I remember one Christmas when I was a kid. There were a lot of gifts waiting for me under the tree. After I opened them all, I was very happy — that is, until I went over to my friend’s house.
He got a toy that I did not have: a battery-operated, plastic skin diver. I thought it was the coolest toy I had ever seen. Suddenly, everything that I had received seemed worthless in comparison because, in my mind, this was the toy that I really wanted.
We can be the same way when it comes to the spiritual gifts God has given us. We see the gifts that God’s Holy Spirit places in the lives of certain people, and we become envious. As a result, we are not thankful for the gifts that God has given us.
But we need to realize the gifts God has placed in our lives are always the best ones for us.
Sadly, many of us are not utilizing these gifts in our lives. We don’t understand our role in the church, which is upward, inward, and outward. In other words, we are here to worship God, build up one another, and reach out to a lost world with the gospel.
First, we are here to worship God. Ephesians 1:12 tells us that God has called us as Christians to live for the praise of His glory. We are here on Earth to glorify and to know the God who made us.
1 Peter 2:9 says we are “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (nkjv).
That is not just true of the church in general. That is true of us as individuals.
Second, we are here to build up one another. Paul said that his own goal was not merely to evangelize, but to “present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (Colossians 1:28 nkjv).
Third, we are here to reach out to a lost world with the gospel. Jesus told us to “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit...” (Matthew 28:19 nkjv). And again in Mark 16, Jesus told us to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (verse 15, nkjv).
We must keep these principles in their proper balance. We don’t want to emphasize one at the expense of another or take them out of their proper order.
In Ephesians 4, Paul talks about how this balance must come into place and how our gifts play into this.
It is interesting that in the early part of this chapter, Paul talks about what we have in common and how we should allow nothing to disrupt the unity of the church. Later in this chapter, he talks about what we have as individuals that is unique. He talks about how God will distribute the gifts of the Spirit as He chooses to do so.
One of the wonderful things about a healthy church is its diversity. That in itself is a witness to a divided world. It is a powerful testimony when someone can come into an assembly of believers and see that we have set aside our differences and there is unity.
It doesn’t mean there is uniformity. God can take the same gift and put it in the lives of two people, and it might manifest itself a little bit differently as the Holy Spirit works through human personality.
Ephesians tells us that God has given us these gifts “for the equipping of the saints, for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (4:12 nkjv). Another way to translate this verse is “to equip God’s people for work and His service.”
The word equip in the original language means “to put something back to its original condition.” It is also a phrase that speaks of putting a bone back into place again.
The idea is that we are getting back to God’s original order when we do it this way, when we function as the church ought to function.It is a wonderful blessing when you start giving out what God has given to you, as you become a part of His purpose for the church.
The story of Johnny Cash’s life and spiritual struggles offers hope to anyone who has had trouble staying on the straight and narrow path—and reminds us that God redeems broken lives and makes them whole again. My new book, Johnny Cash: The Redemption of an American Icon is a fascinating look at a unique and talented musician and follower of Christ!