In 2006 in Tucson, Arizona, Tim Boyle watched as a Chevrolet Camaro hit 18-year-old bicyclist Kyle Holtrust. The car pinned Holtrust, still alive, underneath. Boyle ran to the scene of the accident and lifted the Camaro off the teenager, while the driver of the car pulled him to safety. In 1982, in Lawrenceville, Georgia, Angela Cavallo lifted a 1964 Chevrolet Impala from her son, Tony, after it fell off the jacks that had held it up while he worked underneath the car. Mrs. Cavallo lifted the car high enough and long enough for two neighbors to replace the jacks and pull Tony from beneath the car. Marie “Bootsy” Payton was cutting her lawn in High Island, Texas, when her riding mower got away from her. Payton’s young granddaughter, Evie, tried to stop the mower, but was knocked underneath the still-running machine. Payton reached the mower and easily tossed it off her granddaughter. Payton later tried to lift the mower again and found she couldn’t move it.
In this passage, Paul writes to the Roman Christians and he encourages them to not only use their gifts, but to use them with enthusiasm. However, they cannot do this on their own. They must use their gifts realizing that they have that special ability only because it comes from God. This morning we look at the importance of relying fully on God’s grace as we seek to use the gifts he has given us through the Holy Spirit. We will also look at several additional gifts that Paul lists in Romans 12:3-8. Let’s read Romans 12:1-8.;
I. The underlying principle is grace as seen in verses 3-6.
Paul begins by saying, “By the grace given me, I say to every one of you.” Paul here is speaking with the authority of an Apostle of Jesus Christ. As such he has the right to speak very boldly and directly to them. But he also recognizes that he is an apostle only because of God’s grace in his life. God’s grace equips and enables him to do what he is now doing. He says this to emphasize the importance of grace in the lives of the Roman Christians as well. Verse 6 says, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. The gifts that we have are only there because of God and his grace.
And based on that, Paul clearly states how Christians should view themselves. He writes, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought. It is possible that the Roman Christians looked their at their gifts and had become very proud of what they could do. Paul says rather that they must view themselves “with sober judgment.” They must see themselves as gifted people, but again only because of God’s grace. Moreover, they must view their gifts of grace as something to be used within the body.
This requires the key element of faith and so Paul says we are to have this view of ourselves “in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.” Faith here is the response to God and to His gifts that will enable a person to recognize his or her ability as coming from God and to actively yield to it. Faith also means seeing we are to use our gifts to build his church. When we use our gifts in faith, we will view ourselves with sober judgment. A person who uses his gifts in faith will be humble before the Lord and also before others. Sometimes we tend to think too highly of ourselves and not with sober judgment.
II. First there are the gifts of prophecy, service, teaching & encouraging.
Prophecy is inspired speech given from the Spirit to a person who serves as a spokesman for God. Prophecy for Paul is one of the most vital gifts for the church to have. 1 Corinthians 14 says they should desire the greater gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. Why was it so important? The message of the prophet is not from his own intuition or even his own study and research. The prophet received his message directly from the Holy Spirit. That is why it is so important that whoever has this gift uses it in proportion to his faith. Since a person with the gift of prophecy is the mouthpiece of God, it is vital that the faith relationship with God is strong. The source of the prophet’s message today is the Bible when led and directed by the Holy Spirit. Preaching is likely the clearest example of this today.
The next gift Paul lists is serving which means practical service or ministry. The spiritual gift of service is the special ability to help other people in practical ways. Often times this means assisting others in using their gifts as together you meet a certain need. Service could be helping a Sunday School teacher with her lesson by cutting out a craft. It is the ability to place oneself at the disposal of others. Without this gift, much of what the church would try to do would fall short or fail.
Next Paul lists the gift of teaching. The gift of teaching is, studying the Scriptures and then presenting it to others in clear ways. The purpose of teaching is to build up the members of the body. The gift of teaching is vital even though at times those who teach may wonder if that is true. A chaplain, tending to a mortally wounded soldier, was requested by the man to write a letter to his former Sunday school teacher. “Tell her I died a Christian because of what she taught me in that class in church. The memory of her earnest pleas and the warmth of her love as she asked us to accept Jesus have stayed with me. Tell her I’ll meet her in Heaven.” The message was sent, and some time later the chaplain received this reply from the teacher: “Just last month I resigned my position and abandoned my Sunday school pupils because I felt my work had been fruitless. How I regret my impatience and lack of faith! I shall ask my pastor to let me go back to teaching. I have learned that when one sows for God, the reaping is both sure and blessed!” If you teach, teach in proportion to your faith and God will use it to have an impact.
Next, Paul lists the gift of encouraging. A person with this gift has the ability to speak to someone so that the person is able to keep going. What makes this gift unique from ordinary encouragement, however, is that the encouragement is not just words of cheer; they are words of hope and comfort based on what the Bible says. This does not necessarily mean that a person with this gift quotes or reads Scripture, although that is certainly an effective way to use this gift. A person with the gift of encouragement encourages others from the basis of the hope that the Scriptures give.
III. Then Paul lists the gifts of giving, leadership & mercy.
The spiritual gift of giving is called “contributing to the needs of others.” This is the special ability to give in financial or material ways to help meet the needs of others. Paul says that one who has this gift must give generously, or more literally, with one goal in mind. They must not give for show or to ease their guilty conscience. They must also not give to gain some sort of power over others. They give because they love the Lord and they want to help others. They give cheerfully and generously, all the while remembering that what they are giving has originally come from the Lord.
Paul is saying here that when you use your gift, use it enthusiastically! One of the things that hurt the church a great deal is when things are done with no passion. In his 1949 book “The Crisis in the University,” British scholar Sir Walter Moberly cited the failure of evangelicals to penetrate university campuses with the gospel. To those who claim to follow Christ he said, “If one-tenth of what you believe is true, you ought to be ten times as excited as you are.” Paul, especially in the last few gifts listed, is imploring his readers to not only use your gifts, but to use them enthusiastically! If you are going to lead, lead! If you have the gift of mercy, throw yourself into it fully. If you are going to encourage, really make a difference!
A church that is full of people gladly and eagerly using their respective gifts will make a big impact on the world for the kingdom of God. Sometimes I suspect that Christians hold back on really using their gifts because they don’t want to appear proud; they want to view themselves with sober judgment. Now certainly we must not use our gifts as a stage for attracting attention to ourselves. However, when we are using our gifts of grace in faith, we don’t have to worry about that. Why? Because the abilities are given by God; they are not our own doing. When we use our gifts in proportion to our faith, if anyone gets the credit, it is God. As we serve, teach, encourage, preach, show mercy, give or whatever gift we have, if it is done in proportion to our faith, God’s name will be glorified, not ours.
But the next day one of their NCO’s sought out the British officer who made the request and said they had discussed the matter further and would be prepared to jump under certain conditions. “What are they?” asked the British officer. The Gurkhas told him they would jump if the land was marshy or reasonably soft with no rocky outcrops, because they were inexperienced in falling. The British officer considered this, and said that the dropping area would almost certainly be over jungle, and there would not be rocky outcrops, so that seemed all right. Was there anything else? “Yes, said the Gurkhas. They wanted the plane to fly as slowly as possible and no more than one hundred feet high. The British officer pointed out the planes always did fly as slowly as possible when dropping troops, but to jump from one hundred feet was impossible, because the parachutes would not open in time from that height. “Oh,” said the Gurkhas, “that’s all right, then. We’ll jump with parachutes anywhere. You didn’t mention parachutes before!”
The gifts God gives us are like the parachutes for the soldiers; they are the equipment we need to do the work God wants us to do. If we know that we have God-given gifts to enable us to the work, we too should not be afraid. Are you using the gifts you have energetically and enthusiastically?