And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. Ephesians 4:11 -16
I know that back when I started this blog, it was for the purpose of outreach. I was leaving my home and my job to move 2,000 miles away to help my husband plant a church. I had excellent dialogue with many co-workers about the Lord, and was able to share my faith in Jesus with pretty much anyone. God was so gracious, and for that I am so very thankful. But, I wanted to make sure that I was able to follow up with any co-workers that I had not been complete in sharing the Gospel with, or maybe with some, even have a first shot that felt a bit like a last ditch effort, really. And I did that, and was really pleased with the tool that it was then.
But the blog had a secondary and maybe even a tertiary purpose for existing. I knew that there were going to be times when I would maybe have casual conversation, and would want to be able to follow up with folks I meet in the check out line at the grocery store, or the bank. Or maybe for those that might not think of everything they wished they'd asked me...I wanted a follow up, a way to connect again. So I figured I would direct people to my blog, a safe place where they can read my thoughts, learn my testimony, see all God has done in me and for me. A place where they can hear the Gospel clearly express the way I often wish I had the time or the wits to explain when I am caught off guard, or derailed with objections or distracted by wailing children. And I think this is also a great method.
But also, I have learned that there is more to why the Lord has lead me to write. I now understand that I have been given a gift, (no, not writing) it is the spiritual gift of exhortation. At first I thought it felt more like the gift of confrontation, and honestly I wished I could exchange it for another gift...um...mercy looks good, people with that gift are always so popular.... "Exhortation" is defined as this: to incite by words or advice; to animate or urge by arguments to a good deed or any laudable conduct or course of action. To advise, warn, caution.
I will tell you from experience, that trying to not exercise your spiritual gift when the moment it's needed, is just about like trying to get a hungry dog to not eat a T-bone steak in his dish. So no matter how bad I dread confrontation, and how personally I take it when my "encouragement" is not appreciated, I am like that dog that can not resist the steak. And I am sorry to say, there have been times my exhortation has looked more like the same dog devouring that piece of meat. And quite honestly, without exhibiting the Fruit of the Spirit, exhortation can really be done in sin. Exhorting is encouraging others to do the right thing, or to warn them about doing the wrong thing. This must be done in love, with joy and peace. I must be patient as God is so very patient with me, and gently as the one who I am sent to edify, or build up might be hurting, or walking in the flesh, and right thinking may not come easily. I must have God's best interest at heart, having faith that He can do what is needed in their heart. Also, remembering I am not any better than anyone else, I may be being used by God, but not because of me or my abilities, but because God is allowing me to be his hands and feet, by His grace, and I do not deserve it. And lastly, to have temperance, self control...to be able to say yes when I should say yes, and no to what I should say no to.
The blog has been a great place for me to exercise this gift, albeit, I know that God gives the gifts to edify the body. This has been a training ground for me to grow in this area, without stepping on too many toes. Here I can delete, rephrase, or explain. My voice can not get louder, or angry sounding. And when I see my words I own them more.
Of course I need to build up the believers in the body I have been called to serve in, and hopefully with this tool God has blessed me with I can do it better than if I only exclusively exhort them. And don't worry...as much as I might like to avoid it, God has given me ample opportunity to build them up too! For which I am thankful for.
And that does bring me to a point....I was in a Spiritual Gift Discovery class at my church a few years back, and as the Pastor is teaching us how the gifts are given to us for the purpose of edifying the church, one person leans over and says something to the effect of "I really feel my gifts are best used within my family." and I knew she meant her extended family who was not in church, as she was keeping herself at arms length from the local church she and her husband were members of. It made me remember the times I have given my husband tools for Christmas gifts. One year I got him a DeWalt compound miter saw. It was a huge success in the "good gift-o-meter"! He loved it. I thought it would be a great tool for him to use to work on all the projects around the house. It worked great when I had to have crown molding in my new dining room. Sure if the neighbor has a deck to build, and asks Todd to help, I think the neighbor will definitely be blessed by my gift to Todd, and it would help him in the job of helping the neighbor. But, I did not give him the saw so he could build the neighbors deck, I had hoped and the purpose of that gift was so that my husband would be able to better work on our home. Don't get me wrong...I certainly expect my husband to be a good neighbor and help out when he can, and to use every tool he has. It's like that with our spiritual gifts, God give them to us to use in the church. Of course there will be times when we use them outside of the church, but that is not their primary purpose. And what a shame it would be if my husband is out there building all the neighbors decks while his own home is falling apart.
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. 1 Corinthians 12:1
If what I read in 1 Corinthians 12 is true, (and of course it is) each and every one of us that have been called to a local church body have a specific role or purpose to fill. Verse 18 says..."But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him." So imagine I am running in a marathon, ok....maybe you will have to use less imagination if you imagine me running around the block. My whole body is being used, my eyes are looking at the path before me so I know where to put my feet, my arms are pumping, my lungs are inhaling great huge amounts of much needed air. Can you imagine what would happen if my right foot decides to quit? How far will I go on if that happens? Well about 5 and a half feet...straight down!!! Yup, I would be face down on the sidewalk! The body can not go on with out the help of the foot. Sure after I figure out how to function without it, I will pull myself up and crawl or limp back home. But if that foot continues to refuse to do it's job, my body will never work as well as it was designed to. That foot will always be dragging behind me and slowing me down, I will likely never run in a marathon. Each one of us has a specific job to do as a part of the body, and we have been given a gift to help us in that job. If we do not use our gifts to do our part, it handicaps the church that we have been called to.
So, what's in YOUR tool box? Is your tool box covered in dust? Do you even know where your tools are? Have you been taking good care of them, or are the scattered all over the garage? Do you know how to use your tools? Maybe a good place to start would be look around your tool box and see what's in there, next read the instruction manual, then start small and get used to using them.