Romans 12:4-8 (NIV)
4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function,
5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith;
7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach;
8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
Gifts From God
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights…James 1:17
In each of our lives, God has placed gifts and talents. You, and everyone around you, is unique in their own way. Some are talented at administration, some are gifted teachers, some are endowed with the ability and the means to be generous, some are gifted at giving exhortation and encouragement, others are talented musicians or singers. Some are fountains of wisdom and knowledge. These are just a few of the ways God has given us each a unique capacity to serve those around us.
In examining the gifts and talents given by God, it is important to first acknowledge where they came from. A gift is something given to us by someone else. And the one who has given us our gifts and talents is God. (James 1:17, Ephesian 4:8, 1 Cor 2:11)
By realizing the that gifts we possesses are from God, we may ask the question, why has he given us these gifts? The bible explains to us that God has made us stewards of his gifts so we can use them for the benefit of his kingdom.
Parable of the Talents
In Matthew 25, Jesus compared the Kingdom of Heaven to a man who traveled into a far country, but before he departed, he left his goods to be cared for by other men. He expected each person to invest the gifts he had given them to produce a profit for him.
And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability…Matthew 25:15
The parable demonstrates several different things. It demonstrates that God does not give everyone an equal amount of gifts or talents. We know this true through our own experiences. No two people are truly identical. God knows each person is unique, and he gives each of us what is appropriate for the purpose he has in our life. In the parable, one man received five talents, another two talents, and the third man received one talent.
Upon returning, the Lord visited each of the men to whom he had given talents so that he could collect their profits. Two of them men had used their talents to earn a profit for the Lord. They experienced growth. But one man had hid his talent and failed to put it to use. He made no profit and had no growth. The Lord was displeased with the man who failed to use his talent.
The parable of the talents teaches us an important lesson about how the Lord views the gifts and talents he has given us. He expects us to put our gifts and talents to use for the benefit of his kingdom. If we hide the talent he gives us, and fail to use it, he will be displeased with us.
The parable teaches us that everyone has a talent, and no matter how many or how few gifts and talents we have, the Lord has the same expectation. Our talent must be utilized to produce a profit for his kingdom.
The parable also teaches us that not everyone will produce the same amount. Just like we have varying gifts and talents, we will also have varying amounts of increase or growth. It is important that we do not judge ourselves by the amount of growth or increase. What does matter is that we are growing and increasing for the benefit of the kingdom.
What Do Our Gifts and Talents Produce?
Growth and increase from our gifts and talents will manifest in different ways. One of the ways which we grow is in quantity. By using the means the Lord has provided, we can witness the gospel to others and souls can be saved. New saints will enter the church and the kingdom will be enlarged.
Growth is not simply a matter of numbers though. We also grow in quality, both as individuals and as a church. Our gifts can be used to serve and benefit our brothers and sisters in Christ to encourage spiritual growth within their lives. Talented singers and musicians can encourage deep spiritual worship. Teachers can bring clear understanding of scriptures to their hearers. Gifts of healing and miracles can cause others to glorify God.
Use the Gifts You Have
We may be tempted to think we have no gifts in our life. Many Christians have a concept of what gifts or talents are, and then when they examine themselves in light of their concept, they judge themselves to have no talents. But Jesus has certainly imparted a gift into the life of every one of his believers. Be assured, you have been given a gift from Jesus Christ. (1 Cor 7:7, Peter 4:10)
The bible encourages us to seek for gifts from the Lord. (1 Cor 12:31) But we should never let our desire for a certain gift prevent us putting into action the ones we already have. He who is faithful in little will also be faithful much. But he who is negligent with the little things will also be negligent with the great things. (Luke 16:10) Make sure you are putting the gifts you have into full use if you expect to receive even greater ones.
But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.Hebrews 5:14
There are certain gifts which have been imparted to every believer. For example, every born again believer has the gift of faith. (Ephesian 2:8) Put your faith to use, both for yourself and for the benefit of the kingdom. Let your faith draw you in a deeper walk with God. Let your faith also be used to reach out to God in prayer for your brothers and sisters in need.
Similarly, all believers have been given a degree of knowledge, of discernment, and of wisdom. These are gifts that gradually grow in strength in all believers as they are exercised. (Hebrews 5:14) If we exercise the gift we have received, it will grow with time.
Dangers of Abusing Our Gifts and Talents
While some may be tempted to neglect their gifts, others may be tempted to abuse the gifts they have been given. Abuse of our gifts and talents will occur when we misuse them. Scripture tells us that the gifts we have been given are for the benefit of everyone. Many abuses of the gifts can begin when someone starts using their gifts for selfish reasons.
A desire for power, influence, popularity, or prestige can cause us to use our gifts in a way that bring us our desires. We can judge a gift by the fruit it produces. A teaching gift that bring confusion is being abused. A gift of healing which brings injury or death is an abuse of the gift. A use of discernment to destroy another person’s reputation is an abuse of the gift.
A gift that is used to the glory of God will benefit the person being ministered to, not make them worse. The use of a gift that ends up making things worse is an abuse of that gift. God gave the gifts to bring growth, not destruction. Instead, we should use our gifts out of love and compassion for others. When love is our motive, the gifts and talents in our life will bring fruit, growth, and increase.
The Corinthian church provides us with an example of a church that had drifted away from an edifying use of their gifts and into an unhealthy and abusive use of their gifts. The Corinthian church’s use of the gifts of the spirit had led to a dangerous situation. Divisions had entered into their group, many people had died, and there was a class of people who were being treated abusively. (1 Cor 11) This caused Paul to explain to them that their use of the gifts of the spirit was missing a key element: love. (1 Cor 13:1-3)
The Corinthians’ abuses led to divisions in their church. If the Corinthians had been using their gifts out of love, the needy in their church would not have been going hungry. (1 Cor 11:2) Had the gifts not been abused, there were people who would not have died prematurely. (1 Cor 11:30) Had their gifts not been abused, they would have been united rather than divided. (1 Cor 11:18) In terms of spiritual growth, the Corinthians abuse of the gifts of the spirit had a very negative effect. Instead of the fruit of the spirit, the only thing that was growing in Corinth was the power, ego, and pride. (1 Cor 13)
Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’.Matthew 7:22-23 NIV
The Corinthian church presents us with a stark warning and example. It is possible to have powerful manifestation of the gifts of the spirit, yet be totally carnal and spiritual babies. The true measure which the Lord uses is not the power of our gifts, but the quality of the fruit we have produced with them. Have we developed the love of God in our hearts? Have we pointed others to Christ? Is the love of God to growing in our hearts? Have we successfully used our gifts and talents for those things?
Identifying Your Gifts and Putting Them Into Use
Whether or not we have a particular gift will be quickly evident when we try to exercise it. If you teach a couple Sunday school lessons, your gift (or lack of a gift) to teach will be evident. If you exercise a gift of healing, the results will soon be manifest. If you sit down to a piano, and begin playing, everyone will soon know whether you have the ability or not. If you bake a cake and serve it, the recipients will quickly discover if you have a talent for cooking. The wisdom of our advice to others will prove out with time.
If we are truly gifted, then those around us will recognize our gifts when we exercise them. Likewise, when the people we know and trust tell us we are out of our depth, we are wise to listen. God designed the church so that gifts are subject to review. Teachers are ordained by other ministers who have recognized the gift in their life. Stewards over the many functions in the church are chosen based on the recognition of the talents in their life.
Healthy churches provide opportunities for believers to exercise and grow their gifts and talents, and provide guidance to help them as they grow in the Lord. Within the church there are many roles that need filled by talented, wise, and gifted stewards.
If you have a talent or gift in your life that is not being used, start using it. Look for opportunities to serve others. Use your gift of faith to pray for others. Develop your gifts of knowledge, discernment, and wisdom in your own personal life – and one day you will have an opportunity to use those gifts to help others. If God has placed gifts in your life, trust that your Holy Ghost filled brothers and sisters will recognize your gifts and help place you in the body where you can be most useful.
Don’t overlook the small things. Our gifts are not just for use at church on Sunday morning. In our homes, we must minister to our spouse, our children, and our parents. Each person God has brought into our care is a special case for us to encourage, love, and strengthen. While working on our jobs and participating our community, our gifts and talents can be used to bring glory to God, to open up opportunities to witness, and to minister to the needs others. Using our gifts wisely and to the benefit of our family and our community is a prerequisite for being a steward in the church. (Titus 1:6-8, 1 Tim 3:1-7, Acts 6:3)
If we put our gifts and talents to use, we will reap a harvest. Lives will be impacted and changed for the better. Hearts and souls will be saved and healed. And when our Lord examines our life, we will hear, “well done thou good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of the Lord.” (Matthew 25:21)
The “Nevers” of the Gospel: A Prayer of the Puritans
May I never fail to come to the knowledge of the truth,
never rest in a system of doctrine, however scriptural,
that does not bring or further salvation,
or teach me to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts
or help me to live soberly, righteously, goldy;
Never to rely on my own resolutions,
but be strong in thee and in thy might;
Never cease to find thy grace sufficient
in all my duties, trials, and conflicts;
Never forget to repair to thee
in all my spiritual distresses and outward troubles,
in all the dissatisfactions experience in creature comforts;
Never fail to retreat to him who is full of grace and trust,
the friend that loveth at all times
who is touched with feelings of my infirmities
and can do exceeding abundantly for me;
Never confine my religion to extraordinary occasions,
but acknowledge thee in all my ways;
Never limit devotions to particular seasons
but be in thy fear all the day long;
Never be godly only on the sabbath or in thy house,
but every day abroad and at home;
Never make piety a dress but a habit,
not only a habit but a nature,
not only a nature but a life
Do good to me by all they dispensations,
by all means of thy grace,
by worship, prayers, and praises
And at last let me enter that world where is no temple,
But only thy glory
In Jesus name, I ask it
The Valley of Vision: A collection of Puritan Prayers Edited by Arthur Bennet, 1975
- Can you name some of the gifts Paul mentions in Romans chapter 12?
- What are some reasons you think that God gives us different gifts?
- Can you share an example of a gift God has placed in your life?
- Can you give an example of how the gift of wisdom could be used to help yourself?
- Can you give an example of how the gift of wisdom might be used to help another?
- How does God measure whether we have successfully used our gifts and talents? (Consider Matthew 25)