As a new year begins, it is time to assess what our focus is for this New Year. Notice I did not say new year’s resolutions. Those often get abandoned by Valentine’s Day. Last year I picked a word to define my year, influence.
I also challenged others to do the same. Out of that sharing, I wrote some devotions on those words. It was a fun and challenging faith-forming exercise. This year I have picked a verse to guide me this year, Romans 12:6-8. If that verse does not immediately pop up in your head do not worry.
Here is the verse,
“Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.”
In my working with so many people and churches, I have discovered that we have many people who do not use their spiritual gifts. And we have many other saints who have no idea the gifts God has blessed them to develop and implement. It is my goal this year to help as many people as possible to understand they have gifts that God’s kingdom needs. God has blessed me with gifts, and I want to use the gifts He gave me in service to others.
This illustration was a powerful reminder that our gifts must always be viewed through the lens of Christ.
A friend told me of an extraordinary manufacturer who gave each of his employees a hanging mirror and a handsome reproduction of the head of Christ for Christmas one year. The Christian businessman presented the gifts personally with these instructions: “Hang the mirror on one side of the room and the picture of Christ directly across the room so that when you look in the mirror, you will see the face of Christ along with yours.” Then this pensive admonition: “It’s going to take both to get you through.”
We All Have Gifts
“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” (Romans 12: 3)
In verse 3 where Paul mentioned “the grace given to me.” Please hear me when I say this “every member is gifted in some way to serve and build up the body of Christ.” The key is that we are gifted for a reason, to serve God and others and in doing so we are building up the body of Christ. Notice I didn’t say we are growing our church, nor that we are increasing worship attendance or the money in the offering plate. We are gifted and serve to build up the body of Christ. The gifts we receive originate in grace (charis), which means they are freely imparted at the generous will of the giver, the Holy Spirit.
As Paul writes to the church in Corinth,
“All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.”
I love this quote. “Grace-gifts are manifestations of the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit—he not only gives the gifts “just as he determines” (1 Cor. 12:11) but he also empowers their use “for the common good” (1 Cor. 12:7).”
It is my prayer for every believer this year for us to use the gifts imparted on us by the Holy Spirit. Imagine what our families and our churches would look like if every member were busy using their gifts for the common good? What a powerful witness that would be to our towns, neighborhoods, and community.
Rev. B. Keith Haney is Assistant to the President for Missions, Human Care, and Stewardship of Iowa District West. He has been an ordained pastor for twenty-seven years and has served multi-ethnic urban congregations in Detroit, St. Louis, and Milwaukee. He is the author of numerous devotionals, including One Nation under God: Healing Racial Divides in America. He is married to Miriam (Bickel) Haney, and they have six children and two grandchildren.