Gifts

* Look for those gifts God has given you

Note the difference in blessings God gave each tribe.  To one he gave the best land, to another strength, to another safety.  Too often we see someone with a particular blessing and think that God must love that person more than others.  Think rather that God draws out in all people their unique talents.  All these gifts are needed to complete his plan.  Don’t be envious of the gifts others have.  Instead, look for the gifts God has given you, and resolve to do the tasks he has uniquely qualified you to do. (NLT)

Deuteronomy 33:6-25 – Moses said this about the tribe of Reuben: “Let the tribe of Reuben live and not die out, even though their tribe is small.”

Moses said this about the tribe of Judah: “O Lord, hear the cry of Judah and bring them again to their people.  Give them strength to defend their cause; help them against their enemies!”

Moses said this about the tribe of Levi: “O Lord, you have given the sacred lots to your faithful servants the Levites.  You put them to the test at Massah and contended with them at the waters of Meribah.  The Levites obeyed your word and guarded your covenant.  They were more loyal to you than to their parents, relatives, and children.  Now let them teach your regulations to Jacob; let them give your instructions to Israel.  They will present incense before you and offer whole burnt offerings on the altar.  Bless the Levites, O Lord, and accept all their work.  Crush the loins of their enemies; strike down their foes so they never rise again.”

Moses said this about the tribe of Benjamin: “The people of Benjamin are loved by the Lord and live in safety beside him.  He surrounds them continuously and preserves them from every harm.”

Moses said this about the tribes of Joseph: “May their land be blessed by the Lord with the choice gift of rain from the heavens, and water from beneath the earth; with the riches that grow in the sun, and the bounty produced each month; with the finest crops of the ancient mountains, and the abundance from the everlasting hills; with the best gifts of the earth and its fullness, and the favor of the one who appeared in the burning bush.  May these blessings rest on Joseph’s head, crowning the brow of the prince among his brothers.  Joseph has the strength and majesty of a young bull; his power is like the horns of a wild ox.  He will gore distant nations, driving them to the ends of the earth.  This is my blessing for the multitudes of Ephraim and the thousands of Manasseh.”

Moses said this about the tribes of Zebulun and Issachar: “May the people of Zebulun prosper in their expeditions abroad.  May the people of Issachar prosper at home in their tents.  They summon the people to the mountain to offer proper sacrifices there.  They benefit from the riches of the sea and the hidden treasures of the sand.”

Moses said this about the tribe of Gad: “Blessed is the one who enlarges Gad’s territory!  Gad is poised there like a lion to tear off an arm or a head.  The people of Gad took the best land for themselves; a leader’s share was assigned to them.  When the leaders of the people were assembled, they carried out the Lord’s justice and obeyed his regulations for Israel.”

Moses said this about the tribe of Dan: “Dan is a lion’s cub, leaping out from Bashan.”

Moses said this about the tribe of Naphtali: “O Naphtali, you are rich in favor and full of the Lord’s blessings; may you possess the west and the south.”

Moses said this about the tribe of Asher: “May Asher be blessed above other sons; may he be esteemed by his brothers; may he bathe his feet in olive oil.  May the bolts of your gates be of iron and bronze; may y9ur strength match the length of your days!”

* Don’t use God’s gifts for selfish purposes

Samson impulsively used the special gift God gave him for selfish purposes.  Today, God distributes abilities and skills throughout the church.  The apostle Paul states that these gifts are to be used “to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.”  To use these abilities for selfish purposes is to rob the church and fellow believers of strength.  As you use the gifts God has given you, be sure you are helping others, not just yourself.  (NLT)

Judges 14:19 – Then the Spirit of the Lord powerfully took control of him.  He went down to the town of Ashkelon, killed thirty men, took their belongings, and gave their clothing to the men who had answered his riddle.  But Samson was furious about what had happened, and he went back home to live with his father and mother.

* Giving gifts vs. expecting gifts

The astrologers traveled thousands of miles to see the king of the Jews.  When they finally found him, they responded with joy, worship, and gifts.  This is so different from the approach people often take today.  We expect God to come looking for us, to explain himself, prove who he is, and give us gifts.  But those who are wise still seek and worship Jesus today, not for what they can get, but for who he is. (NLT)

Matthew 2:1-2 – Jesus was born in the town of Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod.  About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews?  We have seen his star as it arose, and we have come to worship him.”

* Responsibility to use our gifts well

This phrase means that we are responsible to use well what we have.  When people reject Jesus, their hardness of heart drives away or renders useless even the little understanding they had. (NLT)

Matthew 13:12 – [Jesus said] “To those who are open to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge.  But to those who are not listening, even what they have will be taken away from them.”

* – Why was the king so hard on this man who had not increased the money?  He punished the man because (1) he didn’t share his master’s interest in the Kingdom, (2) he didn’t trust his master’s intentions, (3) his only concern was for himself, and (4) he did nothing to use the money.  Like the king in this story, God has given you gifts to use for the benefit of his Kingdom.  Do you want the Kingdom to grow?  Do you trust God to govern it fairly?  Are you as concerned for others’ welfare as you are for your own?  Are you willing to use faithfully what he has entrusted to you? (NLT)

Luke 19:20-27 – [Jesus said] “But the third servant brought back only the original amount of money and said, ‘I hid it and kept it safe.  I was afraid because you are a hard man to deal with, taking what isn’t yours and harvesting crops you didn’t plant.’

“ ‘You wicked servant!’ the king roared.  ‘Hard, am I?  If you knew so much about me and how tough I am, why didn’t you deposit the money in the bank so I could at least get some interest on it?’  Then turning to the others standing nearby, the king ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one who earned the most.’

“ ‘But, master,’ they said, ‘that servant has enough already!’

“ ‘Yes,’ the king replied, ‘but to those who use well what they are given, even more will be given.  But from those who are unfaithful, even what little they have will be taken away.  And now about these enemies of mine who didn’t want me to be their king—bring them in and execute them right here in my presence.’ ”

* Salvation a gift from God

Jesus explained that we cannot control the work of the Holy Spirit.  He works in ways we cannot predict or understand.  Just as you did not control your physical birth, so you cannot control your spiritual birth.  It is a gift from God through the Holy Spirit. (NLT)

John 3:8 – [Jesus said] “Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.

* – What a depressing picture Paul is painting!  All of us—pagan Gentiles, humanitarians, and religious people—are condemned by our own actions.  The law, which God gave to show the way to live, holds up our evil deeds to public view.  Is there any hope for us?  Yes, says Paul.  The law condemns us, it is true, but the law is not the basis of our hope.  God himself is.  He, in his righteousness and wonderful love, offers us eternal life.  We receive our salvation not through law but through faith in Jesus Christ.  We do not—cannot—earn it; we accept it as a gift from our loving heavenly Father.  (NLT)

Romans 3:1 – Then what’s the advantage of being a Jew?  Is there any value in the Jewish ceremony of circumcision?

* God uses whatever gifts you have

Tabitha made an enormous impact on her community by “always doing kind things for others and helping the poor,” by making coats and other garments.  When she died, the room was filled with mourners, very likely many of the people she had helped.  And when she was brought back to life, the news raced through the town.  God uses great preachers like Peter and Paul, but he also uses those who have gifts of kindness like Tabitha.  Rather than wishing you had other gifts, make good use of the gifts God has given you.  (NLT)

Acts 9:36-42 – There was a believer in Joppa named Tabitha (which in Greek is Dorcas).  She was always doing kind things for others and helping the poor.  About this time she became ill and died.  Her friends prepared her for burial and laid her in an upstairs room.  But they had heard that Peter was nearby at Lydda, so they sent two men to beg him, “Please come as soon as possible!”

So Peter returned with them; and as soon as he arrived, they took him to the upstairs room.  The room was filled with widows who were weeping and showing him the coats and other garments Dorcas had made for them.  But Peter asked them all to leave the room; then he knelt and prayed.  Turning to the body he said, “Get up, Tabitha.”  And she opened her eyes!  When she saw Peter, she sat up!  He gave her his hand and helped her up.  Then he called in the widows and all the believers, and he showed them that she was alive.

The news raced through the whole town, and many believed in the Lord.

* Two gifts God gives to new believers

The Holy Spirit guarantees that we belong to God and will receive all his benefits.  The Holy Spirit guarantees that salvation is ours now, and that we will receive so much more when Christ returns.  The great comfort and power the Holy Spirit gives in this life is a foretaste or down payment (“first installment”) of the benefits of our eternal life in God’s presence.  With the privilege of belonging to God comes the responsibility of identifying ourselves as his faithful servants.  Don’t be ashamed to let others know that you are his. (NLT)

2 Corinthians 1:21-22 – It is God who gives us, along with you, the ability to stand firm for Christ.  He has commissioned us, and he has identified us as his own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the first installment of everything he will give us.

* God gives us good gifts that he wants us to enjoy

James 1:17 – Whatever is good and perfect comes to us from God above, who created all heavens’ lights.  Unlike them, he never changes or casts shifting shadows.

* Unique gifts to contribute to strength and health

All believers in Christ belong to one body; all are united under one head, Christ himself.  Each believer has God-given abilities that can strengthen the whole body.  Your special ability may seem small or large, but it is yours to use in God’s service.  Ask God to use your unique gifts to contribute to the strength and health of the body of believers. (NLT)

Ephesians 4:4-7 – We are all one body, we have the same Spirit, and we have all been called to the same glorious future.  There is only one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and there is only one God and Father, who is over us all and in us all and living through us all.  However, he has given each one of us a special gift according to the generosity of Christ.

* Are you using the gifts in ways pleasing to you and to God?

In opposition to the false teachers, Paul affirmed that everything God created is good.  We should ask for God’s blessing on his created gifts that give us pleasure and thank him for them.  This doesn’t mean that we should abuse what God has made (for example, gluttony abuses God’s gift of good food, lust abuses God’s gift of love, and murder abuses God’s gift of life).  Instead of abusing, we should enjoy these gifts by using them to serve and honor God.  Have you thanked God for the good gifts he has given?  Are you using the gifts in ways pleasing to you and to God? (NLT)

1 Timothy 4:4, 5 – Since everything God created is good, we should not reject any of it.  We may receive it gladly, with thankful hearts.  For we know it is  made holy by the word of God and prayer.

* Use well your abilities and gifts

At the time of his ordination, Timothy had received special gifts of the Spirit to enable him to serve the church.  In telling Timothy to “fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you,” Paul was encouraging him to persevere.  Timothy did not need new revelations or new gifts; he needed the courage and self-discipline to hang on to the truth and to use the gifts he had already received.  If Timothy would step out boldly in faith and proclaim the Good News once again, the Holy Spirit would go with him and give him power.  When you use the gifts God has given you, you will find that God will give you the power you need.

Clearly Timothy’s spiritual gift had been given to him when Paul and elders had laid their hands on him and set him apart for ministry.  God gives all Christians gifts to use to build up the body of Christ, and he gives special gifts to some through church leaders, who serve as God’s instruments.

Timothy was experiencing great opposition to his message and to himself as a leader.  His youth, his association with Paul, and his leadership had come under fire from believers and nonbelievers alike.  Paul urged him to be bold.  When we allow people to intimidate us, we neutralize our effectiveness from God.  The power of the Holy Spirit can help us overcome our fear of what some might say or do to us, so that we can continue to do God’s work.

Paul mentions three characteristics of the effective Christian leader: power, love, and self-discipline.  These are available to us because the Holy Spirit lives in us.  Follow his leading each day so that your life will more fully exhibit these characteristics. (NLT)

2 Timothy 1:6-8 – This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you.  For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.  So you must never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord.  And don’t be ashamed of me, either, even though I’m in prison for Christ.  With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the proclamation of the Good News.

* – God gives us gifts so we can build up his church.  To use them effectively, we must (1) realize that all gifts and abilities come from God; (2) understand that not everyone has the same gifts; (3) know who we are and what we do best; (4) dedicate our gifts to God’s service and not to our personal success; (5) be willing to utilize our gifts wholeheartedly, not holding back anything from God’s service.

God’s gifts differ in nature, power, and effectiveness according to his wisdom and graciousness, not according to our faith.  God will give spiritual power necessary and appropriate to carry out each responsibility.  We cannot, by our own effort or willpower, drum up more ability and thus be more effective teachers or servants.  These are God’s gifts to his church, and he gives faith and power as he wills.  Our role is to be faithful and to seek ways to serve others with what Christ has given us.

Look at this list of gifts and imagine the kinds of people who would have each gift.  Prophets are often bold and articulate.  Servers (those in ministry) are faithful and loyal.  Teachers are clear thinkers.  Encouragers know how to motivate others.  Givers are generous and trusting.  Leaders are good organizers and managers.  Those who show kindness are caring people who are happy to give their time to others.  It would be difficult for one person to embody all these gifts.  An assertive prophet would not usually make a good counselor, and a generous giver might fail as a leader.  When you identify your won gifts (and this list is far from complete), ask how you can use them to build up God’s family.  At the same time, realize that your gifts can’t do the work of the church all alone.  Be thankful for people whose gifts are completely different from yours.  Let your strengths balance their weaknesses, and be grateful that their abilities make up your deficiencies.  Together you can build Christ’s church. (NLT)

Romans 12:1-8 – And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God.  Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will accept.  When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask?  Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.  Then you will know what God wants you to do and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is.

As God’s messenger, I give each of you this warning: Be honest in your estimate of yourselves, measuring your value by how much faith God has given you.  Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body.  We are all parts of his one body, and each of us has different work to do.  And since we are all one body in Christ, we belong to each other, and each of us needs all the others.

God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well.  So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out when you have faith that God is speaking through you.  If your gift is that of serving others, serve them well.  If you are a teacher, do a good job of teaching.  If your gift is to encourage others, do it!  If you have money, share it generously.  If God has given y9u leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously.  And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

* Use abilities and gifts regularly in serving

As a young leader in a church that had a lot of problems, Timothy may have felt intimidated.  But the elders and prophets encouraged him and charged him to use his spiritual gift responsibly.  Highly skilled and talented athletes lose their abilities if their muscles aren’t toned by constant use, and we will lose our spiritual gifts if we don’t put them to work.  Our talents are improved by exercise, but failing to use them causes them to waste away from lack of practice and nourishment.  What gifts and abilities has God given you?  Use them regularly in serving God and others.

We know the importance of watching our life closely.  We must be on constant guard against falling into sin that can so easily destroy us.  Yet we must watch what we believe (“teaching”) just as closely.  Wrong beliefs can quickly lead us into sin and heresy.   We should be on guard against those who would persuade us that how we live is more important than what we believe.  We should persevere in both. (NLT)

1 Timothy 4:14-16 – Do not neglect the spiritual gift you received through the prophecies spoken to you when the elders of the church laid their hands on you.  Give your complete attention to these matters.  Throw yourself into your tasks so that everyone will see your progress.  Keep a close watch on yourself and on your teaching.  Stay true to what is right, and God will save you and those who hear you.

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