As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
(1 Pet 4:10-11 ESV)
It is the first day of 2019, so do you know what time it is? You know it. To make yet another New Year’s Resolution. It is that time of year again, where we make solitary covenants with ourselves to accomplish personal goals for our own betterment through the year. Making resolutions in the New Year has always been a festive tradition in the West, but quite sadly, it has also been custom to see these covenants break as quickly as they were made. Bouts of motivation and enthusiasm begin to wane even within the first week of setting our resolutions, and before long we’ve reverted back to our old habits.
So, I suspect that many of us are generally quite pessimistic when it comes to making new personal goals for the year. However, if anyone should have a reason for making resolutions this season, it should be us Christians! Why you ask? Because God has given us His Spirit as His means to which authentic spiritual transformation is produced in our lives!
If you desire to grow in much greater intimacy in your relationship with God this year, well you are in luck! May I encourage you guys to make a resolution, to continue to grow your love for the truth, and with the bold confidence that God will empower you greatly to sustain your zeal to know God more through this year!
Making your Resolution Count
Now you might be asking me, ‘But John, what sort of resolution should I make?”
Given the fact that we are living in an increasingly-narcissistic society, there is a ubiquitous tendency within each and every one of us to put ourselves on a pedestal and serve ourselves by building our own kingdoms. So naturally we see that the majority of resolutions today are bred from this sort of attitude, “I want to lose weight.” “I want to earn more money.” “I want to find a long-term partner.” Do you see the common denominator? It is always about ME, ME, ME!
With all things considered, none of these things that we wish for are bad in that sense. But with resolutions saturated with such egotism, it is of little wonder that many of them fail miserably. For the Spirit of God, who empowers us in all that we do, is not concerned about building our kingdoms, but His given commission is building God’s Kingdom!
When was the last time you made a resolution to not serve yourself, but to serve others with the gifts that God has given you? Let us make our resolution count for something by using our spiritual gifts and participate in the Grand Project of seeing God’s glory made manifest through our self-sacrificial service to one another, which is far greater than what the world can ever conceive.
Making your Spiritual Gifts Count
The apostle Peter also encouraged his readers to make resolutions to continue living for the rest of their earthly years, no longer for the passions of this world but for the will of God (1 Pet 4:2). There was once a time when these Christians were dead in their sin, living the licentious lifestyle, and were storing the all-consuming wrath due to them on that day of judgement. But by God’s grace, through Christ’s sufferings in the flesh for the unrighteous, they were now alive in Christ and their pagan past was now behind them (1 Pet 3:18). But new and unique challenges arose for these transformed Christians, as the world swiftly swears allegiance against those who desire to live godly lives (1 Pet 4:4). Peter explains that this is a visible expression of the end times, so in light of it they must establish goals to be sober-minded for the sake of their prayers and to continue loving one another with a display of heartful service and hospitality (1 Pet 4:7-9). One of their other resolutions were to foster appropriate use of the spiritual gifts that they possessed! So, it is from here that we finally come to our anchor text today, and we can learn 5 things here about the nature of our gifts:
1. The Origin of our Gifts
‘As each has received a gift…’ (v10a) – It is easy to discredit, and even despise our own abilities when we see that others can do things so much better than us. But just because you can’t cook as well as Jono, or play 5 musical instruments proficiently like Jason, that doesn’t mean you are not gifted at all! For each and every one of us has received a gift from the Holy Spirit. Gifts are given not just to a select few, but to every member of the church! Whether your gifts are miraculous or not, it all comes from the same Spirit.
2. The Function of our Gifts
‘…Use it to serve one another…’ (v10b) – How counterintuitive is this idea, that we should not use what we have been given to serve ourselves, but to serve the best interests of others instead! Our biblical conception of the use of these gifts should blow a dent into the world’s egotistic mantra of using our gifts for self-promotion and self-indulgence. This is the intrinsic function of God’s bestowment of gifts. We become instruments of grace who serve and build the body of Christ together – this is what it means to be a good steward of God’s grace. Spiritual gifts are imparted to us to be imparted to others!
3. The Diversity of our Gifts
‘…Whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies…’ (v11a) – A worthy observation to make here is that not all of us are given gifts to speak, but may be given gifts to serve (v. 11). This indicates that each of us are given different gifts used to serve different subservient means (Rom 12:6-8). Now why is this important? I suspect we often venerate and covet other people’s gifts, whilst undermining the gifts that God has given us to steward. But we all have a distinct role to play and it is irreplaceable from all the other roles that constitute the body!
4. The Power Source of our Gifts
Verse 11a also helps us to make this distinction: that there are many unbelievers with exceptionally gifted abilities in speaking; yet they draw their confidence of their abilities from their self-sufficiency and self-autonomy. But we as God’s stewards of grace, must draw our confidence from the Spirit to truly bless others with our gifts, rather than relying on our own insight. When we speak, we speak in such a way as to depend on God by His Spirit to give us the words to say (cf. Rom 8:26). When we serve others, we come to the Power Source Himself and offer our petitions to Him to supply us with the strength we need (Ps 46:1-3).
5. The Purpose of our Gifts
‘in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ’ (v11b) – The grand purpose for the administration of these spiritual gifts is for this chief end: to make manifest the excellencies of Jesus Christ. We are to acknowledge the greatness of His Majesty ‘in everything’ that we do, which subsequently includes how we use our gifts to accomplish that purpose!
The term ‘everything’ places an absolute parameter on the scope of how our gifts are to be used, and it begs us the question: “Do I use my gifts so that in everything God is glorified?”
Making your Year Count
If it is evident that you use your gifts so that in everything you are glorified instead, then you need to sober up and sense the urgency of knowing what is to come in the End of all things, by making a resolution today to not be a gluttonous Christian who eats their fill and never helps out to clear the table! Make a change this year to be a steward of grace who serves others at the table and ensures others are having their fill. And what better way to start, than to look for deficiencies in our church community that can be filled with the gifts that God has given to us. This could be leading kids church, setting up the pantry, welcoming and ushering newcomers, discipling others, bible study leading and the list goes on.
The opportunities to serve are extensive, and the ministries we have running in our churches are often dependent on servant-hearted people who initially doubted the efficacy of their gifts, but gave the ministry a go and were used incredibly by God to bring abundant blessing to His people! So take initiative and resolve yourselves to be instruments of grace for God and be willing to assist your church wherever her needs may be!
As a church filled of beneficiaries of God’s grace, let us teach our surrounding culture how resolutions should really be made this year. Let us make it known that we are vassal benefactors of grace who love and serve each other with such exuberant joy, such that our unified love radiates the glories of Christ into the crevices of this dark world. For this is our chief end.