- Dr. Art Lindsley
What are you specifically created to do? That is the million-dollar question! To answer this question, we need to understand the nature of God’s gifts. Look at the passage in I Peter 4:
As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, let him speak as it were, the utterances of God; whoever serves, let him do so as by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (I Pet. 4:10–11)Every person has a gift or gifts. No one can say, “I have nothing to offer to others.” Everyone has a gift and all gifts are good because they are given to us by God. Second, we should use our gifts to serve others, not to exalt ourselves. Third, God calls us to be good stewards of the gifts he gives us. That means we need to know what our gifts are and use them wisely. We shouldn’t waste or neglect them. Above all, our gifts are meant for God’s glory alone, not ours (I Cor. 4:7). In I Corinthians 12, Paul addresses two common lies that we believe: “I am not needed,” and “I do not need you.”
“I am not needed.”Paul argues that even if you think you are an insignificant part of the body of Christ, you are still needed. All parts of the body are needed and need to be functioning in a healthy way for the body to do well (I Cor. 12:15–18). This means that you have a unique, important, relevant contribution to the body of Christ. Yes, you!
“I do not need you.”At the other extreme are those who think that they do not need others. At the root of our sin is pride. We think we can do everything ourselves, or we view others as inferior or unable to meet our needs. It is easy to regard someone else as less important or less gifted because of education, status, job, gender, race, socioeconomic level or appearance. Scripture does not allow for this. We all have needs and we can’t fill them alone. Someone quite different from us can help us. C.S. Lewis said that we are “one vast need.” We can spend much of our lives denying the real needs we have just under the surface of our being (I Cor. 12:21–22). While there’s much to say on this topic, let’s consider some basic ideas about gifts and calling:
1. God calls us to discern our gifts.We can do this, in part, by looking at a history of what we do and do not enjoy, and what we do and do not do well. This requires an honest and careful look at ourselves and sometimes that can be hard to do! An exercise in the curriculum, which is similarly described here, helps you list some of these past patterns.
2. Other people can help us discern our gifts.Sometimes we cannot see ourselves clearly, and it helps to see ourselves through other people’s eyes. It can be hard to accept criticism or even praise from others. It takes humility and grace to hear what others see in you. However, beware that not all people’s perceptions are accurate. A wise friend or parent can be like a mirror to give you an accurate reflection of yourself. An unwise friend can be like a distorted mirror that misrepresents your true identity. Tell your story to someone you trust and who knows you well.
3. All gifts are God-given, whether they are spiritual or natural.Spiritual gifts are given by the Holy Spirit and they develop as we mature in our faith. Natural gifts are those we are born with. Both can be empowered by the Spirit. If we are going to reach our potential, we desperately need the Spirit’s help. Remember that Creation, Fall, Redemption and Restoration make up the biblical narrative. The gifts given to us as image-bearers of God can be withered, misdirected and damaged by the Fall. God, by his Spirit in Redemption, restores us and redeems us from the effects of the Fall. God certainly can give new gifts or help us discover gifts that are latent or hidden within us. Our gifts are things we do well because God has gifted us to do them. We enjoy doing them because God has created us to experience life and joy through our own unique gifts, and in this way, we experience flourishing. To successfully discover our gifts as described above, we need at least four things:
- Biblical teaching that serves as a pair of glasses focusing views of others and ourselves
- Self-knowledge that comes partly from reading books about self-identity, studying a curriculum and taking time for self-reflection
- Relationships with others to help you get a clearer perspective on yourself
- The Holy Spirit’s help to discern truth from error. Jesus promises to hear our prayers and equip us with what we need: “How much more shall your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask?” (Luke 11:13). We just need to ask.