Gifted to Serve
By Rev. Heidi L. Barham | August 27, 2023
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Read Romans 12:1 – 8
Our New Testament lesson this morning comes from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Roman church. Originally written as a means of introducing himself to the believers in Rome before his arrival… this letter also includes a declaration of Paul’s faith in Jesus and provides the roadmap to salvation which is still used to this day… it is this plan of salvation that is best known as the Romans Road.
Paul’s letter to the Romans also offers practical guidelines for the believers to live by… reminding them (and us) that it is not simply enough to know the gospel (the Good News of Jesus the Christ) …we must let the gospel transform our lives… we must let it change us… and that also means we must be willing to let God impact every aspect of our lives.
And just how might we do that?
Well, if we take a look at the first verses of our text as they are found in the Message Paraphrase, we find this answer:
Back in Old Testament times, animals were presented as sacrificial offerings for specific purposes at designated times. These animals were killed and placed on the altar by the priest in strict adherence to the law.
However, as important as these sacrifices were in those days… we are reminded that obedience from the heart was even more important (see 1 Samuel 15:22, Psalm 40:6, Amos 5:21 – 24)… something that Paul highlights in these opening verses of the text.
Rather than killing animals… God’s desire is for us to offer ourselves… as living sacrifices… taking our ordinary, everyday lives and living them in such a way that it brings glory and honor to God… this is indeed our reasonable service.
Literally, it is our worship offered in gratitude for all that God has done for us.
It is important for us to always keep our eyes focused on God and what God is doing in our lives… rather than allowing the bright, shiny objects that the world dangles in front of us to lure us away from following God… letting society entice us away from the path that God has laid out for us.
But we must be mindful of the fact that it is not only the things of the world that can cause us to take our eyes off of God… we can also become so self-absorbed that we lose sight of the fact that our true identity… our value… our worth is found in God alone… it does not come from anything we have done or anything we can ever do for ourselves.
To be clear, our lives are not a gift that we give to God… they are a gift we have received from God.
As James wrote, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17)
Then add to that what verse 3 of the text in the Message tells us:
God loves us so much that He has blessed us with the gift of life. And that is not something that we should ever take for granted. And make no mistake, the gift God has given to us is not because we are so good or so deserving.
On the contrary, God has so graciously blessed us with the gift of life, so that we can in turn use our lives to be a blessing to someone else… by serving God and the people of God.
Simply put, we have been GIFTED TO SERVE.
Now, in addition to the gift of life itself… God has given us other gifts as well that are to be used for the purpose of building up His church.
However, according to the commentary found in the Life Application Study Bible, there are several things we must do in order to use these gifts effectively.
We must first acknowledge that all our gifts and abilities come from God… there is nothing that we can do in and of ourselves… we must stay connected to God.
It is in John 15 (4-5) that we find these words of Jesus:
Our gifts are the fruit that we bear as a result of remaining connected to the vine… It is only when we are connected to the Lord that we are able to use our gifts fully in order to serve.
The second thing that we must do is to accept that not everyone will have the same gifts… so, we cannot expect others to be able to do all the same things that God has gifted us to do…
In his letter to the Corinthian church, Paul reminds us that, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them” (1 Corinthians 12:4).
That is why the third thing we must do is appreciate who we are… who God has created us to be… and we must be grateful in doing whatever it is that we do best… that which God has gifted us to do.
And last, but certainly not least, we must use our gifts to bring glory to God, rather than to ourselves… and we must be willing to use those gifts wholeheartedly… giving it our all, not holding anything back from serving God… doing our very best for the One who deserves nothing less.
Without a doubt, each of us has been GIFTED TO SERVE… and it is up to us to do it all for the glory of God.
Now, as we look further at our text for the morning, Paul explains that we have been created to fit together like the parts of the body in order for us to function together as a whole.
Throughout his letters to the churches, Paul brings to the forefront, this image of the human body which operates under the direction of the brain… and he uses it as a metaphor for how we… as believers… as followers of Christ, are called to operate together under the direction of Christ who is the Head of the church…
This is the reason why the church is frequently referred to as the body of believers (see 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, Colossians 3).
Collectively each of us have been drawn together so that we might become the church… not a building comprised of brick and mortar… but brothers and sisters in Christ… bound together in love and unity… working together for God’s glory.
And just as the parts of a body come together to function as one… we are called to bring all of our gifts together to function as a whole as well.
Each of us has been uniquely GIFTED TO SERVE in different ways. My gifts are not the same as your gifts and your gifts are not the same as mine.
The key is recognizing what each of us brings to the table so we can put it all together to create a meal that is fit for the King… and in doing so, never losing sight of who it is we have come to serve.
We must continually take the time to remind ourselves why we are using our gifts in the first place… asking ourselves, what is the purpose for what we are doing with our gifts?
Is it simply so we can receive tributes and accolades? Or is it so God will be glorified in all that we say and do?
On a personal note, as I was working on this part of the sermon, I was reminded of a conversation that I had with my godfather on more than one occasion before he passed away. He and his wife had established a scholarship fund in their names, and he had expressed his frustration with the recipients’ apparent lack of appreciation for having received their scholarships.
He explained that in previous years, they would receive a note or letter thanking them for the scholarship but that had not been happening in more recent years. As we spoke, I remember asking him why they had established the scholarship fund in the first place. Was it so they could assist students who were in need? Or was it so they could receive letters and cards of acknowledgement for the gift?
The point I was trying to make is that, if it was to assist students in need, he had already succeeded, and that should be enough. But, if it was simply to receive some expression of gratitude (which I knew was not the real reason why he gave the scholarships) then perhaps he should stop giving.
And so, as we think about our own reasons for giving and serving, as long as it is to be a blessing to someone else as we glorify God in using the gifts we have been given… that should be reason enough for us to do whatever we have been gifted to do.
Now, in the closing verses of the text this morning, Paul presents a list of gifts that some have received for the benefit of serving the kingdom of God… and it is important to keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list.
And it is incumbent upon us to understand that the gifts that any one of us have been given as individuals are not sufficient to do the work of the church alone. We have been GIFTED TO SERVE so we can serve together for the purpose of building Christ’s church.
And that means we should be thankful for, not envious of, th people whose gifts are different than ours.
For example, I am extremely grateful that Ruth has been GIFTED TO SERVE by playing for the glory of God… because left to my own devices, let’s just say, the melodies would not be nearly so beautiful.
I appreciate the ways in which Jane and Karen and Linda have been GIFTED TO SERVE with their talents for organizing and creating a sense of welcome and hospitality for friends and family alike.
And there are not enough words to express my gratitude for the myriad ways in which Jeff and June and Ellie and Erin have been GIFTED TO SERVE in every angle of the church (pun absolutely intended).
And before someone says, “But what about me?” Let me just go on the record and say that I am filled to overflowing with thanksgiving for the gifts that each and every one of you bring to our Ledgewood family… because without each one of you and the gifts you so willingly share, we would not be the church that we are today.
Now, before we prepare to shift to the Communion table, I want to share a story that I came across the other day. I have no idea if it actually occurred, but it was on the Internet so it must be true (right?):
We all have something we can contribute to the success of the whole. That is why we must never forget, no matter our rank, status, or title (or lack thereof), we have all been GIFTED TO SERVE… let us purpose in our hearts to serve so that one day we may hear the Lord say to each one of us, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:21)
And with that thought in mind, why don’t we stand and join in singing our Hymn of Discipleship: Take My Life (vs 1, 2, 4, 5) #609.