"For by the grace given me I say to every one of you:
Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought,
but rather think of yourself with sober judgment,
in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.
Just as each of us has one body with many members,
and these members do not all have the same function,
so in Christ we who are many form one body,
and each member belongs to all the others.
We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.
If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.
If it is serving let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach;
if it is encouraging, let him encourage;
if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously;
if it is leadership, let him govern diligently;
if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully."
Paul begins this passage by telling the Romans to not think more highly of themselves than they should. Paul's basis for this statement was that he knew he had once been transformed from a man who had hated and tortured believers in the name of God into a missionary who introduced many people to Christ. He is reminding us we are all are sinners saved by a holy and righteous God not because we deserved it, but because it is His nature to bestow grace on people. It is because of this that God has called us and invited us into a relationship with Him allowing us to be called His children.
Next, he takes them to a more outward perspective as he reminds them they are all part of the body of Christ--the church. He reminds them the church is made up of many individuals who have different functions within the body. God gives each of us a unique blend of abilities, passions, desires, and experiences to do things that nobody else can do. He names some of the gifts in this passage (others are found in 1 Corinthians 12). The gifts that Paul lists are:
prophecy--telling forth the truth according to the word of God
ministering--coming along side of people and helping them
teaching--being able to understand and communicate God's word
exhortation--encouraging people to live obediently to God's word
giving--the ability to see needs and give abundantly to meet those needs
ruling--shepherding and helping believers mature
mercy--the ability to be merciful and forgiving beyond what is normal
Spiritual gifts even flow over into our everyday lives. The way a mature believer reacts to a situation is controlled in part by their spiritual gifts. For example, if a child spills his milk, the prophetic parent would confront him for his carelessness. The parent with the gift of ministry would quickly bend down and help the child clean up the mess. The parent with the gift of exhortation would exhort the child to be more careful in the future. The parent with the gift of teaching would try to discern why the milk was spilled and help the child see that by not filling the glass so full he could prevent a future spill. The parent who has the gift of mercy would care more that the child might be embarrassed and experience shame and try to alleviate the uncomfortable feelings. The parent with giving would be more concerned with replacing the milk spilled.
I had a friend named Cathy. And we decided for a period of time to study the Bible together. I was going through a rough patch and I needed that fellowship. She had the Spiritual gift of faith. When we first started meeting it was funny to me because she honestly shared how she could not understand how people had doubts about God because from the time she accepted Christ she had never doubted God, His love, or His sovereign plans for her life. We grew up in very similar family structures and didn’t experience Christ in our childhood homes. I loved her faith but I often found myself wrestling with the truths in the Word before they become a part of my core beliefs.
Every time we met I could show her things from the scriptures we were studying that she didn’t know. It was only because I had grown in my faith by struggling to trust God's words. She in turn often exhorted me to trust God in the ways I hadn't. During one of our early studies I encouraged her to give freedom to others to express their doubts and she would be able to see God use her gift to speak hope and faith into their lives. I definitely benefited from her faith as did many others. I could express my doubts to her freely without fear of rejection and know that she loved me doubting Thomas that I was. I knew she accepted me and loved the encouragement she spoke into my heart. I walked out of our studies always filled with hope and a whole new perspective on faith. She in turn was safe enough with me to tell me she didn’t know how to say something to someone who had doubts so we would look up Scriptures and find answers and figure out a way to speak hope in a way that was beneficial to the hearer. She often asked asked me for my insight into passages we read and when it was one that I had struggled through I could give her all the ramifications of what that passage had come to mean in my life. It was a really blessed Christ-centered, body-life relationship!
Let me ask you, what are your passions, gifts, and abilities? How can you use them to build up others in the body? Are you able to value your spiritual gifts and benefit from the spiritual gifts others as I did Cathy's? Do you value your spiritual gifts? Do you accept other's gifts as important as your own? Do you encourage others to use their gifts?
Prayer: Father, thank you for your grace and for taking each of us out of the muck that we use to live in. Thank you for gifting people with special abilities and placing them in the body of Christ as You desired. Thank you for the prophets, teachers, helpers, givers, and merciful people You have put in my life. Give each of us the courage and strength and insight to use our abilities and passions in ways that honors and glorifies You and build up the body. Amen.