stephanie so beautifully summed up last week:
Guess what church is full of? People.
People who are hurting and needy. People who are lonely, dependent.
People who are desperate, sick, overwhelmed, oppressed, depressed.
People who are self-focused, self- righteous, self-absorbed.
People who are lost, people who are damned.
People who need Jesus.
When we start loving the church and longing for them to grow in Jesus, then and only then will we begin to view spiritual gifts as a tool, not a title. We will stop caring about what we do or don’t have to offer- and start pleading for God to equip us.
I believe that identifying your spiritual gifts can be truly helpful. When we recognize how we’re wired, we can be more effective at serving the body of Christ.
But being on mission in the church does not require a specific label of giftings. It requires getting our eyes off of ourselves. It requires love.
When my eyes are lifted up, I walk in to teach that Sunday school class, and I see little preschoolers who are carrying around impressionable little hearts- some deeply broken by their home life.
When my eyes are lifted up, I view those mamas dropping them off- and I remember that they’re tired. Whether or not I offer them an assuring smile could make the difference of whether or not they trust their children in our care- whether or not they are able to focus through the service and receive the Word of God.
When my eyes are lifted up, I look around the Moms & Babies’ room and I find that some of these women are aching something awful. They are silently reaching out for this church called Heritage to draw them into the love of Jesus Christ.
If you asked me today what my spiritual gifts are, I still couldn’t give you a clear-cut answer. But I could tell you about the needs of the women in our church. And I could tell you about the tenderhearted, mighty God who “gives generously” to all who ask- for it is his good pleasure to give us the kingdom (James 1:5, Luke 12:32)!!
Oh, how I pray our eyes would be lifted, so our hearts could be opened, so our hands could be useful!