Summary: If we want to be used of God to effectively advance the cause of Christ, we must be careful not to overestimate or underestimate ourselves, but use the Spirit’s gift(s) to serve with all our hearts.
Just a few years ago, Dave Barry, a columnist for the Washington Post, posted his comments about the typical male in the first week of December. He wrote, “Your standard man, at this point in the Christmas season, has purchased zero gifts. He has not yet gotten around to purchasing an acceptable gift for his wife for last Christmas. He did give her something last year, but he could tell by her reaction to it that she had not been dreaming of getting an auto emergency kit, even though it was the deluxe model with booster cables and an air compressor. Clearly this gift violated an important rule, but the man had no idea what this rule was, and his wife was too upset to tell him.” (Dave Barry, “Your Gift Is in the Male,” Washington Post, December 7, 2004)
Sometimes, at Christmas, we get gifts we don’t really appreciate. But there is Someone who knows exactly what we need, and He delights in giving us good gifts. That One, of course, is the Lord. He is one God who exists in three separate and distinct persons, and each person in this Holy Trinity has a gift for us this Christmas. They are gifts we can really appreciate if we choose to accept them. And in these three Sunday’s before Christmas, I want us to explore each of their gifts.
Romans 12:6-8 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. (NIV)
These, of course, are the spiritual gifts, which 1 Corinthians 12:11 says, “The Holy Spirit gives to each one, just as he determines.” Spiritual gifts are supernatural abilities that the Holy Spirit gives to each and every believer so they can serve His church. None of us, who have trusted Christ, are without such a gift. All of us have received this supernatural ability to serve. Every single believer, from the youngest child to the oldest adult, can serve in some way to effectively advance the cause of Christ in this world through His church.
That’s the gift the Holy Spirit gives to every believer, but so few of us really appreciate or utilize this gift to its fullest. You say, “Phil, I want to be used of God to effectively advance the cause of Christ, but I don’t know how. How can I utilize the supernatural ability the Holy Spirit has given me to serve Him effectively? How can I use His wonderful gift to see people come to faith in Christ, and to help His church grow?
Well, let’s back up a few verses in the text and see what the context tells us. You’re in Romans 12. Look at verse 3.
Romans 12:3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. (NIV)
There are some people who think they are God’s gift to the church. They overestimate their own importance and skills, but if we’re going to utilize the Holy Spirit’s gift effectively, God warns us…
DON’T OVERESTIMATE YOURSELF.
Don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought.
Six years ago (2004), the Chicago Tribune carried an article about some German violinists who were suing for a pay raise. Pointing to their less-busy colleagues who play flute, oboe, or trombone, the violinists claimed that they play a whole lot more notes per concert than anybody else in the orchestra.
Laurentius Bonitz, the director of the Beethoven Orchestra in Bonn had a very different opinion. He argued that the violinists should not be paid more: “Maybe it’s an interesting legal question,” he said, “but musically, it’s very clear to everyone.”
That is, it’s very clear that all parts are needed to make beautiful music, and no one part is more important simply because they play more notes. (“Violinists Say Pay Far from Noteworthy,” Chicago Tribune, 3-24-04; www.PreachingToday.com)
Well, the church is like the orchestra. There is no room for prima donnas or for people who keep track of notes. That’s not the way to use our gifts effectively. We must be careful not to overestimate ourselves, thinking we’re more important because of what we do. Otherwise, the forward progress of the church comes to a grinding halt.