(This post is part of a series in Lessons Abroad, learned and explained by my dear friend Alexander Hannis. His first post can be found here.)
I swear I’ve taken nearly a hundred spiritual gift tests (who hasn’t?). I have listened to lectures, sermons, and academic debates on the gifts. Heck, I’ve still got my sermon notes from when I preached on them. I’m by no means a charismatic, and I’ve never been a cessasionist. Personally, I’ve always taken more interest in the more mundane, non-miraculous spiritual gifts. I praise God that he has created each believer to participate regularly in different ways with different gifts for the benefit of the Body of Christ.
I spent the latter part of high school and most of college distinguishing the gifts God has given me. Over time, it was revealed to me by peers, professors, fellow church members, experience and of course the all-knowing spiritual gift test that I have some ability and enjoyment to teach. Now, I was probably more in my element at a Corner Bakery exegeting Ephesians with 5 teens than I was on stage preaching to 100. Nevertheless, this began to be one of the primary ways I desired to serve my church. Not because I think they need to hear what I have to say, but because I felt this was one specific way I could use my understanding of my gift for the Bride of Christ.
But the question I have learned to wrestle with over the past nine months is this: What if you are in a season in your life when you are unable to use your gift(s)? I haven’t heard a sermon on that one yet. I left Cal Baptist as an affirmed teacher. I showed up in East Asia as a student. I couldn’t speak the language. I didn’t know the culture. I couldn’t help or teach anyone. I used to joke that I felt like an adult baby everyday for the first few months. Since then I have become more of a toddler, semi-self sustaining. But I’m not in any real, consistent teaching role. And honestly, teaching is only one gift I haven’t been able to use, and the one I chose to use as my example.
I’m still a student of this culture and language. And I will be until the day I return to the States. So what have I been doing in the meantime if I haven’t been using my gifts? The Spirit has worked and sanctified me in new ways. That is, I have been forced to work on areas of my obedience that have been lacking. One of the biggest examples would be hospitality. I have been blessed with an above average sized apartment here. I use it regularly to host my local (and sometimes foreign) friends. As I desire future eldership, 1 Timothy 3 explains that he must be able to teach, but he must also be hospitable. So is it possible that the Lord has willed a season of learning instead of teaching, for the purpose of a more well-rounded, humble journey of obedience? I think so.
Romans 8:28 explains that for all those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. The purpose, I believe, is found in the following verse: to be conformed to the image of his son, Jesus. Therefore, I have full confidence that God is using this seemingly frustrating season of my life to further sanctify and conform me to Jesus Christ. All of this by means of other routes of service and obedience that I am not necessarily comfortable or familiar with.
All glory be to God. Amen.
Other Articles in this Series: