What do you think of when you hear the phrase “spiritual gifts”? Many Westerners think of something they are good at, that they enjoy doing, and that benefits others. However, many Japanese might have a different idea. I think a typical Japanese Christian may agree with a sermon I once heard at a large Japanese church: “Spiritual gifts are to bless others, so there is no need for a person to know what gifts God has given them, in fact, it would be prideful to know your own gifts.” The pastor was encouraging the church members to serve wholeheartedly where they were asked to serve, and not worry about whether they enjoyed or even were good at a certain ministry.
I think that pastor went too far, and that he was neglecting the crucial task of helping people to discern the Holy Spirit’s equipping and leading in their own lives. But I also felt challenged by his call to “just serve.” I can get caught in the trap of gazing too long at my own heart and deciding how I will use my time based on my own desires and levels of joy. Of course there is a lot of joy as we work with the Lord in His harvest fields, but sometimes, we just need to roll up our sleeves and do something we may not feel especially gifted for.
Adjith Fernando, author and long-term Youth for Christ ministry leader in Sri Lanka, encourages us to focus on serving others in love, rather than focusing too much on our spiritual gifts. He says that while we should seek out what we like and feel competent at doing, we shouldn’t only do these things. And it’s often in doing the things that don’t come naturally where we find our character grows the most. (I highly recommend “Jesus Driven Ministry” for more of Fernando’s wonderful insights!)
For me, hospitality definitely falls under the category of something that doesn’t come naturally. I could easily say “I’m not gifted! I’ll do something else!” But I often feel like God is asking me to strengthen my hospitality muscles by inviting people over for a meal, and so I try to be intentional about cooking or baking for others on a regular basis.
What about you? How can you strengthen your _ muscles this week or this month? Fill in the blank with something that doesn’t come naturally to you but that you sense God may be asking you to do.
Let’s strengthen our spiritual-gifts muscles and work for the glory of God and the good of our neighbor. As we move out of our comfort zone, we may be surprised by the blessings God has in store for us too.
By Christina, an OMF missionary