Summary: The second sermon in the sermon series "Purposeful Stewardship" challenging us to use our gifts and abilities for the service of Christ.
Gifted for Ministry Introduction: Every Christian has been gifted for ministry with different talents. Purposeful stewardship involves using all these talents to serve others and glorify Christ. “Talents” means both our natural abilities and supernatural, spiritual gifts. God wants us to use our natural abilities and spiritual gifts to serve others and glorify Christ. If we would do so, we must follow three steps:
I. Discover Our Talents “Each of you has been blessed with one of God’s many wonderful gifts to be used in the service of others. So use your gift well.” -1 Peter 4:10 (CEV) We owe it to ourselves and God to discover our talents. We can never use the talentss God has given us until we first know what they are. It’s not as easy to discover our talents as some might lead us to believe. Ed McManus, editor of The Jokesmith newsletter, wrote a humor booklet about folks in human resources. It’s called What is a Human Resource? and in it he explains how people get assigned to particular jobs. You leave them in a conference room for four hours. Then, you go back to see what they’re doing.
If they don’t look up when you enter the room, assign them to the Security Department.
If they’re counting the butts in the ashtray, put them in Finance.
If they’ve taken the table apart, put them in Engineering.
If they’re screaming and waving their arms, send them off to Manufacturing.
And if they’ve left early, put them in Sales.
But seriously, there are ways in which we can discover our natural abilities and spiritual gifts. One way to recognize our talents is by noticing the things we excel at and enjoy doing. Another is to ask close friends or family members which areas they see as our strengths. Yet a third is to take one of the various tests that measure our strengths and weaknesses, as well as reveal spiritual gifts. I have such tests you can take that can help you to discover your natural abilities and spiritual gifts. But discovering our abilities and gifts is only the first step. Next we need to:
II. Develop Our Talents Knowing what our talents are isn’t enough. We need to develop our natural abilities and spiritual gifts. It’s tragic that many Christians who know what their talents are never bother to develop them for the Master’s use. (**Tell story of Peter Gerber). God gives talents to all of his children. But they must be developed into real talents that benefit others and glorify Christ. Whether your natural ability is cooking, sewing, writing, playing an instrument, singing or athletics, we should work to develop each talent out of respect and in glory of our Creator who bestowed these talents and gifts. We also should work to develop the spiritual gifts God has bestowed upon us. Paul once told Timothy, “Do not neglect the spiritual gift you received through the prophecies spoken to you when the elders of the church laid their hands on you.” -1 Timothy 4:14 So we mustn’t neglect the spiritual gifts God has given. God gave these gifts to us to build up His church and promote the ministry of Christ. We must first discover our abilities and gifts and second develop them. That brings us to the third and most important step to which the other two lead. We must:
III. Deploy Our Talents Knowing what our gifts are and developing them is ultimately futile if we never bother to use them. I want to close with this last story. Doris was most comfortable when she was busy working in her secluded spot in the basement of her parents’ home. Because she’d been born with a deformed left arm, she never participated in high school sports or band. But she studied art and excelled in it. Doris had a quiet personality partly from her physical impairment and partly because she hadn’t received much encouragement to excel in anything. But she did have a little workshop in the basement, where she spent a lot of her time. She cherished the hours she spent there because she was doing the one thing she felt confident she could do well -- painting. Yet her parents were neither aware nor appreciative of her growing artistic ability. During her last two years in high school and the two years following graduation, she devoted more time to oil and acrylic still life paintings. As she looked out of the half windows of her basement, she increasingly captured the vivid seasonal changes and varieties of the Wisconsin countryside. The rows of unframed paintings she had completed were getting longer and longer in her little nook in the basement. Doris’ talent was a total secret -- she was the only person who knew about it. That is, until her favorite cousin Denise came to visit. Denise was the opposite of Doris -- a bubbly personality, outgoing and adventurous. She hadn’t seen Doris since high school graduation and now Denise had come to spend a week with her. Doris would never have shown her cousin all those canvasses stacked in the basement, but Denise’s inquisitive nature soon led her to the dozens of paintings that stood facing the walls."Doris, where did these paintings come from?" Denise asked. "Did you do this wonderful work?" Denise asked with her hands on her hips. "They’re nothing special," Doris tried to apologize. "Wrong! They’re marvelous!" Denise argued. She spent the next half hour quickly going through one stack after another, while Doris stood by a bit embarrassed. "Doris, you need to get these paintings out where people can see them and buy them," Denise pleaded. "People will buy good paintings like these." Doris was embarrassed, and offered timid apologies for the paintings and her talent. But Denise would have none of it. "There’s arts and crafts shows everywhere during these summer months, and I’m going to help you get these paintings out where people can see them," Denise challenged. And for the next few weeks there was no stopping Denise. She extended her visit beyond her original plans. "I don’t have a job yet anyway for the summer," she rationalized. "I want you to sign your name to every one of these paintings," she instructed Doris. After four weekend arts and crafts shows, more than two dozen of Doris’ paintings had been sold. As she and Denise headed back to Doris’ home on a Sunday evening, Doris reflected the warmth of her feelings as she admitted, "I guess people do like my stuff." "Well, like I said, you have to get it out where people can see it," Denise commented as she gave her cousin a hug. The same is true about our talents. If we would use our talents to serve others and glorify Christ we must get them out where people can see them. When we use our abilities and gifts for God, an exciting thing occurs–the whole body of Christ functions more efficiently and serves as a better witness to the world. Since we each possess different abilities and spiritual gifts, the body of Christ can fully function only when all of us take advantage of what God has given us. Romans 12:6 tells us, "And since we have different gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us exercise them accordingly." If we’re Christians, we’ve been gifted for ministry with talents in two ways: