How May I Serve You? Your Thing
Topic: Spiritual Gifts Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12:4–12, Romans 12:3–10
What’s Your Thing? Everyone has a thing. Something you’re known for or something people immediately associate with you. Sometimes Your Thing is connected to a hobby or an interest. Like, “Oh, gardening is really her thing.” Or, “Yeah, they are super into ISU.” Sometimes Your Thing is seasonal or comes out during the holidays, right? I’m sure there are some of you here who the Thanksgiving turkey is your thing every year or maybe it’s hosting Christmas for the family. Maybe you’re the one in the family known for giving the best gifts or for having the most killer cookies. Maybe your thing is a skill or something you learned. People call you the numbers guy or you’re the one in the family who packs the car for the long vacation trip. By the way, that’s Caitlin in my family. Coincidentally, that’s why I’d never challenge her in a game like Tetris. It could be something even a little more general. You’re known as a hugger or the animal person or the one with the best puns. Guilty as charged.
Regardless of what it is, we all have our thing. But what if I told you that God actually gives us something as we journey on that long road of following after and seeking to be like Jesus? You could call it an inheritance, an endowment. You could even call it a legacy or a purpose. It is something our God gives uniquely to each of us. Not for our own good but for the good of others and so that the world is able to be shown the life and love of Jesus. It’s not something unique to us in terms of there being only one of this thing and we are its only recipients but instead, it is unique to us because, like a new recipe or invention, something personal and rare is made when we come in possession of this thing. And the awesome reality about this thing is that it gives us the chance to serve others in a meaningful, personal way.
That’s what we’ve been talking about the last few weeks, serving others. This message series is called How May I Serve You? We’ve looked at the example of Jesus as our role model and guide for serving others. Last week, Rev. Kathy Mitchell reminded us that service means looking to those who are in need and allowing our faith to become something we practice and not simply something we profess. This morning, we’re going to look at how we can serve. And one of the most fulfilling ways you can serve others is just by doing Your Thing. I’ve used words like inheritance and purpose to try and describe it. The apostle Paul uses a much simpler word. He calls it your spiritual gift. Paul talks about spiritual gifts in a couple places, like his letter to the Romans. Let’s look at Romans 12:3-10.
When it comes to work of serving others, Paul offers us some really important insight here in his words to the Christ-followers in Rome. Not only does he give us a list of some, not all, of the gifts the Lord gives but Paul goes a step deeper and talks about the state of the heart of the person using these spiritual gifts. We’re going to spend a good chunk of time talking about spiritual gifts this morning, but I want to make sure we don’t miss what Paul says about us, the people given these gifts.
We talked about humility two weeks ago when we looked at the example of Jesus. Humility is important and God uses that rare and blessed quality in unimaginable ways. But there’s also a potential tripping hazard we have to watch out for when we’re considering humility. It is possible that we could take humility to a place it’s not meant to go and actually think too little of ourselves and our ability to be used by God. We can wonder things like, “What difference can I really make?” But here in his letter to the Romans, Paul cuts that thinking off at the pass. In verse 3, Paul says, “think of yourself with sober judgment in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.”
“Sober judgment” doesn’t mean thinking little of yourself or beating yourself up. It means seeing things clearly, and as Paul specifically states - remembering that our God has placed within each of us the faith necessary to love and serve others. I love the way Tim Keller describes these words from Paul. Keller says, “To be sober means to be rigorously accurate, completely in touch with reality. At this point he warns against thinking less of your abilities than is warranted. We need to acknowledge what we are good at and what we can do – because doing so makes us able to serve others. We are to think straight about ourselves; neither too low nor too high.” Before we dive into talking about spiritual gifts, it’s important that each of you embraces the truth that you are both capable and called by God to use your gifts, to do Your Thing. So, with that, let’s look a little more at this idea of spiritual gifts.
We all have different gifts and each gift is given by God. Each gift is a unique display of grace and love from our God and is actually personal, tangible examples demonstrating God’s desire to partner with us. And, as I said, it’s important to remember that this list of gifts Paul shares here is not exhaustive. We hear Paul mention other gifts in his letter to the Christ-followers in Corinth and there are other gifts mentioned throughout the New Testament as well. But here, Paul gives us a few to consider. Those are prophesy, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leading, and showing mercy.
This is one of the most incredible things about our identity as followers of Jesus. Our Creator imbues us with specific, precious, necessary gifts and each one is unique because each of us is unique. Some will have a gift of teaching and others will have a gift for offering compassion and mercy. But still, there could be two people with a gift for leading but their gift is manifested and offered in completely different ways. The diversity and reach of spiritual gifts are limited only by the creative design of God and our own willingness to make use of that which we have been given.
So, here in Romans 12, Paul tells his audience to use the gifts they are given. If they have a gift for prophecy, then use it out of and through your faith. If you have a knack for serving others, then serve. Maybe Your Thing is teaching and generating discussion and discovery. Then teach. If your heart naturally and persistently beats for those who are in need or are hurting, then go find a way to do the works of compassion you know are needed in this world. If you’re a leader, find that space where God is calling you to lead. And encouragement…oh, wow, do we need that this day and age. If you have that supernatural and wonderful compulsion to speak uplifting words of gratitude and value into others, then do it until you can’t speak anymore. And then, start writing notes of encouragement until your hand cramps. Whatever your gift (encouragement or leadership or mercy or teaching), use it. That is one of the most personal, rewarding, and impactful ways we can answer the question of How May I Serve You?
And this can look so many different ways because when you do Your Thing, it is connected to you. Your context, your relationships, your neighborhood, your personality, your experiences. One of the awesome blessings I receive as a pastor is being able to observe our church from a bird’s eye view and see so many within our family of faith doing their thing by using their gifts. I get to see gifts of leadership create amazing opportunities like Rob Kelley leading the Monday morning men’s Bible study at the Pancake House. Every week a dozen or more guys come out for a time of laughter, study, and prayer and Rob does a stellar job leading and coordinating the whole thing. Or people like Carol Morris. Carol is one of the co-chairs of our Associate Pastor Nominating Committee. She has an awesome knack for organization and coordination and has been such a blessing to that incredible team and that important work. I see people use that gift of sharing mercy and compassion. People like Barb Lemmon who goes out her way to make sure cards are sent to people who we learn are going through a tough time or maybe are dealing with a medical event in their lives. People like Darren Brant who not only accepted the call to serve as a deacon here at First Pres but constantly advocates for kids and teens in our community through his work with the Boys and Girls Club. Not only do I see displays of encouragement but I’ve been the recipient of them. Awesome expressions like these.
All of these people and countless others are just doing their thing. The thing that comes from that grace God has put in their hearts. That thing that serves others in some specific, intentional way or place. That thing they do is an expression of the faith and love they have in Jesus Christ.
So, the question you might be wondering is…How do you discover Your Thing? How do you know what your spiritual gifts are? There are a couple of ways. One is personal intuition. Sometimes people can get a sense of their spiritual gift simply by reading about them within Scripture and realizing that those biblical words describe their passions and activity. Another way is through someone else telling you. Others tell you that you’re really good at this or that you’re a natural at that or ask if you’ve ever considered doing this or that. It’s not uncommon at all for others to see our gifts before we notice them for ourselves. And there’s another way too. It’s not perfect but it is convenient. You can go to that link you have on the insert within the worship bulletin this morning. Whether you scan that QR code with your phone or just go to that link, you’ll be taken to a spiritual gifts test that you can complete. It’ll ask you to create a log-in and then you’ll be able to take the test. Like I said, it’s not perfect but it’s a start and I would encourage all of you to give it a go.
Paul Achtemeier says this in his Romans commentary: “Every Christian does have some gift, and part of one’s Christian responsibility is to discover what gift one has and to use it for the glory of God and the good of one’s fellow human beings.” That includes you! There’s a lot at stake here. Seeing the grace and love of God take tangible shape in this world. Finding your place in the unique story of God’s kingdom. Seeing the people, places, and moments in need being filled with the purpose and presence of our Savior. That’s all riding on us, on you. On you living out your faith, on you serving in the unique way that only you can, on you doing Your Thing.