My sister broke her wrist a while back. She had a cast on her right arm that started at her fingers and ended above her elbow. She had no idea how important her right arm was until she couldn’t use it!
She told me, for example, that on one occasion she couldn’t grasp the cap on her water bottle to twist it open. “And since I can’t bend my elbow,” she said, “something as simple as getting dressed is a challenge—not to mention curling my hair, driving, cooking, typing and all the other daily tasks I’ve always taken for granted. I had no idea how much I need my right arm!”
If you’ve ever had a part of your body immobilised, then you’ll understand what my sister was going through.
You are part of a body
The apostle Paul likens the church to the human body. In 1 Corinthians 12:12, he said, “A body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body,” and in verse 27, he said, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” So, when you become a Christian, you also become a part of the body of Christ, His church. You belong and you are needed!
“Me, needed?” you may ask. “I’m not needed! There are plenty of talented people who can do much more than I can.” But, according to the Bible, every person is a vital part of Christ’s body, and the Holy Spirit has given each of us gifts to use for the benefit of the church as a whole.
So, what is the body of Christ? According to Paul, it’s the church. In Colossians 1:18, he said that Jesus is “the head of the body, the church”. So, the group of people you worship with every week is Christ’s body, as is the larger, worldwide church.
The question we’re dealing with here is, What part do you play in the life of your church? The answer is simple: your part is to serve both inside and outside of your church. And you do that by using the unique gifts that God has given to you.
Paul explained it clearly when he wrote, “Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully” (Romans 12:4–8).
You may think that you can’t serve because you aren’t perfect, but none of us are perfect. Even a casual reading of the Gospels will reveal that Jesus’ original 12 disciples certainly weren’t perfect!
You may think you can’t serve because you don’t have any gifts to offer the church. But you do! Stop and think about what your passion is. What do you especially enjoy doing? Why not use those abilities within your church and the community outside the church?
You may think that your gift isn’t important. But all the gifts God gives to His people are needed in order for the body of Christ to function well.
You may think that someone else can do a better job than you can. But if we all thought that way, nothing would get done!
A unique orchestra
There’s a private school in Oregon, where I live, that has a unique orchestra. What makes this orchestra special is its purpose. “We use our orchestra to demonstrate the body of Christ—the church,” the school’s principal told me. “The students have learned that everyone has to do his or her own part or the entire orchestra suffers. All must do their own job, yet they must also look out for each other. We teach our kids that when they see someone struggling, they can serve by encouraging that person to keep trying.”
The principal went on to explain that the orchestra focuses on 1 Corinthians 12:21–23: “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’ On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honourable we treat with special honour.”
The principal said, “Garrett is a perfect example of how we help each student find their unique gift and use it to make up one body.”
Garrett’s mum had heard that this small school specialised in finding each student’s unique contribution and making them a part of the larger school body. That was exactly what her son needed!
Garrett was born with a major problem with his cleft palate. By the time he was in the fifth grade, he had undergone 15 major surgeries. He had been the victim of severe bullying at his previous school, so his mum called this principal, begging her to accept Garrett as a student.
“When I met Garrett, he wouldn’t even look at me,” the principal said. “He constantly had his face to the floor. He walked through the halls that way, ate his lunch that way and sat in class that way. He felt that he was absolutely ugly, because that’s what he’d been told.”
The school decided to see how Garrett would do playing the cello. It would be a big instrument for a boy with such little self-worth. Amazingly, after he was made a part of the school body, he gained a sense of pride. And the rest of the body—the other students—encouraged him and built him up.
“Almost instantly, Garrett began to look up,” the principal told me excitedly. “And within just a few months, he was not only touring with the orchestra but also sharing his story publicly during concerts! He was a shrivelled-up onion when he came to us, but Garrett realised that he had a gift to contribute, and he found a place where he belonged.”
Imagine what our world would be like if each person felt that they were a part of the larger body and if they were using the gifts that God had given them!
No gift too small
The Bible says that we all “have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us” (Romans 12:6). And that’s true of you too. You have a gift. If you aren’t sure what your gift is, ask God to make it clear to you. And don’t be afraid to ask other people what gifts they see in you.
Never think that your gift is unimportant or insignificant. Everyone is needed. In God’s eyes, there are no insignificant gifts.
I know a pastor who offered a workshop for church members who wanted to learn how to share their faith with others. Several sessions into the workshop, one of the exercises was to go to a willing church member’s home and practise telling that person about Jesus.
One woman, a shy but dedicated member, attended the classes and eventually felt that she was ready to try sharing her faith. The pastor accompanied her to the home of one of the members. In this particular home, only the wife was a Christian. She’d tried for years to get her husband to come to church, but he never would.
When the pastor and the shy woman entered the house, the husband moved to the farthest corner of the living room. The woman’s effort to witness to this man’s wife didn’t go well. In fact, it was almost embarrassing. The pastor silently hoped that she wasn’t offending the woman’s husband!
Then it came time for the shy woman to ask the church member, “Do you want to accept Jesus as your Saviour?”
The pastor was shocked when, from across the room, the husband exclaimed, “I do!” He’d been listening the whole time, and although this woman didn’t appear gifted in sharing her faith, the Holy Spirit used her to touch this man’s heart!
Using our God-given gifts is never about us. It’s about being a part of the body. It’s about doing what we can to change the world around us. And it’s about giving back to Jesus, who gave His all for us.
Nancy Canwell is an associate pastor of the Milton and Blue Mountain Valley Seventh-day Adventist Churches in Oregon, USA. She is an occasional contributor to Signs of the Times.