The last couple of weeks, we’ve been talking about gifts of the spirit and last week we promised to wrap it up this week. But as it sometimes happens, our train of thought (or writing in this case) is sidetracked a bit. This weekend we “celebrate” Memorial Day. Being the daughter of a Marine who gave his all and paid the ultimate sacrifice, I cannot pass up the opportunity to acknowledge the fallen and to ponder what type of man or woman chooses to give their all. Staying with our “theme,” is paying the ultimate sacrifice a gift of the spirit?
Paul’s basic description of a spiritual gift can be found in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11.
Here are a few verses to get you thinking about your personal spiritual gifts:
- Each believer is given at least one gift.
(1 Corinthians 12:7)
- The Holy Spirit determines who receives which gifts.
(1 Corinthians 12:11)
- Each gift is equally valuable. (1 Corinthians 12:21-26)
- We are to use our gifts to serve others for the benefit of the body. (Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:12)
- We are commanded to use our gifts. (1 Peter 4:10)
- Exercising our gifts will help us develop spiritual maturity. (Ephesians 4:13)
Give some thought to these to help you understand where you are spiritually and how God has gifted you. I think it’s important to note that there is a recurring theme in the scriptures above: God is commanding us to use the gifts given to us to help build the body of Christ. It doesn’t say if we feel like it, if we have time, if it fits our schedule or if we fully understand the gift we are given. We are commanded.
The Ultimate Sacrifice
Sacrifice is not a concept that anyone really enjoys. Although we are hearing the word more often these days due to price inflation in such areas as food and energy, most of us do everything we can to avoid having to make sacrifices. As ironic as it sounds, we will make sacrifices in one area to circumvent having to make a sacrifice in another! This points out the human tendency to hold some part of our lives closer and dearer than others—and we are loath to let go of even a small bit of what we love the most, i.e. Starbucks, cigarettes, getting our nails done, golf … the list goes on.
Jesus Christ did not live this way. In His human life, He was all about sacrifice—His whole life was a sacrifice. And His is the life that has been exalted as the perfect pattern for our own. Yes, I know, as I often say, but He’s God and I’m not.
In terms of Jesus’ sacrifice, anyone familiar with the Bible will first think of His sacrificial death on the cross to atone for the sins of mankind. His crucifixion was indeed the greatest act of sacrifice in the history of the world, a perfect demonstration of His own teaching in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”
In John 3, speaking to Nicodemus, who later helped Joseph of Arimathea to prepare Him for burial, Jesus states a primary purpose of His incarnation: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up [signifying His crucifixion]. . . For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”
The apostle Peter makes it personal for us: “. . . knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you. . .” (I Peter 1:18-20)
It is difficult for short-sighted human beings to realize how the foreknowledge of His suffering and death must have weighed on His mind, since at the age of twelve, He told Joseph and Mary that He “must be about [His] Father’s business” (Luke 2:49). Knowing He had come into the world to bear the sins of every man, woman, and child must have been an unimaginably heavy burden for Him. It was an obligation that was constantly before Him.
We must look further, deeper, beyond His sacrificial death to His equally sacrificial life. His daily walk was an example of the Golden Rule, doing for others what we would have them do for us (Luke 6:31). As Jesus says of Himself, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). So, His life was dedicated to exhausting Himself through giving to others. The gospel accounts relate occasion after occasion when He preached or healed or cast out demons or comforted everyone who came to Him for help. Even when He was tired or had other plans.
But, He made many other sacrifices, ones that we do not often consider. Perhaps the greatest one is that He never married and had children. He never experienced the joys and comforts of having His own family. He gained all His experience in family matters as an obedient Son and loving elder brother in the house of Joseph and Mary.
In addition, He sacrificed things that most people prize as good and worthy, like ambition, wealth, prestige, position, popularity, and many other such elements of “success.” He had the ability within Himself to attain any or all of these pinnacles of human achievement, but He shunned them all for the greater reward before Him. He considered His many fleshly sacrifices as nothing compared to the tremendous future He would enjoy in the Kingdom of God.
This is the lesson that the apostle Paul teaches in Philippians 3. Using his own life as an example, he relates that he had just about anything a person could want yet we must be willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to “press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (verse 14). The glorious life of the coming Kingdom of God is attained through sacrifice, and the way we know (John 14:4).
So, most of us are not called to lay down our lives. And, before you send cards and letters, I’m not equating our first responders to Jesus. But it is an interesting calling to be placed on someone’s heart: the willingness to put yourself in harm’s way for the life of another; whether it be armed services, firefighters, law enforcement, paramedic, etc.
I was recently trying to explain to someone the “calling” a law enforcement officer had and why he couldn’t just work a 9-5 job, clocking out at 5pm on the dot. Also, why it could be hard to be 100% physically, mentally, and emotionally available the other hours. She just couldn’t get it.
I am equating this type of serving to a Gift of the Spirit. Where else would we live out, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”
Memorial Day is set aside to honor the men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice with their lives to defend our lives and freedoms. Our right to religious freedoms. There is little debate on this. It is a day to honor, remember and pray for the families left behind.
It is always tricky to know how Christians should or shouldn’t celebrate patriotic holidays. But there are a number of good reasons why Christians should give thanks for Memorial Day. War is still hell and a tragic result of our fallen world. Praise God for his promise to one day end all human conflict. But in a world where people are evil by nature and leaders are not always reasonable and countries do not always have good intentions, war is sometimes the way to peace – at least the best peace we can hope for between peoples and nations this side of heaven.
The life of a soldier can demonstrate the highest Christian virtues. While it’s true that our movies sometimes go too far in glamorizing war, this is only the case because there have been many heroic acts in the history of war suitable for our admiration. Soldiers in battle are called on to show courage, daring, service, shrewdness, endurance, hard work, faith, and obedience. These virtues fall into the “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just” category that deserve our praise (Philippians 4:8).
Military service is one of the most common metaphors in the New Testament to describe the Christian life. We are to fight the good fight, put on the armor of God, and serve as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. When we remember the sacrifice, single-minded dedication, and discipline involved in the life of a soldier, we are calling to mind what we are supposed to be like as Christians in service to Christ.
In reality, our calling to serve God extends beyond spiritual gifts, but it is a good place to start. Here are four simple truths about using your spiritual gifts:
You have a gift
Yes, you! As a believer in Christ, God has given you a spiritual gift. When it comes to calling and gifts, we are often far more concerned with what we think we can’t do, rather than with what God can do.
Remember Moses, staring into the flames of the burning bush, conversing with God? God calls Moses to be a messenger, and Moses’ gut-level response is to object, “Who am I?” He continues, “What shall I say to them? What if they don’t believe me?”
Next Moses brings up the reason why he can’t do what God has asked – I’m not good at talking to people–I am slow of speech.
For every I’m not Moses gave, God responded with an I am – I AM who I am.
When God calls, feeling ready is not the issue
The Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say” (Exodus 4:11-12).
There is a powerful lesson contained in what some only consider a children’s story. What a struggle it is for me to get this past my head and into my heart. We forget that He has promised to provide for us in the process. It is only in stepping forward that we experience God’s equipping grace.
Don’t give in to fear. Romans 12:63
God has not given us a spirit of fear, especially when it comes to using our gifts. Yet so often, some form of fear or discouragement can derail our desire to boldly answer God’s call. When we compare our ability, evaluate our performance, and measure our opportunities, we can struggle to believe God will use us right where we are. Plus, in this age of comparison, it is so easy to watch others and fall into the “am I good enough?”
It’s all about God
If you still struggle with what gifts you have been given, first and foremost – pray. God reveals gifts through His Holy Spirit. Believers should pray and study what God says about gifts in His Word. We should also remember God uses other believers to affirm our gifts. We’re going to include a spiritual gifts assessment at the end of this writing to help guide you. I’m emphasizing “guide” you. It is not a hard fact. You have to trust your gut, scripture and prayer. Also, a great source are friends. Ask them what you have to offer, what you are good at, and what they come to you for. Be open to the answer.
I have had many conversations with God about this over the years understanding my tasks and staying on task. I ran across this some years back and love the way God spoke to me through it.
I call you and it is not because of what you have done or what you can do. Neither will it be inhibited by what you can’t do.
Each gift comes with My purpose and My grace.
Know that I will show you what, when, where, and how. You don’t have to make it happen all on your own.
The responsibility is on Me.
Your job is to learn and obey,
love and listen,
follow and participate,
release and rejoice.
Day by day and step by step follow me.
If your eyes are on me, you don’t have to figure out what is next.
Be encouraged. God has given you the gifts you need to serve God right where you are.
Use your gifts and trust the process!
Your spiritual journey as a follower of Christ began the moment you admitted personal sin and placed your trust in Christ as Lord and Savior. From that point, until death or the return of Christ, your life’s call is to grow in Christlikeness.
For God and you,
Daughter of Capt. Lawrence W. Jordan
KIA Binh Dinh Province, Vietnam 1965