In church this morning, the sermon was on Romans 12. And I began to wonder which gift I had received. Of the those listed in this scripture: prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving and showing mercy, I couldn't easily identify which of these I might possess.
The first one mentioned is, 'prophesying'. I tucked that one away for another day. The next gift was, 'serving' and I will confess that I did find solace in the word, 'if'. "If it is serving..." Ok, not mine. I'm kidding. We all are called to have servant hearts but still; moving on down the list. 'Teaching'. No, I've said before, I don't want this--Biblical backup in James 3:1. Encouraging came next and if I'm honest, I struggle with doing this in any natural way. Then came, 'contributing to the needs of others'. This I can do, but is that what I've been called foremost to? Leadership, definitely not. And lastly, 'showing mercy'. I need work in this arena too, maybe.
There's a lot here. I'm not going to attempt to analyze it and I understand that all of these gifts we are to cultivate. But what is my own primary gift?
Listening and reading this morning, I felt something like a stab when the word, "encouraging" came up. I don't generally view myself as encouraging, though I would like to be. My words (I), however, don't state praise easily. It's something I have to work at. A character defect. So, I wasn't sure why I kept feeling like that was it. My gift.
I think maybe, somewhere along the line, I took what was my natural gift and, "thinking of myself more highly than I ought", I began to criticize rather than encourage.
The pastor explained this "thinking of ourselves as more highly than we ought", not as a means to degrade our self-esteem, but that we might see the worth in others and our own need. Recognizing the truth of ourselves allows us to see that we need others and also that God calls others in areas in which we ourselves have not been called.
It seems that the New Testement writers were far less concerned with our modern day call to 'love ourselves'. In contrast, it seems they knew that self-love was inevitable. Jesus Himself, gives us, as the second greatest commandment, "Love your neighbor as yourself."
If we're honest, maybe we have to admit that even low self-esteem comes from the same family as pride. That one's a doozy.
Verse three continues on to say, "rather think of yourself with sober judgment". Maybe a call to self-analysis? If we wish to see and love others for who they truly are, we cannot be blind to who we truly are. When we start writing other people off, their gifts, their talents, their value in the kingdom, maybe we are not thinking of ourselves with sober judgment.
I think the most beautiful illustration of the body coming together is in times of worship. To see hands lifted up, tears streaming, I can experience the great love God has for all the members. But other times, not so much.
Other times, I want to criticize the members. Or not recognize their worth. But in this, I'm forgetting about grace. That anything we were gifted of was given us by grace. By charis. The greek word which can mean: 'divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life, liberality, joy, thank(s)worth, favour, and gift.
See the circle? How there is no separation between gift and grace?
What we want to take credit for, is really a divine influence upon our hearts, given us by the Creator with joy that we should be thankful. He has shown us undeserved favor.
And He gives this to me, to you, for free. And so I am free. I am free to share that I need so much work. Free to examine myself that I might see myself rightly. Free to not be afraid of what is revealed, therein. Free to admit that I've been given the gift of encouragement but have not used it for God's glory, if at all.
Some of our gifts are subtler than others. Some are quiet gifts. Some gifts mean whispering encouragement to those we love.
"Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant." -Robert Louis Stevenson
We are not all called to greatness. We are all called to do all for the glory of God.
Lord, help me to embrace what you have given me. Help me to view myself as You see me and as You desire me. Help me to build up rather than to tear down. Help me to understand that You have everything under control. My criticisms are not necessary to keep the ball rolling. Help me to keep my own house in order and to embrace the gift of encouragement.