God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. [1 Peter 4:10 (NLT)]

great blue heronWhile writing about the spiritual gift of healing these last two days, I recalled a conversation about this spiritual gift with a pastor friend. I asked if anyone in his church was gifted with healing. He said no with a caveat: just because he knew of no one didn’t necessarily mean that no one had it. Having a gift doesn’t guarantee it will be used.

Take our Aunt Margaret, for example. When she died, we found several boxes of brand new shirts and nightgowns stashed in the corner of her closet. The same size and style as the stained and threadbare ones she always wore, they were birthday and Christmas presents we’d sent her through the years. Aunt Margaret’s receipt of her gifts didn’t mean she used them and receiving a gift from the Spirit doesn’t mean we’ll use it either!

Unlike Margaret’s gifts, spiritual gifts aren’t mass produced or come in a box from Macy’s. They are individual gifts God designs expressly for each person that are given to us when we become Christ’s servant. His gifts are capabilities like wisdom, teaching, encouragement, helping, administration, pastoring, giving, hospitality, evangelism, leadership or healing that enable us to build God’s Kingdom. If we are going to be good stewards of these gifts, we must both recognize and use them by responding when the Spirit offers us opportunities to do so. Unfortunately, willfulness, fear, and lack of faith often keep us from doing that.

Several years ago, in our small group at church, I met a troubled young woman who needed encouragement. At the Spirit’s urging, I surprised myself by offering to email her each day with an uplifting Bible verse. Originally, I expected the emails to stop when our group study ended. God, however, had other plans and, before I knew it, I was adding a few words to the day’s verse and sending out messages to sixty people. When a friend (one gifted with encouragement) urged me to post my devotions on a website, I pushed back in fear. Like Moses, I thought of all the reasons I was unqualified rather than trusting God to qualify me! Eventually, in obedience, I stepped out in faith, started using His gift and fulfilling the purpose He had for me. Now, more than six years, 2,000 devotions, and 500 followers later, I know the ability to do this is a God-given gift; I couldn’t do it on my own.

In Sunday school, the children sing, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine!” before asking, “Hide it under a bushel?” and answering with a rousing shout, “No!” What about our lights—those special gifts designed just for us and given to us by the Holy Spirit? Are we letting them shine? I’ve been a follower of Christ for a long time but it didn’t take the Spirit decades before He gifted me. It just took me decades to shine my light and use His gift as He intended!

Only God knows if anyone in that pastor’s church is gifted with healing. One day, however, we all will be asked to account for the way we used our spiritual gifts, whatever they may be. Let’s not make the mistake of hiding them under a bushel or leaving them ignored and unused in the corner of our hearts.

Your spiritual gifts were not given for your own benefit but for the benefit of others, just as other people were given gifts for your benefit. [Rick Warren]

The master said, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!” … To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. [Matthew 25:23,29 (NLT)]

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