29 November, 2022

You Don’t Have What It Takes!

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by | 1 November, 2022

By Glen Elliott 

At times, we all feel like we just don’t have what it takes. We wonder if we are good enough as a spouse, parent, boss or employee, etc. The “imposter syndrome,” as it is sometimes called, particularly affects leaders and high achievers. It occurs when we doubt our ability to do our job and make a difference. We can also feel this way about our work for and with God.  

About 10 years ago I faced one of my most difficult personal leadership challenges. I questioned my ability to lead our church, which seemed to have plateaued. I was facing intense criticism. Maybe I’m not the right guy for our church, I thought. I entered a rare season of doubt and depression. The court that convened in my mind told me I didn’t have what it took to lead my church out of this “great recession” to become the people God wanted us to be. Since then, I’ve spoken with many men and women who don’t think they have what it takes to advance the work and mission of God.  

God gave us a daunting mission. We are to reach a dark world that’s been bought and shaped by Satan’s lies. We are to share light that will free people to discover real life in Jesus. But the evil one’s lies are powerful . . . and so is the power of self that exists in us all. Our mission is even more challenging as our culture embraces ever more post-Christian views. God loves the world even though it is hostile to the church and faith. So, it’s rather easy to begin thinking, I don’t have what it takes

But consider Jesus’ profound words: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). 

Read that again slowly. You and I can do nothing apart from Jesus. Without Jesus, we will never have what it takes to advance the mission of God. We will never be able to push back the power of darkness. We will struggle to reach lost people and make disciples. I fear that many of us have been tricked into thinking it’s entirely on us to carry out this supernatural mission. But since our mission is supernatural, it requires power beyond our natural abilities.  

Why Do We Need Spiritual Gifts? 

It’s time to take a fresh look at spiritual gifts. If we want to bear kingdom fruit, then we’re dependent on power that comes directly from God. The context in which Jesus said “apart from me you can do nothing” is critical. Jesus was preparing his disciples for his death, resurrection, and ascension. He would physically leave them. He was launching them on mission. He promised the Holy Spirit would guide them and give them the power they needed to establish the church amid opposition. Today, more than ever, we need that same power and ability.  

Bottom line, we won’t see the kingdom of God advance apart from the power of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives and ministry. But, sadly, we settle for what comes to us naturally, not supernaturally. We are content to rest on our own abilities and talents. At our birth, God gave every human being certain talents. We rely on these talents (building, organizing, speaking, artistic abilities, etc.) to make a living and to provide enjoyment. But natural abilities alone won’t empower us to win the spiritual war in which we are engaged. We need the power of the Spirit working in and through us.  

Peter made this clear. After reminding us of the urgency of our mission, he wrote,  

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen (1 Peter 4:10-11). 

Consider that incredible statement for a moment. You can speak as if you were speaking the very words of God! You can serve out of the strength and power God provides! And God will be praised in what we say and do. Peter’s admonition is to lead, speak, and serve through the gifts of the Holy Spirit that provide us spiritual power.  

What Are Spiritual Gifts? 

So, just what are these spiritual gifts? Here’s my definition: A gift of the Spirit is a special ability given by the Holy Spirit according to God’s grace to every member of the body of Christ for use in service to others.  

Paul provided the basis for the above definition in 1 Corinthians 12:4-7, 11. These verses focus on the following key principles:  

  • There is unity among believers (vv. 4-6). 
  • Each believer is unique but the body of Christ is diverse (vv. 4-6). 
  • Gifts are for the common good (v. 7). 
  • The Holy Spirit is the source of gifts and distributes the gifts (v. 11).  

On the day you were born, God gave you some amazing talents. At your rebirth in Christ, God gave you spiritual or supernatural gifts to accomplish what he’s called you to do for him and his kingdom. Every believer is spiritually gifted in some way. This doesn’t mean God won’t use your natural giftings to advance the kingdom, but those gifts alone are not enough, and in some cases your natural giftings are not what God will choose to use to accomplish his mission. There will be no spiritual movement and advancement without his power in our lives, for we can do nothing apart from Jesus.  

Do We Receive Spiritual Gifts for Life or for Specific Ministry Opportunities? 

We all have a spiritual gift or a mix of spiritual gifts. These gifts are essential if we want to see God work in supernatural ways through us. When I teach about spiritual gifts, I’m often asked, “Does the Spirit give a spiritual gift or set of gifts at our spiritual rebirth that are static or do they change depending on the work and mission we are involved in?” Here’s what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 12:11 after he mentioned several spiritual gifts: “All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.”  

The Holy Spirit is the source of all gifts. He decides who gets what gift(s) and for what period. We can ask for a gift, but he decides based on what is best for the body of Christ. The Spirit decides if you get a gift that is constant and steady. The Spirit decides whether to give a gift for only a special ministry or season. And that’s because the Spirit is who guides us in ministry.  

I’ve discovered the Spirit gives me both a consistent ministry focus and the gifts needed for that, and he also leads and empowers me into unique service opportunities that come and go quickly. 

How Do We Discover (and Use) Our Spiritual Gifts? 

I’m also asked how we discover the gifts God has given us. Over the years several spiritual gift inventories have been created to help Christians discover their gift. But here’s the deal. An inventory can only help you narrow your focus on what your gifts might be. An inventory cannot confirm the gift or gifts the Spirit may have given you. 

The New Testament is silent on a procedure for discovering spiritual gifts. So, how did first-century Christians discover their spiritual gift(s)? It was done in community . . . and that’s how it should be done today. Fellow Christians you know will encourage and confirm the use of your gifts. Here are some practical steps for discovering and confirming your spiritual gift(s) in the context of a spiritual community. 

1. Pray. Ask to be used by God in ministry, ask for guidance and direction, and ask to discover your gift(s).  

2. Identify possible gifts that you may have been given. Prayerfully read the lists of spiritual gifts in Romans 12:3-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:1-31. Several online spiritual gift inventories are available to help you narrow your options. Have conversations with those of faith who know you well. 

3. Match your gift possibilities with your ministry possibilities. You’ll only discover your gifts in actual service to others. As you serve, prayerfully ask yourself and others of your community these four questions: 

  • Have I experienced this gift being used in ministry? 
  • Has using this gift had a tangible and beneficial spiritual effect in ministry to others? 
  • Have other Christians observed and confirmed that I use this gift?  
  • Does using this gift in ministry bring joy? 

After discovering and identifying your gift(s), commit yourself to using them in ministry and remain open to continual feedback on your giftedness in ministry.    

Most of us struggle to believe we have what it takes to be and do what God wants of us. So, sometimes we just attempt to ignore the call. Or sometimes we are like Moses who argued with God that he didn’t have what it took. We know deep down that apart from the Spirit of Jesus, we can’t do anything significant and meaningful. But God has not left us alone. He’s given us an Advocate, the Holy Spirit, to live in us, guide us, and empower us to be on mission to make a difference in the name of Jesus. 

Glen Elliott served as a pastor at Pantano Christian Church in Tucson, Arizona, for 24 years. He now spends much of his time mentoring, teaching, and encouraging leaders and pastors to help them lead healthy, life-giving churches.  

Glen Elliott

Glen Elliott serves as lead pastor at Pantano Christian Church in Tucson, Arizona.

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