This month, our meditation has been excerpted from the book entitled, Bound to Be Free compiled by Jan Pit. In the following short quotation from Antonio Garrido (from Cuba, brother Garrido writes using a pseudonym), there is fodder for reflection and perhaps application:
Be careful, then, how you live, not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. (Ephesians 5:15-17)
One day a brother came to our home to learn how we reproduced cassette tapes from Bible studies. We not only told him how we did it, but also shared with him what a blessing this ministry had been to other Christians and non-Christians.
It had resulted in great encouragement for the Christians while many unbelievers accepted the Lord as well. While we shared these blessings our brother started to weep.
He then told us: 'I am so embarrassed. I received some equipment a year ago to do a similar job, but I have not used it at all yet. Now that I see how you use your old equipment, and what the results have been, I feel so guilty for not using God's provision. It could have saved so many people; it could have encouraged so many fellow believers; why did I not use God's gift?
I sat down next to him and said: 'You feel guilty--and maybe you are--but don't stop there. Make a fresh start and use what God has given to you.'
Yes, we must take advantage of the time and gifts we have. Do not leave for tomorrow the things you can do today: 'Make the most of the time.'
A moment of introspection: From 1939 off and on through 1947, a radio show brought the words "It ... is ... later ... than ... you ... think!" into homes across the country. Even so, today I would remind the reader of the lateness of this current hour, knowing that "the days are evil" in our present world. The apostle Paul's words in Ephesians 5: 15-17 call us out of our reverie, our tendency perhaps to be complacent in our lives. The apostle warns us to be careful how we live--as wise believers making the most of every opportunity [to worship God and serve Him]. Brother Garrido has presented a cogent anecdote reinforcing the need to "take advantage of the time and gifts we have" as we seek to serve.
To each of us, the Bible says, has been given both gifts of grace and spiritual gifts. Romans 12:3-8 refers to gifts of grace, and Paul writes to us as he did to the young church in Rome (vss 6-8): "Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them [emphasis mine]: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.” In this, Paul assumes that each Christian possesses gifts from God--to be used for God's purposes and aims. "Yes, we must take advantage of the time and gifts we have."
Paul's first letter to the church in Corinth, chapter 12 gives a good overview of spiritual gifts:
1 Corinthians 12:4-11 (ESV)
4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;
5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord;
6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.
7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good [emphasis mine].
8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit,
9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit,
10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.
11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.
Reading the entire 12th chapter of 1 Corinthians, the apostle Paul very plainly says that we do not have the same spiritual gifts as each other. We are unique in being given individual manifestations of the Spirit to use them for the common good. In other words, the purpose of gifts of grace and spiritual gifts is their use in furthering the kingdom of God. How does one determine or identify one's spiritual gift(s)? There are numerous resources available to help. Kenneth Kinghorn authored a book entitled Discovering Your Spiritual Gifts (Zondervan, 1984, paperback). Another resource might include "Your Spiritual Gifts Inventory" by Charles Bryant (Upper Room, 1997, paperback) and others. But it is the use of such gifts in God's economy, for the common good--that is why the identification of our divinely-bestowed gifts is itself crucial. Another benefit of discerning our spiritual gifts is in the discernment of God's will for each of us. He grants each of us gifts according to His will for our individual lives. Ergo, identification of our spiritual gifts and gifts of grace helps us to know God’s will for each of us. Doing His will also contributes to the common good.
We will be more effective in our service to God if we are using the gifts God has bestowed upon each of us. Have we not been making use of God's provisions or gifts in the past? Perhaps we feel guilty--and maybe we are--but let's not stop there. Make a fresh start and use what God has given to each of us.
Room for growth... Increased motivation to serve God better... Attuning ourselves to God's purpose and desires of/for our lives... Yes, we must take advantage of the time and gifts we have. Do not leave for tomorrow the things you can do today: 'Make the most of the time.' With the time we have before our Savior's soon return, let's offer Him our best, our all, and carpe diem ("seize the day"; or make the most of every opportunity) as God has granted us His spiritual gifts and His gifts of grace.