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A Parable

Imagine there is a meadow. In that meadow there is a duck, a fish, an eagle, an owl, a squirrel, and a rabbit. They decide they want to have a school so they can be smart, just like people.

With the help of some grown-up animals, they come up with a curriculum they believe will make a well-rounded animal: running, swimming, tree climbing, jumping, and flying.

On the first day of school, little rabbit combed his ears, and he went hopping off to his running class.

There he was a star. He ran to the top of the hill and back as fast as he could go, and, oh, did it feel good. He said to himself, “I can’t believe it. At school, I get to do what I do best.”

The instructor said, “Rabbit, you really have talent for running. You have great muscles in your rear legs. With some training, you will get more out of every hop.”

The rabbit said, “I love school. I get to do what I like to do and get to learn to do it better.”

The next class was swimming. When the rabbit smelled the chlorine, he said, “Wait, wait! Rabbits don’t like to swim.”

The instructor said, “Well, you may not like it now, but five years from now you’ll know it was a good thing for you.”

In the tree-climbing class, a tree trunk was set at a 30-degree angle so all the animals had a chance to succeed. The little rabbit tried so hard he hurt his leg.

In jumping class, the rabbit got along just fine; in flying class, he had a problem. So the teacher gave him a test and discovered he belonged in remedial flying.

In remedial flying class, the rabbit had to practice jumping off a cliff. They told him if he’d just work hard enough, he could succeed.

The next morning, he went on to swimming class. The instructor said, “Today we jump in the water.”

“Wait, wait. I talked to my parents about swimming. They didn’t learn to swim. We don’t like to get wet. I’d like to drop this course.” The instructor said, “You can’t drop it. The drop-and-add period is over. At this point you have a choice: Either you jump in or you flunk.”

The rabbit jumped in. He panicked! He went down once. He went down twice. Bubbles came up. The instructor saw he was drowning and pulled him out. The other animals had never seen anything quite as funny as this wet rabbit who looked more like a rat without a tail, and so they chirped, and jumped, and barked, and laughed at the rabbit. The rabbit was more humiliated than he had ever been in his life. He wanted desperately to get out of class that day. He was glad when it was over.

He thought that he would head home, that his parents would understand and help him. When he arrived, he said to his parents, “I don’t like school. I just want to be free.”

If the rabbits are going to get ahead, you have to get a diploma, replied his parents.

The rabbit said, I don’t want a diploma.

The parents said, “You’re going to get a diploma whether you want one or not.”

They argued, and finally the parents made the rabbit go to bed. In the morning the rabbit headed off to school with a slow hop. Then he remembered that the principal had said that any time he had a
problem to remember that the counselor’s door is always open.

When he arrived at school, he hopped up in the chair by the counselor and said, “I don’t like school.”

And the counselor said, “Mmmm, tell me about it.”

And the rabbit did.

The counselor said, “Rabbit, I hear you. I hear you saying you don’t like school because you don’t like swimming. I think I have diagnosed that correctly.”

“Rabbit, I tell you what we’ll do. You’re doing just fine in running. I don’t know why you need to work on running. What you need to work on is swimming. I’ll arrange it so you don’t have to go to running anymore, and you can have two periods of swimming.”

When the rabbit heard that, he just threw up!

As the rabbit hopped out of the counselor’s office, he looked up and saw his old friend, the Wise Old Owl, who cocked his head and said, “Rabbit, life doesn’t have to be that way. We could have schools and businesses where people are allowed to concentrate on what they do well.”

Rabbit was inspired. He thought when he graduated, he would start a business where the rabbits would do nothing but run, the squirrels could just climb trees, and the fish could just swim. As he disappeared into the meadow, he sighed softly to himself and said…

“Oh, what a great place that would be.”

 

 

 

A parable from the book: Soar With Your Strengths By Donald O. Clifton and Paula Nelson.

 

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WE ARE ALL INDIVIDUALLY GIFTED

The Bible lists many different kinds of gifts given to us to serve others and the Church. Although not an exhaustive list, here are some places in the Bible we can discover more about our gifts. Some are characterised by obvious supernatural manifestations and are beyond the natural ability of the individual. 

"Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines."

1 Corinthians 12:7-11

Others differ from the gifts above since they are not exclusively supernatural, but may also involve an individual’s God-given natural talent. 

"We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully."

Romans 12:6-8

In Ephesians chapter 4 there are a set of gifts often referred to as the Ministry Gifts. They differ from the gifts of 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 in that the gifts here are not abilities but people. These represent particular gifted ministers who are given to the body to equip all believers for service, so that the church may be strengthened to fulfil its purpose, reflecting the fullness of Christ into the world.

"So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ."

Ephesians 4:11-13

 

There are other important passages as well concerning gifting throughout the Bible.  Paul seems to speak of singleness or celibacy as being a gift from God in 1 Corinthians 7, and some have also considered marriage as a gift in the context of this passage.  Spiritual gifts are further mentioned in 1 Peter 4 which addresses the speaking and serving gifts in a general sense. 

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You Are Gifted

Great news - every believer is gifted (1 Peter 4:10)

 

 What is a spiritual gift?

"A spiritual gift is a special attribute given by the Holy Spirit to every member of the body of Christ, according to God's grace, for use within the context of the body"

 

What do we know about spiritual Gifts?

"Now about spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed."

1 Corinthians 12:1 (NIV)

 

They are not...

1. Natural Aptitudes, Strengths or Abilities

We all have natural abilities that we’ve learned from those around us regardless of Christian faith. Many times our natural abilities and strengths are redeemed by the God to become spiritual gifts.

 

2. Character Traits

We are all called to have character and our gifts should produce the nature of Jesus Christ in each person. A person should not say he has the “gift of peace” when we are all encouraged to develop that characteristic. Spiritual gifts offer opportunities for us to live like Christ.

 

3. Titles or Positions

Spiritual gifts often lead to titles or positions but a person may have the gift without the role or the role without the gift. Regardless, we should serve whenever we are given the opportunity. Working in the area of your gifting will allow you to “be” the person that God has called you to be rather than just “doing” good things.

 

4. Self Promoting

Spiritual gifts are endowments given by God to His people for accomplishing His purpose on the earth. Spiritual gifts are given for the glory of God.

"Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts… try to excel in gifts that build up the church. "

1 Corinthians 14:1 (NIV)

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DISCOVERING YOUR GIFTS

What's my advantage?

The following is not a test - there is no right and wrong answer. Instead, use this exercise to help identify and better understand more about your gifting. 

Follow these simple steps;

A. Using the sheet below, answer the questions honestly.

B. Add each score on each row left to right.

E.G. 1(+__?__) 19(+__?___) 37(+__?___) 55(+___?___) = Total (___?___)

C. Identify your highest total with the corresponding letter and the gift it represents.

D. Using the descriptions learn more about your main gifts.

 

QUESTIONS

Answer Key:

(1) Almost Never (2) Little (3) Sometimes  (4) Frequently  (5) Almost Always
 

  1. I enjoy working behind the scenes, taking care of little details.

  2. I usually step forward and assume leadership in a group where none exists.

  3. When in a group, I tend to notice those who are alone and help them to feel part of the group.

  4. I have the ability to recognise a need and to get the job done no matter how small the task.

  5. I have the ability to organise ideas, people and projects to reach a specific goal.

  6. People often say I have good spiritual judgement.

  7. I am very confident of achieving great things for God

  8. I enjoy giving money to those in serious financial need.

  9. I enjoy ministering to people in hospitals, prisons, or rest homes to comfort them.

  10. I often have insights that offer practical solutions to difficult problems.

  11. I enjoy encouraging and giving counsel to those who are discouraged.

  12. I have an ability to thoroughly study a passage of Scripture and then share it with others.

  13. I presently have responsibility for the spiritual growth of one or two new believers.

  14. Other people respect me as an authority in spiritual matters.

  15. I have an ability to learn foreign languages.

  16. God often reveals to me the direction He desires the church to move.

  17. I enjoy developing relationships with non-Christians with the hope of telling them about Jesus.

  18. Whenever I hear about needy situations, I am burdened to pray.

  19. I would like to assist pastors or other leaders so they can focus on their priorities and responsibilities.

  20. When I ask people to help me with an important ministry for the church, they usually say yes.

  21. I enjoy entertaining guests and making them feel at home when they visit.

  22. I take initiative to serve and enjoy serving others, no matter how small the task.

  23. I am a very organised person who sets goals, makes plans and achieves goals.

  24. I am a very good judge of character and can spot a spiritual phony.

  25. I often step out and start projects that other people won’t attempt, and I usually succeed.

  26. I joyfully give money well above my tithe to the church.

  27. I feel compassion for people who are hurting and lonely, and I like to spend considerable time with them to cheer them up.

  28. God has enabled me to choose correctly between several complex options in an important decision, when no one else know what to do.

  29. I am very fulfilled when I encourage others, especially if it is about their spiritual growth.

  30. I enjoy studying difficult questions about God’s Word and I usually find answers quickly.

  31. I enjoy being involved in people’s lives and helping them grow spiritually.

  32. I would be willing and excited to start a new church.

  33. I can adapt easily to cultures, languages and lifestyles other than my own and would like to use my adaptability to minister in foreign countries.

  34. I will always speak up for Christian principles with conviction, even when it isn’t popular.

  35. I find it easy to invite a person to accept Jesus as their Saviour.

  36. I have a passion to pray for the significant issues of God’s kingdom and His will for Christians.

  37. I enjoy relieving others’ routine tasks so they can get important projects done.

  38. I can guide and motivate a group of people toward achieving their goal.

  39. I enjoy meeting new people and introducing them to others in the group.

  40. I am very dependable for getting things done on time and I don’t need much praise or thanks.

  41. I easily delegate significant responsibilities to other people.

  42. I am able to distinguish between right and wrong in complex spiritual matters when other people can’t seem to figure it out.

  43. I trust in God’s faithfulness for a bright future even when facing significant problems.

  44. I wouldn’t mind lowering my standard of living to give more to the church and others in need.

  45. I want to do whatever I can for the needy people around me, even if I have to give something up.

  46. People often seek my advice when they don’t know what to do in a situation.

  47. I feel a need to challenge others to better themselves, especially in their spiritual growth in an uplifting, rather than condemning way.

  48. Others listen and enjoy my teaching of scriptures.

  49. I care about the spiritual welfare of people and do my best to guide them towards a godly lifestyle.

  50. I am accepted as a spiritual authority in other parts of the country or world.

  51. I would like to share Jesus in a foreign country.

  52. I feel a need to teach the Bible so that people will know about Christian living.

  53. I like to tell others how to become a Christian and to invite others to receive Jesus into their life.

  54. Many of my prayers for others have been answered.

  55. I enjoy helping others get their work done and don’t need a lot of public recognition.

  56. People respect my opinion and follow my direction

  57. I would like to use my home to get acquainted with newcomers and visitors to the church.

  58. I enjoy helping people in any type of need and feel a sense of satisfaction in meeting that need.

  59. I am comfortable making important decisions, even under pressure.

  60. People come to me for help in distinguishing between spiritual truth and error.

  61. I often exercise my faith through prayer and God answers my prayers in powerful ways.

  62. When I give money to someone I don’t expect anything in return and I often give anonymously.

  63. When I hear people without jobs can’t pay their bills, I do what I can to help them.

  64. God enables me to make appropriate application of biblical truth to practical situations.

  65. People respond well to my encouragement to become all they can be for God.

  66. I am systematic in my approach to presenting the Bible to a group of people.

  67. I help Christians who have wandered away from the Lord find their way back to a growing relationship with Him and get involved in local church.

  68. I would be excited to share the Gospel and form a new group of Christians in areas where there aren’t many churches.

  69. I have no racial prejudice and have a sincere appreciation for people very different from myself.

  70. I find it relatively easy to apply biblical promises to present day situations and I’m willing to confront in love if necessary.

  71. I have a strong desire to help non-Christians find salvation through Jesus Christ.

  72. Prayer is my favourite ministry in the church and I consistently spend a great deal of time at it.

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GIFT DEFINITIONS

While not meant to be dogmatic or final, these definitions and supporting scriptures do correspond to characteristics of the gifts as expressed in this questionnaire.  

 

A. HELPS

The ability to support others in need both practically and materially.

Greek word is 'antilēmpsis' found in 1 Corinthians 12:28 meaning to give relief and/or help. The spiritual gift of helps is about edifying those in the church body including those who need financial and material assistance.

Also read; Acts 9:36; Romans 16:1-2;

 

B. LEADERSHIP

The ability to influence people at their level while directing and focusing them on the big picture.  

The gift of leading is indicated by the Greek verb "prohistēmi" in Romans 12:8. Meaning to stand before, i.e. (in rank) to preside, or (by implication) to practise:—maintain, be over, rule. When Paul introduces the spiritual gift of "leading," he presents it as an activity and not necessarily as a church office. 

Also read: 1 Timothy 3:12, 5:17; Hebrews 13:17

 

C. HOSPITALITY

The ability to make people feel at home, welcome and cared for, especially stragers.

In 1 Pet. 4:9,10 it tells us to warmly welcome people, even strangers, into one's home or church without grumbling. This was a means of serving those in need of food or lodging (Greek Word: philoxenos - meaning love of strangers; 'philos'=love; 'xenos'=stranger)

Also read: Acts 16:14-15; Romans 12:13Hebrews 13:1-2

 

D. SERVICE

The ability to identify and meet the practical needs of others.

The spiritual gift of service is found in Romans 12:7. The same Greek noun "diakonia," translated as "service," is also found in 1 Corinthians 12:5.

In first century Greek society, the verb form of "diakonia," "diakoneō" meant "to wait at table." The noun form "diakonia" expressed the occupation implied by the verb; thus, "a server" or "waiter." Typical to the first century church was fellowship of the common meal, which required serving at the table.

Also read: Acts 6:1-7; Acts 1:17;

 

E. ADMINISTRATION

The ability to coordinate and organise people to move in the same direction.

The Greek word for administration is "kybernēsis (1 Cor 12:28), and literally means "to steer a ship." These people strive for efficiency and can juggle several balls at the same time. Typically people with this gift know how to delegate and get other people involved. They can work with the details in a project without losing sight of the bigger picture.

The spiritual gift of administration appears to be one who possesses wise counsel for the church leaders and is involved with the governance that supports the decisions of the church leaders.

Also read; Luke 14:28-30; Acts 6:1-7;

 

F. DISCERNMENT

The ability to spiritually distinguish between right and wrong motives and situations.

The Greek word for the gift of discernment is Diakrisis (1 Corinthians 12:10).  The word describes being able to distinguish, discern, judge or appraise a person, statement, situation, or environment.  In the New Testament it describes the ability to distinguish between spirits as in 1 Corinthians 12:10, and to discern good and evil as in Hebrews 5:14.

 

G. FAITH

The ability to believe in God for unseen supernatural results in every area of life.  

Because spiritual gifts are bestowed to believers, the faith of the spiritual gift of faith (Greek word pistis) is something beyond that of initial salvation (1 Corinthians 12:9). The spiritual gift of faith appears to provide one with a stronger conviction in the existence of God and a stronger confidence in His covenantal relationship with believers. Paul indicates that the Holy Spirit’s spiritual gift of faith is for the purpose of edifying the church and, in light of the church’s deficiencies and needs to grow in faith, very likely for building up the faith of others.

Acts 11:22-24; Romans 4:18-21; 1 Corinthians 12:9; Hebrews 11

 

H. GIVING

The ability to cheerfully and generously contribute personal resource to God's work.  

The Greek verb translated for "giving" is "metadidōmi" (Romans 12:8). "Metadidōmi" is a compound term made up of "meta" and "didōmi." "Didōmi" means "to give," and the Greek preposition "meta" adds the nuance in meaning of "beyond giving" as in sharing or giving from one's personal possessions. This can be seen in the following uses of "metadidōmi" elsewhere in the Bible: Luke 3:11Eph 4:281 Thess 2:8.

Paul appears to say that anyone with the gift is one who gives sacrificially of one's personal possessions with wholeheartedness, without any ulterior motives, and for the sake of goodness and kindness.

 

I. MERCY

The  ability to feel empathy and to care for those who are hurting in any way.  

Greek verb "eleeō" (Romans 12:8means to "feel compassion, show mercy" or "pity." It has the sense of empathy generated when one encounters another who suffers an undeserved affliction. There is a desire to alleviate some of the pain and suffering of the afflicted.

 

J. WISDOM

The ability to apply the truths of Scripture in a practical way in order to make right choices and help others move forward.

The Greek word for wisdom is "sophia" and it refers to the intimate understanding of God’s Word and His commandments which results in holy and upright living. In the context of 1 Corinthians 12:8, it means to speak to the life of an individual or to a specific situation with great understanding and a righteous perspective, with the goal of guiding others toward a life of holiness and worship.

Acts 6:3; 1 Corinthians 2:6-13

 

K. EXHORTATION

The ability to encourage others with words of encouragement or challenge.  

Paul introduces the spiritual gift of exhortation by using the Greek noun "paraklesis" in Romans 12:8. Derived from the same root word of the Greek verb "parakaleō," "paraklētos" is the Greek noun the apostle John uses for the Holy Spirit (John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7; 1 John 2:1). Outside of the Bible, the Greek term "paraklētos" was used to mean "legal advocate," not in the sense of the professional legal advisor or defender, but as a helper.

 

L. TEACHING

The ability to study and learn from the Scriptures primarily to bring understanding and depth to other Christians.  

The biblical concept of a teacher is not one who forces his will on a student; instead, it is one who uses a variety of methods to develop a pupil’s knowledge, skill and abilities. The Greek word "didaskalos" is the term translated as "teacher." seen in 1 Corinthians 12:28.

 

M. PASTOR / SHEPHERD

The ability to care for the personal needs of others and help them grow spiritually.  

The English term "pastor" is derived from the Greek noun "poimēn," which is more accurately translated as "shepherd". Thus "pastor" is a metaphorical translation with a sense of "leader" or "ruler." When the spiritual gift of pastor was introduced (Eph 4:11), the church office of "pastor" was not an official title during the first century church.

 

N. APOSTLESHIP

The ability to pioneer new churches and ministries through planting, overseeing, and training.  

Interestingly, in the two lists of spiritual gifts where apostle is mentioned, there is an apparent order of gifting, and apostles are designated as first. (1 Corinthians 12:28) (Ephesians 4:11). These are leaders of leaders and ministers of ministers.  They are influencers. They are typically entrepreneurial and are able to take risks and perform difficult tasks.

The greek word is "Apostolos" and means a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders.

 

O. MISSIONARY

The ability to reach others outside of your culture and nationality.

Although this gift is not explicitly described as a spiritual gift as others often are, we see it in Ephesians  3:6-8

Acts 8:4, 13:2-3, 22:21; Romans 10:15.

 

P. PROPHECY

The ability to boldly speak and bring clarity to scriptural and doctrinal truth, in some cases foretelling God’s plan.  

The Greek verb "prophēteia" is translated as "prophecy" (Romans 12:6-8,) and has the primary meaning of "to proclaim openly" or "to state aloud" in the context of some external influence which may or may not be divine. In other words, the prophet is declaring something that is not his own, and it could include saying something about the future. 

Prophecy should be tested and weighed (1 Cor 14:29-321 Thess 5:19-21).

 

Q. EVANGELISM

The ability to help non-Christians take the necessary steps to giving their lives to Christ.

The literal translation of "evangelist" is the Greek "euaggelistēs", which means "a proclaimer of the gospel, a bringer of good tidings.

Philip (Acts 6:58:5) is given the title of evangelist (Acts 21:8), and Timothy is encouraged to do the work of an evangelist (2 Tim 4:5).

Ephesians 4:11-14

 

R. INTERCESSION

The ability to stand in the gap in prayer for someone, something, or someplace, believing for profound results.   

Romans 8:26-27James 5:14-16  

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Reflections & Questions

 

  1. How surprised were you to discover your gifting?

  2. Which gifts can you recall using recently?

  3. Which of your gifts excites you most?

  4. What will you do differently as a result of what you've discovered?

  5. What's holding you back from flowing in your gifting?

  6. How does your gifting fit and compliment your team?