Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Opening Your Spiritual Gifts (Day 11)

If you’re not sure what your spiritual gifts are, just do the next thing that the Church needs doing.

Don't get so hung up on finding your gifts that you fail to participate in the mission of the Church! Too many Christians say things like, "Someday I'll figure out what I can do for God." That leaves the Church with a lot of Christian thinkers, but very few Christian doers.

Joseph Sittler is one of my favorite Lutheran theologians. The Ohio native had a long and distinguished career as a teacher and writer, one that continued long after he “retired” and almost to his death as an aged man. Sittler was one of the first Christian thinkers to understand and write about the environment as a concern of Christian theology. The earth God gives to us, he argued, is something about which followers of Christ are called to care.

But how did Sittler become such an “expert” on the environment? He explained in later years that he hadn’t planned it. He had always loved nature and over time, picked up more and more information and insights until, lo and behold, he was an expert. It happened because he simply did the next thing that needed doing.

The motivation for finding one’s spiritual gifts isn’t to spend time in endless, self-obsessed navel-gazing. The gifts are tools God gives us to play our parts in the mission of the Church. But there are times when you simply use whatever tools you have at hand to do the task that needs doing.

Jack knew that his congregation was in need of Sunday School teachers. And although uncertain about what his gifts were, he also knew that he didn’t have the spiritual gift of teaching. But when no one else stepped forward, he volunteered, explaining to the Sunday School superintendent, “You’ll have to be patient with me and I promise to do the best I can.”

Jack was a fill-in teacher for two years, earning the undying gratitude of the Sunday School superintendent, learning a lot about God, and gaining respect from his students.

Jack still doesn’t have the gift of teaching. But he knows something very important: If Christians aren’t sure what their spiritual gifts are, they just do the next thing that the Church needs doing. God honors the efforts of those who “sin boldly” in this way.

Bible Passage to Ponder: “Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord...” (Colossians 3:23)

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