The other Sunday, I had the privilege of reading a poem at my church’s worship service. People often tell me they enjoy my poems and my voice (my Southern friends say I have a British accent), and although I was nervous, I enjoyed sharing.
I have written poetry for many years now and have had several poems published. However, I had never realized how much of a blessing reading poetry aloud to an audience could be – that is, until a few years ago, when my college poetry professor required us to do a public reading in lieu of a final exam. Measuring out my best words in front of a roomful of people, I realized I not only liked this personal mode of sharing but could turn it into ministry.
Poetry and public speaking are two of my strengths that I consider God-given gifts. Reading my work aloud in public is one way I employ those gifts as ministry, to encourage and inspire others.
God has given each of us gifts to enjoy and to use in serving others. We should explore our gifts and seek opportunities to share God’s grace through them.
God has given each of us a gift.
As the Bible attests over and over, God is good and of a giving nature (Psalm 103:2, 107:1). As such, He is the source of all good things. He may not give all of us the same gifts, but all good things we have come from Him (1 Corinthians 12:6). As James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (NIV)
God gives many gifts. He gives all of us the basic gifts of life and being (Isaiah 42:5). He also gives us His image – the ability to connect with Him and imitate His character (Genesis 1:27). And He gave us Jesus and the offer of a renewed relationship with God through Him (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:4-9).
He also gives each individual a unique combination of personality traits and abilities. Often we tend to think of these as talents like singing or playing basketball. But many are simpler and more subtle. The ability to engage people in conversation or understand complex problems, for example, are less recognized but just as God-honoring and valuable.
To those who follow Christ, God also gives the Holy Spirit to guide and empower us (John 16:13; Romans 8:10-17, 26-27). The Spirit makes His power known in different people in unique ways, through spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:7). These “manifestations of the Spirit” include leadership, teaching, serving, and healing (Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 12:4-11; Eph. 4:7-12).
We are to use our gifts to serve others.
At a key point in C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Father Christmas gives the main characters several magical gifts. The gifts, though wonderful, come with the admonishment: “These are tools, not toys.” The characters ultimately use their gifts to help free the land of Narnia from the tyrannical White Witch.
In the same way, God intends us to use our gifts to meet others’ physical and spiritual needs. Many gifts are things we enjoy doing; others we must learn to enjoy. But all come with a call to action and are intended for the common good (Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 12:7).
While our gifts can and should be sources of joy for us, they are never meant for us alone. Even the Good News of reconciliation with God through Christ does not stop with us – it is meant to be shared (Matthew 28:18-19; 2 Cor. 4:18-21).
Look for ways to use your gifts.
If you aren’t sure what gifts you have, take some time to find out. Pray for God to show you traits and abilities that make you unique and can be used to show His love to others. Reflect on what you do well, what you enjoy, and what you have in terms of resources. Ask your friends how you bless them.
Then pray for opportunities to use your gifts. Be alert for everyday situations where your gifts can supply the needs of others – a stranger in need of a kind word, a neighbor with a broken lawnmower, a friend in need of an understanding listener. Ask yourself: Who needs what I have? And how can I best get it to them?
Find causes you care about and research ways to use your resources and abilities to serve in your community. If you are a member of a local church, ask your pastor what needs doing around the church and how you can help.
Most importantly: Do what you can. Abilities and spiritual gifts are like muscles – the more we work them, the more effective and confident we become in using them. God does not call us to meet every need, or to use what we don’t have. But He does call us to faithfully honor Him with what we do have by using it to serve.
When we use our God-given gifts to meet needs and build others up, we allow others to experience God’s work through us. We become channels for His bottomless goodness to flow into the lives of those around us. We are not the Source of blessing, but by imitating God’s giving nature we show others His love in a unique way.
What are your gifts? How do you discover them? How can you use them to serve others?