Greetings once more friends everywhere!
In my last post, I spoke about individual gifts and talents. These are personal utilities that can change us and make our lives for the better for our families this year. You are unique because everyone is gifted differently. But there is a purpose why gifts are given, and we’ll touch on that today.
New Year, New You! (Wiki Commons)
Wherever we find ourselves in the socio-economic landscape in the beginning of 2014, we ought not to forget there is one thing which puts us on a level playing field no matter the environment we find ourselves. And that is, the commission by Jesus to take the Gospel to the far reaches of the earth. Before Jesus was taken into the clouds, He charged His disciples, and by extension, to all who follow him, He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt.28:18-20).
We are all given a part to play in that commission. And maybe much more different than we have realized before. We have this mistaken idea that taking the Gospel to the world means we have to be preachers – no, we don’t. We have this image of those we see on television and think this is what Christ meant. Powerful as that medium is, it is far cry from what Jesus wanted to do in His people.
First Century Church
Think of the first century church. Who took the Gospel to the world? Was it just the twelve apostles? Who was responsible for taking the Gospel to the whole Roman Empire, until the emperor of Rome himself embraced Christianity. Perhaps a nominal believer, but a believer nonetheless! It began on Pentecost. The Spirit not only empowered the 120 to perform marvelous signs and wonders, but the 3000 who were converted that Pentecost day was the main bulwark behind the work of spreading the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. They took the Gospel message back home to whatever part of the empire they came from. It began with a small group from the backwaters of the Roman Empire and after two, three centuries go by, lo and behold that same group and its descendants and the faithful who embraced the faith along the way, have somehow taken over the Roman Empire and Christianity became the official religion. Of course, so much have transpired in the centuries that follow, that Christianity today is anything but what the first century Church was then.
No TV, Social Media, …
Back then there was no television or radio. There was no internet and social media. There was no Facebook or Twitter. The gospel was published by word of mouth like wildfire throughout the empire. We have lost that medium of contact – some call it the “personal touch.” Many today think that, that is what is missing in this work of taking the Gospel. The twelve disciples couldn’t have done it by themselves.
Of course, we can’t compare the two time periods and say it can be done in the same way and rubber stamp their approach in our time. But there is a basic principle we can’t discount no matter in which epoch we may be referencing. I’m talking about God’s Love. Love cuts across borders and time and space and can be applied wherever and whatever the situation maybe. The circumstance and history changes, but the principle of God’s Love never does. And the Gospel message is about God’s Love to be made known in all epochs of time, isn’t it? “For God so Loved the world that He gave His one and only and only Son,” (John 3:16) to be our atonement, so we can enter into their Tri-Personal existence and into this glorious Love in which they have existed from eternity. The Bible tells us God has poured His Love in us by His Spirit. (Rom.5:5) That is what the Spirit did in the first century, and what He will do again today.
Gold – Metaphor for Gifts (Wiki Commons)
Gift Metaphor for “Gold”
How does Christ expect us to play our part? The answer is in a parable He gave in Matthew 25: 14 “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 15 To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag,[a] each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. 17 So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. 18 But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’
21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
22 “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’
23 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
24 “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’
26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.
28 “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. 29 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” (Matt.25:14-30).
Each of the servant were entrusted with the Master’s wealth. The “gold” is the metaphor for a believer’s gift, a person’s calling, his/her destiny in Christ. It belongs to the Master which He gives out of His wealth. Our gifts are “Love-gifts” from the Father. Let’s call it “life-gift” for the purpose of this blog post. It is given according to your ability and your ability is your gift. So, it’s obvious our “life-gift” or calling is not ours, but given to us as part of the Master’s wealth. So, Paul tells us where our “life-gift” comes from: “Out of the generosity of Christ, each of us is given his own gift. That is why it says, ‘He climbed the high mountain, he captured the enemy and seized the booty, he handed it all out in gifts to the people’” (Eph. 4:7-8, 9-13, The Message).
Gifts are Magnets to Life
Life and gifts comes fused together and are inseparable. No human can claim to be without a gift given him or her by the Creator. Therefore, a person’s “life-gift” or dream is always magnetizing to him or her. A gift is like a magnet. That’s to say, the “life-gift” is the magnet to a person’s life. We have heard the adage, “Life is a gift.” Indeed, for the gift that comes with life is what makes life a gift. Think about this: A musician does not find his music, his music finds him. An author does not find his subject to write about, his subject finds him. An entrepreneur does not find his niche, his niche finds him. We are all free to accept the prompts of our calling or to reject them. We either flow with our gift or swim against it. Every prompt from the heart of our “life-gift” is a jigsaw piece that fits into a picture of your destiny that’s constantly magnetizing to you. Whoever a person is and becomes is only as good as the gift that defines him or her. That “life-gift” is the “bag of gold” in the parable.
Jesus – the “Gift-Giver,” Giving out of His “Treasure”
God is able to be all things to everyone through our varied gifts and that shows His greatness. Paul said, “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to each of us…in proportion to our faith, let us use them” (Rom. 12:6). Paul again said, “[Not in your own strength] for it is God Who is all the while effectually at work in you [energizing and creating in you the power and desire], both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight. (Phil.2:13, AMP) Again Paul emphasized, “… In order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures (the wealth of the Master) of wisdom and knowledge.” (Col.2:2-3). No one can ever come to know about his or her “life-gift” without knowledge and wisdom. The application of gifts is a ‘mind-matter’ that begins with knowledge and knowing what your gift is, and its function through God’s Love.
Consider, when Paul was inspired to write that we will be conformed to the image of God’s Son, Jesus, it primarily means we will take upon us all that He is in His Sonship so humans become God’s sons and daughters, His gifts and abilities so we can live with purpose in each of our talents, His generosity by the influence of His unfathomable Love, His powers through His Spirit who equips and strengthens humans. That is what it means when Scripture says that “all our treasures (wholeness as persons) lie hidden in Him” (Col.2:2-3, italics mine; Rom.8:29). There is total fullness in Christ, and a measure of that fullness is given by the grace of God to every believer. As Paul wrote, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity dwells in bodily form” (Col.2:9). The first gift we receive from God is the gift of the Holy Spirit who was given on Pentecost. (Act.2:1-4) Jesus said the Spirit will manifest the gifts in humans, “The Spirit will take from what is Mine and disclose it to you” (John 16:15).
The First Gift
The first gift we receive from God is the gift of the Holy Spirit – just like that original apostles and all who were gathered on that memorable Pentecost day. So, here we see how God is working in humans through His Tri-Personal Being. God is our Father, who gave us His Son to be our Savior, and His Spirit to empower us. Before Pentecost the disciples were cowering in fear, afraid for their lives. Then, the Spirit came and fear went out of them and Love entered and gave them something they never had – a new birth. A new person! Peter went out and preached a powerful message that converted 3000 that Pentecost day. People were surprised, ‘weren’t these the same people, the fearful followers of Jesus who scattered after Jesus was crucified? What has come over them? Here they are speaking in our own language and dialect.’ They don’t know what to make of it , that some thought they had too much to drink. The work of God in us is always the work of the Spirit’s Love in us. (Rom.5:5) It can’t be done by human effort, although human effort is essential. There is a difference. It is a work of faith. Human effort alone is devoid of the Love of God. And we see how the Spirit makes all the difference before, and after Pentecost. Human effort can be done through human fear or through the Spirit’s Love. God will not possess you and take your life over and live it for you. That’s what the devil does using fear as a weapon. God’s Love does not force people, but He lets His people reason it out for themselves what to do. God says, “Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. (Isa.1:18) If we are forced against our will, then we are fallen human still.
Detailed Ivory Carving of Lazarus Raised to Life – We All Have Gifts to Glory Our Maker (Wiki Commons)
Love Creates a Life of Tension
It is like walking on a tightrope like a balancing artist in a circus, we don’t want our fallen human heart based upon fear to take over, and on the other hand we know we must allow the Spirit to use us in His Love. And every step of the way, there is this tension that exists to go this way or that – and it is normal in God’s way of Love for us, and we have to be free to make up our own minds to lean to the Spirit’s inclination, and deliberately stay away from our fearful and evil nature. And in this very dynamic of walking this tight-rope act, we enter the environment we commonly call facing trials. It’s not a bad thing, as I said, God can’t force us in His Love, and so we’re always living life in tension. Over time good habits take hold and it becomes easier.
Trials are Magnet for Destiny
But here is the beautiful thing about this life of tension in God’s Love, the trials are magnets drawing you to your “life-gift” – to your destiny in Christ. God doesn’t give you His Spirit then suddenly you wake up one morning, and you say, “I’m going to be a scientist or whatever your dream may be…” No, this pattern of living in God’s Love attracts test and trials which leads us to our destiny. Why, because the world is functioning in an environment different from God’s Love – it runs on fear, and we see it all around us every day. The fruits of Love and the fruits of fear which Paul speaks so eloquently about to the Corinthian and Ephesian Christians, create this dynamism which we confront in all seasons of life, and they come in every way, shape, and form.
Profit and Loss
In this Love/fear dynamism, a kind of trade takes place which Jesus metaphorically speaks of in His parable (Matt.25). We make profits and we make losses. Because God’s Love is at work in our penitent minds, we will make more profits than loses. We encounter losses because we are still weak in our humanity. When we do make mistakes (because we are humans) we acknowledge our wrong and ask for forgiveness and move on. That’s how Jesus taught us to pray daily. (Luk.11:4) He has promised that no trial will come beyond our ability to cope, but will make a way of escape. (1Cor.10:13) What does that mean? It means God can create circumstances so you are always making a profit, despite intermittent loses, through the weakness of our humanity. Loses are lessons that teaches us how to make a profit the next time around, isn’t it? And if we’re making profits whatever way, then all things work together for good. (Rom.8:28) Mistakes and trials are magnets drawing us to our destiny. Each weakness that we change, we automatically assume its opposing strength. If you cease to hate then you learn how to love. If you acknowledge your pride as the source of your problems, then you will learn to be humble. If you don’t change then your weakness will strangle you spiritually and you will suffer loss. But if you change and learn to Love and respect, then you can only make a profit.
God Confers Us With Gits to Bless Us for His Glory (Wiki Commons)
Joseph the Dreamer
The Bible is filled with examples of this. Think of Joseph… each step of the way beginning with his dream – his destiny, his gift, his calling – attracted trials that was magnetizing him to his destiny. (Gen.37, 39-47) Sold as a slave by his brothers at age 17, he was placed on the human slave market in Egypt. He was bought by Potiphar, an Egyptian military top brass, and put in charge of his business. He was thrown in jail under false accusation. Then he met two servants of Pharaoh who had dreams which disturbed them. God revealed the meaning of the dream to Joseph. Two years later, Pharaoh had a dream. Joseph was called on to make its interpretation known to Pharaoh because the Egyptian wise men and magicians were helpless. Now, he came face to face with the destiny he saw in his dreams. He was second in command in all Egypt. His destiny was to save the known world from a worldwide famine which Pharaoh saw in his dream. When Joseph’s family were reunited and his brothers stood before him, afraid that Joseph might say it’s pay-back time for what they did to him, he told them God was behind it all along. (Gen.45:4-7) Joseph’s life teaches us never to look at life and the trials that come with it in isolation from your “life-gift” – your destiny in Christ. Each trial, insignificant as it may appear to us, is a piece in the puzzle that fits into the picture of your dreams. If God had not given Joseph his dream to aspire for, he would have remained a shepherd like his brothers. Christ is your dream because He has the Giver who has given us gifts out of His wealth and treasure. He was the one who gave Joseph his dream.
We all have different strengths, and we must focus on them. That’s our gift given us out of the wealth of the Master. Always believe in your uniqueness and difference and realize you’re that way for a purpose. The “life-gift” identifies your place in the plan of God and how each of us play a role in it. It need not be ecclesiastical or religious in nature. As I said, people seem to have this perception that when God is involved in a person, his calling ought to be religious in nature. It’s a myth that stems from the enemy who wants to vilify the good in people’s varied talents. We are given the freedom to be whoever we want. That obviously means in the area of our strengths, which most likely don’t lean towards things religious. Joseph’s gift was not of a religious nature. He was an administrator and manager of people. A person can be a plumber, or engineer, a doctor or gardener, an architect or builder, a marine biologist or fisherman, a basketball player or botanist, or whatever the gift. Gifts evolve as the Spirit supplies the faith. Peter was a fisherman. Then Jesus called him and said from this day forget the fish, let’s do something different with your skills – let’s fish humans. A person may be a basketball player with a short-term career. Then he moves onto something else. This is the way a person’s “life-gift” works in the Spirit’s influence and guidance.
Proud Owners of Destiny that Can’t Be Bought
Jesus said, “You are blessed when you are content with just who you are – no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought” (Matt. 5:5 MSG). God gives us purpose in the football field as much as in the pulpit. There’s divine purpose in being a housewife as well as a company executive. Think about this: a housewife who is a mother has a better defined view of seeing and applying God’s Love in her family situation, than a company executive whose mindset is to make more money for the shareholders. Unless of course, if you work for a company whose whole objective is service over money.
God is present and involved in all of life. In our weak areas of life, where we may feel inadequate and make mistakes, He wants nothing more than to guide us the right way to our strengths to avoid harm and discouragement to ourselves. In the area of our strengths, He is the first to rejoice with and bless us (Ps. 37:23-24).
So what is the answer to Jesus commission for us. The answer is, your gift – the “gold” you were handed when you received Jesus as you Savior and Master – that is your ministry to the world. You are the breathing, living, walking, Gospel of Christ. Where you are at present – in your job, in your hobbies, in anything you may be gifted to do exceptionally, with your family, is the place for God’s will and purpose for you. Even if you are considered unemployed or underemployed, Love always has a job for us. You’re never unemployed when it comes to God’s Love. Love transcends socio-economic conditions.
Action More than Words
Our actions speaks louder than our words, don’t they? Our gift speaks louder than our words. Words don’t have the effect that our actions do on people. Words are easier to forget, while our actions and abilities leave a more lasting impression. To put it in a nutshell, actions is what make people believe in you. When they see the personification of your gifts in the good you do to them, then your words carry weight – then your word has integrity. Not the other way around. Peter tells us, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” (1Pet.3:15). So Peter supports this model of how we are to take the Gospel – we are to lead with our gifts. He said, “in your heart revere Christ as Lord.” That means we follow His command and lead. He has given us “gold,” or our gifts to trade with. Your gift is the vehicle for our Father to show His Love with those we come in contact and relate with. Then once you have impressed people through your actions (His Love), then we convince them with your words. The Spirit will lead us to say what needs to be said, just as He did with Peter on that memorable Pentecost.
Don’t try to convert anyone, that’s not our job, only the Spirit can convert the human heart. Did Peter convert the 3000, no, the Spirit moved and convicted the hearts of people. That’s exactly as Jesus foretold what the Spirit would do before He was crucified – He told the disciples it was good that he went away, because that way, the Spirit would come and He would convict the hearts of people of sin. (John 16:8-9) The name of Christ have been discredited and maligned because we have have tried to force the our words down people’s throats, so to speak. We have done that which is not our place to do. We have failed to heed the words of Peter “to do this with gentleness and respect.” Your job and mine is to sow the seed of the Gospel through our gifts followed by our gentle and respectful words, then leaving it to the Spirit to convert the heart. I have known people who heard the Gospel for the first time, and many years on a change of heart took place. Don’t ask me how and why – only the Spirit knows that. Jesus did not force people to accept His words. He just laid it out for them. He went about doing good through the miracles He performed. And it was through the gift of miracles, His good works He did among the people, that brought people in droves to come and hear His words. (Acts 10:38) His gift was the platform which attracted people to come and hear the Gospel.
Jesus gave us another parable that essentially means the seeds of the Gospel God sows through our gifts will get only 25% response, and the remaining 75% of the people won’t even bother. Don’t be discouraged, Jesus had only 120 by Pentecost, even though he miraculously fed 5,000 hungry people in just one of His numerous miracles. He healed 10 lepers, only one returned to give thanks, that’s a 10% response. The parable says there are those whose heart are like the ground that’s full of weeds that kills the seed. Then there are those who have no depth for the seed to take a foothold because they have hearts of stone. There are seeds that fall on the pathway and never had a chance from the word go, and the birds come and eat the seeds. Only 25% fell on good ground. (Mark 4:1-19) And even the 25% can dwindle if we don’t look after them.
Let us reflect on the “gold” Jesus has handed us in our “gifts” and see how we can allow the Spirit to lead us to trade them more efficiently this year for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Pray about it. What do you think the person who buried his bag of “gold” was thinking? I think he thought that his gift was not important to him or Christ. He wanted to do his own thing. Or, if he thought it was important, he turned his “life-gift” into a “life of needs and wants” for his own selfish objective. Yet, his gift and the gifts of all His people was the very vehicle Jesus prepared for the Gospel to be taken to the farthest reaches of the world. It’s not hard to turn our gift into an ATM machine and forget the purpose for which it was given in the first place. We see it happening all around us. We live in a self-absorbed society and world where we mistakenly think that everything we have in our person is ours, and for our own self-centered ambition. They are cashing in on their talent, there’s even a “prosperity Gospel” to promote this life-style for “believers.”
It took between 2 to 3 centuries for the Roman world to accept Christianity. But you know what, it was not easy. No amount of words could convince Rome. What changed Rome ultimately was the gifts, the blood, sweat, and tears of untold number of Christian martyrs who gave their lives for their faith. It was an unimaginable account of personal sacrifice and loyalty. That was the extent they were prepared to go for their Lord. Today, we are not called upon like they were then, although there are countries where Christians are persecuted. The framers of our constitution were Christians, thanks to the Christians before them who followed their Master’s commission to take the Gospel far and wide. The pilgrims came to the New Word seeking religious freedom. The baton is passed on from one generation to another with the Spirit at work in the midst of His people doing the Lord’s work.
Let’s reflect on that, and ask Jesus for conviction about the gift he has given us, and wherever we find ourselves, to give Him our best efforts, fully cognizant of the commission of Matt. 28 that the Gospel will be taken far and wide and accomplished on the backs of the gifts He has blessed and given His people.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to write me in the space provided below, or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until we meet again in my next post, may the blessing of the God who ceaselessly expresses Himself in His dependable Triune Love, be with you today and give you strength for authentic Triune Living as a Bula man-river.*
Kiang (Your Servant in Christ)
All scriptures are taken from the NIV Version 2011, unless stated otherwise
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