Using Our Gifts
Based on 2 Samuel 11:1-15, Ephesians 3:14-21, John 6:1-21
I have a good friend who works as a Human Resources professional. She has worked for large and small companies, and with all types of people with all types of education. She has found one truth to H.R. issues in her years of work, and she can sum it all up in a short bumper sticker-style saying, “Life is all about choices!” She most often deals with employees who have made a choice or two that might upon further reflection have been not the best out of all the options they had in front of them. Like, bringing alcohol to work and then consuming it to excess, dating multiple staff members at the same time, telling the boss exactly what you think about her as a learning opportunity for that boss. Yes, life is all about choices and the consequences that follow from those choices.
Our scripture readings today highlight this aspect of our lives. God has given us great gifts, unique gifts, gifts that sometimes take a life time to discover and live into, gifts that we can choose to use for the betterment of the world or ignore and leave that work to someone else or just leave that work undone. Seems like a good time to go to God in prayer and ask to be shown how to use our gifts, won’t you join me?
David, David, David…what about King David’s choices in this set of scripture today? There he was in his home in Jerusalem – sending his generals and men out to fight his battles during the time of year when our text says, “…when kings go out to battle…” Yet, David chose to stay home and use the power and prestige of the kingship God had given him to seduce and impregnate the wife of one of his best generals, Uriah. David then chooses to try to cover his unethical behavior by bringing Uriah back – hoping that he will go visit his wife. Uriah’s gifts and ethics are in good shape, however, and he staunchly refuses to do what his men do not have the opportunity to do. So, David chooses to have him killed to eliminate the problems that will come from his previous choices. David had forgotten his giftedness and his loyalty to God. In response to his poor choices, what started with one poor decision had snowballed on him to a royal mess of sin and brokenness.
This is where the prayer of Paul becomes important. Look what he writes in verse 16, “…I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love….” Paul goes on in his prayer to wish that we all be filled with the “fullness of God”. Paul notes in verse 20 that Jesus through the power of the Spirit, works within us to get done more than we can ever imagine or even know for what to ask. When we choose to act from that place that is “rooted and grounded in love” then we are doing what we are called and gifted to do. It is this that King David forgot in his series of poor choices.
Jesus, as he so often does, turns around a situation that seems impossible given the resources available. Jesus and the twelve have been with 5000 of their closest friends all day. Jesus wants to feed them all and asks a leading question about where they were to buy bread to feed the multitude. He is told that there are not enough resources either monetary or with access to bread to accomplish the task. However, there is a young person with 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread he is willing to gift to the meal. Small gifts indeed for such a large need, and the Disciples are skeptical. They are seeing things with worldly eyes and knowledge, and Jesus is about to put some divine knowledge and giftedness to work, being rooted and grounded in love.
Like a lot of people, I tend to discredit my giftedness and the fruit that has come from using my gifts in ways that God intends. In fact, on Tuesday afternoon I was speaking with a ministry friend who is quite gifted about a new position he had been offered. This is a man who has done what is necessary to fruitfully inhabit the job that is being offered, but he was down playing his abilities and accomplishments. I felt obligated to point out his false humility and spiritual blindness and at the same time I felt convicted because I too have fallen victim to this same behavior.
We are all greatly gifted by a God who loves us beyond our comprehension. God has gifted the Earth and all that live on it with miraculous gifts – with all we ever need to be happy and fruitful. Yet, we tend to squander those gifts in ways that never lead to fruit, or to less fruit than it could. We also tend to make choices that are guided by worldly principles of popularity or power or money (or all the above) – using our gifts to climb the corporate ladder and to amass wealth of which others can only dream. We grudgingly give to the Church of Jesus Christ our hand-me-downs and left overs, and in many cases never truly involve ourselves in the life of the Church and what she has to offer the world.
Yet, look what happens when we do that…when we are miserly with our giftedness or only look to our own needs. We end up with a series of decisions like King David did. Instead of being rooted and grounded in his love with God and leading his armies to battle against his enemies as other kings were doing, he stayed at home and got into trouble – he invested his gifts in a way that was grounded in his own pleasure and rooted in his momentary needs, not the greater good of God. It cost him one of his best generals, the son that was conceived of his joining with Bathsheba, and the respect of those around him who looked to him for leadership. Certainly not the best use of all that God had so graciously given.
Contrast that to the scenario with Jesus and the 5000+. Here a small boy offered freely his two fish and five small loaves to help feed the masses. If Jesus had scoffed at his offering, all would have gone hungry and he might have lost some members of the kingdom. Instead, he saw the heartfelt gift for what it was; an opportunity to show God’s abundant grace, God’s great unconditional love for all of creation. Not only will these fish and loaves feed 5000 men plus women and children, but all will be filled and there will be twelve baskets of pieces collected, “so that nothing may be lost”. This is in reference to the 12 tribes of Israel and the fact that none of them was to be lost to God. At the end of this story lie an interesting final two verses – let’s hear again verses 14 and 15. Note here that Jesus understands that the people want him to be a human king – like David. Yet, Jesus knows that his kingdom is not here on earth (something he tells Pontius Pilate prior to his conviction). To use his gifts in that way would be to give in to the Satanic temptation to have all human kingdoms under his control. Jesus, rooted and grounded in the love of God, knows his divine gifts are to be used for a greater purpose – to save all who desire to follow him.
How are we to discover and use our gifts to the glory of God? Well, one way is to attend worship as often as possible. Another is to take a spiritual gifts inventory to learn what gifts you have been blessed with (if you do not already have an idea). The good news is that The United Methodist Church’s website has a free spiritual gifts inventory that is only 21 questions long. It can be found at: www.umc.org/what-we-believe/spiritual–gifts-online-assessment. Following that, we can work together to figure out how to put your gifts to use in the world. For those of you without computer or internet access, we can hook you up with someone who can help you get on-line and get the assessment done. I have run off copies of the web address and placed them in your bulletin, so there is no excuse not to get this done this week.
It really is that important to the work that God wants us to accomplish in this part of the world. No more delays or excuses – it is time for us all to recognize how gifted we are and put those gifts to work in the world on behalf of God. It is time to live into our “fullness of God”, so that we can echo the words of Paul, “…Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen….”