Has there ever been a time in your life when you have longed to be proficient in something but, despite your efforts, it just wasn’t happening? I don’t remember the exact age that I was, but sometime in elementary school, I decided that I could sing. Our church was putting together a children’s choir and I settled it in my heart that I was essential to its success. To practice, I would play music on my walkman (walkman!), put on headphones, and sing my heart out to “This Little Light of Mine” and other Sunday School tunes in the middle of the living room. Lounging in a chair, I would rock out, waiting for someone to come along and say, “Wow, Courtney, the choir really needs you!”. No one ever did, so I just kept on singing. (As a parent now myself, I cannot imagine how taxing this was to my own parents.) I would continue this pattern periodically throughout elementary school, even once trying to teach myself to sing Mariah Carey songs, which, in hindsight, was a bit ambitious. The honest (and hard) truth is that my singing more closely resembles a screaming gibbon than Mariah Carey, and yet I so desperately wanted this gift that I kept right on trying.
My longing for gifts that I do not have did not stop at singing. Even into my adult life and especially during my time in youth ministry, I often grew envious of those around me who had gifts that I did not, and who seemed to be thriving in ministry as a result. Rather than asking God what unique role he wanted me to fill on our leadership team, I wasted time and energy trying to be something that I wasn’t. This was not for lack of understanding where my strengths lay, it was simply an act of pride rooted in insecurity. And it was a sad, sad waste. Because I spent so much time being insecure, I missed out on forming deep relationships with some of my co-leaders and perhaps even missed out on seeing some of the fruit of what God had prepared for me to walk in, if I had only taken hold of it.
The Bible is clear that different spiritual gifts are given to each of us. We are all uniquely wired and this is to display the glory of God. In I Corinthians, Paul likens the fellowship of believers to parts of a body, with each part coming together to move and work simultaneously and thus create a whole person. Each part needs the other parts, and every piece is vitally important to the health of the body and the display of God’s grace to the world. This is true whether or not a gift is visible or more behind the scenes. (I Cor 12). I encourage you to read the entire chapter of I Corinthians 12, but for now, here are just a few verses detailing what Paul has to say about this:
4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. 7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. (NIV)
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty,24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it,25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. (NIV)
What a wonderful picture this is: The body of believers moving and working together in harmony, complementing one another’s strengths, cheering one another on, each person deeply rooted and secure in the role that God has given to them. All the while, the unbelieving world is looking inward at this group of people loving Jesus and loving each other just as they have been designed to. What freedom, what grace, and what a reflection of the remarkable love of Jesus! Friends, how exciting is this? I am not like you, and you are not like me but the same Spirit, the same Lord gives each of us particular strengths for the common good of those around us. Even if we have similar gifts, God can use them in various ways, and we can have different strengths within those gifts. Oh how this should excite us and drive us to discover and nurture what the Spirit has given us so that we can be “faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (I Peter 4:11, NIV).
We are designed with these gifts and talents not for our own personal growth and development, though that does happen, but in order to faithfully love and serve God and others. In this way, we display His glory and grace as our life becomes a living, breathing reflection of the Gospel. How incredible is that? We do not have to worry about self-promotion, earning praise, or being like anyone else. God has specifically designed and gifted us for His purposes, and that is a much higher calling and an infinitely more fulfilling life than striving to be something we are not in order to earn the praise of men. We can relax and breath and live into how He has created us, and through that, experience life to the full as we minister to others for His glory.
Today, as you reflect on how God has uniquely gifted you, I pray that you will have the confidence to know that He has plans and a purpose for you within those gifts. If you are struggling to identify your spiritual giftings, there is a link below to an online survey that I cannot recommend highly enough. I am praying for you as you seek to live the life that God has purposed for you, friend!