How many of you are familiar with role playing games? Board games, video games, Dungeons and Dragons…
Well, if you’re not familiar with RPGs, basically you take on the role of a character with unique skills and traits that can help a team of other characters go on quests together. [image: RPG]
Usually, each character has a specific skill that is super useful to the team but they also have specific weaknesses.
There’s the glass cannon. Usually a wizard or something who can deal a ton of damage but can’t take too many hits.
Or the tank. Some strong, beefy character who can take a bunch of hits but doesn’t always do much damage.
There’s the rogue with a bow who can move really fast and deal critical hits.
There’s the healer who uses magic to keep the team alive.
You get the picture. There are these different roles and each one depends on the others to use their unique skills and powers for the team to be successful.
Now why am I talking about Role Playing Games?
Well, because they’re fun. But also, because something about this concept of a team working together like this rings really true in the real world. Specifically in the Church.
Because every one of us who follows Jesus is given unique gifts, skills, powers if you will, to participate in God’s mission to heal this broken world.
Now, we may not be half-elf barbarians or whatever, but just like in an RPG, every one of us must use our unique mix of gifts as a part of the team if we want to be victorious.
That’s what we’re going to talk about today: the gifts God gives us and how badly we need one another to be strong where we are weak.
This is week 3 of our series called, “Put me in, Coach.” We’re exploring what it looks like for every one of us to get off the sidelines and into the game.
To do that, we’ve been looking verse by verse at Romans 12, where the Apostle Paul describes what it looks like to say, “Put me in, Coach” to Jesus.
Here’s his big idea:
Dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice.
In other words, following Christ should not be a half-hearted affair. No! God has given us everything. He has saved us from sin, from death.
The only logical and rational response from us is to give the life he saved back to him in gratitude.
To put our lives on the altar as a living sacrifice. “I’m all in. This life is yours.”
As we surrender our lives to God, he begins to shape us to look and act and even think more and more like Jesus. As he does that transformation in us, he calls us to step into a one-of-a-kind mission.
In other words, within this community - this body - there is a job for you to do that is yours and yours alone. He made you for this.
And here’s the best part. If you’re willing to pursue this purpose, God is going to equip you to do it well.
How does he equip you? He gives you what are called “spiritual gifts.”
Let me show you what I mean. Please turn with me to Romans 12:6, Page 944.
Last week we looked at Paul’s metaphor of the “body,” which he regularly uses in his letters to describe the Church. Bodies, as Paul says, are made up of different parts. And each part “has a special function.”
Well, now we’re going to read about those functions.
In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.
“God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well.”
These gifts are often referred to as “spiritual gifts” because they are given to us by God. They’re not just skills that we develop.
For example, Paul mentions “prophecy” - this is the unique gift that some have to reveal God’s truth to the church.
I’ve known a number of people with the gift of prophecy and they’ve played a significant role in the life of Grace.
Sometimes God speaks to them in images. Sometimes in words. Sometimes they get glimpses of what God is going to do. Other times its an encouragement about the present.
This is a gift that helps build up the church, because prophets are uniquely attuned to the voice of God.
Paul also mentions the gift of teaching. I think this is a gift that God has given me. I don’t say that to pat myself on the back. What I mean is, people seem to find clarity when I explain complicated topics. And that’s especially true when it comes to the Bible.
I think God has given me the gift of being able to teach his Word so that his Church - his body - can get stronger. It’s a part of what I’m here to do.
There are other gifts Paul mentions. Serving or encouraging others. Some are particularly gifted at that. Giving, leading, showing kindness…
The point is: Each of us has a special function within the body. Unique spiritual gifts. So here’s the question: which gift do you have?
Before we answer that, we have to acknowledge that this conversation can get a little confusing and unclear.
Here’s why: Because this list of gifts is not the only one. There are other passages in the New Testament that also talk about spiritual gifts, but the gifts in those passages are different. In Ephesians, for example, Paul says,
Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers.
Ok… That’s different than the list in Romans. In 1 Corinthians 12 it’s another completely different list. There, Paul includes the gift of giving wise advice, the gift of faith, the gift of healing, the gift of speaking in tongues…
So what’s going on? Is there a “master list” of spiritual gifts? Scholars and religious leaders debate this all the time.
And there are a bunch of other debates too. Are all of the gifts mentioned in the Bible still active today? Does God give any spiritual gifts that aren’t mentioned in the Bible? Are these gifts permanent or do they come and go?
If you Google it you’ll find a bunch of websites telling you exactly what the spiritual gifts are and exactly how they work. And they’re all going to give you different answers.
So that’s clear as mud. What is the truth?
Well to be completely frank, I don’t think we can ever know for sure. This debate has been going on for a long time.
But there are a few things everyone agrees on. The biblical authors are clear about this:
1. God gives his people spiritual gifts to build up the body of Christ.
2. These gifts are unique for each person.
3. We must use our gifts together for the body of Christ to be effective.
The way I see it (and I could be wrong), the point here is not to nail down some textbook definition of spiritual gifts or a manual for how to use them.
The point is to understand this:
God gives each of us a job to do and he equips us with the gifts we need to do it.
Maybe your spiritual gifts fall into some neat and tidy categories, or maybe they are unique as you are.
If this was a role-playing game, we’d all have different player cards. Listing out our strengths, our weaknesses… Yours will be unique to you, and our team is strongest when you’re doing what you’re best at.
FINDING YOUR ROLE
So… what are your spiritual gifts? How do you find that out?
There are two ways. The first is to figure out your purpose. What job has God assigned to you? In this Church, in the broader community…
If you’re going to say, “Put me in, Coach,” What position on the team is the coach calling you to play?
Let paraphrase Ephesians 2:10.
Ephesians 2:10 (paraphrased)
You are God’s masterpiece. He has created you anew in Christ Jesus, so you can do the good things he planned for you long ago.
What are the good things God wants you to do? If you can find that out, and you start doing some of those things, you’ll likely start to discover the unique ways God has equipped you for the task.
And in my experience, when you’re stepping out into a purpose beyond yourself, you may well discover gifts you never knew you had. Or you may find that God gives you new gifts to do things you never thought possible.
When God first called me to start traveling the world, I was nervous. Because for most of my life I had been a pick-eating, comfort-loving couch potato.
But to my surprise, as people offered me food like goat brains or intestines or Mekong River snails, I was able to keep it down. And I could eat it with a smile on my face.
How did that happen? Well, a strong stomach is not a spiritual gift listed in the Bible, but I think God knew I’d need it to do what he had called me to do.
My point is this: stepping into your God-given purpose is a great way to discover how God is equipping you.
Or in other words: Get into the game and let the coach show you where you’re strong.
By the way, if you don’t know where to start in finding your purpose, I have a couple of book suggestions.
The first is my dad’s book, A Why To Live For [image: A Why To Live For]. My dad was the founding senior pastor here, and his book is all about the brokenness of the world and how each of us is uniquely wired by God to help heal it.
We’ve got some free copies of his book out at the cafe in our lobby.
The second book is by Grace attender Christine Wagoner. It’s called Finding Your Yes [image: Finding Your Yes]. Christine does discipleship and leadership development, and her book is all about what it takes to say “yes” when God’s Spirit invites us to move.
Christine’s book is available for sale at the cafe.
I tell you all of this because these books can help you discern your big-picture purpose. Or at least give you a starting point.
And when you step into your unique why, you will undoubtedly start to discover the unique gifts God is giving you to do it.
Find your God-given purpose and you’ll start to discover your God-given gifts.
So that’s the first way to approach it. But there’s another way. And it’s to start from the other direction.
Rather than starting with your purpose or calling, take a look at what you’re good at. Maybe looking at the “spiritual gifts” you are already have will give you a big clue as to what you’re here to do.
Last week we introduced a tool to help you do just that. It’s a spiritual gifts test on our website.
You can go to gracechurch.us/giftstest to take it. It’s like a personality test to see what comes naturally to you. At the end, it gives you a chart which shows which gifts are most prominent.
[image: giftstest] Here’s what my results look like. You can see “teaching” is there at the top. (No, strong stomach is not one of the gifts on this list.)
[image: giftstest2] Your results will also include a description of your top 3 gifts and some ideas of how you could put them to work.
The point of this test is for you to think about some of what makes you unique within the body of Christ and to consider how important your role is in the life of this church.
For example, hospitality might be off the charts for you. I got like 24%. Hospitality is not my gift.
I don’t mind having people over. But maybe God has given you the gift of knowing exactly what any guest needs to feel perfectly at home.
I might remember to turn the outside lights on when people are coming over but you know what candle scent to have burning when that one particular person walks in the door.
Your kitchen has a bigger beverage menu than Starbucks. You are attuned to the needs of people in your space.
Hospitality your gift.
If that’s you, and you don’t know what you’re here to do, then the question becomes “How can you use that gift to build the Church?”
Could you be a part of our hospitality team, creating an atmosphere of welcome on the weekends?
What about being a student small group leader, and helping a group of anxious high school students understand that they belong?
You could even use your gift of hospitality with our facilities team, making sure the physical space we invite our neighbors into is as beautiful as it can be.
Now that’s just one example. Your top gifts are going to be unique to you.
And we as a community need you to use them well.
Whether God has gifted you in mercy or leadership or generosity or administration or anything else, I implore you to get into the game and play with all your heart.
Look again at what Paul says in Romans 12. He’s not just talking about having these gifts. He’s talking about using them.
“If God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.”
Find your God-given gifts. It may just be the start of discovering the reason you were born.
IN THIS TOGETHER
Grace Church is healthiest and strongest when we are all using our spiritual gifts to the fullest.
This is the ultimate role-playing game and you have a role to play.
If we were all wizards or all barbarians our team wouldn’t get very far. It’s when our skills are used in concert that we can do what we’re here to do.
But guys, we are not here to raid a dungeon. We’re not here to defeat some dragon.
We are here to heal this broken world in Jesus’ name.
To bring hope to the hopeless.
To establish justice where there is none.
To love the unlovable.
To think and speak and act like Jesus, the one who set us free.
What are you here to do? Because we can’t finish our mission without you.
INTERVIEW - MARV RICHARDSON
This whole series has been about how God uniquely wires us to serve the Church. I know you have a conviction about & passion for generosity. Where has that come from?
In my message I spoke about using the spiritual gifts God has given us. You've been a business leader for many years, and you are obviously gifted in that, but now you're serving on Grace's FOT. Tell us about that.
You heard us talk about Grace's end of year giving campaign earlier in the service. What do you want the people of Grace to know?
[Close: ministry fair - Christmas Eve volunteer opportunities]