Using Our Spiritual Gifts

The story is told of a time several decades ago when the work of a lumberjack was all done by hand.  In this story, the biggest and the best of all the lumberjacks in this one particular camp was a tall, strapping Swede by the name of Sven.  No one could chop down more trees in a day than Sven.  No one could buck up more cords of wood in a day than Sven.  He was the king of the lumberjacks.

3 leaf clover

One day a salesman comes into the camp and asks who is the best lumberjack in the camp.  Everyone directs him to Sven.  The salesman goes up to Sven and ask him to try out a brand new product that he is selling.  “This chainsaw will help you to cut more wood and do it easier than you could ever do by hand.”  So Sven agrees to try out the new machine.  A few days later, the salesman returns to the camp and asks Sven how much wood he cut with the chainsaw.  “That machine is a piece of junk,” roared Sven.  “I had to work harder than I ever did before and I only down half as much wood as I usually do.  There’s no way I would ever buy one of your chainsaws.”  The salesman says, “There must be something wrong.  Let me take a look at that chainsaw.”  He carefully checked it over.  The chain was still sharp.  The tension on the chain was good.  There was no visible damage.  So he set it down, turned on the switch, set the choke and pulled on the starting rope and the chainsaw roared to life. “Brooooooooooommmmmmmmm”  Sven immediately clasped his hands over his ears and hollered, “What’s that noise? What’s that noise?”

Sometimes, it is hard to love God, love people and serve the world.  Sometimes it feels like trying to cut down trees with a chainsaw that isn’t running.   We are working as hard as we can and it feels like nothing is getting done.  All that is happening is that we are getting tired and worn out, frustrated over a lack of effectiveness and perhaps even a little burned out.

But there is a solution for this problem.  God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit has given every believer at least one tool for use in his kingdom.  All of us who trust in the three-in-one God have been given a spiritual gift.  “A spiritual gift is a special ability that God gives, according to his grace, to each member of the body of Christ to be used for the development of the church.”[1] For the past two Sundays, we have been looking at spiritual gifts and why we should discover, develop and use our spiritual gifts.  Today is the third period of the hockey game and I would like to add to what Pastor Karl has already shared with you by looking at the benefits of using our spiritual gifts.  For the discovery, development and use of our spiritual gifts can help us and our church to be healthier, more effective and have greater joy. I would go even further and say that it is only as we use the spiritual gifts that God has given us in the way God intended for them to be used that we will have the rich, full abundant life that God intends for us to have.

A 3 leaf clover & the Trinity

Today is Holy Trinity Sunday, a day when we remember that the God we worship is a three-in-one God.  Centuries ago, when he was telling the people of Ireland about this three-in-one God and what that God has done for us, St. Patrick used to use a three leaf clover to teach about the Trinity. Just as a three leaf clover has 3 distinct leaves and yet is one plant, so also God is three distinct persons and yet is one God.  God is Father,  Son, and Holy Spirit.  And in the book, The 3 Colors of Ministry, author and researcher Christian Schwarz notes that there are corresponding three-in-one patterns elsewhere.  Just as God is Father, Son and Spirit, so also there are 3 corresponding works of God:  Creation, Calvary and Pentecost.  Schwarz then takes three colours and uses them to Trinitarian aspect of many different things in life.  He uses green

3 Works of God

to identify those things associated with God the Father and his work of creation.  He used red to identify those things associated with God the Son and his work on Calvary.  And he uses blue to identify those things associated with God the Holy Spirit and his work that began in a major way on the first Pentecost Sunday.  And the colours fit:  green is the colour of the green grass and the leaves on the trees in the Father’s creation.  Red is the colour of the blood that Jesus shed on the cross.  And blue is the colour of water and that is fitting for the Holy Spirit and his work because Jesus once described the Holy Spirit as a “spring of water welling up to eternal life” within us (John 4:14).  Schwarz then uses these three colours – green, red and blue – to show the three-in-oneness of things like:

  1. The three dimensions of life:  body, soul, & spirit
  2. The three conversions:  people from the world are converted to Christ, people who believe in Christ are converted to serve in his church, & people from the church are converted to go and love and serve the world so that others may be converted to Christ
  3. The three authorities:  science, Scripture & experience
  4. The three tendencies:  liberal, evangelical & charismatic
  5. The three dangers: syncretism, dogmatism & spiritualism
  6. The three dimensions of ministry
    1. There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. (1 Cor. 12:4) Based on this verse and elsewhere in Scripture, we see that spiritual gifts are associated with the Holy Spirit and with the power for doing ministry
    2. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. . (1 Cor. 12:5) Service is associated here with the Lord, and we most frequently associate that title with Jesus, and service is associated with  commitment
    3. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. (1 Cor. 12:6 ) The word  “working” here relates to the effects, and let’s assume for the sake of discussion that “God” here refers to God the   Father.  It takes wisdom to apply gifts and service in a way that produces effects and so Schwarz has chosen the word wisdom to describe this third dimension of ministry.3 dimensions of ministry
    4. So the three corresponding dimensions of ministry are wisdom, commitment and power.
3 dimensions of ministry in balance

The ideal would be for each of us to have these three dimensions of ministry in balance.  But the reality is that most of us are out of balance.

  1. A person who is strong in the area of wisdom but weak in the areas of commitment and power could be described as a  sceptical believer, someone who asks the right questions
    Cynical believer

    but never commits or produces spiritual fruit.  A person in the Bible who fits this description would be  Thomas.

  2. A person who is strong in the area of commitment but weak
    Controlling believer

    in the areas of wisdom and power can be a controlling believer like Martha who is dedicated but lacks the wisdom to discern that the appropriate timing for activities and misses opportunities for spiritual refreshment as a result.

  3. A person who is strong in the area of power but weak in the areas of wisdom and commitment can be a spiritualizing believer like Martha’s sister Mary who loves to spend time with Jesus but may leave too much of the planning and the serving to others.

    Spiritualizing believer
  4. Someone who is strong in the areas of wisdom and commitment but weak in the area of power could be described as a burnt out believer like Moses who is knowledgeable and dedicated but lacks the power they need to carry out their commitments.

    Burnt out believer
  5. Someone who is strong in the area of commitment and power but weak in the area of wisdom could be described as a fanatical believer like Peter who often acted without thinking.

    Fanatical believer
  6. Someone who is strong in the area of power and wisdom but weak in the area of commitment could be described as a detached believer, someone like Jonah who knows what to do and whose life has the potential to bear fruit if only they would commit to doing what God calls them to do.

    Detached believer

Are you seeing yourself in one of these situations?  If you are, the Good News is that discovering, developing and using your spiritual gifts can help you to become a more balanced believer:

  1. If you are a sceptical believer, you can use your wisdom to connect the gifts you discover with ministries in which you will serve.
  2. If you are a controlling believer, you can commit to using wisdom to choose to serve in ministries which fit with your gifts
  3. If you are a spiritualizing believer, you can be more effective with your power by connecting it to concrete tasks in a strategic way.
  4. If you are a burnt out believer, discovering your spiritual gifts and paying attention to what God is saying to you through your emotions can make a dramatic difference in your life.
  5. If you are fanatical believer, pay attention to the “theory” of spiritual gifts, even if you don’t like it, because the wisdom of the theory may be exactly what you need for spiritual growth.
  6. If you are a detached believer, you may already be involved in ministry, but your ministry is in areas chosen exclusively by you.  Commit yourself to other people and use your gifts and wisdom in service to them and watch yourself grow.

Last Sunday, we gave you a tool to help you discover your spiritual gifts.  We handed out a spiritual gift inventory and asked you to fill it out and score it.  And today, if you brought the little slip of paper with your results, we will be gathering those pieces of paper during the offering time.   And we are doing that so when we have opportunities for people to serve in certain areas of ministry, we know who gifted for serving in that area.  We can do our part to match people with the ministries for which they were gifted by God.

But it is not Walnut Grove Lutheran Church’s responsibility to discover, develop and use your spiritual gifts.  That is a responsibility that God has given to you.  And my encouragement to you today is, if you haven’t already done it, to fill out this Spiritual Gifts Inventory and discover what spiritual gifts you have.  Then I encourage you to try serving in areas of ministry that fit with your gifts.  Take a trial run and see if it is something that is fulfilling for you and builds up others in faith.

And here is the good news:  God has already given us here are Walnut Grove Lutheran Church all that we need to carry out the mission that he has given us.  All the gifts that we need to know and make know God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all here.  And God has already given each one of you the gifts that you need to carry out the calling that he gives you.

My hope and my prayer is that each and every one of us would be able to serve in a ministry that uses the gifts that God has given us.  That is how we as a church, and as individuals, can be healthier, more effective and have greater joy.    And if all of us at WGLC discover, develop and use our spiritual gifts in ministry, as people encounter us in everyday life, or as they come and join us for worship and fellowship, they will notice that there is something different here.  Perhaps they will say something like, “What’s that noise?  What’s that noise?”  And we can say, “That’s the sound of God’s people using their spiritual gifts to grow God’s kingdom!”  Amen

(Shared at Walnut Grove Lutheran Church, Langley BC on 30 May 2010.)

[1] Christian A. Schwarz, The 3 Colors of Ministry:  A Trinitarian approach to identifying and developing your spiritual gifts (The International Centre for Leadership Development and Evangelism:  Winfield BC, 2001), 42.

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