A year has gone by since I travelled to Cambodia, and God spoke to me about some new seasons. I wasn’t able to go on the trip this year, but came across this passage in [Romans 12:5-8] when putting together a presentation for others who were going.
“…so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them; if prophecy, let us prophecy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.”
At the time, the words reminded me of the Cambodian mission because of the unity of spirit that was present as we served. Whether as doctors, dentists, pharmacists or evangelists, each member faithfully carried out their tasks and together, we saw many people accept the good news of Christ.
Now as I read the passage again, and yet again, I see valuable instructions for how we can each serve according to grace wherever we are placed. A number of spiritual gifts are specifically mentioned, along with spirit-given perspective. Each of us, with our different gifts, can encourage and build up others.
. . .
Prophesy with Faith
[1 Corinthians 14:3-4] tells us that prophecy is for building up and encouraging others. Romans tells us to prophesy according to our faith, and [1 John 4:1] tells us to test everything against the character and word of God so that we will not be deceived by false prophets.
So then, prophecy is simply a declaration of who God is over someone else. When we prophecy in proportion to our faith, we base our words on the true and unchangeable Word of God, and we prophesy with faith that God will build up those He loves.
. . .
Ministry in Action
Ministry is ministering when it is put into action. There are titles for ministries to describe roles and tasks we can help with, but the spirit of ministering is not just in joining a team, but in a heart that genuinely desires to serve others. We see an example of this in Paul as he describes being hindered in his desire to visit the Roman church because of his needing to bring aid to the believers in Jerusalem [Romans 15:22-27]
If we have a thought about serving, let us also do it practically. That means we commit to do what we say we will do, and persist in serving where we are called to serve. It means that we serve others out of a heart that wants to see them blessed and transformed by the love of Christ.
. . .
We are given clear instructions to use what God has given us – to teach if we have something to teach, to encourage if we have an encouragement to give. Romans does not say “wait to be asked to use your gift”; it simply tells us to use it, and [1 Thessalonians 5:14] echoes these instructions:
“And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.”
Our different spiritual gifts, different testimonies and different life experiences are meant to be used to encourage. We can all learn from each other, and we can all encourage one another. Teach and encourage with humility, but let us not be afraid to speak the words and the testimonies God gives us!
. . .
A gift reluctantly given loses its impact. [2 Corinthians 9:7-8] says this:
“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”
Our giving is not about the amount we give, but like every other gift we can use in Christ, it reflects our heart. Do we give out of our surplus or out of duty? Or, do we understand that all things have been freely given to us in Christ, and give freely give our time, money, love and resources from the unceasing overflow of all we have in Him.
. . .
Lead with Diligence
Half-hearted leadership is messy and ugly. The Greek word used in the passage for “diligence” describes being earnest and persistent, giving it our all. When God called Moses to lead His people and Moses delayed with excuse after excuse, the Bible says “ the anger of the Lord was kindled” against him [Exodus 4:13-14].
In calling us to lead, God also helps us. He chose to speak through Moses even when Moses thought himself to be “slow of speech and of tongue” [Exodus 4:10]. So why not submit ourselves to God, even when the task to lead seems beyond us. We lead with diligence, and God will work His leadership through us.
. . .
When we look at Bible passages that speak about mercy, we see that it is often mentioned alongside compassion, forgiveness and kindness. Cheerful mercy is gladly given out in the understanding of the great mercy we have received from the hands of Christ. Colossians describes it well in showing how such mercy comes our a heart that loves.
“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.” [Colossians 3:12-14]
. . .
Looking at all these instructions as a whole, it seems there is one overarching theme – if God has given us a gift, use it! If God has given us opportunity, take it! As we use these gifts and take these opportunities, let us also remember that we do so in order to build each other up, and to give glory to our God!