A look inside my daughter's closet will give you a glimpse of some gifts she's received over the last year - an embroidery kit, a knitting one, material and craft supplies. She is extremely creative and loves to do all kinds of projects, but she often likes to design things herself and thus can avoid patterns and directions. At the same time, she'd love to make the scarf that shows up on the packaging, but she finds the instructions confusing and her mother is NO help!
The other day when I saw these gifts, sitting there not being used, I had a new thought - sometimes my gifts sit on a shelf as well. I'm not talking about last year's Christmas present; I am referring to my spiritual gifts - the ones God has given to me.
If I had to guess, I'd bet you've taken a spiritual gift test at some point in your life. Am I right? For awhile I think that was a hobby of mine. I don't know if I thought if I took it often enough I'd eventually get the right answer or what, but eventually I realized my results were always quite similar.
Encouragement always showed up as number one or two. This made sense as I've always enjoyed sending cards and writing notes, but for some reason I think I thought it was a second rate gift. Like it was not as important as some of the others. In my eyes gifts like wisdom, teaching and discernment were powerful and served a mighty purpose. In a way it seemed like encouragement was the gift that was handed out when all the important ones were gone.
I thought, "Isn't encouragement something everyone can do?" Many people had encouraged me throughout my lifetime...did they all have the gift? I really never stopped to think about these questions, but in time I'd take another gift assessment that only ended with the same results.
Eventually I accepted this, but only recently have I started to understand it. Through the month of January God led me to dig into the topic of encouragement. I sought answers to questions - "What is it? Where do I find it? How do I give it?" And in the process, He revealed much about the gift He has given me.
It's true...everyone can encourage and we all are commanded to (1 Thes. 5:11), but some are given this as a gift. (Romans 12:8) And Biblically to encourage means so much more than giving someone a pat on the back. This is a gift that can help others become more like Christ and lead to great ministry. See Baranabus for an example in the book of Acts.
Friend, this isn't a post about encouragement, but I pray it does encourage. Specifically I'm asking God to help you not just identify your spiritual gifts, but more importantly to understand them. My daughter hasn't knitted that scarf because she doesn't know how to use the tools and do it...friend, God has given us gifts to use as tools, but if we don't understand how to use them He can't do His work through us!
Take some time to think about the gifts He's given to you...pray and ask Him to help you understand them so that you can use them!! Remember every gift God gives is good and comes with a purpose...don't let it sit on the shelf or get buried in the closet!!
"We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully."