“No one can receive anything unless God gives it from heaven.” John 3:27
I was sitting in church the other day when the pastor read this verse from John. Naturally, I respected his sermon by immediately tuning him out and writing my own notes. As most of you know, there are usually two sermons we hear on Sunday—the one the pastor preaches, and the one we preach to ourselves on the way home. For my own rude reasons, I didn’t even wait to get into the car before I was preaching to myself.
For me, the dilemma isn’t that I don’t know my assignment, but how to say no to those things I know are close to my assignment. For example, I know my God-given gift is to teach Scripture, but that’s a very broad canvas, so I’ll focus it. My gift is to teach Scripture to believers. That’s better, but let’s focus it further. My gift is to teach Scripture to adult believers. Ahh, that’s even better. But let’s go a step further. My gift is to teach Scripture to adult believers who have a passion to become sold-out disciples of Jesus of Nazareth.
Because I understand my gifts, I don’t have to say “Yes” to teaching children’s church or the invitation to be a youth minister. I’m not interested in going to China as a missionary, starting an inner-city work, or teaching social studies in the local middle school. Those are all close, but not close enough. Knowing my assignment means I can say “No” to those things that are not my heavenly gifts. It is easy to see God did not gift me to play linebacker in the NFL or dunk basketballs in the NBA; God gifted me to teach His word.
(For some reason, whenever I’ve noted my limited athletic skills to any group of Christians, I can always count on the one Biblically knowledgeable yet spiritually ignorant individually who will point to a short basketball player or a small football player who are making it professionally and remind me that, “We can do all things through Christ who gives us strength.” So I remind them that is true, but if since I have not been strengthened to slam-dunk a basketball, I don’t waste my time comparing myself with Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant.)
Knowing my assignment also enables me to let go of those areas that I have no authority in. I know of a lady who felt led to pray over a certain fault line in California. When a big earthquake did hit, a friend called her and asked if she was falling down on the job. She replied, “That was not my patient.” In other words, it was not her assignment. Her fault line held steady.
I like that. Do I know my assignment? Am I holding steady regarding my gifts? Or, am I trying to do something I have not been gifted for because I think I need to be doing everything that comes my way?
Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). When I remain in Him and focus on the heavenly gifts He has given me, I will bear much fruit. But if I step out into things that are not my gifts, I will find myself apart from God and will not be able to do those things He has called me to.
There is actually a lot of freedom in this knowledge. It means I can let go of directing the universe, release my fellow church members to be minister differently than me, rejoice that all the gifts are available for the Church to use, and take pride and joy in completing my assigned task. Whew! And there for a while I thought the success of the Gospel message in my town depended entirely on me.
What? And you never did?
Previously posted Aug. ’09