Devotional for Tuesday, May 5, 2020

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.  If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God.  If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.  To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever.  Amen.” (I Peter 4:10-11)

These two verses really hit home for me because it was a long and hard lesson for me to learn back in 2009 – one of those instances when you wish everything that you could go back and redo that life choice, but you know that God won’t let you because He is reaping glory for Himself from your life now that you have learned that lesson.  After moving to Kansas after college, I got intimately involved in my wonderful new church, including serving in the nursing home ministry.  We would go as a team to visit with and encourage the residents (which included knowing their names and stories, telling them they were loved, reciting Scripture, and a lot of singing and telling jokes!), and would put on a worship service for them on Saturday mornings.  However, our pastor’s health declined to the point where he could no longer be part of that ministry, and I was tapped on the shoulder to take over the preaching duties there.  Except, I wasn’t about to do that!  I had every “holy” reason in the Book for not doing so.  My main argument was from James 3:1, which explains that teachers in the church will be judged more strictly, and since it’s simple logic that if I want to be judged less strictly then I should not be a teacher!  I Peter 4:11 also reflects the gravity of this responsibility; namely, that teachers of God’s Word are speaking “the very words of God!”  But without taking away from the truth of those verses, my reaction to the need for a preacher was very selfish.  First of all, it isn’t proper to dictate what gifts others give you, and this certainly remains true of God who imparts spiritual gifts through the Holy Spirit [“whatever gift you have received”].  Second, spiritual gifts don’t fully transfer to our possession; that is, we are stewards, not owners [“as faithful stewards”].  This is an important distinction because we don’t get to decide what to do with the gift.  Our job is to use them on behalf of the Gift-Giver, not bury them in our hearts and forget about them (cf. Matt. 25:14-30, Luke 19:11-27).  Moreover, we have the responsibility to use those gifts to our utmost [“one who speaks the very words of God”], yet not relying on our own strength [“do so with the strength God provides”].  Third, unlike with our earthly gifts, our spiritual gifts are actually not for ourselves [“to serve others”]!  We open the gift, and then use it for others in the church.  And lastly, we primarily use our spiritual gifts to give glory to God, not primarily to please ourselves [“so that in all things God may be praised”].  So perhaps “gift” is a misleading term if we are picturing how we handle earthly gifts!

As for the nursing home ministry, I failed to recognize all of these points – I refused to admit that God was wanting to use me to teach in the church, because I didn’t want to, assuming it was up to me to decide, and I did not think about those whom God wanted to reach through me!  So what happened?  I resisted to the point that the pastor’s daughter had to come in to preach for me, and even on the days she couldn’t come I still shamefully resisted so that guest speakers would have to be brought in.  I finally admitted to my folly during one of these guest speaker’s sermons.  He had come to Christ in our church a few years prior and then moved, and in the interim had evidently joined a cult that disbelieved Jesus’ Second Coming because they believe humanity is in the process of improving into a utopia!  I walked out, and vowed to never say “no” to God’s gifts again!  And God’s forgiveness and grace is evident, for here I am as a pastor of this wonderful church family teaching on the very verse I used previously to “justify” not teaching!  I think it’s clear that God is getting the glory from this!

Now is the part where we ask ourselves the same question: What do I believe about spiritual gifts?  Are we trying to pick out gifts from a “gifts supermarket,” or receive them from the Spirit?  Do we view ourselves as stewards or owners?  Are we using the gifts to our utmost?  Are we trying to serve ourselves or others?  Are we using the gifts primarily to please or glorify ourselves in our own strength, or to glorify God relying on His strength?  CHFC has several current ministry opportunities, in which many of us already partake, like growth group leadership, deacon work, worship team, Sunday School teachers, and so many more.  We also have several new ministries coming up, like outreach through the English teaching ministry, and discipleship through the children’s program.  On top of all this, there are the daily tasks of living out the Christian life without any labels, like hospitality and intercessory prayer and service.  Is God tapping you on the shoulder?  Go confidently in the strength God provides, having eyes for each other as we seek to glorify God together using the Spirit’s giftings.

Posted by Luke Ellison on 5/5/2020