“Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, the we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created.” James 1:16-18
Gifts. We all love receiving them. There’s something so enticing about a beautifully wrapped package concealing something chosen specifically to delight us. Sometimes it’s even more fun to find the “perfect” gift to give someone else; something you know they’ll appreciate that will communicate your love for them.
How do you feel when you spend the time to find just the right gift for someone; to wrap it with care and send it hoping the receiver will be thrilled? If you were anything like me, you’d hope for a response from the person the minute the gift was received. You would be anxious to hear his or her enthusiasm and gratitude. But, what if you never heard a thing? What if the person received the gift and either neglected to open it or quickly put it aside, forgetting about it entirely? My guess is most of us would be hurt, disappointed and maybe even a little angry.
I wonder, though, do we ever do the same thing to God? James 1 tells us not to be deceived and to recognize the good and perfect gifts we receive as being given to us by God. In Week 2 of James: Mercy Triumphs Beth Moore says: “James sets before his readers the God of Heaven and earth who literally, actively, perpetually, and generously gives divine gifts to His children…All of us have received a host of them. We just don’t always recognize them…God’s gifts are given with goals. They’re perfect because they’re perfecting. They don’t just give today. They give toward every tomorrow” (p.62).
God gives us gifts every day that we might take for granted: the predictable rising of the sun, air to breathe; warm shelter; food. He also gives us more personal gifts including our children, spouses, and friends. He gives us experiences that shape our characters and refine our faith.
Another set of gifts God gives us is spiritual in nature. The Bible includes several passages listing out the different spiritual gifts God bestows on His followers. One verse that sums it up well comes from 1 Peter 4:10: “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” In other words, the gifts God gives us are to be unwrapped, enjoyed and used to serve and bless others. This is how we show Him love and gratitude. It is also one of the many ways God reveals His glory on earth. Not taking the time to discover and use our gifts is the equivalent of receiving the perfect present from someone who loves you and not even taking it out of the box!
A few years ago a friend from Bible Study arranged for a small group of women to participate in a spiritual gifts class led by two seasoned women from church. I asked one of those teachers, Barbara Butlin, to share her thoughts with me on teaching the class and this was her eloquent response: “I first took the Spiritual Gifts Class in 1991. It was the first time I realized that if I said “yes” to God’s kingdom work, He would be my ministry partner and I could rely on Him to equip me for whatever He called me to do. It was at that point that I began the most wonderful adventure of my life. I have taught the Spiritual Gifts class at three churches for the past 20 years (10 years at CPC) and have had hundreds of students develop the ability to see themselves and others through God’s eyes. God’s thoughts and ways are higher than ours and He takes us to deeper levels of understanding throughout our lives with Him. It is a great source of joy to watch as others learn to appreciate how God gifts us and that these gifts are not for themselves but for the purpose of strengthening us and bringing glory to God for all to be able to see God alive and at work in our lives. He has gifted me so that I can gift others. What I do for Him in love lasts for all eternity.”
Through that class God gave me clarity about my main spiritual gift: The Gift of Encouragement. I realized that the areas where I was serving and using my gifts energized me; they didn’t feel like work. The places where I was serving using my own skills and not relying on God just didn’t fulfill or excite me the same way. Serving only out of obligation to fill a need didn’t seem to bring as much joy or satisfaction. The best part about receiving gifts from God is that HE gets all the credit for them, not us. It’s not being arrogant or prideful to use the gifts God has given you- it’s being obedient and giving Him glory! God gives us gifts to use so we can bless others and glorify Him. When we don’t discover, develop and use them, everyone loses out.
Last year during Lent I felt called try an “experiment” with my gift. Every morning I would wake up and ask: “God, who do you want to encourage through me today? Help me to be sensitive to the promptings of your Spirit as I move through my day.” I was amazed at the ways He answered me over that forty-day period. It was exciting to have Him place different people on my heart to call, e-mail, write or meet in person. My family would ask nightly at dinner what God had led me to do. We loved looking back over the day and seeing the people He placed in my path or prompted me to pursue. Every time He would use me, I would thank Him for giving me a front row seat in watching Him work.
Guess what? He can do the same thing in your life, if He hasn’t already. He can use anyone who is willing to accomplish His purposes using the gifts He’s given. Have you taken time to discover the “good and perfect” gifts He’s given you? Have you found places to use them so that you can bless others? If you haven’t, there’s no time like the present to start. This isn’t about feeling guilty or doing it because you “should.” It’s about living into what God has prepared for you.
Take a moment to post a reply sharing how God has used your spiritual gifts! Maybe you’ve been inspired to discover them for the first time. Posting a comment could be a way to commit in writing to taking the first step in the process. Go ahead, unwrap the gift, stand back and be amazed!