Thursday, September 3, 2015

Either Getting Better or Getting Worse

A friend was talking about an experience he and his wife had canoeing. It was a fun, just-the-two-of-us time for them, a respite from their very full lives. “Canoe-dling” he called it. In the process, my friend gained an “aha” experience. They were in constant motion, whether they liked it or not.

Whether we're in a canoe, in a raft
or some other watercraft, we can
choose to either paddle
or "go with the flow."
When they were paddling, my friend and his better half were headed in the direction they chose. But when they stopped paddling, they continued to drift, although not always on the course they preferred. So they had a choice: Either continue paddling and go where they wanted to go, or just drift and see where they would wind up.

I’ve never traveled in a canoe, maybe fearful of experiencing the dreaded “up the creek without a paddle” dilemma. But I’ve been on a raft and inner tubes on lakes and in the ocean, so I’ve experienced this paddle-or-drift phenomenon.

Once I was sitting in an inner tube at a beach in New Jersey, and laid my head back to relax to the bobbing of the waves. A few minutes later I opened my eyes and realized the shore wasn’t so close anymore. Wisely at that moment I opted to paddle rather than drift. Who knows where I would have ended up?

A principle behind this applies to any facet of life: You’re either getting better or getting worse. You’re either making progress toward your chosen direction, or you’re drifting away from it – and it might take considerable effort to get back to where you want to be.

Woody Hayes, the legendary coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes (did you know college football season is upon us, finally?), was the first person I ever heard making that statement, although many have repeated it since, and it might not have been original with him. No matter, it’s true.

To achieve anything worthwhile, whether it’s to launch a business, achieve a rewarding career, build a thriving marriage, raise successful children, or enjoy a prospering spiritual life, takes work: Consistent, determined effort constantly aimed at desired goals.

I’ve seen this repeatedly over the years I’ve been striving to follow Jesus Christ. Sometimes I have sensed I was drawing closer to Him, enjoying a deepening relationship with my Savior and Lord. And other times I’ve been drifting away, maybe not dramatically but subtly and steadily.

One of the seven churches described out in the Book of Revelation, the church at Ephesus, apparently had this problem, so it’s nothing new. A passage commends believers in that ancient city for “your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men…. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary” (Revelation 2:2-4). Sounds good, right? Except then comes a but. Rather, a “yet”:

“Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first” (Revelation 2:4-5).

Clearly these people were doing some good things. But they had “forsaken their first love.” Maybe they’d grown complacent, self-satisfied in their service. They could have been on the brink of becoming “weary in well doing,” as the apostle Paul termed it in Galatians 6:9. Perhaps they had become prideful, patting themselves on the back for all they were doing in the name of Christ. It could be they had become so busy doing the right things they had started to neglect the right relationship.

Jesus had told His followers, “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). In other words, even good deeds performed in our own strength rather than the power of His Spirit are of little value.

Maybe they had just quit paddling, started basking in their accomplishments, and failed to realize they were drifting away from an ever-deepening, abiding relationship with Christ. There’s no such thing as status quo for maintaining a healthy spiritual life.

This seems to be the case with the Church in the 21st century as well, don’t you think? We’re overwhelmed with activities and programs, good things mostly, but despite all the effort it seems comparatively little is being accomplished – at least of eternal value. Could it be that we, too, have “lost our first love”?

Maybe it’s time we tried to find it again. Could be we’re so busy “doing for Christ” that we’re leaving Him behind.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Ministry of Just Being There

If there’s one characteristic that fits most of us, it’s being busy. We rush from place to place, one appointment to the next, frantic to squeeze one more thing into the inflexible limits of a 24-hour day. We feel guilty if we’re not actually doing something. However, sometimes the best thing we can do is just be there.

We see an example in the Old Testament book of Job. The central character of this account, Job had lost everything – livestock, barns, servants, sons and daughters, and finally his health. And none of it because of anything he’d done wrong.

Upon hearing about Job’s successive calamities, his friends Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar rushed to his side. They offered sympathy and tried to give him comfort. “Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was” (Job 2:13).

Zophar so good…I mean, so far. They were there for him, wept with him, showed compassion, and kept their mouths shut for seven complete days. Then they made a critical mistake. After hearing Job bemoan his plight, they decided to do something. It was time to fix the problem, the three agreed, and took turns insisting Job must have brought this adversity upon himself, so he needed to fess up, tell God what he’d done wrong, and seek His forgiveness.

This didn’t help joyless Job at all. It’s not recorded per se in the passage but he probably thought, “With friends like these, who needs enemies?” Maybe we can’t blame the friends for presuming somehow Job was being punished for his sins and repentance was in order. But what Job needed most was not advice or accusations, but simply for them to be there with him.

I thought of this after reading a comment from a writer in India I’ve gotten acquainted with. I’ll call him Raj. Like me, Raj and his wife have children and grandchildren, and he was telling about visiting their son’s family in Australia. They took the grandchildren to a playground nearby, and the first day no one was there. The next day a few children were already there and asked if they could join in playing.

Each day Raj, his wife and grandchildren visited the playground, they found more children there, all eager to join the playground festivities until the number had grown to more than two dozen. Raj started referring to them as “the team.”

One day they did not go to the playground, and Raj writes, “we got a surprise of our life the next day. More than a dozen children had come to our house, some with their toy guns, threatening to shoot and asking why I didn’t come to play. When we were leaving to return to India, they marked our departure with tears.”

What did my writing colleague from India do? Not much really. He was just being there, first with his grandchildren and then with other children who were eager to join them in some playground games. But by just being there, Raj gave what they needed most – a little love, attention, and some happy smiles.

It’s amazing what just being there can accomplish. When friends are grieving the loss of a loved one, what they need most is not our platitudes, or abundant words of comfort or assurances that time will heal the hurt, but for us to just be there showing we care.

I’ve mentioned before my friend, Gary Highfield, who wrote When ‘Want To’ Becomes ‘Have To!’ to tell his story of overcoming a childhood of dysfunction and poverty to build a surprisingly successful business career. Leveraging the message of his book, Gary now goes into public schools and meets with middle school and high school youths faced with similar adversity, helping to dispel their hopelessness and replace it with hope for a brighter future. Most of all, he’s just being there.

Some friends at our church are deeply invested in a midweek children’s program, working with boys and girls from poor, single-parent homes. For a couple of hours each week, youngsters are greeted with what they rarely find at home – focused attention, genuine love, and an escape from loneliness and bad influences. Again, our friends know the value of just being there.

I’ve experienced this myself in mentoring other men, visiting open-heart surgery patients as a volunteer, and picking up the phone and calling a friend I haven’t talked to in a while. Sometimes being there is the only thing you can do – but often it’s also the best thing to do.

There might be specific things we can do besides offer our physical presence, but being there is a necessary first step. Jesus referred to this when He told the crowd gathered around Him, “The righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ Then the King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me…’” (Matthew 25:34-46).

Do you have a desire to do something great for God? How about just being there?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Hanging in the Balance

Balance and the struggle for achieving it are universal in the world around us.

We hear about the “balance of nature,” in which small ecological changes are counter-balanced by other incremental changes. The “balance of power” applies to many areas, ranging from sports to politics to global stability and security. Businesses monitor balance sheets to determine profitability – or the lack of it.

Balance is critical to our human lives, in both the mundane and the magnificent. Learning to walk or ride a bicycles are lessons in the fine art of balance. We marvel at “death-defying feats” of balance on a high wire at a circus, or when one of the “flying Wallendas” takes a stroll high above Niagara Falls or from one skyscraper to another.

One of our daughters competed in gymnastics for eight years, and she excelled on the balance beam, performing jumps and flips and cartwheels on a board just under four inches wide, about four feet above the floor. Maybe that’s one reason she grew into a well-balanced young woman.

Followers of Christ spending too much time in
the "stained glass aquarium" of the sanctuary
have minimal impact as His ambassadors.
Balance is tenuous and deserves our attention. Perfect balance for an extended period of time is rare, and sometimes isn’t desirable. For instance, the act of breathing results from the ever-shifting concentrations of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the body, prompting us to alternately inhale and exhale, inhale and exhale. 

Spiritually we confront a similar “balancing act.” Years ago I heard Dr. Howard Hendricks declare, “The only Christian I ever saw in perfect balance was one that was moving from one extreme to the other.” It seems we’re always on a spiritual pendulum ride in our quest to be “in the world but not of it,” as Jesus Christ referred to His followers in His so-called “high priestly prayer” on the evening preceding His crucifixion.

He prayed to the Father, “…they are still in the world…protect them by the power of your name…for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you will take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one” (John 17:6-19).

We live in a tangible, visible, temporary world but are called to keep foremost in our minds the world that is untouchable, unseen and eternal. That’s one reason the old hymn, “The Sweet By and By,” was so popular. It offered a reminder that no matter how attractive it is, this present life is passing. While we may enjoy it, we’re not to cling to it.

Being in the world without being of the world presents a constant struggle. Bible study, prayer and meditation contribute greatly to spiritual growth, but we can overdose even on such things, becoming as someone termed it, “so heavenly minded we’re no earthly good.”

Hebrews 10:25 exhorts, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another….” This can include attending worship services, Sunday school, small group meetings, even meeting individually with other followers of Jesus. At the same time, we’re reminded, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20).

Ambassadors don’t spend their time in their native countries, but represent their nations in other lands. In a similar yet far more profound manner, we’re called to live in a world and society where biblical truth is largely shunned and often ridiculed. As Christ’s ambassadors, one of our jobs is to incarnate the truth of Christ wherever we go, seeking to show others the way of reconciliation.

And living in a material world, we confront the realities of bills and the allure of all manner of “stuff,” while God calls us to conduct lives of trust and generosity. “A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. People curse the man who hoards grain, but blessing crowns him who is willing to sell” (Proverbs 11:25-26).

The everyday journey of walking with Christ is indeed a balancing act, a delicate one. So next time you see me, don’t be surprised if my arms are outstretched while I teeter from one side to the other. Just trying to find my balance.

Monday, August 24, 2015

What Is Success, Anyway?

“Success” is a word we use casually, as if everyone has a universal understanding of what it means. We don’t.

We hear about the “American success story.” But what does that mean? What makes the story a “success”? Do we evaluate it according to income and net worth? Status? Fame? Size of house and make of car? Recognition in the community?

We tend to assign success labels to people with names everyone knows. In fact, if you’re known by a single name, such as folks in the music world like Reba or Cher, Bono or Adele, or athletes like Lebron or Kobe, A-Rod or Peyton, that means you’re really successful, right? But what about one-hit musical wonders, like “Earth Angel” in 1955, sung by the Penguins, or “Do You Love Me” by the Contours in 1962? Both made it to the Top Ten, but those artists shone like comets and then disappeared. Does that mean they weren’t successful?

This topic came up recently when someone on a writers’ social media site asked, "Is it possible to be a successful author after age 65?" When I read the question I thought, “Why can’t someone older than 65 be a successful writer?” Then it occurred to me it depends on how we define success.

If “success” means becoming the next John Grisham, J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, or Kathy Reichs, the answer’s probably no. But then a better question would be, “Is it possible to be a successful author at any age?” Because of all the millions of people who view themselves as writers, only a tiny percentage will ever make the New York Times bestsellers list.

However, if being successful means finishing a manuscript and having it published, by whatever means, then having it read by people in the intended audience large or small (besides one’s mother), then writers can be considered successful, whether they’re 25, 65, or 105. If they’ve enjoyed the process of writing, have done so to the best of their ability, and someone has benefited from what they’ve written, that’s a measure of success.

What about parenting? Does “success” mean raising a child smart enough to attend and graduate from a prestigious (and expensive) university, earn advanced degrees, and then settle into a career that brings prominence and great financial rewards? Or does it mean having a child that upholds and lives according to high moral standards, grows into a loving and compassionate individual, recognizes his or her innate abilities and gifts, and uses them to serve others in meaningful ways?

The same perspectives could be applied to any field of endeavor. We celebrate captains of industry. One of them, Donald Trump, gets a lot of attention these days, but is he really more “successful” than the single mom who leverages her craft skills into a cottage industry to meet the everyday needs of her family? Or the schoolteacher who pursues his role as a calling, not a job, and in the course of his career becomes a positive role model for hundreds of children? Or law enforcement officers that regard their work as opportunities to serve and protect the public, regardless of color, ethnicity, age or gender?

The Bible doesn’t say much about success specifically. The word appears only once in the original translations, but that single use is revealing: “This book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success” (Joshua 1:8).

In other words, God sees success as learning and implementing His truth in our everyday lives, following His principles for experiencing a fruitful, rewarding life.

Ephesians 2:10 declares, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Success, from His perspective, is figuring out what those “good works” are and striving to carry them faithfully.

We find a similar statement in the apostle Paul’s second letter to his young protégé, Timothy. After stating, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,” the apostle adds, “so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Earlier Paul had written to Timothy, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

When we buy a new high-tech device, whether it’s a wide-screen, high-definition TV or the newest generation PC, one measure of success in owning them is whether we set them up and use them as directed to the operating manual. In a similar – yet far more profound – way, in God’s view success for us is striving to discern His truth and living according to it.

We might never merit any edition of “Who’s Who,” but if the Lord knows who we are and we’re recipients of His unconditional love, that’s a formula for ultimate success.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Gift of Sleep

The young live with the delusion that they know everything. Especially in the teen years. I remember it well: Suddenly you think you’re in the possession of the world’s greatest knowledge. But as we get older, and hopefully grow wiser, it becomes obvious we don’t know nearly as much as we thought.

We don’t even have to wait until our teen years to become established know-it-alls. I recall a time when I was in Maryland visiting with an aunt, uncle and cousin. It seems I was about 10 years old. For whatever reason I declared, “It’s too bad we have to sleep. If we could stay awake all the time, we could do so many more things.”

My uncle, probably in his 40s at the time, burst into laughter. “Never go to sleep? Are you kidding?” Decades later I understand why he saw the humor in my brash statement. Yes, on average we spend about one-third of our lives with eyes shut and minds in neutral, but that’s a gift. An absolute, necessary, priceless gift.

For frazzled parents, sometimes the most beautiful
sight can be a sleeping child.
For parents, sleep is beneficial not only for themselves but also for giving them a much-needed respite from their precious, but demanding, energy-sapping offspring. Many evenings, between 8 and 9, a collective sigh of relief escapes as little ones around the globe close their eyes, drift into Dreamland, and Mom and Dad shift their mental gears from high alert.

At different stages of life we may choose to limit sleep, whether we’re in college cramming the night before an important exam, putting in extra hours to meet an important deadline at work, or trying to complete necessary chores at home that have been neglected for too long.

But eventually, sleep does – and must – come. And most of the time, to borrow the famous phrase of the legendary TV icon Speedy Alka-Seltzer, “Oh, what a relief it is!” Just as our smartphones, tablets and laptop computers need recharging, so do our minds and bodies, especially after periods of high stress. Sleep is how we do it.

Not surprisingly, the Bible has lots to say about sleep – its use, and abuse. At times, whether we’re fretting over unpaid bills, a family crisis, or challenges at work, sleep doesn’t come easily. Our minds keep spinning, seeking desperately to find solutions.

Sometimes sleeplessness is necessary, even helpful. We might awaken in the middle of the night, the proverbial idea-lightbulb glowing with a solution. But often God is telling us not to worry and agonize over our pressures and problems. Instead, He says, get some sleep and things will be easier to deal with in the morning.

“It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones” (Psalm 127:2). Much of the time, when we feel at wit’s end, the Lord is telling us, “Chill out. Get some sleep. I’ve got this.”

We read about the stressed-out prophet Elijah, who successfully confronted false prophets, saw God perform miraculous acts, and accurately predicted the end to a 3½-year drought. But when he heard the evil queen Jezebel had demanded that he be killed, Elijah fled, emotionally, physically and spiritually spent.

“’I have had enough, Lord,’ Elijah said. ‘Take my life. I am no better than my ancestors.’ Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep…. All at once an angel touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat.’… He ate and drank and then lay down again” (1 Kings 19:4-6). Rather than chastising the courageous man of God, the Lord prescribed food – and sleep – to enable him to re-energize for further service.

Often in response to a crisis we want to shout, “Do something! Anything! Just do something!” But sometimes the best something to do is get some sleep, even a quick “power nap” to help clear the cobwebs from our overtaxed minds.

At the same time the Bible offers another perspective. It says sleep is beneficial, but not to excess. “Do not love sleep or you will grow poor; stay awake and you will have food to spare” (Proverbs 20:13). “I went past the field of the sluggard… the man who lacks judgment…. I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw. A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest – and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man” (Proverbs 24:30-34).

So the principle of moderation applies: You sleep, you reap. But you snooze, you lose.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Worshiping in All the Wrong Places

Having the right object of worship can help us learn to focus
on people and their interests, rather than our own.

A social media post recently declared that in the United States “we need to put the worship of the almighty dollar aside, and take care of people first.” I agree, to a point. Capitalism, consumerism and materialism seem to have converged, resulting in obeisance to money and things, at the expense of concern for the needs of people.

These days we think and talk a lot about not only those suffering from abject poverty, but also people working hard, often with more than one job, who still can’t seem to get ahead. Too much week, or month, always remaining at the end of their pay.

So the solution, it seems, is simple: Cease the mindless worship of the so-called almighty dollar and instead, start doing unto others as we would have them do unto us. Alas, like most simple solutions, it just ain’t that easy.

For those who do worship money, whose answer to “How much is enough?” is “Just a little bit more,” they’re going to need more motivation than a simple plea to “stop!” Their response is likely to be something like, “Why? Why should I even care? Ya gotta look out for number one. I’ve got mine, so go get your own.”

For most us, if we were to hear that kind of reaction, we’d recoil in horror: How insensitive! How uncaring! How selfish! And yet, our society constantly tells us, “it’s all about me” – so why should we worry about the needs of others? We reply, because it’s the right thing to do! According to whom? If we’re nothing but products of mindless, purposeless evolution, why should we have any concern about one another? Survival of the fittest and all that.

Years ago, a country song bemoaned, “looking for love in all the wrong places.” I suspect one reason we’ve lost compassion and sensitivity for people around us is because we’ve focused our worship in all the wrong places. MBA programs in the vaunted business schools may teach about the bottom line, maximizing productivity, squeezing the most out of the people working for you, and how to grow one’s unique brand globally, but how many of them spend time on how to selflessly serve the interests of customers, clients and employees?

I referred to this in a recent post, but the decided shift from the sacred toward the secular in recent decades has “freed” decision-makers from wondering, “What does God think about this?” or “What would Jesus do?” as the faddish WWJD bracelets used to remind us. If our god isn’t the almighty dollar, then it’s our own self-interests. When we worship self, it’s a demanding, uncompromising “deity.”

However, when we truly worship the God of all eternity, not with mere lip service but with passion and devotion, “self” has a way of diminishing in our focus. John the Baptist, upon realizing who Jesus Christ was, said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). Another translation states it this way: He must become greater; I must become less." There is a direct correlation.

Genuine worship of God doesn’t mean adhering to rigid rituals and regulations, but understanding that part of our purpose, one of the reasons He placed us on this planet we call Earth, is to serve and be of help to others. Jesus stated it this way: The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me'” (Luke 10:27).

When God is excluded from our considerations, when we don’t feel bothered to ask or pray about how to properly use our resources, as well as the authority we have in our respective spheres of influence, we certainly aren’t troubled by annoying questions about what He thinks. Which can “liberate” us from feelings of concern about our fellow man, woman or child.

That’s why it’s important, when we remember Jesus’ command to “love your neighbor as yourself,” to also keep in mind His prerequisite to that statement: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” (Luke 10:27). If we love God with everything we are and everything we have, loving our neighbors as ourselves won’t be such a struggle. It may even become a privilege.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Gifts Are For the Giving, Not For the Keeping

If someone were to give you a gift that you would consider of great worth or having tremendous meaning, what would it be?

A car, an expensive piece of jewelry, some new high-tech device, or a special item of clothing? Money? Maybe tickets to a concert by your favorite musical group, or to one of your favorite team’s games? An antique? Perhaps something that reminds you of a loved one?

What do you do with your gifts?
When we receive valuable gifts, we typically view them either as something to put into use or something to store in a safe place where they can be retrieved easily. We typically don’t think of them, however, as something to be given away.

From God’s perspective, however, gifts are quite different. They aren’t intended for holding onto, but rather to be utilized for the benefit of others. The greatest gift, the Scriptures tell us, is that of eternal life and a never-ending relationship with God. As the familiar verse, John 3:16, tells us, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

This gift doesn’t end there, however. That’s just the start. When God comes into our lives, we not only learn to appreciate all He has done for us, but become eager to share this gift with others. Granted, some that profess faith in Jesus seem intent only on persuading others to their way of thinking, but the apostle Paul expressed what our pure motivation should be in offering this gift from God to others: “For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died” (2 Corinthians 5:14).

In addition to this gift of salvation and acceptance into God’s eternal family, the Bible says the Lord gives each of His children specific spiritual gifts intended for use in serving Him and the people He sends our way.

There’s not universal agreement on what these spiritual gifts are, even though Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 list a number of them. These include evangelism, teaching, encouragement (exhortation), giving, leadership, mercy, service (helping), prophecy, wisdom, discernment, and others. Some authorities would add gifts such as creative communication, craftsmanship, and even counseling.

The Bible clearly states not one of us has all of the gifts, but all with genuine faith in Christ have received at least one spiritual gift. It also declares that all gifts are of equal importance, even though we tend to esteem some observable gifts more than others. “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is in Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:12).

So from God’s viewpoint, the issue is not what our spiritual gifts are, but how – and if – we’re willing to use them. Will we regard them for what they are, precious and of great value, and consciously strive to employ them for the benefit of others?

Early in my walk of faith with Christ, I envied people with visible gifts like evangelism, teaching and leadership. “Why can’t I be like that?” I wondered. Some people I knew regularly met others asking the biblical question, “What must I do to be saved?” I never encountered people like that. I got to know people with substantial financial resources who were unbelievably generous, without hesitation giving to help others – individuals as well as to charitable causes. I would give what I could, but for whatever reason God never entrusted me with great wealth to pass along to others.

Finally I came to recognize the gifts He had given to me. One clue was the repeated opportunities the Lord sent my way to use them. It occurred to me that while I don’t give a lot of thought to my spleen and liver, I really couldn’t get along without them. Similarly, God was telling me He didn’t intend for me to become an evangelist, or a philanthropist. All He wanted me to do was be faithful with what He did give me – what He had called me to be and to do in the body of Christ.

Years ago in the little town of Tomball, Texas, a little old man named Jimmy liked to recite a poem at our weekly service club meetings. It wasn’t necessarily about spiritual gifts, but the message fits:
A song isn’t a song until it’s sung;
A bell isn’t a bell until it’s rung.
Now love wasn’t given into your heart to stay –
For love isn’t love until you give it away.

In the same way, the spiritual gifts God entrusts to us aren’t intended for us to keep. They truly become gifts when we give them away.