Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Faithfully Different (1 Peter 4:9)

“As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. (1 Peter 4:10, NASB95)

Last week at our men’s breakfast we were looking at the question of what we believe to be our spiritual gifting and how we are using that gifting in our lives. One of the passages we were directed to is this very one. It was interesting to see the answers that were given and the varied understanding of what the Bible means by spiritual gifts and then how we are to practically put them into use. Speaking for myself, I have spent a great deal of time looking at this subject and was even charged a number of years ago to develop a course on the subject.

Having this background and being so familiar with the subject did not mean that the answer I gave that morning was easy. It might have been easy several years ago, but during this current season things are different. They are not as I anticipated they would be, and the ways in which I am able to serve are not as they once were. Some days this is a real struggle, and it brings to mind how much even as Christians we can struggle with our perception of our identity and our understanding of effectiveness. We see things done in our bodies, but is this really how God see them?

In today’s passage we read that God has gifted each of us in a special and unique way. Every single believer has been gifted by God through the power of the Holy Spirit from the point of their salvation so that we can be used by Him to accomplish His divine purpose. In 1 Corinthians 12:1-4 we read, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (1 Corinthians 12:4–7, NASB95) Do you see the distinction? It is not about my talents and abilities standing in the gap for God, but me being faithful in whatever circumstance that God has me to use all that He has given me for His glory and the common good.

What I was given to do several years ago happens not to be what God has for me today, but what He has for me today is still something that He has predetermined and I am to be a good steward in this new setting. While my hope is that He still has vocational pastoral ministry in my future, I currently am employed as a cashier working with a mixture of all sorts of people serving a community of people with a similar makeup. It is in this setting that I am still called to be faithful to use what He has given me for His glory. This past week it included continuing to encourage and pray for customers who are facing various trials and sitting down in the break room during lunch to answer a question about how I deal with untruth when there are so many different understandings of truth.  This is what we are told to do in this passage, to employ God’s enablement of us “in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” The people at work know who I am and they are watching. It is for me to be faithful when God’s Spirit moves and I have opportunities to walk with them another step.

We are to serve “one another.” In 1 Corinthians, we read that these gifts were given for the common good. In both of these passages there is a particular focus on how we are to walk with one another such that we are all built up in Christ and made effective in His work. But, there is also another side. What we do alongside and for believers is commonly done in the presence of non-believers. This is the power of the servant love. In John 13:35 we read, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35, NASB95) Just maybe this is what prompted the one employee to ask that question. I don’t know, but I do know that I can trust God to do His work in her life and maybe even look forward to another opportunity to talk and share more of Christ’s love and incredible salvation.

We are to be “good stewards.” We are not the determinant of our gifting, but the recipient, and as the recipients we are to be good stewards of what God has given us. If we are gifted by God to be able to encourage others, then we are to be faithful to do it wherever He has us. If we are gifted by God to understand His Word and to be able to wisely apply it, then we are to be willing to do this wherever He has us. And, if He has gifted us to serve or give in some special way, then does it really matter what and where the need is if God has placed the need before us. This doesn’t mean that we say “yes” to every situation or request. Sometimes, as I encountered last week as well, we are not able to do so. But it does mean that we are also not to quickly say “no,” but to learn to look to God and step out as opportunity and leading come together. Rather than finding excuses not to respond, we are given the example of Christ whose desire was to perfectly do the will of the Father.

Peter says that we are stewards of the “manifold grace of God.” Some translations use the word “various.” What we read here is that God doesn’t do all things in all people in the same way. Every single one of us is unique before Him and we are all uniquely talented and gifted to between us do the vast variety of things that He has for us to do. There are no cookie cutter Christians. There is no other Christian who is our standard, but God who calls us all to be faithful to what He has given us for His glory.

What incredible freedom there is in knowing that God does not expect us to be the “best” at anything. What He calls us to do is to be faithful, and in our faithfulness, He will shine.

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