“STEWARDS OF OUR GIFTS”

EPHESIANS 4:11-16; I PETER 4:10-11

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              If you have children, you may remember the first time you left them at home without a babysitter.  On that day in the Meyer family, we set our kids down in the living room and said, “Now here’s the deal.  We are not hiring a sitter.  We are putting Josh in charge.  We will be at such and such a house.  Here’s a number where we can be reached if there is an emergency.  Don’t call us unless it’s an emergency.  We will call while we are away to make sure everything is OK.  And, Jennifer, your brother is in charge.  That means you are to be in bed by 9:00 and you are to do what he tells you to do.  Do you understand?  And, Josh, you are to be in bed my 10:00, and you are to be nice to your sister.  If you two cannot get along, we will have to go back to hiring a sitter.  Do you understand?  Jennifer, one more time, who’s in charge?”

            “Josh, is in charge,” she said.

            A few years ago we discovered that Joshua’s being in charge went to his head, and he made his poor sister do all sorts of things while we were gone, from letting the dog out, to answering the phone, to getting him snacks.  They laugh about it now, but at the time it was not funny, particularly to Jennifer.

            Well, God says to you and me, “You are in charge.  All that I have created, I am putting in your hands, and the biblical term for being in charge is “stewardship,” and in this series we are looking at eight areas of our lives where God specifically puts us in charge.  Thus far we’ve looked at our being stewards of the earth, and stewards of our bodies.  Today we turn to being stewards of our gifts.

            As we turn to this topic - of being stewards of our gifts - I want us to think of a beehive.  As you may know honeybees have a highly developed social structure.  A beehive may house as many as 80,000 bees, each of which performs a specialized duty.  Some are forager bees that fly great distances to collect food.  Some are guard bees that protect the hive entrance from intruders.  Some are scout bees that keep the hive alert to opportunities and dangers in the outside world.  A few bees even serve as undertaker bees, responsible for removing dead bodies from the hive.  Others are water collectors.  They bring in moisture to regulate the hive’s humidity.  Some are plasterer bees that make a cement-like substance to repair the hive.  My favorite honeybees, however, are the scent fanners.  Scent fanners station themselves at the hive entrance and blow the scent outward so disoriented bees can locate their home base.

            Now, the bible illustrates this “beehive” principle many times, and one such place is in our passage from Ephesians.  Listen to these words.

 

            The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.

 

            Note, the primary job of pastors.  They are to equip the saints, the followers of Christ, for ministry.  That is to say, every believer has a job to do, a ministry to perform in God’s kingdom.  We are to be busy bees doing what we do best.

            Unfortunately, instead of beehive image firmly planted in our minds, the church has often adopted another guiding mage.  Let’s call it the “cruise ship” image.  If you have been on a cruise ship, you know that basically there are two types of people on a cruise: the crew and the passengers.  The passengers pay their money and expect the crew to do the work.  On a cruise ship it would be totally unexpected for the crew to start training the passengers to do the work.  Unfortunately, many of today’s churches operate more like a cruise ship than a beehive, especially the larger the church becomes.  That, however, is not what we find in the New Testament.  In the New Testament, the job of leaders is to train all members to do the work, to engage in ministry.

            When we came to Christ we did not sign up for a cruise.  When we gave our lives to Christ we signed up to become an active part of a beehive, where everyone has a particular job to do.  In the church every member is a minister.  Every member does some work of ministry.

            A church in Kansas City really has this down.  A friend of mine visited a congregation and after the service she asked the person sitting next to her in the pew, “I would like to talk to the minister.”  The person, who was a member of the church, understood the beehive image and replied, “Well, I’m one of the ministers here.  How can I help you?”

            So, if someone calls the church, and you happen to pick up the phone and the person on the other end says, “I would like to speak to the minister,” you have my permission and my blessing to reply, “Well, I’m one of the ministers here.  How can I help you?”

            And according to the bible, each of us have been given a spiritual gift which defines our job in the beehive.  Listen once again to the words of the Apostle Peter,

 

            LIke good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.

 

            The first thing the New Testament teaches about spiritual gifts is that every follower of Christ has one.  If you are a Christian you have been given a spiritual gift to use in the service of the body of Christ.  And a spiritual gift differs from a natural talent. 

            For example, since I was a little boy I liked to organize things.  I organized my baseball card collection.  I organized my record collection.  I have a natural talent for organization.  My spiritual gift, however, is not organization or administration, it’s what I’m doing now, in the pulpit.  You see, I never dreamed I would be doing something like this.  I never liked public speaking.  I was a basket case whenever I had to give an oral book report.  Years ago someone invited me to Toastmasters, where they teach you to become more comfortable with public speaking, and I thought I was going to die on the spot.  I never went back, and then in college, I came to Christ, and here I am.  This is not a natural talent.  The ability and desire to stand in front of you and talk about the things of God is a God-given gift.

            And the bible mentions twenty-seven spiritual gifts by name.  Paul mentioned five in the Ephesians passage, the gift of apostleship, prophecy, evangelism, pastoring and teaching.  Peter mentioned two in our passage for today: public speaking and service. Elsewhere in the bible, specifically in Romans 12 and I Corinthians 12, Paul names additional spiritual gifts.

            So, if you are a follower of Christ, God has given you a spiritual gift, a supernatural ability, in addition to your natural abilities, to build up and mature the body of Christ.

            Second, the bible tells us that as good stewards, we are to use the gift God has given us.  Peter put it plainly,

 

            Serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.

 

            Maybe you recall the football game between the big creatures and the small creatures?  At the start of the second half the big creatures were ahead and gave Tiger the ball.  When Tiger reached the line of scrimmage, down he went.  He hobbled back to the huddle and the big animals asked him, “What hit you?”

            Tiger said, “That centipede”

            So they gave the ball to Rhino.  When he, too, tumbled at the line of scrimmage, they asked, “What happened?”

            “It was that centipede.”

            Frustrated, the big creatures turned to the coach of the little creatures and asked,

“Where was that centipede the first half of the game?”

            The coach replied, “Putting on his shoes!”

            Some of us are in the process of putting on our shoes.  We may not be in the game because we don’t know what our spiritual gift happens to be, but it’s our responsibility to find out what it is.  Read over the passages in the bible about spiritual gifts.  Or better yet, let’s offer a course here on spiritual gifts where we can find out what our gift or gifts might be.

            A third thing the bible teaches is that each gift is important.  Guideposts tells the story of a woman in a nursing home.  Looking out her window at a skyscraper under construction, she began to pray for the workers’ safety.  Intercessory prayer, you see, was her spiritual gift.  Some people have this gift.  They pray for others with powerful results.  I don’t have this gift, but some do, and when I need prayer I contact people with this gift to pray for me.  Anyway, the laborers on the skyscraper found out she was praying for them, and they sent her a hard hat signed by all the workers.  Her prayers made a difference.

            We may look at our spiritual gift, this God-given ability to do what others cannot do, and we might not think it amounts to much, but if we think we are too small to make a difference, then we’ve never been in bed with a mosquito.  Listen to the words of the Apostle Paul.  I’m reading from I Corinthians 12 beginning in the 14th verse, and Paul is comparing the church to a human body and he says,

 

            The body does not consist of one member but of many.  If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.  And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less part of the body.”  Skipping down to verse 22, “On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable ...” 

 

            Whatever our gift, even if we think it’s no big deal, it is indispensable to God.

            Then one last thing.  Everyone being a good steward of his or her gift will enable the church to function at optimum capacity.

            Imagine we go to a dinner part and the people present at the party have the seven spiritual gifts listed in Romans 12.  By that I mean, someone has the gift of serving, someone the gift of prophecy, someone compassion, someone the gift of administration, someone the gift of exhortation, someone the gift of giving, and someone the gift to teaching. So we are at this dinner party and there are seven people with these seven different spiritual gifts, and the hostess comes out of the kitchen with the dessert, and she trips on a loose rug on the floor and the dessert spills all over.

            What happens?  Well, immediately, the person with the gift of administration goes into action and takes charge of the clean up.  And the person with the gift of serving runs out to get a rag to clean up the mess.  And the one with the gift of prophecy, probably a man says, “Oh no, I could see that coming!”  The guest with the gift of compassion runs up to the hostess and comforts her, making sure she is alright.  The one with the gift of exhortation begins to tell an encouraging and humorous story and they all begin to laugh.  Then the person with the gift of teaching instructs the host that the throw rug would be less dangerous in another place in the house, and the person with the gift of giving runs out and buys another dessert.

            All gifts, working together, helps the party function best.

            I’ll close with this.  When I was in Maitland, Florida we had three Christmas Eve services.  On Christmas Eve while I was at the office, usually by myself, I would get phone calls about the times of the services, and often the question, “Do we get to light a candle at the service?”

            Deep in each of our hearts is a desire to light a candle, a desire to make a difference.  God has given each of us a supernatural ability, a spiritual gift, to do that very thing.  We are not on a cruise ship.  We are in a beehive.  Let’s discover our gift and use it.  Let’s be good steward of them.