Bill thinks God has given him the gift of prophecy. And just as he was about to ask God for confirmation, a sister in his fellowship group asked him to pray for her, adding, “I could really use a word from the Lord right now.” Pressure!!! Bill asks, “Is there any way I can ask God to give me another gift? This is really a bit much for me!”
Poor Bill! No, you cannot take it back or exchange it for another. It isn’t like that maroon sweater vest Aunt Mavis sent you. You know, the one that makes you look so dumpy? When God gives gifts, they are for keeps.
“For God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable.”
While the above verse is talking about mercy extended to mankind, it is interesting that the Apostle Paul includes “gifts” in there with “His call.” We are given spiritual gifts, the moment that we receive Christ. And we can’t just trade our gift, “for what’s inside the box that Carol Merrill is now showing to us.” We may however, choose to either embrace the gift that God has given, or struggle under the weight of it. The sooner we embrace the gifts we’ve been given, the sooner we will enter that adventure which God has intended for us to enjoy with Him.
When Jesus rose again, he began sending the Holy Spirit to believers. With the receiving of the Holy Spirit, we also receive spiritual gifts. Paul writes, quoting Psalm 68:18:
“This is why it says:
“When He ascended on high,
He led captives in His train
And gave gifts to men.”
Our lives change when we embrace these gifts. The spiritual gifts God gives indicate how we will live out His calling for us. It helps to think of our gifts, not as gifts to ourselves, but as gifts that God is giving to the church worldwide. These gifts are to the body of believers. We just receive and get to use them. They are His gifts, entrusted to each of us, for all. They are:
“…to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
Our Father expects us to use these gifts to bless all His children. And once we embrace the gifts, they no longer are a burden to us, but a wonderful tool that we begin learning to use, to build up the body of Christ. We start by learning what our gifts are.
Here are where you can find the gifts mentioned: Romans 12, verses 6 to 8, include: prophecy, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leadership, and showing mercy. Gifts mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12, verses 7 to 11, include: the message of wisdom, the message of knowledge, healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, discernment between spirits, speaking in tongues and interpretation of tongues. And from Ephesians 4, verses 11 to 13, we find these gifts to the church: apostles, prophets, evangelists, and teachers.
I’ll use Bill’s example of prophecy, because it is often misunderstood. But that said, to the carnal mind, all the gifts are misunderstood. God's ways are not man's ways. Let God’s Spirit and His word, guide you to understand how to use your gifts. Once embraced, God brings people and materials and ministries and experiences into our lives, which help explain our gifts. I don't know anyone who started out, really understanding their gifts.
Your spiritual gift may not apparently suit your personality. Unlike Aunt Mavis’ sweater vest, if the gift God gives you doesn’t fit, that means He is going to get you into the shape you need to be in to fit your gift. You don't take it back to get a dumpier one to fit you. He begins fitting you for service, when you embrace the gift. Like you do with Aunt Mavis, just smile and say, "I love it!" And embrace it. It's yours! Try it on! God wants to see it on you!
Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t like to confront people. When I first thought God would use me prophetically, I kind of panicked. I imagined God might have me stand up in the middle of a church service, tear my robes (hey, it’s MY imagination!), with one hand gripping my hair, and the other pointing my shaking finger at the pulpit, yell "Blasssssphemmmy!!!" (Thankfully, God has never led me to do that.) I was picturing in my mind, the Prophet Elijah and the 400 false prophets of Baal. Lovingly, God started showing me other scripture that helped a lot. Verses like:
“But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.”
1 Corinthians 14:3
Prophecy is to “strengthen, encourage and comfort” those in the church. I didn’t have to blast God’s children. They aren’t prophets of Baal leading the church astray. They are dearly loved children of God. I had a lot to learn!
So many benefits came in with this gift as well! Once I embraced the gift, God gently led me through issues I didn’t even realize I had; for instance the fear of man's opinion of me, and getting rid of unhealthy people pleasing ways. I can now testify that I haven’t pleased anyone in years! (Praise the Lord! Glory! Yessssss!!!)
He brought creativity into my life too. Learning to speak what I know God is saying requires creativity I don’t naturally have. And I received through embracing this gift, much more love for God’s children. What father doesn’t want his children encouraged and built up in truth? Prophecy today really is to strengthen, to build up, and to comfort God’s children. And God had to get my heart in line on this, before I could use this gift.
A prophetic word (like any gift) can come out in frustrated tones, if the person speaking them (or using them) has not embraced their gift. God not only wants His words spoken (performed) clearly, but with His tone of voice. He doesn’t get frustrated. He’s God after all. How much Bill might miss out on, if he does not embraced God’s gift! But he will.
It’s wonderful to see God move powerfully, despite our weakness! Evangelists who couldn’t sell water in a desert: mercy people who are themselves suffering affliction, givers who themselves live sacrificially, etc. Each gift needs to be learned. When we are weak, He is strong. When we use our gifts, the less naturally gifted we feel, the more glory God will get when we’ve obeyed. That is when you get to see God do His thing. His gift doesn’t seem to fit? It will. He’ll make you fit it. Can’t take it back for one that fits how you are now. That is how the world works, not God. He loves us too much not to reshape us to fit His plans for us.
I have a friend David, who has been a faithful Christian for years. Recently, he has discovered his spiritual gift of leadership. God will expect him to lead "diligently." (Romans 12:8) David is probably the opposite of anything bossy. His personality is gentle. Furthermore he saw no money for gaining the education or training for church leadership. But he prayed and obeyed. He asked the Lord to confirm to him, whether this was indeed the Spirit's guiding. Though he wasn’t eager to lead, David said "yes Lord," in his heart, to whatever God was going to say his gifts were.
God did confirm that David’s gift was leadership! And then God started opening doors! A church started offering courses through a seminary. One degree was in "church leadership." The church invited David to take the course for free through a scholarship! Studying God's word David found examples of unlikely leaders, made leaders by God. If God wants David for leadership, God will make him a leader. So now he is excited about where God is going to take him with this gift and calling. David has embraced a gift that he was at first tentative to receive.
“But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
2 Corinthians 12:9
Bill may not feel prophetic. But he trusts God to know what's best; and that God loves him. He’ll embrace the gift. Then the fears, the hesitations, the insecurities, will all turn around as God works through him in his weakness. And when that happens, Bill will marvel. He’ll soon, like Paul, boast in his own weakness. We all come to that concerning our true spiritual gifts. Because that’s when we see God’s strength working even through us.
If the gift doesn't fit, wear it!
Here are good verses to meditate on:
“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
1 Corinthians 1:27-31