I once heard a pastor remark, “God made one Billy Graham. He only needed one. But he made you, too, for a unique purpose.”
Though it’s intriguing to think of how Graham would’ve fared with a twin helping him in world-wide ministry, I think this pastor was correct. A common perception among Christian youth is that they must pattern their lives after a model or mentor. Whereas God is good to give us examples, he also declares everyone is unique and everyone can serve him.
One way the Bible teaches uniqueness is through the doctrine of spiritual gifts. The Apostle Paul wrote about this in Romans 12: “We, being many, are one body in Christ … we have gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us” (Romans 12: 5-6).
“Gifts” in the original language is “charismata.” This noun is based on the Greek word “charis,” or grace. The “charismata” are gifts of God’s grace given by the Holy Spirit enabling every Christian to serve God. Thus, we’re not only commanded to serve him, but we’re equipped to serve him.
We find some 20 spiritual gifts listed in 1 Corinthians, Romans, Ephesians and 1 Peter.
Scripture doesn’t tell us all we’d like to know about spiritual gifts. For example, Charles Swindoll and other teachers insist several gifts were first-century gifts. Swindoll likens the gifts of healing and miracles to the booster rockets that launched the space shuttle into orbit, then were jettisoned into the ocean. He thinks these gifts got the church in orbit, as it were, in a hostile world, and then faded.
Of course, Swindoll believes God is sovereign and can heal and work miracles. But when modern evangelical churches need miracles, we normally call the church to prayer and ask God for what we need rather than searching for one with this gift.
The idea that some gifts were given for first-century use is one of a number of theological issues modern teachers deal with. But we shouldn’t let the finer points of interpretation deter us from a very encouraging word; namely, God gives “charismata” to his people so that his people can serve him.
I cannot remember hearing about gifts as a young Christian. It was only as an adult that I heard Swindoll, Lewis Drummond, Dale Moody and others teach this doctrine. And what a shame that many in the modern church haven’t known this helpful word. It’s liberating to find we have the gift of teaching, or giving, or mercy, or serving, or encouragement or leadership.
I think we should teach about gifts and urge every believer to begin a journey of discovery and development.
Every Christian is a minister.
Reflections is a weekly devotional column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church in Alabaster. The church’s website is siluriabaptist.com.
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