“As each has received a gift, employ it for one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace…in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 4:10-11.
This lovely passage distills three great biblical themes.
First, you are gifted. Everyone reading these words has a gift from God. You have received a gift. When the topic is “gifts of the Spirit” we usually either become too rigid and treat them like a spiritual MMPI, or we become too literal and assume that the New Testament writers covered every possible gift (we find at least three lists in the NT, and none agree on every particular).
The Spirit of God is the least predictable of the three persons of the Trinity. Theologians describe the Father’s attributes, which we can enumerate at length. We can describe the Son’s work in eternity and history (He created the universe, He was born, died, and raised). When it comes to the Holy Spirit we talk about His activities, and even Jesus left open the work of the Spirit. The Spirit is like the wind (John 3:8), and this very statement is a play on both the Greek and Hebrew words for Spirit (pneuma and ruach) that both mean spirit, wind, or breath. Thus the Spirit is active and “blowing through” the lives of believers in infinitely varied ways.
The main point is that each believer has a unique portion of God’s grace or gifts, and these are from the Spirit. You might not be able to pin it down precisely, that is fine. Do not doubt the presence of your gifts and do not diminish their importance to other people. You are gifted.
Second, you are called. Peter seemed to be particularly impressed by this idea. He penned the well-known verse describing Christians as a Chosen Race, a Royal Priesthood, a Holy Nation, God’s Own People. Each of these descriptions highlights our difference. I love the old KJV translation of the last phrase: a Peculiar People!
Without question God wants us to be different. Very simply I urge you to be a good Christian. This exhortation is neither trite nor simplistic. It highlights the fact that we are to do something with our faith. Just as the Spirit is defined by activity, so should we.
Some Christians are overly cautious about works, but we need no such reluctance. The Bible tells us of grace in order to keep us from being proud. But the Bible also urges us to engage in works to keep us from being lazy. Find a way to lift or share someone’s burden. God called you to this task.
Finally, you live to glorify God. “Glory” is a slippery word, hard to pin down, and possessing a wide variety of nuances. It originally had the idea of opinion or reputation, and that is important to understanding one meaning of the word in the New Testament.
To glorify God does not simply mean to tell Him how great He is. It means to live in such a way that people see God in you. I speak reverently, but your good works are not merely a reflection of God’s goodness, they are a manifestation of God’s goodness and presence in you. As Jesus put it, people see your good works and give glory to God. Your good works reveal God’s reputation or personality.
I am quite sure that our good works should have a certain lack of awareness. In other words, our good works must not be calculated to impress anyone (especially God). In the parable of the sheep and goats, Jesus said those who gave food, water, and comfort to the needy asked “when did we do these things for You?” That humility is what I mean. By all means we must avoid Bob Hope’s humorous observation: “Sincerity is what matters. Once you can fake that, you’ve got it made.”
A final encouragement: your gifts, and their use, are probably not grandiose. Don’t be discouraged. The faithful mother who is able to get her children to bed at a decent hour, get them up in the morning and off to school fully clothed, and with lunch (or lunch money) is probably far nearer the kingdom of God than the most pious monk.
So be good, sincere, Christians, today and every day. That is how you bring glory to God.
Dr. Terry Ellis
January 29, 2012