Exercise for Your Soul - Romans 12:6-8 - Nate Heitzig
Well, good morning, and welcome to Calvary Church.
[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]
Go ahead and turn in your bibles to Romans chapter 12. We're going to be in verses 6 through 8 this morning, for a message I've titled Exercise for Your Soul, as we continue in our series Heart and Soul.
You know, I've discovered that America is absolutely obsessed with exercise and fitness, right? You just got to go on Instagram and see the countless people who record themselves exercising, and millions of people follow those accounts to watch them exercise. It seems that there's a new gym opening up every single day, and each one has some unique thing to get you to exercise. There's tons of exercise videos and routines, from Jillian Michaels to CrossFit, from running to literally there's one called Shaun T's Hip Hop Abs. There's Boot Camp to P90x.
The list goes on and on and on. And I think, in the past five years, my wife and my mom have probably done about 30 of them combined. I mean, there's so many things out there. Under the exercise and fitness movie section on Amazon, there are 9.060 different titles, ranging from Pussycat Dolls Workout to literally Tai Chi for Older Adults-- just in case you were wondering. There's also David Carradine's Kung Fu Workout. And my favorite, I Hate to Exercise, But I Love to Tap. Those are words I never thought I would hear in one sentence-- if I'm honest, I don't really like either.
If you search fitness on Google, you're going to get one 1,130,000 results ranging from gyms, workout routines, workout equipment, and even a website called Pet Fitness that focuses on tools to manage your dog and cat's weight. So if you have a plump Rottweiler, you know where to go.
And yet-- this is what's so funny-- despite all that, we as America are the most obese nation in the world. We love to watch people working out online. We love to buy videos of people working out. We love to read about working out. But we don't actually like to exercise.
Isn't that ironic that we love to-- oh, yeah, I'll follow that person. Oh, look at how they're exercising. Oh, look at this video of exercise. Oh, there's some new gym. But we don't actually want to exercise.
When you go to the gym and you look at all the workout equipment, the trainers will always tell you that the key word is balance. That is to say, you want to have a balanced workout. You want to workout all aspects of your body for overall performance. You don't want to have giant biceps and little twigs for legs. You don't want to skip leg day.
You don't want to be this guy. It's not a good look. And look, even sometimes Superman forgets leg day. Gosh, man, he's fallen so far.
It's important to exercise each muscle for the good of the whole body. You want your entire body to work in unison. And the only way to be physically fit is to make sure that you're exercising each and every member. The same could be said of the body of Christ. As a Christian, we are to exercise the gifts that God has given us.
And there is a place for everyone and each person's contribution is significant. And the key for a healthy spiritual body is the same as the physical one-- balance. As we talked about last week, each and every one of us are a different part of the body. But it's important that each part exercises the gifts that they've been given in proportion to the rest of the body, so that the whole body can be fit for the goal for which God has intended us to fulfill. Each gift has to be exercised in unison by the corresponding member.
Last week, we talked about the relevance. We talked about the need for the gifts of the Holy Spirit today. And remember, we said that the gifts are not the goal, the gifts are the gateway. The gifts aren't toys to play with, they're weapons to fight with. They're tools to build with.
And yet some people get so sidetracked with the gifts to the point of becoming even more obsessed with the gifts than the giver himself-- more obsessed with the gifts than with Jesus himself. And a problem arises when believers begin to follow signs and wonders instead of signs and wonders following believers. When we read of the believers in the New Testament in Acts, signs and wonders follow them wherever they went. They were on a search to try to find more signs and wonders.
And yet some Christians can get so weird, can't they? See, we should be following Jesus. And as we follow Jesus, the gifts-- the signs and wonders-- should follow us. And yet some believers are so mystic about everything. They're on this quest for miracles, and everything has to be spiritual.
It's like, where are we going to go to lunch today after church? I don't know. I need to wait to hear from the spirit. Hold on. Let me-- the Spirit-- I smell something. The Spirit-- it's Mexican food. He wants us to go to Taco Cabana after church today.
Or they're like, where should I go? What should I do? I don't know. And they're sitting there staring at the window, and a bird flies across the window from the north. God wants us to go to the north. The bird came from the north.
And everything's weird. And you just don't want to be around them, because like, bro, you're just strange. Everything's hyper-spirtual with you, and you're just kind of weird. So we don't want to be around you.
And yet we already discovered, last week, Pastor Skip-- or not last week, the week before-- talked about the way to find God's will in your life isn't some mystic search, where you're waiting for a sign for what to do. But if you're loving God with all your heart, soul, and mind, then you can just do what you want. Why? Because if your heart, soul, and mind are completely devoted to God, the things that God wants you to do will be the things that you want to do in turn.
It's not a mystic quest and search for signs and wonders where to follow Jesus. And in turn, he's going to lead us to where he wants us to go. We've already seen that God has given-- or God wants to give-- a spiritual gift or gifts to you. Romans 12:6 begins by saying, "having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them."
And here in the verse that follow, Paul lays out for us a list of seven different gifts that you might have. And we're going to examine those here in a second. We're going to read through those gifts, and we're going to quickly explain what each one is in our first point, explaining the different gifts. And then we're going to look at our second point, exercising your distinct gifts, as we help you discover what your gifts are, and we talk about what it means to develop the gifts that God has already given you.
So let's dive into our first point, explaining the different gifts. And let's read versus 6 through 8 together. "Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them." If prophecy, let us prophesy 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."
Again, here in versus 7 through 8, Paul shares with us a list of seven gifts of the Spirit. Now, this is not a complete list-- an exhaustive list. And we're going to talk about that in a little bit. But it's a good start.
And the first gift that He starts with is prophecy. Look at verse 6. He says, "if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith." Now, what is prophecy? Well, the Old Testament defines it as to bubble forth or to lift up-- to declare a message like a banner. The New Testament definition is to speak for one another.
First Corinthians 14:3 defines it this way-- "He that prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to all men." When you think of prophecy, what comes to mind? For me, when I hear prophecy, I think of a foretelling of the future-- somebody who's able to see the future and tell somebody, hey, this is going to happen. And when they say it, it will come to pass, correct?
That's what we think of when we think of prophecy, such as Agabus the prophet who warned Paul of his imprisonment if he were to go to Jerusalem. He warned Paul, hey, if you go to Jerusalem, you're going to be captured-- you're going to be put in prison. And he used that gift of prophecy to edify, to exhort, and to comfort Paul, so Paul would know what might lay ahead.
But as the definition says, to speak for one another, I found prophecy most often comes into play in our day and age where you're in the course of a normal conversation. Maybe you're out to coffee or lunch with a friend, maybe somebody's come to you and asked for your advice on a situation-- they want counsel on a particular subject. And in the course of conversation, you feel a burden-- a tug on your spirit that God wants you to share something with that person.
The Holy Spirit supernaturally reveals to you information about someone that you did not previously know. Have you ever been to coffee with a friend or lunch with a friend, and in the middle of the conversation, you just feel that burden on your heart. Like, man, I need to tell them something. I feel that the Holy Spirit is leading me to tell them something.
And I don't know if he has anything to do with their situation, I don't know if it's crazy, I don't know if it's going to make sense to them, but I'm just going to share it. And you share it with them, and their mouth drops. Where's the hidden camera? Where's the microphone? Have you been watching me all week long?
How did you know that about my life? And they began weeping and sobbing. And there this moment where they say, you have no idea, but what you just said is exactly what I've been going through. And it's almost as if God himself sent you to share this message with me.
Well, that could be the exact case. God might have sent you to have that conversation with that person at that time, to edify, exhort, and to comfort them in what they're going through. That is the gift of prophecy at work within your life. You know there have been times when I've been teaching, and the Holy Spirit has completely redirected me, and I've shared words that weren't in my message, weren't written down. And He used those words that were seemingly custom-made for somebody to speak to exactly what they were going through.
I've had people come up to me, either right after a service or weeks later when they listen to the podcast, and said, Nate, what you shared was exactly what I was going through. It was as if God was speaking directly to me. And that's prophecy. When God uses a human vessel to speak a message that God wants to share directly with that person through another person.
So if you've ever had somebody share with you a message that you feel like God specifically told you, you can't say, I've never heard God speak. Because you have. Maybe not a voice popping out of heaven, but you have heard God speak to you through the vessel of another person through the gift of prophecy. That is prophecy-- God speaking a message to us through a human vessel.
Now, let me tell you what prophecy isn't. Because I think in our day and age we see more of what prophecy is not, rather than what prophecy is. Paul tells us, "The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets." Now, what does that mean, because that just sounds like a weird Star Wars saying. Like, that's something Yoda would say.
(YODA VOIce) Mmm, the spirit of the prophets, they are. Something really weird like that. That's what that sounds like.
Well, what this means is simply that this or any other gift of the spirit is working through your life and your personality, not in some weird spirit-like trance. When God speaks through you, He uses your life and personality to do so. It's not like whenever the Holy Spirit's going to talk, all of a sudden your eyes roll up into your head, and you start shaking, and you have some weird deep voice-- don't go to Taco Cabana.
It's not some creepy, weird thing. If that's what happens, it's not the Holy Spirit speaking through you. You're not out of control over your faculties, such as your volume and your voice inflections. Also, you don't suddenly develop a Southern accent. And the name of Jesus doesn't change to "Gee-suhs."
I've literally had friends who, when they pray, it's like, and Lord "Gee-suhs," I just pray-- and I'm like, bro, you grew up in the South Valley. When did you get a Southern accent? Like, that's not the Holy Spirit, that's just weird. Stop being weird. That's not how the Holy Spirit works.
And unfortunately, in our day and age, because of what we've seen, what we've been exposed to through televangelists, through a lot of weird things, we have a skewed view of what the gifts are. We have a skewed view of how the gifts should operate. I said last week, there's a lot of controversy around the Holy Spirit, particularly around the miraculous gifts-- the gift of healings, the gift of tongues, the gift of prophecy.
And what I've seen happen-- and it's sad to me-- is that these gifts aren't used the way that they're meant to. These gifts aren't used in their proper order. These gifts aren't used to do what they were meant to do. And so what happens, because of the way we've been trained, because of what we've seen, because we've seen it used the wrong way, there's people in our midst who have these gifts-- there's people who God has gifted with the gift of tongues, gifted with the gift of prophecy, gifted with the gift of healings-- and yet they're hesitant to use those gifts.
They're scared of using those gifts, because they don't want to be perceived the wrong way by people who have seen the gifts used the wrong way. And they're terrified that if they use those gifts that God has given them, people are going to look at them the same way that they've looked at people who've used them the wrong way. And so were put into this place where we're not using the gifts that God has given us because we're scared of what it's going to look like, causing people who might genuinely have the gift to not use it.
See, in fact, many times, those things that we see people use aren't the result of the spirit but they're of the flesh. I would argue that a lot of people who use those gifts don't actually have those gifts. It's just a show. It's just an act to make them look more spiritual, wanting to draw unnecessary attention to yourself.
And many of the bizarre antics and behavior that we see today is nothing more than learned behavior. See, we have to be careful to not do anything for God to get the attention from people. Again, the purpose of the gifts is to edify, to exhort, and to comfort. The purpose of the gifts is to draw attention to God, to share his glory, and to speak a message in people's lives.
Which means that if you just get all willy-nilly with the gifts and use them-- and you're like, oh, yeah, I've never spoken in tongues, so I'm just going to start saying weird things, and no one's there to interpret those things and give an interpretation for the gift of tongues, that gift has not been used in its proper order. It's not being used to edify, to exhort, or to comfort. And in that case, you're actually doing more damage than you are good, because you're not using the gift in order.
And it might be that someone in your midst actually has that gift. And now, they're going to see you do that improperly, and they're going to choose not to use the gift properly out of fear for what it might look like, because of the way that you've used that gift. It's important that we don't do or say anything for God to get attention for ourselves, but that we use the gifts for the purpose in which they were intended-- to edify, to exhort, to comfort, to shine a light and a message upon who God is, upon what he's done, and to bring him glory.
Verse 6 continues, and it says, "in proportion to our faith." Literally, let no words be spoken but from the conviction that God gives him. Now, this isn't technically a gift. I've titled this believing. And I've made it a subpoint, because I believe it's an important part of whatever gifts He might or might not have given you.
This simply means that God has given you a measure of faith. God has given me a measure of faith. God's given all of us a measure of faith. And it's not the same measure. He's given some more and some less. But he's given each and every one of us a measure of faith, and you shouldn't do or say anything that you really don't have the faith to do or say.
Now, this completely flies in the face of the name it and claim it theology that so many subscribe to today, that tells you that you can go beyond your existing faith to the point of presumption. That if you say it out loud, it has to happen-- God's bound to it. That if you name it, you can claim it, and it's yours.
There's far too many people today who put their faith, their trust, in the words of "prophets." What someone has said on television-- some televangelist who says, the Lord told me that He wants a miracle in your life. And for just $100, I'll pray for that miracle. And people send their money in, because "the Lord said."
I had a lady call into Shock Therapy Live, a show I used to do on 88.3 years ago, and she called in sobbing. And she said, I've been sick for about 10 years, and I have a procedure that needs to be done. And I don't have the money to do it, because over those past 10 years, I've sent about $18,000 into televangelists on the TV who told me that if I gave them money, I would be healed. And then when I wasn't healed, I called them again, and they said, because you don't have enough faith. If you give us more money, we'll give you more faith. We'll pray for more faith.
And she called in desperation, saying, what's wrong with my faith? And we let her know there's nothing wrong with your faith, there's something wrong with those People There's something sick in their head. There's something wrong with those charlatans who are telling you that. There's something wrong with their theology. There's nothing wrong with your faith.
And we had to help her rework her theology, help her re-understand what she had been told. Ezekiel 13:3 says, "This is what the Sovereign Lord says, 'Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing. Their visions are false, their divinations a lie. They say, 'The Lord declares,' when the Lord has not sent them, yet they expect their words to be fulfilled.'" We have to be extremely careful, because Jesus warned us, in the last day, there would be an influx of false prophets.
But let me ask you this-- is it possible that God has given you a gift? But because of what you've seen, because of the way you've seen that gift mishandled, because you've seen people do this the wrong way, that it's keeping you from doing it the right way? That you're somewhat resistant to using this gift that God given you within your life, because you've seen it operated falsely?
Have you been to lunch or to a coffee with a friend-- have you had a friend talk to you about what's going on in their life-- and you felt a burden in your heart from the Holy Spirit to say something to them, and you held back because you didn't want to be seen as weird? Or you didn't want that person to laugh at you or think something weird of you?
Has God given you a gift that you have been yet to use because of the way you've seen it misused? We have to be careful. Because 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 says, "Do not quench the spirit. Do not despise prophesies. Test all things. Hold fast to what is good."
The next gift we see is the gift of serving. Look at verse 7. It says, "Or ministry, let us use it in our ministering." The NIV translates ministry as service-- in our serving, let us serve. In other words, if you're a servant, then do it.
Now, the gifts of service often take place behind the scenes. But if these gifts aren't done, everyone notices. For instance, we have, running this service, people running lights, people running sound, people running the video cameras, making sure that we have a webcast so that people on the audience can see. We have people who came in early this morning and cleaned up. If they didn't do what they did behind the scenes, you would notice.
Likewise, we had, last night, our heaters go out. They all died. And we had people here until 11 o'clock making sure that those heaters got fixed. If they didn't fix those heaters behind the scenes, you would noticed this morning.
Because it would be like 45 degrees in here, and you would all hate life. And you'd be begging for the fire of the Holy Spirit.
If we went to pass out communion but no one brought the juice or the bread, or filled the trays, and we were ready to pass out communion, but there was nothing in it. And we said, well, just have faith that it's there. You'd be like, but it's not. You'd notice.
Faithful servants make these and many more things happen around this church every single week. Without it, we couldn't function. It's a valuable gift.
The next gift we see is teaching. It says in verse 7, "He who teaches, in teaching." Now, the gift of teaching, we know, is a vital and much needed gift within the church today. And Hosea's cry still rings so true, "My people perish for lack of knowledge."
You can be a teacher, such as in a school, and not necessarily have the gift of spiritual teaching. But likewise, you can have a terrible fear of speaking in public and God can do something funny and give you the gift of teaching. It's funny how God works sometimes. He wants to work through our weaknesses. And sometimes he doesn't want to work in our strengths.
Sometimes the person who's really chomping at the bit to get on stage really doesn't have the gift of teaching. See, the gift of teaching is the ability to take the message of the Bible and make it understandable to others. The word teaching is a word that refers to systematic training. The gift of teaching isn't just operated on a stage, it can be operated in a kid's ministry classroom-- teaching, training kids to understand the word of God. It can be used with the youth-- teaching, training kids. It can be used in your home-- to teach, to train your family, to build your family up.
Isaiah 28:9-10 says, "Whom will he teach knowledge, and whom will he make to understand the message? For precept must be upon precept, line upon line." That's actually the verse that we got the name for our Wednesday night series we used to have years ago, called Line on Line. It was from that verse.
Preaching, on the other hand, is different than teaching. Teaching refers to systematic training. Preaching refers to an urgent proclamation. Now, it's possible that you can have both gifts within your life, and it's also possible to have only one.
Paul had both. He told Timothy, "I am appointed a preacher and a teacher." Now, if your gift in the church is to teach, then, first and foremost, you should be a student. Leaders are readers. Leaders are learners. And you can never be a leader unless you're willing to learn. You can never be a teacher unless you're willing to be a student.
If you feel like God has gifted you in this area, study. Begin to build yourself up upon what the word of God says. The Bible tells us, "The Holy Spirit will bring to remembrance whatsoever Jesus has said to us." This means, first and foremost, you have to know what Jesus said to you if you want the Holy Spirit to bring it to your remembrance.
You know, for a one hour sermon that I prepare and my dad prepares, there's probably about 24 hours of study or more that goes into it. You don't just get up and read, and ramble, and open the Bible. Some people do, but it's not great to listen to. Maybe it's not that great to listen to me-- I'm not sure.
But you need to study. You need to prepare. You need to learn. You need to dig into the word of God. You need to study to show yourself approved.
Billy Graham, who was one of the greatest communicators of our day and age-- sadly, he's no longer alive, and sadly many kids today don't even know who he was-- one of the greatest communicators and Bible teachers who's ever existed was asked, if he had to do it all over again, what would he change? And he said, I'd preach half as much and study twice as much.
The next gift we see is the gift of encouragement. Look at verse 8-- it says, "he who exhorts, an exhortation." Where teaching gives you the foundation-- gives you the nuts and bolts of working out the truths of God in your life-- the gift of exhortation makes you want to do it. The gift of exhortation makes you desire to grow. This is where I'm so thankful for all the incredible exhorters who live within our church through connect groups. The connect group leaders who want to take what we're teaching in the pulpit and exhort one another, encourage one another, to live it-- encourage one another to grow and be strengthened, to keep fighting the fight, to encourage each other when we fall down that it's OK to keep backup and keep trying again to build one another up.
And if you ask me, this is the biggest reason why being a part of a brick and mortar church is important. Because sure, you can watch services online, you can experience the gift of teaching online, but you can't experience the gift of exhortation unless you're in a room with other people who know you, who love you, who will exhort you and encourage you to keep fighting the fight, to keep running the race, to keep getting up. The word exhortation means to correct, to motivate, to encourage, and to stimulate. That's what the body of Christ is.
Paul and Barnabas visited one of their churches. In Acts 14:22 it says, "Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must, through much tribulation enter the Kingdom of God." Hebrews 10:24 says, "And let us consider one another to provoke and to love and to good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another. And so much the more, as you see the day approaching."
The next gift that we see as the gift of giving. Look at verse 8-- he says, "He who gives with liberality." Now, we know the scripture teaches that each and every believer should regularly give of their resources to the work of the Kingdom of God. But it's also true that God is given some the gift of giving-- the gift of generosity.
How do you know if you've been given the gift of giving? Well, one way to tell us if God has gifted you financially more than other people around you. If God is giving you the gift, the resources, of finance, then there's a possibility God has given you the gift of giving. God blesses us so that we can bless others. God blesses us so that we can be a blessing-- so that we can give, and give more, and continue to make an impact within people's lives.
Jesus said, "It's more blessed to give than to receive." God also promises that if we remember him with our tithe that he will rebuke the devourer for our sake, and open up the windows of heaven, and there will not be room enough to receive it. You know what I found with people who've been given the gift of giving? They can never outgive God.
God always pours back into them. God always gives back into them-- oftentimes in a greater capacity than they even gave out. And these people are so generous with what God has given them, and so God continues to give them more. You know they do with the more that God gives them? They use it to give more.
I have friends-- I people that I know who are incredibly wealthy, and I've had a friend of mine tell me before that he wants to get to a place where he can live off the 10% so that he can give the 90%, believing that as God gives him more, as God continues to pour into their lives, they can continue to use that to give more to others, to bless others, and to have a greater impact in the Kingdom of Heaven. And guess what? He who sows generously will reap generously. And he who so sparingly will reap sparingly.
1 Timothy 6:17, speaking about this exact topic, said this, "Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so they may take hold of the life that is truly life." That's the key to giving.
The last gift we see here on our list is the gift of caring. Look at verse 8-- "He who shows mercy, with cheerfulness." Again, the NIV translates this as caring. This speaks for caring for the sick, caring for the poor, caring for the aged, caring for the people, groups, the society that the rest of society has cast out and doesn't want to be a part-- those orphans, those widows, those who aren't cared for by the world.
We're so blessed to have a multitude of people in our fellowship who have been gifted with this gift of mercy. People like Holly Slade, who started Feed New Mexico Kids, people like Clay and Michelle Schroff who started projects like Aspen Project and Project Zoe, to care for those whose society doesn't. We have many more people like that who have this incredible gift, serving the needy.
And guess what? When you do it, it should be a delight, not a chore. How do you know if you have the gift of mercy? Well, if you find yourself constantly caring for those of you see who are without, for those of you see who are forgotten, for those who you see who are shut-ins and society doesn't care for-- if you care for them, and when you do so it brings you joy, you likely have the gift of mercy. Showing compassion to these people in a merciful way.
Now, if you do this ministry, you're not to do it out of bondage or duty, but with a real sense of cheerfulness. In other words, if you're going to minister to someone who's miserable, you better not do it in a miserable way.
You better be happy about it-- joyful about it.
Well, that's the list of seven that Paul gives us here. Now, I want to move on to our second point, exercising your distinct gifts. Look back at verse 6 with me-- he says, "Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them." And we're going to see two things here-- one, discovering your gifts, and then, two, developing your gifts.
I want to help you discover what your gifts might be. And I want to point out that this list, again, is by no means exhaustive. If you didn't see any of your giftings on that list, it doesn't mean that God hasn't gifted you. We have other lists in 1 Corinthians, in Ephesians. I don't know why Paul picks these seven for this passage in Romans or why he lists them in this order, but there's other gifts-- there's more than just these seven.
But none of these lists give us a complete list. And some of the gifts that we read of in Romans, even though they have a different name, seem to be the same gift that is listed in 1 Corinthians and Ephesians. For instance, the gift of administration and leadership appear to be the same gift. One is listed in 1 Corinthians 12:28, one here in Romans 12:8. The gift of helps and the gift of ministry and serving seem to be the same gift. One is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12, the other here in Romans 12.
Now, the big question, though, is, how do you discover what your gifts are? How do you find the ways that God has gifted you? Now, of course, you can take a spiritual gifts assessment, which we offer, and can be a good place to start. But I don't think it's the best way.
A spiritual gifts assessment can help get you started to identify things that you might have innately within you. But too often people trust these tests to lock in on a specific gift they didn't know they have. But what it actually does is it boxes them in, so that later on when someone says, hey, I've been watching you, and I think you have the gift of teaching. They say, no, no, no. I don't have that gift.
I took the test. I have the gift of helps. Thank you very much. I know my giftings. And it boxes you in so that you're not open to other possibilities and ways in which God wants to use you.
What are the ways that I find are the best to discover your gifts? Well, first and foremost, I think prayer-- asking God to reveal to you what gifts he's given to you. Then get involved. Start serving in a number of different ministries in a variety of different ways.
I've heard it said before, God only directs moving vehicles. So if you want God to direct you, start moving-- start serving. If God needs to redirect you, He's going to. Because I found that as you serve and serve in a number of different areas, you begin to discover that you enjoy doing some things more than other things. You find that your desires begin to steer you and say, man, I really love serving in that ministry. I really love doing that. Man, when I give a gift-- a big gift-- I just-- it fills me up with joy.
When I serve those who are needy and destitute, I feel a sense of joy. When I encourage people, and lead a connect group, and exhort them I feel joy. When I teach in kids ministry, I feel joy. You're going to find some things you love to do and some things you hate to do. And God uses our desires to direct us. Again, we already said before, what Pastor Skip shared, Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and then do what you want. Your desires will direct you if you're being true to what God has said.
Now, this doesn't mean that you're going to find your area of gifting easy to do. I find teaching God's word to be incredibly difficult and stressful at times. There's some texts that I really wrestle with and struggle with.
There's times when I get off the stage and I feel incredibly defeated and discouraged. I'm like, man, that was just a lousy message. I've heard my dad come off the stage on Saturday nights and say, that message just didn't hit. I just didn't feel like it was there. But like all hard work, there is satisfaction after the work is done. And also, when you serve in a certain area that you're gifted in, God will give a measure of blessing to others, and others will, in turn, give a measure of blessing to you and let you know how much your ministry meant to them.
When I began teaching the Bible in '19, I was terrible. It was so bad. I remember the first message I ever taught. It was in California, and I was driving on the 73 freeway, and I was listening to it on a CD player. And I pulled over on the side of the road, pulled it out of the CD player, crying, broke it in half, and threw it out the window so that no one would ever be forced to listen to that abomination ever again. I was like, this is so bad, this has to hide.
And yet I was surprised when people would come up to me, weeks later or months later, and tell me that God had used something I said in their lives to minister to them. And after this happened a few times, I began to discern that God might use me in teaching. Now, on the other hand, over the years, my efforts at personal evangelism have seen very little fruit.
I believe God has gifted me in large scale evangelism and altar calls. But when it comes to personal one-on-one evangelism, I haven't seen a ton of fruit. I can't report that I've seen a ton of people saved through personal evangelism. At least that I know of-- I might have planted a seed. But guys like Jesse Lusko are incredibly skilled and gifted at personal evangelism.
I'll talk to Jesse. And he'll say, man, I talked to this guy in a coffee shop. He told me he was an atheist. And then two weeks later, he's like, Nate, he's saved and he's serving at Westside. And I'm like, how do you do that?
It doesn't make sense. He's gifted and skilled at personal evangelism. But for me, teaching people to help them grow or understand the Christian life has often seen fruit in my life. So, based on that, I believe that God has gifted me as a pastor-teacher. Now, that doesn't mean I quit trying, that I stop evangelizing and say God hasn't gifted me in that. I keep trying. If I'm the one who sows the seed and guys like Jessie are the ones who get to experience the fruit, I'm OK with that.
Here's the final way to discern your gift-- and it might surprise you. What do you complain about at church? You're like, well, Nate, I have a list.
If you like, I can come on stage and read it aloud. And we can see if anyone else has my complaints as well. No, seriously, what do you complain about in church? Because people tend to complain in their area of giftedness. Gifted teachers complain that the teaching is weak. Those gifted in administration grumble about the Church being poorly organized.
Those gifted in mercy gripe that the church neglects the shut-ins. Those gifted in evangelism shake their heads at the lack of interest in outreach. And it goes on and on. And the solution, of course, is very simple-- quit complaining, and start serving.
Stop looking at the things you don't like and start volunteering and serving in the things, so that you can make them better. Start serving in your area of giftedness so that the church can improve in that area. Don't just point out problems, be the solution.
So once you've discovered your gifts, it's important that you follow the next step. And that's that you develop your gifts. And this is what exercise for the soul is all about-- exercising those gifts that God has given you. Once you know they're there, use them.
Even though the Holy Spirit gives them empowers the gifts, there is a need for the gifted to develop the gift. A gifted evangelist needs to study biblical evangelism and apologetics SO that they can improve their skill in proclaiming the gospel. A gifted teacher needs to study and learn throughout life. I already said, if you want to be a teacher, you need to be a student. A pastor needs to grow in their ability to shepherd people with grace and wisdom.
Timothy was in danger of not developing the gifting that God had given him, and Paul urged him in 1 Timothy 4:14, Do not neglect your gift, which was given to you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you." Also, in 1 Timothy 1:6, Paul said, "Fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands." Once you've discovered your gift, the most important thing you can do is to get busy. Start using it-- start doing it.
How do you learn how to ride a bike? Do you buy a book? Do you read the book? Do you underline things in the book, and highlight things, and after you're done reading the book say, I now know how to ride a bike?
No. The way you learn to ride a bike is you get on the bike and you do it. You practice. You might fall, but you get back up, and you keep doing it. That's how you learn how to ride a bike.
The same is true with the gift of the Spirit. The only way to learn how to use your gift is to practice doing it. You might fall, you might mess up, but you need to get back up. Keep practicing-- keep doing it.
Maybe right now you don't enjoy using your gift, but perhaps people are benefiting from it. And the more you do it, the more comfortable you'll get. You might fall the first few times, but that's the only way to learn.
Now, as we close, I want to point out that it's important to remember that almost all of the spiritual gifts that we've read have corresponding commandments for all believers. Which means that you can't opt out of doing some things because you say, well, I'm not gifted in that. So you can't say, Nate, I don't want to help stack chairs or help clean things up, because God's gifted me as an evangelist, and I just don't want to be a helper or a servant-- because I'm a gifted evangelist.
There is a gift of exhortation, but we're all called to exhort one another in the things of God. There is a gift of teaching, but we're all called to teach one another and to teach our children the truths of scripture. Some are gifted in evangelism, but we're all commanded to share Christ with the lost. Some are given the gift of service, but we all must serve.
There is a gift of mercy, but we should all be merciful to the suffering. There is a gift of giving, but we're all told to give with what God has entrusted to us. And you might ask, Nate, if that's the case, then what's the benefit of me knowing my specific gifts? If we're supposed to do them all-- if we're supposed to use them all anyways-- then why should I know my specific area of gifting? The answer is that it helps you know where to focus your time. It helps you know where to focus your effort so that you can have the greatest impact upon the Kingdom of God.
We see an Acts 6 a controversy arose in the early church, because the Hellenistic Jews felt that their widows were being overlooked by the Hebrew believers in the daily serving of food. And so we read in Acts Chapter 6:2, "So the Twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, 'it is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables.'" And so they directed them to find seven godly men who could take the care ministry to the widows, and then explained in Acts 6:4, "But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word."
It wasn't that serving tables was beneath the apostles, rather the apostles recognized that their gifts were in the realm of prayer and the teaching of the word, and they needed to focus their energy there. They needed to put their time, their focus, their energy into the gifts that God had given them and let other people focus on the gifts that God had given them, so that the body of Christ could have the greatest impact in the world that they were living in.
Look, we should all be looking for needs in the body. We should all be quick to help. No matter what your spiritual gifts are, if you're at a church event and the workers need help cleaning up, you don't have to have the gift of helps to pick up a vacuum and wipe some tables. And you shouldn't say, well, I can't do that because I'm a gifted teacher. So I don't want to pick up trash.
Just do it. Just be a servant. But if you have the gift of teaching, you shouldn't make cleaning up your main ministry. That's where the need for balance comes in. Learn your gifts, know your gifts, focus the majority of your time and energy on your gifts, and trust the other people in the body are going to do the same.
Still be willing to do the other things. Even if you're not a gifted evangelist, don't give up on evangelism. Even if you're not a gifted encourager, don't stop trying to encourage people. But focus your time and energy on where you're gifted.
I want to close by saying this as well-- when you exercise, when you work out, it's normal to get sore and to feel your muscles hurt in pain. It's normal to get done working out, and the next day, wake up and say, I never want to lift another dumbbell ever again. That hurt. I should stop.
But any good trainer will tell you that you need to push through the pain in order to see results, that the more you push through that pain, the greater results you're going to see. And you're going to get stronger-- you're going to get better because of it. It's going to get easier as you do it more.
And I recognize that there might be people in here today who are hurting. You're in pain. And you say, Nate, God's giving me the gift of encouragement, but I feel really discouraged right now. And so I don't want to pour it out. I don't want to be an encourager. I don't want to use my gift, because I've been hurt. I'm in pain. I'm feeling sore.
Let me just tell you, it's so important that you push through the pain. Because when you do, God pours something into you which is the opposite of what you thought you'd get. You say, man, I'm discouraged, I don't want to encourage. But if God's given you the gift of encouragement, when you do it, God's going to give you joy. He will give you joy when you use the gifting that he's given you. He will encourage you, as you use that gifting.
If God's given you the gift of a servant, and you say, man, I'm just tired. Do you know the amount of hours that I work? If you serve, God's is going to pour into you joy and rest that you didn't think you could get from doing the thing that you thought would be painful and hurtful for you. Operate in the gifting that God has given you, and God will pour back into you an abundance of blessing and mercy.
Lord, we thank you so much for your word. We thank you for the gifts that you have given to us. Lord, I pray that you would help each and every one of us to discover the giftings that you have put inside of our heart, that you would help us to serve, you would help us to find the area in which we're needed. And Lord, once we find that area, once we find that gifting, let us develop those gifts so they can be a benefit to the body.
In Jesus' name we pray, Amen. God bless, you guys. We'll see you next week.
How will you put the truths that you learned into action in your life? Let us know. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And just a reminder, you can support this ministry with a financial gift at calvarynm.church/gift. Thank you for joining us for this teaching from Calvary Church.