Matthew 23:11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
The kingdom of God is so contrary to everything we know here on earth. On earth, greatness is often measured by the number of people we have under us. In the kingdom of God, greatness is measured by the way we humble ourselves in order to serve. The Bible repeatedly tells us that if we exalt ourselves, we will be brought low; but if we humble ourselves, God will lift us up.
As we bring this series of studies to a close, I want to focus our attention on how God’s amazing grace can equip us to serve. True Christ-like service is an expression of grace.
Once again let’s begin by defining the term grace. What is grace? There are two parts to the biblical concept of grace:
A. Unmerited Favor
First there is the ‘unmerited favor’ aspect of grace. Grace is God’s favor shown to those who do not deserve His favor. They do not deserve it, neither can they ever earn it. Grace is a gift of God’s unmerited favor.
The Bible teaches us that it is by God’s grace that we are saved.
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast .
Salvation is a gift of God’s grace. We do not deserve God’s favor and forgiveness. The third chapter of the book of Romans clearly teaches us that we are sinful and incapable of pleasing God. Though some may be more sinful than others, the Bible says that we all have sinned and come short of God’s glory.
A part of the unchangeable nature of God is justice. God must act in a just way. If God dealt with us justly, we would all be condemned to spend eternity in hell. Revelation 20:11-15, clearly teaches us this. God has a record of every sinful work man has ever done and one day men will stand before their Maker and given an account for the way they have lived.
That is justice and no one can argue with it. Yet God is also gracious. By His grace, God provided a way so that His justice could be satisfied and we could be declared righteous in His sight. God did this by sending His Son, the Lord Jesus, to this earth to be born as a baby so that as a man He could take upon Himself the sins of the world. God judged sin by crucifying His Son as our sacrifice. For all those who will come to Christ and receive Him as their Savior there is complete forgiveness. That is grace. But there is a second part to God’s grace.
B. Holy influence upon or lives
The grace of God does not end with our salvation. The grace of God continues to work in our lives as long as we live. What does God’s grace do in the life of a believer? God’s grace strengthens him for life’s trials. God’s grace transforms him from a sinner into a saint. We grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior. God’s grace also equips us to serve God and His people. We read in the vs. 10 of Ephesians 2 –
Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
The word ‘workmanship’ is used one other time in scripture in reference to God’s activity in creating the world. Here it is used to refer to God’s activity in creating servants who will do His will.
Paul says that we have been created in Christ Jesus unto good works. The word ‘works’ refers to acts or deeds. Activity might be other words we could use to define the word ‘works.’ God has fashioned us in Christ to be people who actively serve Him.
We should note that salvation is not the result of our good works, but our good works are the result of salvation. This is the same thing James refers to when he speaks of the relationship between faith and works. True faith that produces salvation will also produce good works. Works are the evidence of saving faith.
Paul teaches us that God has already determined the works we should do. God created each of us for His own glory. However, we must choose to avail ourselves to God and His will. We must yield ourselves to Him to be used for His glory.
II. God Working In / Through Our Lives
God’s involvement in and through our lives is the work of His amazing grace. Paul expresses it well in his letter to the Philippians –
Philippians 2:12 … work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. 13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
God gives us the will and the ability to serve Him. God equips us by His grace. There are at least four ways God extends His grace to us:
- Through the Holy Spirit
- Through the Word of God
- Trough the Work of Angels (see Heb 1:14)
- Through the Ministry of Fellow Believers
Active participation and involvement in a local church is a part of God’s plan for our lives. To neglect our church attendance and involvement with fellow believers is to disobey the Word of God.
Throughout the New Testament, various analogies are used to describe the church. We are referred to as: a bride, a building, a family and a flock. But perhaps the most commonly used analogy of the church is – ‘body.’ The church is often referred to as the ‘body of Christ.’
1 Corinthians 12:12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.
Paul uses the human body as an analogy to describe the church. The human body has many parts which function in many ways and serve a variety of purposes. In our human body we have hands, feet, eyes and ears; all of which work together in order to enable the human body to function properly.
It is with that thought in mind that Paul describes the church as a body. Christ is the head and all of the members make up the various parts of His body. As members of His body we have many roles, functions and duties. We read from the book of Romans –
Romans 12:4 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: 5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, …
Within this one body of many members there is interdependence; community; and union. Jesus prayed that we might be one, even as He and His Father are one. In the early parts of the book of Acts we read of the church being ‘in one accord.’ Often in his letters to the various churches, Paul encouraged them to be united in soul and purpose. One of the primary ways God produces this interdependence and cooperation is through the exercise of Spiritual Gifts. What are Spiritual Gifts and how to they apply to the life of a believer?
Romans 12:6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, …
The word used for ‘gift’ is the word also used for grace. A Spiritual Gift is a gift of God’s grace. It is one of the primary ways God imparts His grace to His children. Each of us has a gift of grace that the others in the church need and as we work together and share our gifts, we become a body of believers.
Who has what gifts and how they are used is all a part of the work of the Holy Spirit.
1 Corinthians 12:4 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. 7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.
There is a diversity of Spiritual Gifts given to the church. The exact number is unclear. These gifts may be divided into four groups or categories:
- Serving Gifts
- Leadership Gifts
- Equipping Gifts
- Sign Gifts
As a part of my blog I have prepared a series of studies regarding the various gifts. Though this study does not cover every detail, it will help provide a basic understanding.
In addition to the diversity of gifts, there is also a diversity of ways these gifts can be used and their outcome.
1 Corinthians 12:4 Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are different ministries, but the same Lord. 6 And there are different activities, but the same God is active in everyone and everything. 7 A manifestation (realization / revelation) of the Spirit is given to each person to produce what is beneficial: CSB
I believe that God uses a combination of our personalities, talents, life experiences and spiritual gifts to produce vessels that can best be used for His glory.
III. Why Should I Be Concerned About My Spiritual Gifts?
The question some might be asking is – ‘Why should I be concerned about my spiritual gift?’ Let me give you four reasons why it is very important that we seek to understand and use our spiritual gift or gifts.
A. Through the use of your gift – someone else is going to receive a portion of God’s grace
Spiritual Gifts are gifts of God’s grace. To not use your Spiritual Gift is to deprive the body of Christ of a portion of God’s grace.
B. Through the use of your gift – God is going to be glorified
The Bible speaks of a woman named Dorcas who had the ability to sew. Exactly what her spiritual gift was, we’re not told; however, we do know that Dorcas used her talent to minister to the needs of many widows. Perhaps she had the gift of helping. Perhaps she had the gift of encouragement. Whatever her gift or gifts were, Dorcas dedicated herself to the service of the body of Christ and as a result brought much glory to God.
C. Through the use of your gift – you are going to experience God
A Spiritual Gift is an extension of God’s grace and therefore if you want to experience more of God, you have to be active in the use of your gift. I often think of a Spiritual Gift as being a channel of God’s grace. God’s grace flows through our Spiritual Gifts. We should also note that the word ‘grace’ comes from the word ‘rejoice.’ Using your Spiritual Gift of grace will bring you, as well as others, great joy!
D. Through the use of your gift – you are going to be rewarded
Peter tells us that we are stewards of the grace of God. The greatest example of what it means to be God’s steward is found in Christ’s Parable of the Talents. (see Matthew 25) As the landowner prepared to take his journey, he placed the care of his estate in the hands of his servants. There are at least three great truths found in this parable:
1. A truth about responsibility
As stewards of God’s grace, we bear a responsibility before God to use His grace in a way that will fulfill His will and bring Him glory.
2. A truth about reward
Two of the servants in the parable properly managed their responsibilities and as a result heard the praise of their master. “Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.”
3. A truth about rebuke
As you well know, one of the servants failed to properly manage his responsibility. Rather than investing his master’s talent and making a profit, he buried it in the ground. The result was that he was rebuke by his master. “Thou wicked and slothful servant…” the master said to him.
It is a serious thing to squander the grace of God.
IV. How Can I Learn More About My Gift and How to Use It?
Though many of us often doubt that they have a Spiritual Gift, the Bible clearly teaches that we do. To be honest, very few of us knew what our gifts were when we first started. I didn’t even know that there was such a thing as a Spiritual Gift when I first started serving in the church. They needed help in VBS – they asked me – I said yes – and thirty-five years later here I am.
There are numerous books that help explain the various gifts and how to use them. On my blog you will find a page with an index to several devotionals I have written concerning Spiritual Gifts and their usage. In addition, you can take simple tests that will help you determine which gift or gifts the Lord has given to you.
In addition, it is good to talk with fellow believers and ask them:
- Who do you see me as?
- What are my strengths?
- In what ways do you see God using me?
- What are areas I need to work on?
One of the leading reasons many Christians aren’t used more by God is because they lack dependability. They have not invested their life in growing as a believer and many times their spiritual walk is too sporadic for them to be used. Paul wrote to the Corinthians – ‘it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful’ (1 Cor 4:2)
My primary Spiritual Gift is Pastor /Teacher. Recently I read through the qualifications once again. ‘Apt to teach’ is tucked in the middle of at least 15 other character qualifications.
My encouragement would be to find somewhere to serve; dedicate yourself to work; be faithful; grow as a believer; and go through the doors God opens.
Like Isaiah the prophet, we need to learn how to say “Here am I God, send me!”
Perhaps many of you have heard of David Ring. David Ring is a Christian speaker who has cerebral palsy. When David Ring was born, he wasn’t breathing. The doctors worked quickly to revive him, but because of a lack of oxygen to his brain, he developed cerebral palsy and for the most parts his hands and arms are useless. That’s not all. Both of his parents were dead by the time he was fourteen and many of his relatives believed that he would never live a normal life. Surely he would never drive a car, or get married, or have children, or be able to take care of himself. But they didn’t realize what God can do with someone who is completely yielded to him.
When David Ring was a teenager, he surrendered his life and circumstances to the Lord. He chose to view his disability as a gift from God and rather than asking God ‘Why?’, he asked the Lord ‘What?’ ‘What do you want me to do with this?’
David Ring did marry and together he and his wife have four children. He also learned to drive a car and he speaks to over 100,000 Christians each year, encouraging them to give their lives to the Lord. Often he concludes his message by asking – “I have Cerebral Palsy–what’s your problem?”
If God can use a orphan with cerebral palsy to speak to thousands of people about Christ, He can use us as well. One of my heroes in the faith is Dwight L Moody. Very early in his Christian life, Moody had a friend say to him – “The world has yet to see what God will do with and for and through and in and by the man who is fully consecrated to Him.” Moody responded to that challenge by saying – “By God’s help, I aim to be that man.”