Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:10
I love music. I grew up taking piano lessons and playing percussion in the band as well as singing in the choir. I have a list of instruments I would love to acquire and learn to play someday. During my college years, I saved my pennies and used my Christmas money to buy an acoustic guitar. Nothing fancy. I spent the better part of my junior year learning the basics with a couple of friends and by the end of the year, I could transpose most praise and worship music into a key which featured chords I could play. Combined with my natural ear for rhythm developed from years of piano lessons and pep band games, I could pass as a decent guitar player.
When summer came, I traveled to rural North Dakota to work at a Bible camp as a counselor for the summer. As I was unpacking my car and moving into my main living space for the summer, a couple of the staff commented on the guitar I had brought with me and asked how long I had been playing. As luck would have it, while several other counselors owned guitars, only one other person on staff, the assistant program director, had ever really played guitar to lead a group of people in worship. The next morning the camp staff was scheduled to visit a local church and lead worship. I jumped into the deep end of leading worship by playing my guitar for that Sunday service.
Throughout the summer, my fellow staff members regularly commented on how good my guitar playing was. But I knew the truth. I knew I was not talented. I had spent enough time with really good, skilled guitar players at college to know I was very much, a beginner. Interestingly enough, one of those really good guitar playing friends at college was doing music professionally at the time and was scheduled to be at camp towards the end of the summer for a Sunday night concert open to the local community. I kept telling my fellow counselors to wait until Jeremy’s concert before telling me I was a good guitar player.
Finally the week of Jeremy’s concert rolled around in late July. It was so much fun to see a familiar face! I had always enjoyed his music so I was excited to hear him sing and play as I neared the end of a super fun, but also super exhausting, summer. His concert was well-received. And my fellow counselors stopped telling me I was a good guitar player.
For as much I have always loved music, I have never had the raw talent or disciplined drive to be a great musician. I have always wanted to be gifted in music, but my gifts lie elsewhere.
The Holy Spirit has gifted each of us in a unique way to be able to live the life God has called us to live. For a long time, I wanted the Holy Spirit to empower me to be gifted in music because I thought it would be cool. It took me a long time to embrace that I was gifted in organization and administration because, well, it wasn’t nearly as cool as being gifted in music. So I can look at a big event and break it down in the manageable, step-by-step pieces to execute, big deal. So putting together a schedule and plan to get a group of people from point A to point B is a logical, obvious process for me, isn’t it for everyone?
Years later, I was setting up for a team meeting at my church with the youth pastor. I had set up tables and chairs to make a “U” shape so we could have a projector in the middle and screen in the front where everyone could see. The youth pastor came in and expressed that the room was set up incorrectly because we would be too far apart from each other. It was tempting to get upset with him. After all, I was already basically done setting the room up the way we had discussed previously. But I stopped myself. And I asked a key question: “Can I tell you what I’m thinking and why I set it up this way?”
n that moment, we both realized just how differently my administratively gifted brain worked from his very non-administratively gifted brain. In that moment I realized my ability to organize events, information, and keep things flowing smoothly for groups was indeed a gift. It was a gift not everyone had. It was a gift which had value. It’s not as cool as music but without it operating in the body of Christ, those gifted in music would never be able to share their gift beyond a small group of their immediate friends and family because no one would ever get the behind the scenes work of a praise and worship service figured out!
We are promised that the Holy Spirit will gift and empower us to be part of sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. But we are not promised it will be in the way we think is the coolest. The music I play will never be a top 40 Christian radio hit. But I have watched lives changed at youth retreats which I have planned and organized. I have worked with numerous people to enable them to come to camp where they experience God in a way they never have before. I have been part of organizing mission trips where students have discovered a heart and gift for working with people from different cultures. I have enabled countless others to be more effective in their “cool” ministry because they aren’t trying to do tasks which are hard, illogical, and time consuming for them.
The Holy Spirit knows your personality, your life circumstances, the access you will have to various resources, everything before He gifts you in some way. Our challenge to embrace the gifts we are given and seek the most effective way we can use them to advance the Kingdom of God. You may not be the next Billy Graham, but you may just be the person who encourages the next Billy Graham at just the right, God-appointed time. Don’t miss that chance because you are busy trying to be someone other than who God has called and gifted you to be.
Do you know what you are gifted at? Spiritual gifts inventories can help and be a great starting place. While there are many out there, the online survey offered in partnership with BeliefNet is quick with clear results and resources to help you understand exactly what each gift is. (CLICK HERE) The key with any survey you may take is to be honest with yourself. Don’t answer a question the way you think you should as a “good Christian,” but as you really feel. Once you get your results, ask a few close, trusted friends and family to weigh in. Do they agree? Disagree? Why? What other gifts do they see in you? How do they see you using your gifts in your life right now?
The Holy Spirit doesn’t give us a gift to help us feel good about ourselves or so we can be a superstar every one admires. We are given gifts to be empowered to share the Good News and build up the body of Christ. In what ways are you using your gifts and talents to be a witness to who God is in your life?
Take a look around. Often we can be stay with doing something we are good at and prevent someone who would be great at the same task from being able to use their gifts. I could insist on leading worship at camp, but there are others on staff who are much more talented and skilled than I am so I rarely lead worship these days. Where in your life can you make a similar decision?
If you are interested in Jeremy’s music, you can listen by clicking HERE. Sadly, he passed away a number of years ago from complications following a bone marrow transplant. You can read more about his story by visiting www.jeremyerickson.com. I am still hundreds of practice hours away from playing guitar as well as he did.