|October 1, 2000|
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|Through the grace of God we have different gifts. If our gift is preaching, let us preach to the limit of our vision. If it is serving others let us concentrate on our service; if it is teaching let us give all we have to our teaching; and if our gift be the stimulating of the faith of others let us set ourselves to it. (Rom 12:6-7, Phillips)|
|As we come to understand that God has gifted us in a
certain way, Paul is saying, we have a responsibility to
invest our life at that point. Concentrating on our gifts
will mean that we have to take our hands off of other
worthwhile things we could be doing. This freedom to
focus our time and talent is one of the wonderful
benefits of being part of the body of Christ, where God
calls others to carry out the work we are unable to do.
The Light That We Have
I'm also comfortable saying that as a general principle over our lifetime, we should give more weight in our big decisions to our self-understanding than to the more abstract question of the needs of other people. I say this with caution, frankly groping for the best words to express the thought, for the danger of hardening our hearts to the needs of others in the interest of doing our own thing is always there. God expects us to be continually pliable and willing to go beyond our boundaries for the sake of helping others.
But I say what I say for the sake of stewardship. For what we can know of ourselves-our gifts and abilities, personality traits, energy levels, etc.-though always a provisional understanding, is still the most clear and certain knowledge we have this side of eternity on which to base our important choices. And there is an abundance of Scriptural teaching telling us to take this information seriously as a vital indication of how God wants us to invest our lives.
We must also recognize in all humility that all that we can understand by looking outward is extremely limited. Our minds are simply too small to comprehend more than a minute portion of all that God is doing in the world. Even when it comes to judging the results of our own work, we see only the faintest tip of the iceberg. We simply cannot see enough of the total picture merely by looking outward to judge objectively how and where we'll be most effective for Christ. Understanding our own gifts and creative interests will give us the most important clue.
How It Applies
I don't pretend to know God's will for Chris. He may gain many new insights into his potential in the months and years ahead that throw new light on his career direction. Yet if he continues to perceive that acting is the vocation he is most gifted and motivated to be in, he should feel great freedom to follow that career, trusting that God will give him a significant ministry within it. And he shouldn't assume he is sacrificing a higher calling for a lower one by this choice. Chris may be confident that he is fulfilling the Lord's highest calling for him if he is living his life in light of how God has designed it.
For each of us, the critical question is how God has
gifted and energized us personally. With a good
understanding there, we'll be in the best position to
consider how to invest ourselves for the needs of a
hurting world. Ultimately our life will be of greatest
benefit to others when we're being the individual God has
created us to be.
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This article was featured previously on this site as a Nehemiah Notes selection on September 1, 1997.
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Copyright 2000 M. Blaine Smith.
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