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FIRST-PERSON: Avoid ‘cerebral’ limits to God’s spiritual gifts

GARLAND, Texas (BP)–One of the most regrettable situations I see in churches today occurs when people feel led to serve Christ in a particular ministry but refuse to do so because they don’t feel gifted in that area.

Sometimes these people decline because they have taken some sort of “spiritual gift inventory” or “spiritual gift assessment” that ideally will help them identify areas in which they can adequately serve other members in the body of Christ.

Although tests or instruments like this may be entertaining and enjoyable, they also can lead to abuse when people overemphasize a gift that the assessment identified or refuse to meet a need because they didn’t score high in that spiritual gift category.

This results in a cerebral approach which becomes a barrier to what God wants to do through us.

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The best thing someone can do is to become practically involved in the life of the church through obedience to Christ — stepping out on faith to be available and obeying Christ. When we do this, God will surface gifts in us that will help accomplish His mission.

This occurred in my life when I surrendered to preach at age 17. Despite God’s call on my life, I was convinced I could never stand in front of people and deliver a sermon. I grew up on a cotton-and-cattle farm in West Texas and was most comfortable around animals, since you don’t have to talk to them, and I was not a talker.

The night after I made a public commitment to preach, renowned Southern Baptist educator Roy Fish stopped by my home. Then a seminary student-pastor at a nearby church, Fish had heard about my decision and asked me to preach at his church the following week while he was absent.

I had no idea what I would say. I did not know what a sermon was. I could not lead in public prayer. I did not even own a Bible. That was my “cerebral” approach to what was asked of me. Nevertheless, I had settled that issue. God had called me to preach, and I had surrendered my life. I said, “Yes, Brother Fish, I will do it.”

I went to my pastor for help. He taught me about sermon structure. I bought a little New Testament and read it while I drove the tractor planting cotton. We had the crookedest rows in the country that year! Every evening I practiced my sermon in the garage, with my mother’s washing machine as my pulpit and the deep freeze as my congregation.

When I finally preached my first message, I preached every bit of my eight-point, 22-minute sermon in 13 minutes. The pulpit, which I gripped, shook as much as I did. But when I finished, several people came forward to make decisions for Christ.

I had learned something special: Whatever you place in God’s hands is sufficient! He will use whatever I yield to Him. I was nothing but ignorance on fire, but God began to use me and continued to do so. Pastors began to invite me to preach for them, and God continued to bless. Since that time, I have preached almost every week. Through His grace, God had sovereignly given me gifts necessary to do what He planned for me to do.

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Without question, I had the option of saying, “Yes!” or “No!” to what God impressed on my life. I faced the choice of neglecting the gifts He had given me or using and developing them.

God will surface any and every gift needed for His body to accomplish what He wants done to fulfill His mission. Believers have the potential to have any gift, because of the One who lives in us is the source of those gifts. Christ is the perfect person. He possesses every gift. As Philippians 4:13 tells us, through Christ we can do all things.
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Robinson, an evangelism leader with the former Southern Baptist Home Mission Board (now North American Mission Board), is president of Total Church Life Ministries in Marietta, Ga. His latest book is “Incredibly Gifted: A Fresh, Biblical Look at Spiritual Gifts,” published by Hannibal Books in Garland, Texas, at 1-800-747-0738 or www.hannibalbooks.com.