“Now the end of all things is near therefore, be serious and disciplined for prayer. Above all, maintain an intense love for each other, since love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Based on the gift each one has received, use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God. If anyone speaks, it should be as one who speaks God’s words; if anyone serves, it should be from the strength God provides, so that God may be glorified through Jesus Christ in everything. To Him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.” – 1 Peter 4:7-11
The end of all things is near. The end of many things is nearer than you might think. Our lives are vapors. Our days go by so fast. Every minute is a treasure not to be squandered.
I recently went to see a doctor because of some unusual symptoms I was having. After looking at my EKG results, she was ready to send me to the emergency room saying, “I don’t want to send you home, have you go to sleep and not wake up.” Thankfully, after consulting a cardiologist, she felt comfortable sending me home after all, albeit with certain new medicines, and with the caveat that I had to go through a series of tests. After all of them, the only definitive findings were deficiencies in potassium and vitamin D, which now have been addressed by food and supplements. All my symptoms have faded away. And my emotions have gone from somber and concerned to hopeful and relieved. I am so very grateful that God shares his life with me. And I am encouraged that I get a fresh chance to live wisely in regard to my health.
Episodes like this remind us of how precious life is and its purpose. They put things in perspective. And suddenly things like eating your veggies don’t seem like such a chore. Prayer is no longer a formality, but a necessity. Our love for those around us intensifies when we realize just how important they are to us, how deeply we care for them, and how earnestly we want to show it. Those idiosyncrasies that tended to aggravate us become trivial in light of the value they have always had that we now see clearly. It is from this shift in seeing and knowing life as a gift that we are able to be generous with everything we have. When we give anything—time, money, food, service, or a listening ear—contentedly, when we can open up our homes to others cheerfully, we know that love has made its home in our hearts.
Along with life, every one of us has special gifts we have been given to share. They are unique ways of helping, serving and showing love. Sadly, some gifts remain unopened.
Finding Our Gifts
As a kid, when I started really reading the Bible for myself, I began to see how certain ideas were connected. I started developing a theology as I gained insight into God’s Word. Eventually, when I would go to a Bible study or join a small group, I realized that I needed to share what I was learning and not keep it to myself. My personal study had some benefit. But the win came in sharing what I learned with others as they were doing with me. Now, I’m not exactly a smooth conversationalist or public speaker; I’m much more comfortable writing. Still, God has used me in various settings to teach and encourage others. Each time I set out to share God’s truth I get better at doing it.
As a young teen learning to play guitar, I was content to make noise in my bedroom or at my friend’s house. But when I was invited to be a part of the worship team for my youth group, my musical talent, fledgling as it was, became a way for me to serve. Now, after over 20 years of worship ministry, it is still a joy to be used in that way, a joy I would never have known if I had remained content to play music in my bedroom. God gives us that joy as we use His gifts to serve each other, and it motivates us to keep on serving.
One of my roommates in college was the best 3-point shooter on the basketball team. But I’m sure he didn’t know how good he might be at 3-pointers before he ever played the game. Instead, he found a sport that interested him, started playing and getting better, and his skills developed. Eventually, he decided to play for our school, and the abilities he shared with our team helped them to win the league championship. But rarely do we become champions at anything on our own. All of our gifts are interdependent. We need each other in order to win.
Though I can teach or lead worship on my own, it has always been better to be part of a team. As a worship leader, one of my goals is to have every member of our team employ their gifts in leading worship, whether that means sharing an insight up front or encouraging each other at rehearsal. Also, at ICSI I am blessed to be part of a team of teachers who work together in leading our classes. Each of us has special expertise, education and experience that can enhance our learning together. One is a religion scholar with a penchant for spiritual formation. Another is a biblical storyteller with a heart for ministry training. Then there’s me, an worship leader with a passion for sound theology.
We all have many gifts to share, none more precious than life, which is both breath and communion with God. He is the gift-giver, the one to whom belongs all glory; for all we have and all we are comes from Him. All things will end. But His love remains. And when we share His love by using our gifts, therein lies eternity.