Last week we began a series of 3 messages on the nature and responsibility of having Spiritual Gifts. If you were here you might remember that we read from Romans 12 and 1 Peter 4. And we learned that every believer has at least one spiritual gift. These are God given abilities distributed among His people to be used for His purposes. If you were here, I’m sure you remember me going through that long list of gifts that the Bible tells us about. Some of them were leadership gifts, like that of Pastor or Wisdom. Others were for equipping others like teaching or evangelism. Still others were what we would call “helping” gifts, like giving or hospitality or helps. A fourth category was the miraculous spiritual gifts, those that the Bible talks about during the first century that were used to establish the church, but that God doesn’t seem to be handing out today.
And my encouragement to you was to understand that you didn’t get left out in the gift distribution process. You weren’t holding the door for everybody else when they were filing into the Spiritual Gifts department. Certainly not everybody gets the same gifts, not even the same number of gifts. Some people seem to be heavily gifted, to have incredible abilities to do multiple things well. Others seem to have only 1 or 2 things that they do well. The key isn’t how many gifts you have been given, but how you use the gifts you do have to honor and glorify God. God gave you those spiritual gifts to strengthen His Church and to help people. And the thing that I put before you several times was that if you weren’t using the gifts that God gave you in the church, then that meant that your role either was going undone or that somebody who didn’t have that gift was filling that role, maybe getting burned out because they are working in an area that they are not gifted.
This morning our starting point for discussing Spiritual gifts comes in 2 Timothy 1:3-7. 2 Timothy is a letter sent from the apostle Paul to a minister named Tim. For some reason I really identify with the documents we call 1 & 2 Timothy. Timothy was probably 19 or 20 when Paul visited Lystra while he was traveling around, and when Paul continued his travels, he took Timothy with him. They became very close, and Paul often gave Timothy important jobs to do, sending him to help churches in need or to carry messages to believers in other cities. It seems as if in the end, Timothy wound up as a minister in Ephesus. 2 Timothy is probably the last letter that Paul wrote before he was executed by the Roman emperor. It might have been the last chance Paul had to make an impact on Timothy’s life.
Read Text: 2 Timothy 1:3-7
Now when you read through Paul’s letters to Timothy, you get the sense that Timothy was a little backward in his ministry style. It’s not that he didn’t do a good job. That probably wasn’t the case because Paul gave him some pretty big responsibilities. But it just seems like He needed a lot of encouragement, sometimes he needed a fire lit under him to get him moving. I think that’s what is going on here as Paul says, “Don’t be shy about using the gifts that God has given you. Step up to the plate and swing away. God didn’t give you these gifts for you to be timid about using them.”
I think there are a lot of people who are kind of backward about using their God-given gifts. Sometimes it’s from some confused sense of humility where they think it would be prideful to step to the front and say, “God has given me the ability to do this; how can I help.” Sometimes it’s from fear of getting in too deep. Maybe you’ve gotten in over your head with some responsibilities before and you know how difficult that can be. For whatever reason, sometimes people just don’t or won’t put their hand in the air when the call goes out for help. Paul tells Timothy, “Get out there and get busy. Your reluctance, you timidity isn’t God given. He gave you power, love and self-control, not timidity.” Now I want us to think about those three things that God has given us along with our Spiritual Gifts.
1. God Given Power.
In Philippians 4 Paul is writing to a church to let them know how much He appreciates them sending him a financial gift. He says, “I appreciate it, and it will be to your benefit and reward for sending it to me, but I have learned to get along on whatever I’ve got, whether it’s a bunch or a little. Then in one of those classic phrases Paul says in Philippians 4:13, “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” What a firm confidence Paul had, not in what he could do on his own, but in what God would be willing to do through him if allowed to.
One of the amazing things about God is that He has given us free will. He didn’t have to. He could have made us robots to do His bidding for Him, but instead He allows us to do our own thing, to go our own way if we choose. He lets us ignore Him and disobey Him, but when we do that, we wind up hurting ourselves. But if we allow Him to, God has placed incredible power at our disposal, but we have to align ourselves with His Will.
How many of you have ever been to an airport and seen one of those “moving sidewalks”? Those are incredibly useful in moving between terminals. Have you ever decided you didn’t want to get on those and walked on the outside? I did that one time. I’m walking along at a fairly good clip and I look to my left and here goes this lady just leisurely strolling along, leaving me in the dust. I tried to pick up the pace, but it was no use, she wasn’t even breathing heavy and I was puffing along not even close to keeping up. Now I always get on those things and walk at a brisk pace and it feels like you can fly.
When a person gets aligned with God’s Will, identifies their Spiritual Gifts, then goes about serving in the way that God has empowered them, incredible things happen. Things start to pop. Ministry happens, people’s lives change. Others look at what they are doing and say, “How do they do everything they are doing?” Do you know how? Because the Holy Spirit is in control. He is moving them along, empowering them according to their gifts. But what can happen is that a person can try to live according to their own power, trying to keep up and it won’t take long till they are exhausted. Instead of first aligning themselves with God’s Will, they have their own agenda to do it their way. Take the time to tap into the Spirit’s power if you want to be used to do incredible things. Identify your spiritual gift (Networking classes). Ask others who know you well what abilities they see in you.
But there is another side to that idea that it is only through God’s power that we can accomplish great things. I was reading the other day and I read from a guy named John Boykin who wrote, “Many Christians feel more comfortable with the idea that apart from Christ they can do nothing, than they do with the other side of that coin: that they can do all things through Him who strengthens them. ‘I can do nothing’ lets me off the hook; ‘I can do all things’ makes me wonder why I’m not doing anything.”
That’s a great point. God has “a spirit of power” available for you. The question is, have you given control of yourself over to that Spirit, or are you content to cruise along you own direction, doing your own thing? Maybe you can easily answer that question if you look at what you have accomplished on God’s behalf in the last year.
2. God Given Love.
You don’t have to look far in the Bible to learn that God loves you. We went to the puppet show last evening, and it was all about God’s love for us. It was exceptional. For 45 minutes we were bombarded with sights and sounds that pounded into our heads, God loves you and as a result of that, you ought to love others. One little guy ran up to everybody he met and said, “I love you.” But when they mentioned something they needed help with he was quick to let them know that he didn’t have time to help because he had to tell more people how much he loved them. It was a good way to tell little kids, “Love people with your actions, not your words.”
What I’ve noticed is that people are more anxious to hear about how much God loves them than they are to think about how God wants to love other people through them. It’s the difference between being a pot to receive God’s love or a pipeline for God’s love. Do you know what I mean? It’s easy to want to be a pot filled up with God’s love. “Here I am, God! Show me you love me, make me feel good!” There are a lot of people who can’t get satisfied with God’s love because that’s their model. But if you really want to experience God’s love, become a pipeline. Let His love flow through you to other people, and you will be amazed at how much of God’s love you will get to experience. If we love our Christian brothers and sisters, it proves that we have passed from death to eternal life. But a person who has no love is still dead…. We know what real love is because Christ gave up his life for us. And so we also ought to give up our lives for our Christian brothers and sisters. But if anyone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need and refuses to help—how can God’s love be in that person? Dear children, let us stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions. (1 John 3:14-18, NLT)
We’ve got a lady in the church who a couple of years ago decided that she was unable to teach the little kids any more, but she was determined that she wasn’t done serving. So she requested that all the materials for the kid’s classes, the visuals and crafts and stuff be given to her so that she could punch out all the little pieces of paper and save the teachers all that time and effort. Now if you’ve ever spent an hour trying to pop those little pieces of paper out, you know that’s time consuming and painstaking work. But every quarter when we get our children’s curriculum in, all the visuals go to her and she does prepares 13 weeks of materials for all the children’s teachers, puts them in envelopes according to lesson. Now if you don’t think that’s a spiritual gift, to be able to do that consistently, with little acknowledgment and appreciation, then you’ve missed the point of what a Spiritual Gift is. A Spiritual Gift is a God-given way you can share God’s with somebody else. So what about you! Are you trying to be a receptacle for God’s Love or are you trying to be a pipeline. I promise, if you determine to be a pipeline you will experience God’s love as an unlimited resource.
3. God Given Self-Control.
This might be the toughest one of all. To have the self-control to say “Yes” when you ought to be serving, and to say “No” when you shouldn’t be serving is a tough thing. I’ve noticed that people have a natural bent, a tendency. They either tend to be over-involved or under-involved. Some people are always biting off more than they can chew. They want to do lots of things, be part of everything that’s going on. But the problem is that when you do that, you can’t keep up. It’s like a juggling act and once you reach your limit of balls you can keep in the air you start letting them bounce once, then twice, finally you’re kicking them every once in a while to give them some movement. That’s not a good situation. It’s not what God wants for your life. His power and His love are tempered with self-control.
On the other hand, there are some who just go with the flow and unless someone asked them to do something, they would never think to try to get involved. They come to church and park in a pew on Sunday morning, but never think about what they could serve. If you ask them they say, “I don’t have anything I could do to help.” As soon as somebody says that, you know you’ve found someone who is under-involved. They’ve never let God work through them, so they don’t know what abilities they have. You see, self-control doesn’t just mean knowing when to stop doing something. It also means knowing when to get off the pew and start doing something. If you say that you can’t do anything, then you’ve just called God a liar, because He said that He gave every Christian some Spiritual Gift. At least be honest enough to say, “I won’t do anything because I really don’t want to know what my spiritual gift is.” If you’re honest enough to say that then realize that you are saying, “God, thanks for sending your Son to die for me, but I’ve got more important things to do than to figure out how you want to use me. And because of your stubbornness you will miss out on the spirit of power, the opportunity to be a pipeline for God’s love, and the spirit of self-control that God wants to fill you with.
I can’t imagine saying “No” to God like that. In an incredible act of love, He saw that you and I had a one-way ticket to Hell. Because we have all used that “Free will” that I spoke of earlier to sin against Him, we are all hell-bound. But instead of just washing His hands of us, He sent Jesus to get His hands dirty. Jesus used those divine hands to serve (washing feet), He used them to heal (touching eyes and limbs), He used them to encourage and teach (adulterous woman and self-righteous leaders). And when the time came, he stretched out his hands and let Roman soldiers drive nails through those, accepting the penalty for our sin.
Now, hold out your hands and look at them. If you have given your life to Christ, those are Jesus’ hands now. How are you using them to serve, to heal, to encourage and teach? (Read 2 Timothy 1:6-7)
You can know the hope and assurance of being a pipeline of God’s love by giving yourself to Jesus. “I am not my own any more, I am bought with a price. These hands and feet are God’s to do with as He wishes.”