Hand-crafted by God
Ephesians 2:10 tells us that “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” That’s what this S.H.A.P.E. sermon series is all about – discovering how God has shaped you to serve Him. The two major Scripture passages that talk about spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12 & Rom. 12) both explain that God has filled the church with people that He has gifted differently. These passages explain that the church works like a human body – there is unity (all the parts form one body) and there is diversity (each part plays a different role) – and when all of the parts perform their function the church operates as God planned. However, if the different parts of the body don’t know their role, the body cannot operate at maximum capacity. That’s why this sermon series is so important – we want you to understand:
- a) God has gifted you in a specific way for a specific purpose. (Ps. 139 – He knit you together…)
b) How he has gifted you.
c) How you can serve Him based on the way He has created you.
So this morning we are going to wrap up this series by thinking about a couple more aspects of how God has wired you – and I want to emphasize the idea of God’s wiring of you. Each of these things we’re looking at in this series is based on God’s work in your life:
- When you surrender your life to Christ, God gives you spiritual gifts.
- Based on your God-given design, you have specific, God-given concerns and passions. God has shaped your heart for ministries He wants you to focus on.
- You have God-given abilities that others don’t have, that God wants you to use for His glory.and today we will see that God has also given you:
- A specific personality that can influence the way you serve Him.
- Life experiences that He has used to mold your outlook on life and enhance your ability to minister to others.
People have studied different personality traits for thousands of years because it’s interesting to consider what makes people tick and why we’re so different from one another. Many believe we are who we are based on circumstances or happenstance, but the Bible tells us that it was God who knit us together. That being said, while our spiritual gifts are given to us upon salvation, our personality is something we are born with and it’s not necessarily changed by the Holy Spirit upon salvation or sanctification.
The Apostle Paul is a great example of this. Before and after his conversion we see the same personality. He was bold, outgoing, outspoken, confrontational, and passionate. As a Pharisee, before He was transformed by Jesus, he was going around teaching and preaching about the Law and the need for people to obey it to the letter. If anyone disagreed with him he argued with them and passionately attempted to change their minds. He says of himself in Acts 22:3-5,
“Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. 4 I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, 5 as also the high priest and all the Council can testify. I even obtained letters from them to their brothers in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished.”
And after his conversion experience we see this same personality being used for God. In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 we see Paul’s attitude when it comes to sharing Christ. He says,
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”
Both before and after his conversion Paul had the same personality. Before he knew Christ he was passionately against Him. When he came to know the truth of Christ, he was passionately for Him.
Likewise, we have God-given personalities that can be used for His purposes as well, and it helps us to do ministry better when we understand how we can use the personality God has given us for His glory. Some major components of different personality-types and consequently different ways of doing ministry can be seen in where you find the most energy in the following three categories.
Are you more:
(Andrew) Introverted………………..………………………….Extroverted (Peter)
(Mary) People-Oriented………….…………………………….Task-Oriented (Martha)
(Paul) Variety…………………………………………………Routine (James)
Now, we all fall somewhere in between these options. Extroverts can spend time alone reading and thinking, but doing so requires more energy and effort for them – it doesn’t come naturally. Likewise, an introvert can give a speech or spend time with a room full of others, but that saps their energy rather than filling them up. Taking these ideas into consideration can help you figure out what ministries might be a more natural fit for you, but take caution and note that they do not forbid you from any ministry necessarily.
For example, let’s say your spiritual gift is hospitality – God has given you the desire to make others feel welcome.
- If you are Extroverted/People-Oriented/Variety you would make a great Greeter. You’d enjoy greeting every person that came in the door, especially new people.
- If you are Extroverted/Task-Oriented/Variety you would be great at coordinating the hospitality committee to make sure everything gets done.
- If you are Introverted/Task-Oriented/Routine you could help by keeping meticulous track of attendance and make sure everyone was accounted for.
- If you are Introverted/People-Oriented/Routine or Variety you might enjoy making desserts for fellowship time, cleaning up afterward, or perhaps sending a card to a visitor.
What I want you to see is that the same, God-given spiritual gift can be implemented in many different ways, and understanding your God-given personality will help you to see how God might want you to use your gifts.
Likewise, I believe God works through our life experiences to shape our ministry for His kingdom. Both our positive and negative experiences in life can be used to serve others and help build up the body of Christ. If you grew up in a healthy family and had very loving and supportive parents who passed on their faith to you, you have been equipped to help others who did not have such a great upbringing. On the other hand, if you have experienced heartbreak of abuse and God has brought you through these trials, you can help others to find the peace and healing you have found in Him. Often we face things in life, particularly painful things, that don’t make sense at the time. We don’t understand why we have to go through certain things. But when we view these trials through the lens of God’s purposes, we can begin to see His plans.
We find that the Apostle Paul understood this concept. He explained to the church in Philippians 1:12-14 that God had allowed him to face difficulties so that the gospel could be advanced. He said:
“Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.”
Although he was arrested unfairly, Paul understood that God was using this experience to bring salvation to others.
An even greater example of this concept is Joseph. In Genesis 37-50 we are told the story of Joseph and he lived a difficult life.
- He was a bit naïve as a young man and openly shared his dreams from God to his older brothers, explaining that they would one day bow down to him.
- This led to them selling him as a slave to some Ishmaelites who took him to Egypt where he was sold once again to Potiphar (one of Pharaoh’s officials).
- Things began looking up for Joseph as he served Potiphar very well and all of Potiphar’s household began to thrive, until one day Potiphar’s wife came on to Joseph, asking him to sleep with her. This continued for some time until one day she actually grabbed him and he ran off with his outer cloak still in her hands. Embarrassed and angry Potiphar’s wife accused Joseph of trying to rape her and he was thrown in prison.
- Once again things began to look up as Joseph showed integrity and a good work ethic in prison and eventually was placed in charge of all the prisoners.
- But then things went south again when an individual Joseph had helped promised to remember him to the king when he got out, but didn’t follow through.
- But eventually Joseph got out of prison, interpreted the dreams God had given the Pharaoh and he was placed second in command over all of Egypt and God used him to save them from a seven-year famine that He sent.
Towards the end of the story we find our lesson. Joseph’s brothers come to him, not knowing who he was at first, begging for food. At first Joseph hid his identity, but eventually he reveals who he is and I want you to listen to how the scene unfolds in Genesis 50:18-20, it says,
“His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him.”We are your slaves,” they said. 19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.
Like Paul, Joseph understood that God was ultimately in control and He had allowed the circumstances of Joseph’s life to take place so that Joseph could serve him in a very specific way. I want you to understand that part of what can guide you in using the spiritual gifts God has given you is recognizing the life experiences God has brought you through. Don’t waste your experience, use it to serve God.
Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1:3-7,
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.”
God comforts us in all our troubles, SO THAT we can comfort others in trouble. So consider the experiences God has given you and use those experiences to serve others and build them up spiritually. God never wastes a hurt. Consider how He might want to use you based on what He has brought you through. Often your biggest hurt will become your greatest ministry.
Now we’ve used this acronym S.H.A.P.E. as an easy way for you to consider how God has shaped you, but the main idea is putting your spiritual gifts into practice. The reason I like this acronym is that often when spiritual gifts are talked about people walk away knowing their gifts, but not knowing how to use them to build up the body of Christ. My hope is that by considering the heart, abilities, personality, and experiences God has given you, you will begin to understand how God wants you to use your spiritual gifts.
I want to remind you that the best way to find your spiritual gifts is to simply try different ministries. There are a whole host of ministries you can try here at UBC and it’s important for you to know two things about serving within the church:
- We need you.
The body is dependent on each of its members serving their God-given role.
- You need to serve to grow in your faith.
Like a body of water with no outflow, you will become stagnant in your walk with God if you are not serving Him and remaining dependent on Him for ministry.
You are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for you to do. So you will never find fulfillment in life until you are doing what God created you to do. By learning your S.H.A.P.E. you have the opportunity to connect to your purpose here on earth. My prayer is that as you begin serving God within the church your walk with God will become much more real and vibrant.