“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good…” ~1 Corinthians 12:4-7
So many people are lost in this world—asking themselves those immortal questions, “who am I?” and “what am I doing?” and, most prominently, “what is my purpose?” For Christians, these questions are, in part, answered: “a child of God,” “serving Him,” and “to bring Him glory.” The question, then, for Christians is not so much a question of what but rather how. How do I bring glory to God with my life? This question is especially rampant among the young as they try to plan for the future. It’s a struggle that I’ve found myself in ever since my senior year of college when the inevitable “what now?” hit.
I propose that there’s something that runs deeper than the question of “what career should I pursue?” (I’m not going to say it’s more important, per se, because I believe a person’s vocation can be incredibly important in furthering the Kingdom). I’m sure you’ve all heard the cliché “it’s not what you do, but who you are that counts.” I’ve always had issues with that expression myself. I find it to be a little simplistic and not quite accurate considering that what we do is often an expression of who we are—“No good tree bears bad fruit, not does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heard. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks (Luke 6:43-45).” What we do is intrinsically and irrevocably related to who we are. But despite the poor wording of the cliché, I think its intention is right, and I am going to follow that same sentiment in this post.
Ok, so, if it’s who we are that’s important, then, this begs the question, who are we? I think that who we’re created to be—our personalities, what we’re good at, what we’re not good at, etc.—is one of the clearest methods God uses to direct our paths. I.e. if God created someone to be a painter, I doubt He’d have them born blind (not to say that it’s impossible. Beethoven was deaf, after all.) God designed us all specifically and for a purpose, and whether it’s conscious or not, I think most people recognize that reality; why would we have tests that determine our best job fit if we didn’t think that we’d be better suited for one than another?
But, as I said, I want to talk about something deeper than career choice. Let’s say that you’re currently unemployed, does that mean that you’re not bringing any glory to God because you’re not working in the field he created you for? Of course not! This is where the truth in that trite little cliché comes out. Who you are in Christ is more important than what you do vocationally.
If I were to come to you and ask what your main spiritual gift is, would you have an answer for me? 1 Peter 4:10-11 says:
“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.”
But how can we do that if we don’t know what those gifts are? Of course, God can use our gifts whether we recognize them or not, but don’t you think we’d use them more effectively if we acknowledged their existence? Just like other abilities, don’t you think they get rusty if we’re not actively using them?
For me, recognizing some of my strengths has added a richness to my life even during this time when I still don’t really know where I’m going to what I’m doing. Our spiritual gifts from God are things we can and should use no matter where we are or what we do. They can give each day a focus that’s clearer and easier to grasp than the general mandate of “bringing glory to God.” If you have the gift of encouragement, you can look for opportunities to encourage those around you. If you have the gift of teaching, find ways to teach your family members or co-workers or friends in the way of the Lord. etc. etc. etc.
This concentration is not intended to limit you; we are all complex creatures and have countless opportunities and ways in which we serve God. Don’t think I’m implying that you only have one or two ways that you can bring God glory and that you should just focus on those. That is not my intention. I merely want to share a perspective that has helped me as I find myself in the company of many—a place without clear direction for future occupation.
In this world where there are so many pressures trying to convince us that we’re worthless, let us find hope in the truth that we are, indeed, fearfully and wonderfully made, purposefully and specifically by and for a wonderful Maker :-). And let me assure you, there is nothing more rewarding than using our God-given gifts to bring glory back to Him.
“We all have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach. If it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” ~Romans 12:6-8