Holy Spirit, Part 3: The Gift

Scripture: Matthew 25:14-30
Date: 07/20/2002 
The third in a three part series on the Holy Spirit. This sermon speaks about how we are to use the Holy Spirit through the gifts given to God's people. Not using these gifts has severe consequences.
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Note: This is a verbatim transcript of the live broadcast. It is presented as spoken.

I think we’ve discovered in earlier studies that there probably is no single subject that is more important, that deserves our attention than understanding that we need God in us. It was such a priority to Jesus that he said, “It’s expedient that I go away that I might send God the Spirit” to be in us. Christ not only wanted to be with the disciples, he wants to be in us. And God the Spirit is the person of the godhead through whom the Lord fills us. We need to be Spirit-led, Spirit-filled. Now the subject we’re going to focus on today is dealing with the gifts of the Spirit. This is a very important study for us because as a church we are something like a battleship and every man who works on a Navy battleship has a specific task. Now I think I’ve shared with you my son Daniel is in the Marines.

The Marines are actually a division of the Navy. That’s you know marine, water. They used to be brought by sea. But Daniel said when the Marines are transported by battleship he said that’s the best time to be a Marine because you don’t do anything. He said, “All the Navy grunts do all the work and you’re basically on a floating hotel, but when they get to the place where the battle is you’re the first one off the boat. You’re the first one that gets shot at and so they treat you pretty good in the meantime.” But the rest of the workers that are on that battleship all have very important duties. I don’t know if any of you ever watch the History Channel. They had a special on battleships and the intricacy of a battleship. It’s like a floating New York City. They are so sophisticated. There are so many systems. There are so many rooms. There’re so many components. There’re so many fields. There’re so many divisions. It’s just mind-boggling how much design and how involved that floating hunk of grey metal really is.

Every single person on that ship knows that when they hear an alarm they have a specific responsibility. They go to their station. They might be firemen, they might be involved in launching if it’s an aircraft carrier launching the planes, they might be cooking in the cafeteria, whatever their responsibility is everybody has something to do. Well, a church is something like that, and God is our admiral and he has given every single member of the church a responsibility. There are no Marines. No one is along for the ride. And we have a parable we’re going to consider today that helps us to understand this a little bit. Please turn with me in your Bibles to Matthew chapter 25. We’ll be focusing our attention on a parable that begins in verse fourteen. You’ve all heard this parable before. Matthew 25… now who knows what’s in Matthew 24? What does Matthew 24 deal with? The signs of the second coming of Jesus. It’s a very… it is the most focused passage in all of scripture dealing with the signs and the imminence of Jesus’ return.

After Jesus gives that discourse, he’s not through yet, he concludes after talking about the second coming with three parables. Those parables deal with the ten virgins having the Holy Spirit, the oil in your lamp; then the ten talents, dealing with utilizing the gifts of the Spirit; and then the great judgment, accountability for what you’ve done with the gifts of the Spirit. All three parables at the end of Matthew 24 deal with how you are responsible for, how you’ve received, whether you’ve acquired the Holy Spirit and you’ve utilized it. So it’s very important. We’re going to look at the middle parable in this study. So it’s verse fourteen chapter 25, “For the kingdom of heaven…” I’m just going to read through this. I’ll try and do it without comment, but I probably won’t make it. “For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling into a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them.” Now when… I said without comment. See that? When Jesus ascended to heaven and he went into a far country what did he send?

What was the goods? “It is expedient that I go… if I go, I will send the Comforter.” So what is the goods, the valuables, the treasure, the talents that are distributed? It’s not money. That would be, that’s the basement. That’s elementary that we’re to be good stewards of that. You have something worth much more that God has given you, his very presence. “And to one he gave five talents, to another he gave two, and to another one, each one according to his own ability…” Don’t miss that. “…and immediately he went on his journey.” Now you might be thinking, “Well, I’d be disappointed if I was there watching my friends get five talents and someone else get two talents and I get one, one little talent.” How many of you would think that you’d like to have more than one talent? You know how much a talent is? A talent is not money. A talent is a weight, approximately 75 pounds. How many of you would like to carry 75 pounds around? That would get pretty heavy pretty fast. Now it doesn’t tell us in the parable whether these are talents of silver or gold.

Principally it was one of the two. Would you like to have 75 pounds of gold? Would you be angry if somebody next you had five times 75 talents of gold and you only had 75 pounds of gold? No, you’d probably be satisfied if you realized how much that was. So even the person who received one received a talent. That’s a lot. Okay? See, I’m going to read through here without comment, okay? “Then he who had received the five talents he went and traded with them, and made five more talents. Likewise he who had received the two gained two more also.” They both doubled what they had. Whoops! Another comment. “But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money.” Whose money is it? “After a long time the lord of those servants came again to settle accounts with them.” There is going to be a day of reckoning where we will give an account for what we’ve done with the gifts that were given to us. “So he who had received the five talents he came and he brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I’ve gained five more talents besides them.’ His lord said, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you a ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’”

Notice that the rewards are somehow commensurate with what they’ve done with what they had. “He who had received the two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.’” And the lord said the same thing to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you rule are all over many things. Enter into the joy of the lord.” Please don’t miss this: that the one who received the two gained two more, he received the exact same approval and commendation as the one who had five that had ten. Now one of them has only got four, one has got ten, more than twice as much, but the lord is satisfied with both of them. Why? Because they did the best with what they had. Does God expect from us more than what we’re capable of doing? God is fair. He’ll not even allow you to be tempted above what you are able. God measures for you specifically what he knows you can deal with, but he expects from you specifically what he knows you can produce.

He’ll not give you more than you can handle, but he will not expect less than what you’re capable of. God is fair. All right so the ten, or the five gets ten. The two gets four. Well done, good and faithful servant. “Then he,” verse 24, “Then he who had received the one talent he came and he said, ‘Lord, I knew you were a hard man, reaping where you did not scatter seed, and gathering where you have not sowed. And I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, therefore you have what’s yours.’” I was afraid I was going to lose it so I wanted to make sure you got it all back and here it is just the way you gave it to me. It’s not changed for good or bad. It’s just the same as when you gave it to me. Don’t miss that. He didn’t lose it, but he didn’t use it; and he’s getting punished not for losing it, but for neglecting to use it. Okay? It’s going to apply to us before we’re done today. “But the lord answered him and said, ‘You wicked and lazy servant…’” slothful, indolent, listless servant. Wicked, that’s the strongest word that can be used.

It even sounds mean. Wicked. You wicked servant. I can't think of any stronger term in the Bible. God doesn’t look upon it as indifferent. He calls it wickedness to not multiply what he gives us. That’s a strong thought to consider. He said, “You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I did not sow, and gathered where I didn’t scatter seed. Therefore you should at least have put my money in the bank, and at my coming I could’ve had my own with interest. Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the unprofitable servant into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Okay, there’s our parable. Unprofitable servant. Now I’ve often seen this parable abused. I may have even done this where you apply these talents to some tangible money, goods that we’re to invest. You can turn it into an offering appeal. That is not the principle way that the Lord intends for us to understand this. Those talents are very specifically spiritual gifts. They are the various gifts that God has given. Notice, how many of the servants received gifts? 100%. Are you a servant of the Lord? Then you have received something. Everybody has a gift. Now I’d like to look at this story and evaluate some of these different points.

First point is: everybody gets something. Everybody gets a gift. Now here are some verses. Acts 2:38 Peter’s Pentecost sermon, he says, “Repent, every one of you and the baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Now if you get the gift of the Holy Spirit, that gift of the Holy Spirit will be manifested in one gift form or another, but everybody gets a gift. I was at a wedding yesterday, you want a joke? They asked me to sing at a wedding. You didn’t have to laugh. But I went to a wedding, it was beautiful. I told Karen, “Can we redo our wedding?” It was up in the redwoods in a grove up there. If you’re planning a wedding, oh, it’s a beautiful, beautiful place. They’ve got a place called the Women’s Federation (this is a separate note you can take) the Women's Federation Grove not far from Redwood Campmeeting, gorgeous big redwoods, the white pillowy clouds, the blue sky, and they've got this fireplace and a beautiful place for a wedding. It was wonderful.

Anyway people come to weddings, they bring gifts, don’t they? Baptism is your marriage to Jesus. Jesus has manners. Now I never bring a gift to a wedding. Karen does and that covers me. I don’t like shopping for gifts. It’s very difficult. And here’s a tip for you men; they had a list in Reader’s Digest of what not to do if you’re buying a gift for your wife: don’t get something that has an electrical cord. You don’t want to get your wife like you know a waffle iron so she can make you bigger fatter waffles or a washing machine so she can get your clothes cleaner. You want to get her some thing where it’s… you don’t get her a six month membership at a fitness center. That will not be appreciated. You want to get her something where it’s something personal just for her. Now the gifts that God gives us are wedding gifts. Your baptism is your marriage. He says, “Repent and be baptized and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Everybody baptized gets a gift. Notice here, I Corinthians 12:7, “Now to each one…” How many? “each one” everybody “the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” Now it tells us what the gifts are for there. It’s for the common good. So everybody gets a gift, and they’re all varied gifts.

Next point, point two: the gift matches the recipient. God matches the gift to the recipient. The gift he gives me is the right gift for me that matches my personality and ability. You notice when the lord gave his servants the various amount of talents he gave them what he knew, he evidently knew them, they could handle. That’s why the one with one talent who didn’t even use his one talent only got one talent. The lord didn’t want him to be judged for misusing five talents when he knew he was going to have his hands full with one. Now that’s good news! God isn’t going to give you more than you can handle. He’s not going to give you less than he knows you’re capable of. He’s going to give you what he knows you can utilize. Some of you might be wondering, “What are my spiritual gifts?” I’m hoping you’re thinking that way and we’ll get to that in just a minute. But God matches it for everyone. Here’s a scripture for that. Hebrews 2:4, “God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?”

According to his will and his knowledge, he distributes the various gifts of the Spirit. God’s gifts are not meted out according to… I’m sorry, God’s gifts are meted out according to the taker and not according to the giver. He distributes them according to what your needs are. And again, God does not ask about our ability or inability but our availability when he gives the gifts. If you’re available he will give you a gift. Now are gifts of the Spirit given to everybody or to Christians? I believe that some people are born with natural ability that you might inherit in your genes. It is likely that two parents that have great singing voices might end up with the Von Trapp family singers. They could have kids that also sing. You’ve seen families like that right? If you get two parents that cannot sing on key, it’ll be a miracle if that child can sing on key. It does happen, but you know things do come genetically. The gift of wisdom that Solomon had was that a genetic gift or a supernatural gift? Both. I mean who was his father? King David. Was he a dummy?

No, he was a brilliant man. Who was his mother? Bathsheba was not just a pretty bimbo. The Bible says that Bathsheba was the granddaughter of the wisest man who lived up to that time. His name was Ahithaphel, she was a granddaughter. Daughter of Elam who was the son of Ahithaphel so he had good genes, but you notice he’s praying for wisdom when he takes the kingdom. God gives him a special gift or he activates that natural ability after he becomes consecrated to the Lord’s service. Did Jesus have the Holy Spirit before his baptism? Yeah. How many people did Jesus heal before the Holy Spirit came down? None. How many sermons did he preach? He had maybe some of those natural things through his life but there’s no record of him doing that until he began his ministry. So I believe that you might have some cultivated, some inherited gifts, abilities but enhanced by the Holy Spirit is when they come alive. Now this may not be the best example, but it’s all I can work with right now. I didn’t know I had any gift for public speaking when I first gave my heart to the Lord.

I mean, you think about it, I was living in a cave because I was intimidated by people. And even though I was the class clown, I didn’t give any lectures, I didn’t talk to large groups, I was afraid of people. I didn’t know I had that ability, but after becoming a Christian God started, it didn’t start with large groups like this, it started with a few people in my case of having the courage to speak up and then it got bigger and bigger and bigger. And I remember, I remember the first time I was in a Bible study where they were going around the circle and different people were taking turns and the pastor who was leading the group, he would say, “Now you read this verse and you read this verse,” and I could see he was going clockwise and I counted and tried to find out when he would get to me. I was so nervous that I was going to have to read a verse and front of six people.

My hands were sweating. I kept reading the verse over and over again knowing it was getting to me soon. I knew which way the clock was going. I was so scared of that and I look, I think back on that now and I laugh that I was so afraid to read a verse in front of all these people. I remember, any of you remember the first time you prayed out loud with people listening? Some of you grew up and it never bothered you. You’ve always done it in your family. I never did that before and I remember the first time being in a prayer group. I was kneeling down and they were going in a circle. I thought, “Oh No! I’m going to have to pray out loud! I’ve never done this before.” I wasn’t thinking about my prayer. I was scared half to death. Anyone else like that? Oh good, I’m glad I’m not the only one. It doesn’t bother me now. It’s just very natural. I just talk to Lord like a friend. I didn’t know I had any gift for music, now I didn’t say singing. I said music. There are different ways of that it might manifest itself. My mother was very musical. I think I inherited a good ear.

I can hear when something’s on key or off key. I can tune a piano if I’ve got the tools. But I could never make any music. After becoming a Christian I think the only instrument I ever took growing up was in third grade I had a recorder. Any of you take recorder in third grade, you know? And you learn Clair de Lune. Toot, toot, toot, toot, toot, toot. Toot, toot, toot, toot, toot. I never forgot it. When I was up in the cave after becoming a Christian my brother got me a recorder. I was up by myself, I started playing and pretty soon I realized I could play by ear. And then for my sixteenth birthday I said, “You know, Falcon, I’d really like if you could ask Dad to get me a flute because it’s similar.” And then I got a flute. And then my mom got me a guitar. And then I was living in Covolo I got this old piano that was older than Abraham Lincoln.

I’m not exaggerating. It actually was from the 1860’s, and Dave Boatwright came up and I said, “Dave, show me a few chords.” And then I got a trumpet for my 35th birthday. And you know I discovered that if I work at just about any instrument a little bit I can figure it out. Now I’m handicapped and I never had the discipline to learn to read music and maybe it’s not too late for me. But up to my seventeenth birthday I had no idea I had any musical ability and I always pine. I’m so thankful for the young man who just played the piano. I wish I had done something when I was younger because I think I could have been a much better musician than I am today. In any event, I have enough skill to entertain myself and that’s all that matters for me. So you have, everybody has some natural gifts, but the Holy Spirit will enhance those.

Number three: what are the purposes of the gifts of the Spirit? What are they for? Ephesians 4:11-13 now you read this whole passage. It’s very good. “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors…” I want to emphasize that. “some evangelists, some pastors” those are two different gifts. “…and teachers, for…” Now what’s the purpose of those gifts? Here it is. Three points. “…for (1) the equipping of the saints, (2) for the work of the ministry, (3) for the edifying of the body of Christ…” How long do we need these gifts for? “…till we all come to the unity of the faith of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect a man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Have we arrived there yet? No, do we still need those gifts then?

So the gifts are for the work of the ministry, the building up, edifying of the body of Christ and for the equipping of the saints. The gifts of the Spirit are principally for the Christians to minister both within the body and in diffusing the message of Christ around the world. The gifts are for our development. C. S. Lewis said, “He seems to do nothing of himself,” speaking of God. “He seems to do nothing of himself which he can possibly delegate to his creatures. He commands us to do slowly and blunderingly what he could do perfectly in the twinkling of an eye.” God gives us these gifts to do, he could do much better by himself, but he does it through us. It’s a privilege and it’s for the ministry, the maintenance of the church and the spread of the gospel. That’s what these gifts are for. Now sometimes we don’t use our gifts the way God designed and we’ll get there.

Point number four: there are many different gifts but one Spirit. Now this is very important theme because some people believe everybody is supposed to have one gift or another. How many of you have run into churches or individuals and when you say, “I’ve got the Holy Spirit” they’ll say, “Do you speak in tongues?” That’s one of the gifts of the Spirit. Matter of fact, in many of the places where the gifts of the Spirit are listed it’s at the bottom of the list. But a number of denominations have flipped that list upside down and the first thing they want to know is, “Do you speak in tongues?” Well, God doesn’t say that everybody is supposed to speak in tongues. Many of us have different gifts. Some of us have several gifts. Some have more or less. Everybody has at least one. But the purpose of the gifts is they are to work together the way the members of a body all form one body and we utilize our different gifts. You know, I just, I praise the Lord for the evidence that we’ve seen here at Central of his providence.

When we were praying about whether or not to go into media we had nobody in the church that knew anything about media or cameras or engineering. I certainly didn’t, and it’s a skill, it’s a gift. Right about that time God began to bring people to Central who understood audio, who understood cameras, who understood all these things and they just “fell out of the sky” so to speak and they pulled their gifts together and there’s probably twenty people involved on any given Sabbath just in the recording of a service. And that’s one example. Not to mention the many other gifts of the Spirit in teaching and things and working with children and helps and all those different gifts that are being used to make the church family function and to spread the message. God loves variety. He loves variety in nature and he loves it in the church and this is to equip us for serving. We’re all unique. A whale is very unique from a cactus but don’t ask a whale to survive in Death Valley. Sometimes we get in trouble because we try to get everybody to have the same gift.

We’ve got to help people recognize what their gifts are and then let them flourish with their gifts where they are. I Corinthians 12:11, “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.” God gives to each one as he will what he thinks is best. Romans 12:4-5, “For as we have many members in one body, and all the members are not the same office, so we, being many members, are one body in Christ, and every one members of one another.” We are all integrated by our various gifts. Now part of the reason we’re studying this is because if you read in I Corinthians 12 where you have your best passage on spiritual gifts the first thing Paul says is, “Brethren, I don’t want you to be ignorant regarding spiritual gifts.” So part of the reason I’m doing this message is God wants us to understand this. A church that is unaware of their resources is obviously not using their resources. Does that make sense? If you don’t know what your spiritual gifts are then you’re probably not using them to their fullest ability. He wants us to understand this.

All right. Point number five: (and you’ll get a chance now to look at the survey or the form that I gave out.) How can you know what your spiritual gifts are? Let me just ask for a show of hands. This will be good for you subconsciously. How many of you believe that God has given you a spiritual gift? Raise your hand. Okay you’ve just acknowledged he’s given you a gift. Now you need to know what that gift is or gifts. Most of us have more than one gift. How can you know what your gifts are? Oh, there’s several ways. For one thing, ask a Christian friend. Sometimes we are not good judges of ourselves. Have you ever met people before that think they’ve got the gift of singing? And no one has ever had the audacity to tell them otherwise so they... Ask a friend who will be honest with you what their gifts are, what your gifts are. And the Bible says in the multitude of counsel you might ask more than one. And I wouldn’t mind if we do this over the next few weeks if you’d call and say “look, what you think my spiritual gifts are?”

Put a form in your hand that has the 22 most prominent gifts that scholars have compiled with their corresponding scriptures. You notice I did not put any numbers by them on purpose. I didn’t want you to think that one was more valuable than another. The Bible does list three of them as being very important: apostles, prophets so forth, but the rest of them are not listed that way. They’re all valuable and so I wanted to just put this in your hands and have you think about that. Ask a friend. Another thing you might ask when you’re wondering what your spiritual gifts are: what are you good at? What do you already know that you do well, that you seem to excel at? Some of you might be, “I don’t do anything well.” Everybody does something well. I remember hearing about a thirty-eight year old scrub-woman. She’d go to the movies and she’d look at these beautiful movie stars and she’d say, “Oh, man, I wish I could look like that.” She’d listen to some talented musician sing, “Oh, I wish I could sing like that.” And her friends told her to stop pining.

She read a book that helped her realize that everybody has a gift and everybody has some specialty, that God doesn’t leave anybody neglected and she realized that back in high school everyone told her she was the funniest girl in school so she began to try and do comedy and pretty soon she was making a million dollars a year in her comedienne career. Her name is Phyllis Dillar. She just turned eighty-something last week. Couldn’t sing, couldn’t dance, didn’t look that good, but she decided to use what she had and she went, thirty-eight years old, she finally discovered what her gift was. Everybody has something. Another way you might find out. What do you enjoy? Now don’t misunderstand this. Some of you are thinking, “I know what my gift is. I have the gift of eating.” That’s not a spiritual gift. There are some of you who think, you’re thinking, “What do I enjoy? That’s my gift?” No, we’re talking about, it’s got to be on the list there, okay? There are some things that others are very good at. For instance: I am so thankful, it’s not a spiritual gift, but I am so thankful that my wife has a gift for manipulating and working with numbers. People who do accounting that are not…the blood drains from my face when I think I’ve got to just add and subtract numbers. It just, to me they’re so abstract.

I don’t see what the purpose is. I can give and get correct change and I figure that’s all you need to know. Isn’t that right? But Karen, she just, she’ll go over the checkbook and she enjoys it so much she’ll do it twice to make sure she’s got it right. And I just, I’m glad she’s got that gift. Tax time, I praise the Lord for giving my wife that gift, but that’s not my gift and I don’t want it. And so you know some of us will discover I enjoy serving, I enjoy intercessory prayer. That’s a sign that may be your gift so you can ask that. Now there are a number of ways to evaluate what your gifts are and I started looking at how long the list would get and I thought, let’s make it easy. How many of you, fess up, here we are in the capitol of California. How many of you are online? Let me see your hands. You’re on the internet, you can get access to the internet. There are about half a dozen Christian spiritual gift surveys online that are free and I would recommend if you really want to know… the reason I didn’t print that out is some of them, you have to be committed, have a hundred questions. And you might think, I don’t have time for that, but it doesn’t take that long.

If you really want to know take a spiritual gift survey. When you go through one of those you’ll be surprised what you discover. You might find out things about yourself you had no idea that you’ve got this gift that’s been just in the drawer under the socks gathering dust. At least put it in the bank, find out what you’ve got and then invest it. Amen? Some of you have dormant gifts that have just been hanging in the closet waiting to be worn and God wants you to take them out and put them on. “Man finds it hard,” George MacDonald says, “Man finds it hard to get what he wants because he does not want the best. God finds it hard to give because he would give the best and man doesn’t take it.” God wants to give us the best.

Point number six: spiritual gifts can be nurtured by others. Not only can you do something to enhance and to utilize your spiritual gifts, but you can do something to enhance and cultivate spiritual gifts in others. Here’s a scripture for this. Romans 1:11 here’s what Paul says, “For I long to see you, that I might impart to you some spiritual gift, that you might be established.” Now what was Paul saying? I’m going to come to you and reach into my Santa Claus bag and say, here’s a spiritual gift for you and here’s a spiritual gift for you. No, when he says “impart to you some spiritual gift,” Paul is saying, “I want to come to you to enhance, to bring out your spiritual gifts that you have.” Paul did not have the gift of the Holy Spirit to give gifts to people. They did lay hands on people and pray, he talked to Timothy about that, and their gifts suddenly blossomed.

You and I can do things to enhance the spiritual gifts of others. There was this poor boy in Naples who worked in a factory all day long and his mother, you know mothers sometimes see the best in children that no one else can see, believed that he would be a great singer. She tried to buy him some voice lessons, but even on the first interview the teacher said, “Ma’am, your boy’s voice sounds like the wind blowing through the shutters. Save your money.” She would not accept that. She was convinced and she worked and spent and sacrificed for years to get him training. You know what his name was? Enrique Caruso, he became the greatest tenor and the teachers said that his voice sounded like the wind blowing through the shutters, but his mother recognized that he had that kernel of talent and she did everything she could to encourage and to support him in that until he became the greatest singer in the world. And so you have gifts that you may not be aware of that need cultivating. You might be thinking, “Well, Doug, maybe when I was younger, but it’s too late now.”

Do you think Moses knew he had a gift, that gift for boldness and leadership? He cowered from the idea of doing that, but once he was cut loose he did it very well. Which brings me to another point: does God give spiritual gifts only to those who are thoroughly converted? No, a lot of us would say that we’re not qualified because I think all of us question the depth of our conversions sometimes. Amen? Jesus sent Peter out preaching and after several missionary trips that Peter had gone out preaching, Jesus says to Peter, “Peter, Satin has desired to have you that he might sift you like wheat but I have prayed for you that your faith fail not and when you are converted…” When you’re converted? Wait, he’s been out preaching, casting out devils, raising the dead, healing the sick. He had done all that and after doing all that Jesus says “when you’re converted.” I believe that utilizing and recognizing your spiritual gifts is part of your conversion process. God does not wait until we are perfectly sterile, stainless steel Christians and then say, “Now I’m going to give you a gift of the Spirit because now you’re worthy.” No, I think we all know some people receive gifts of the Spirit and they use them selfishly. Did Balaam have the gift of prophesy? Yes, he did.

Did he want to use it for selfish purposes? Yes, he did. Was he unconverted? Yes, he was. Was it a gift of the Spirit? Yes, it was. Some of us maybe have used our gifts that way. I know a man who’s got the gift of evangelism and now he’s using that gift of persuasion for making money. He’s left ministry. God gave him a spiritual gift that he’s using for a selfish purpose just to make money. And it’s a tragedy to see it. Is he making money? Yes, but he’s wasting a gift. No gift unrecognized as coming from God is at its own best. If you don’t recognize that your gifts come from God you’re handicapped. “Many things that God would gladly give us must wait until we ask for them that we might whence they come. When in all gifts we find him, then in him we shall find all things.” That’s also George MacDonald.

Point number seven: spiritual gifts can be enhanced. What I am is God’s gift to me, what I do with it is my gift to him. What you are and what you have is God’s gift to you, but what you do with that gift is your gift to him. Gifts are not necessarily mature at the time of discovery. They are developed through use and experience. God may give you a gift… and you know this is something that is not addressed in our parable of the talents. What do you do in a situation where you’ve got a person who gets five talents and they make five more? “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Okay, we know that. A person gets two talents, they make two more. “Well done, good and faithful servant.” And then of course we’ve got the one character who didn’t do anything. But what do you do in the situation where somebody gets five talents but he only makes three more?

Where do you put him? He says, “Hey! I’m making progress. There’s a profit.” You know I think there’s some of us here that we are using our spiritual gifts and we do see progress and we know that we’re being used of God. You are a ten talent person, but you’re only producing six or seven talents and you think, “Hey! I’ve got so much more than everybody else. I’m doing great!” God knows you could do much better than you’re doing. Have you ever thought about that? It’s easy for us to console ourselves that because we are using our gifts, we’re involved in the Lord’s work, we’re ministering to others, we’re doing better than others. The Bible says, “They that compare among themselves are not wise.” God is aware that you are capable of ten talents and you’re coming up with six, seven, eight or nine. You’re not doing what you really can do when you develop your gifts and place them in his hands. Talent is something God gives you. Experience is something you give yourself. You can do something with God’s help to develop those gifts that he’s given you.

Somebody once asked George Bernard Shaw where he got his great gift for oratory. He answered, “I learned to speak as men learn to skate or cycle, by doggedly making a fool of myself until I got used to it.” Sometimes developing your spiritual gifts can be embarrassing, you’ll make mistakes, but you need to step out in faith. Do you think my first sermon, the first year I began to preach was as eloquent as after ten or fifteen years of preaching? No, you would have all got up and walked out. If you heard one of my first sermons, matter of fact, you know what I did when I was up in Covolo? For fun we were up this Sabbath and I thought, “I want to watch one of the old videos.” I’ve got a videotape of me preaching in Vallejo like twelve, fifteen years ago. I mean it was done on a half-inch camera and Karen and I watched it and laughed. For one thing I had hair. And you know you look at the way you dress and I’m preaching the whole time like this, my hand in my pocket and I don’t know someone helped me get the victory over that somewhere along the way. But just I looked at it and I thought, “Oh man, he was really rough.” But you have to sometimes just work at it. You make a fool of yourself and then God helps you grow. A plain bar of iron is worth about five dollars.

Let’s suppose you get a five dollar bar of iron. That same bar of iron, if you convert it into horseshoes, is worth fifty dollars. That same bar of iron if it’s made into sewing needles, little sewing needles, it’s worth five thousand dollars, same bar of iron. That same bar of iron in its raw state worth five dollars made into Swiss watch springs is worth five hundred thousand dollars, same bar of iron. God has given you some raw materials. He wants you to consecrate them to him. Solomon had the raw materials of wisdom, but until he prayed that prayer it was not activated. And he’s given you gifts that maybe you have not utilized yet. I hope some of you are taking that list that I handed you and if you recognize some gifts that you’ve got there, while I’m talking, don’t completely ignore what I’m saying, just circle, circle some of those. I want you to be thinking as we’re studying this together.

Now we’ve talked a little bit about utilizing your gifts. We’re accountable to God if we waste our gifts. I Peter 4:10, “As each one has received a gift, minister to it one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” Now this is very clear. He’s talking about stewardship of the gifts of the Spirit that you have received. A steward is using something that belongs to somebody else. I love the story in the Bible of Eleazar. Abraham says, “Go get a wife for Isaac, but don’t get her from the pagan nations where I live. You go back to my homeland.” And Abraham committed to Eleazar incredible resources. He had ten camels loaded with gold and silver and money because they paid dowry’s back then. And he had to use his wisdom how to utilize these gifts for the purpose of getting a bride for Abraham. Well, that’s the whole story of spiritual gifts right there. The gifts of the Spirit are to get the bride for Christ. It’s to expand the kingdom, to spread the gospel, but they’re not Eleazar’s gifts. They’re not yours, they’re not mine.

We are sent by our Master to use these gifts to help invest them to bring back a beautiful bride for Isaac. They’re not for to be squandered selfishly. We’re not to waste them. I Corinthians 14:12, “Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel.” The purpose for these gifts is to build up the church. Imagine for a second a teenaged boy. The father him a new silver trumpet. He pawns the silver trumpet and uses the money at the video arcade at the mall. If you were that father would that make you mad? You got him the trumpet to bless others with music and he sells the trumpet and squanders the money. You know I did something that I’m ashamed of. I’ve done a lot of things, but I’m going to share one of them with you right now. When I was growing up I went to a school called Bentley in New York City and they handed out all these milk cartons that were from UNICEF. Any of you remember UNICEF? And during Halloween we would trick-or-treat but they asked us to dedicate some time to trick-or-treating for UNICEF to collect money for the starving children in B’afra. I think all of us remember those horrific images of the children with the swollen bellies and the skinny arms and legs. And I went out with this milk carton trick-or-treating.

I remember still saying, “Trick or treat for UNICEF! Trick or treat for UNICEF!” And I made a pile of money, but you know what? I watched all that money dropping in that milk carton I started to covet it. And I remember that I dumped a lot of that money out in my drawer and I took just a few coins and turned it in at the school and it’s always haunted me. I don’t know if there’s any way other than asking for God’s mercy I can ever right that wrong but what I did is I robbed gifts that were given to me that were not mine. I was a steward of gifts for starving children; and here I was a fat little kid in New York City and I squandered it on myself. Isn’t that awful? You don’t want to agree with me, but it is awful, isn’t it? Well, you know some of us have done the same with God’s gifts. Sometimes people get gifts of music and they start out singing gospel like Elvis Presley, and they end up singing for the world and they self-destruct. Some people have gifts of administration of finances that God wants you to use in his kingdom, but instead they use it to build up an empire on Wall Street. A lot of people out there in the world started out as Christians. You’d be surprised if I name some names. People who have even gone through Christian schools that had incredible abilities and gifts, and then they used them in the world selfishly. I was going to just use an example. I decided not to because that might embarrass the individual.

Number nine: use it or lose it. Have you heard that before? It’s true with your brain; use it or lose it. It’s true with your memory, it’s true with your muscles, it’s true with your spiritual gifts. Can gifts be taken away? Yeah, Matthew 25:28, “Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents.” That’s interesting, that one character with one talent was probably mad at the fellow who had five. Now he watches his one that he has kept in the drawer taken from him and given to the one who has already got ten. Use it or lose it. Psalm 51:11 Can you lose the Holy Spirit? Yes, you can otherwise why would Peter, I’m sorry, why would David pray, “Do not cast,” and this is Psalm 51:11. “Do not cast me away from Your presence, do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.” Genesis 6:3, “And God said, ‘My Spirit will not always strive with man.’”

If we squander the gifts that he’s given us, we can lose them. Some of us may have lost something already because we let it stay dormant so long, hanging in the shelf, the moths have eaten it, thieves have broken through and stolen it. We have nothing to do with how much ability we’ve got or how little but what we do with what we have. Luke 12:48, “For to everyone has much will be given, from him much will be required; to whom much has been committed, of him he will ask the more.” Luke 16:10 is similar; “He who is faithful in that which is least is also faithful in much.” Instead of pining that maybe we don’t have as many gifts as somebody else be faithful with what you have. You can learn math with pennies and you can learn math with dollars. Typically we teach our children math with pennies, right? When they’re faithful in learning the math with pennies you give them dollars. If you’ll be faithful in utilizing the gifts that God has given you, you might discover there are dormant gifts that will sprout you did not even know you had. Be faithful in what you have and he will give you more.

Do not be proud of your gifts. They’re not yours. They’re gifts. Is it right for that person who’s got five talents to go around bragging and saying, “Na ney, na ney! I’ve got five talents and you’ve only got two”? You wouldn’t have anything if God didn’t give it to you. Here’s a scripture supporting this principle. I Corinthians 4:7, “For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, then why do you boast as though you had not received it?” Don’t forget that it’s a gift. It was given to you. It’s not something that you have of your own. Matter of fact, every breath that we draw is a gift of God. Oswald Chambers said, “It’s not a question of our equipment but of our poverty. Not what we bring with us but what he puts in us.

Not our natural virtues, our strength of character, our knowledge, our experience, all that is of no avail. God can do nothing with people who think they will be of use to him.” Do you hear that? Your gifts, you’re not supposed to have this picture in your mind that God’s up in heaven saying, “Oh, I hope I can use them. They’re sure talented!” God can’t use you if you think that he needs you. He needs you in that he loves you. He needs you the way a parent needs a child, but a parent ends up taking care of a child. He needs you in the way that he loves you, but he doesn’t need your gifts. You don’t have any gifts that he didn’t give you. None of us are indispensable. All of us can be replaced. Amen? We’ve seen it happen many times. The disillusionment with our own abilities is perhaps one of the most important things for God to use in us. If you are disillusioned with your abilities then God can use you. You notice the ones that God often calls are the ones who when he calls them are reluctant? Isaiah says, “Woe is me, I am undone.” And then God says, “Who will go for us?”

Peter falls down at Jesus’ feet and says, “Lord, depart from me. I’m a sinful man.” Jesus says, “Good I can use you. Now you’re going to catch men.” Moses said, “Lord, I’m slow of tongue. Send someone else.” God says, “That’s the spirit! I can use you because you’re humble.” As soon as you become proud of your ability you’re disqualified. Amen? We need to keep the attitude. Our gifts can be a handicap if we think we’re something whether it’s Peter’s boldness or Thomas’s caution. All those things twisted can be handicaps. I’ve got a poem for you. “Isn’t it strange that princes and kings/and clowns that caper in sawdust rings/and common folk like you and me/all are builders for eternity?/To each is given a book of rules/a block of stone, a bag of tools/and each must shape ere time has flown/a stumbling block or a stepping stone.” God has all given us something that we will shape either into a strength or a weakness.

Now in closing take your Bibles real quick. Turn with me to I Corinthians, I just, I hope you have your Bibles here. This is not going to be on the screen. I Corinthians chapter 12 where there’s a whole discussion on the gifts. You know I know that there is so much to say on this subject and I’m running out of time but I really want to include this point. The big passages on spiritual gifts are in First Corinthians. I Corinthians chapter 12 and chapter 14 is where you find the real meat of this subject. At the end of I Corinthians chapter 12 you find this verse, verse 31, “But earnestly desire” or covet “the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way.” What is the more excellent way that God is about to show? Chapter 13 of First Corinthians, what is that all about? The Love Chapter in the Bible. Isn’t it interesting that sandwiched between the two passages on spiritual gifts is the discourse on love? Why? Because if you’ve got the spiritual gifts and you don’t have the fruit of the Spirit then your spiritual gifts are a handicap.

If you’ve got the gift of music and you sing for your own glory that gift is a handicap even if you’re singing in church. I’ve seen it. You’ve seen it. People get up and they sing special music and they’re more preoccupied with what you think of them than what you think of God. Isn’t that right? We’ve seen it. Sure we have. We’ve seen people with the gift of preaching and they’re a lot more interested in how they did than how God looks. All the different gifts separated from love do more harm to the cause of God than good because we squander them. We’re thinking, “Oh well, I’m gong to use it for myself or I’m going to bury it in a drawer because he’s going to want me to give an account of it.” But when we have love for God and love for our fellow man then we will use our gifts for our fellow man and for God. Love is the main issue here that is sandwiched between the spiritual gifts. It needs to be kept the priority. Notice here, Romans 5:5, “…the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” So when the gifts of the Spirit are given what is inherent in that gift? The fruit of the Spirit is… love, joy, peace so forth. Love must be the very center of it. You know I was doing a study on some of the great gifts that have been given.

I was talking about, well, maybe I’d talk about the Taj Mahol. This man built this, but it’s a mausoleum for his wife’s dead body. You can talk about some of the great gifts. Hanging gardens of Babylon that Nebuchadnezzar built for a wife because you know one of the Seven Wonders of the World was a gift. She was homesick for the tropical region where she lived and here she is out in the desert so he built these hanging gardens to make her feel more at home because he loved her so much. All these great gifts that were given through history, the greatest gifts were given because of love. I was flying on a plane recently and I usually take my latest edition of Readers Digest with me. I’ll admit, I do, that’s my outside reading. I like Readers Digest. It typically has some clean articles in it. It’s got some good bald jokes. I collect them. But I couldn’t get my newest Readers Digest. It hadn’t come yet and I had to take another trip so I went to my stack of old ones and I pulled out one I don’t think I had read and it had this beautiful heart moving story, true story about a young lady whose father was dying from kidney disease and she, scared of surgery, terrified of pain, gave one of her kidneys so that her father could live. Now that’s a gift, isn’t it?

How much more has God given us? What was the most valuable gift that the Lord gave us that made every other gift possible? “God so loved the world, He gave His Son,” and in Christ is every other gift. You know the first criteria to activating the gifts that God has given is to give yourself. What did Solomon do to activate his gift of wisdom? He fell down before the Lord and he prayed and then God appeared to him that night in a dream. He gave himself and then God gave the gift. Paul says in Romans 12, “Brethren, I beseech you that you present yourself a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable.” And when you do this that is the first step to his helping you recognize, mobilize, activate the gifts of the Spirit that you have. Yes, you do. You all have spiritual gifts and a lot of them are waiting to explode into use as soon as you recognize that and give yourself to God. Is that your desire? Give yourself as a gift and he will then activate and mobilize the gifts he’s already given you.

Father in heaven, Lord, we are so thankful for your generosity first and foremost that you’ve given us your Son. You’ve given us life and through Jesus new life. And, Lord, we are thankful for the varied and many gifts that you have given us as individuals and as a church family that make it possible for us to minister to one another in a perishing world. Lord, we would ask you for the forgiveness we know we need for the times we have possibly squandered these gifts selfishly, we’ve robbed you of what is yours, we’ve maybe stored the gifts in a drawer where they’re gathering mold and dormant and, Lord, forgive us for this neglect. Help us to be faithful remembering there is a day when we will give an account for what we have done with these gifts. Help us, Lord, to do everything that we can through Christ with what you’ve given us. Help us, Lord, to recognize what our gifts are that we might utilize them in ministry to each other and the world. Bless us that we can be a church that is fulfilling the pattern that we see in the Bible. This is sincerely our prayer and we ask in the name of your Son Jesus. Amen.

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