A few years ago I had the chance to take my ministry team to the University of Notre Dame. We toured the stadium, but the highlight was going into the locker room, slapping the “PLAY LIKE A CHAMPION TODAY” sign, and running out of the tunnel and onto the field.
It was all make-believe, but it pointed up man’s desire to be part of the game. Watching from the bleachers can be fun, but it’s nothing like actually playing in the game.
Think about it—from the time we were young, we didn’t merely want to attend games or concerts, we wanted to be on the field or stage.
Over time, however, dreams fade, expectations diminish, the crushing weight of reality sets in, and we resign ourselves to managing our time on the bench. That same crushing reality can take root in the church and within the mission of Jesus Christ. We settle for being spectators instead of participants. Satan dupes us into believing church is something watched and observed rather than a living, breathing organism that can be joined. His false whispers can hold us back and reduce our impact.
Along those lines, let’s confront six lies about spiritual gifts that have taken root among many.
Lie 1: I don’t have a gift. When you were baptized into Christ, you received the gift of the Holy Spirit, were made a new creation in Christ, and were endowed with one or more gifts (Ephesians 2:10). Satan’s most effective combat tactic for neutralizing your gifts is to convince you that you don’t have any! But, in reality, your gifts are significant and special because they are critical to the health of the body.
Lie 2: My gift is too small. The size of a gift makes no difference. It isn’t about how much you have to offer, but to whom you offer your gift! Putting your gift into the hands of Jesus changes everything. In the Lord’s hands, a sack lunch can feed 5,000 and a shriveled hand regains its strength. Your God is big, so don’t worry that your gift is small!
Lie 3: My gift is the greatest! We might have excessive pride in our gift. We might expect others to respect it and give preference to it. It can leave us with little patience, love, or tolerance for others we see as having a lesser gift, or a different gift, or an underutilized gift. You, with your gift of manual service, might disregard those whose gift is counseling or teaching or leading. How foolish! Each of us is dependent upon the other. Each gift is critical to the function of the other gifts, just as a human body is dependent on all of its separate parts (1 Corinthians 12:12-31). A church gifted only in truth would not be loving. A church gifted only in love would lack truth. When we choose not to function in community—when we disconnect from the church—we cannot fully leverage our gift, because we cannot be the body of Christ by ourselves.
Lie 4: Serving is optional for Christians. To be in Jesus is to produce fruit. If there is no fruit, then obviously something is missing. Jesus modeled servanthood and it cost him dearly. May it never be said of us that our love for God never cost us anything. How can we stand in the shadow of a blood-stained cross, saved by Jesus’ service to God, and not join him with our whole being in this mission?
Lie 5: I should be thanked for serving. Service to God is our gift to him, so when we expect thanks or seek out thanks from someone else for our validation, we effectively put them in the place of God. God sees what we do, and we can be confident he will richly bless us in this life and in the life to come. But to quit serving God because someone didn’t thank us for serving God is to become a stooge in Satan’s shell game.
Lie 6: Healing means doing nothing. It’s not unusual for rock-star leaders to put themselves on the injured reserve list indefinitely—especially when they begin attending another church. Someone may occasionally need to take a break from leading, but not from serving. Every athlete knows their performance will never improve by sitting on the bench. Each child of God needs to continue to work to improve. A Christian might need a breather, but the Spirit does not. A Christian might be tired or done, but the Spirit is not. A Christian might be done with God, but God is not done with the Christian!
We shouldn’t want to sit on the sidelines or in the bleachers—we should want the ball! After all, the mission is too great, our calling is too significant, our Savior is too extravagant, and our God is too big! When our life is over, we should have nothing left in the tank. When we enter Heaven, we may be out of breath, tired, beaten up, and bruised, but we will have a smile Satan can never wipe away and be experiencing a joy Satan can never crush.
Clayton Hentzel contributed to this essay.