"I have a gift of writing," he said as he thrust his manuscript at me.
"Oh, uh, that's, uh, fine," I said. His words shocked me; I had never heard anyone talk that way before.
I took the proffered pages, trying to think of an appropriate response without calling him crazy. To my amazement, when I read his material, the article flowed. By the third paragraph, I had forgotten his words and my eyes moved on.
"This is good," I said, "and you won't have any problem getting this published." Or course, I saw "a few places" where he could polish and tighten.
He thanked me for the encouragement and moved on. This happened at a writers' conference in 1989. I don't remember his name or very much about the manuscript. But I couldn't forget his words.
He had a gift; he knew he had a gift; he wasn't reticent to acknowledge it. He didn't seek my confirmation of his ability--that's probably what affected me most. He spoke with an inner assurance that didn't need my approving response.
I admire people who can talk that way and mean it. They know what they can do, and they easily acknowledge it's a gift, not some earned possession or reward for studying hard.
When I talk about gifts—especially what I label as spiritual gifts—I believe they come from outside ourselves. We simply have them and we can't explain why or how they came to us. We usually need training to polish those talents, but they're there. They're a part of ourselves like our speech patterns or the way we hold a pencil.
The apostle Paul writes that we all have gifts. It's important to say that because some tend to say, "Oh, well, God forgot about me," or "I have no gifts." Gifts may not be developed, or they may be the less flashy kinds, but the Bible says all of us have them.
The apostle writes, "There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but they all come from the same Spirit. There are different ways to serve the same Lord, and we can each do different things. Yet the same God works in all of us and helps us in everything we do. The Spirit has given each of us a special way of serving others (1 Cor 12:4-7, CEV).
I want to tell you about a woman with a gift. Shortly after I started to publish, Marion Bond West joined our editing group, the Scribe Tribe. My wife read Marion's first submission and said, "She can't spell, she can't punctuate, she doesn't know the meaning of grammar, but she sure can write." Shirley spotted the gift, unpolished as it was. (Since then Marion has published six books and has the distinction of being Guideposts' most published author.) The editors agree: She sure can write. Marion has a gift.
When I talk about gifts, I don't think of the condensed menu in the New Testament, such as Paul lists in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14. When I think of giftedness, I refer to those talents that are simply in our lives without our struggling to attain them.
I think of my father who had the ultimate green thumb. He could stick anything in the ground and it rooted itself. He developed a number of varieties of tomatoes, long before hybrid brands came out.
Miriam White is the pianist at our church, and when she plays the offertory or postlude, I feel something emanating from that grand piano. It's her gift, and she's also developed it.
Years ago, I talked with Esther, a secretary at a Bible college, whose father and brothers were all preachers and teachers. "Are you thinking of following in the family footsteps?" I asked.
Esther bent forward and wrapped her arms around her Remington typewriter. "This is my gift and my ministry," she said.
Others come to mind. When the late Arthur Dodzweit was my pastor, he emanated a spirit of caring and compassion. Margie Butts showed the gift of calmness in handling turmoil and tumult. Her presence seemed to calm others. Alice Wheeler knows how to listen. Her posture, her frequent nods, and especially the aliveness of her eyes say she hangs on every word.
Gifts from God. We all have them.
Most of us don't feel comfortable in acknowledging them. In our Western culture, it sounds boastful to say, "God has given me the gift to teach" or "God has gifted me to be a baseball player."
Maybe it's time for us to change that. Maybe it's time for us—the ones who know that "all things come from God"—to bring honor to the Giver. Too many of us have exulted in the gift as if we had created it, earned it, developed it, or discovered it totally by self-effort.
Here is part of how I have been praying: "Show me my giftedness. Help me acknowledge these gifts and develop them."
To acknowledge a gift is to acknowledge the Giver. When I lay claim to having a gift, it doesn't mean I'm the best in the world, or that I rank third from the top. It simply means I have a talent—an ability—that God has been pleased to give me.
I have two gifts for which I'm immensely thankful. I can write and I can teach. I don't have to compare my gift to anyone else's. I could name half-a-dozen writers I admire immensely. I don't envy them or feel jealous. (In my thinking, envy means I want what the person has; jealous means I wish they didn't have it.) I can rejoice with their accomplishments. I can read other writers and say, "This is good stuff." Yet their writing says nothing about mine.
I'm responsible to God for the cultivation of my gifts. They didn't come to me fully developed and trained. The spark of divinely given talent was there; I had to cooperate with God to enhance it.
Isn't it also true that we sometimes serve better if we have gifts we're not aware of? Consider what I call the gifts of kindness and genuine humility. They're more precious in demonstration than when the gifted are aware of them.
But when God does make us aware of talents, that lays responsibility on us. We're going to be held accountable for the things we do as well as the things we don't do. If God makes us aware of a gift of any kind, God wants us to acknowledge it, give thanks for it, and use it. We honor God when we use our spiritually given abilities. Conversely, I believe we deny God when we don't acknowledge and use those gifts.
So I've been praying about my giftedness because I know its purpose is to uplift others. If we have an ability, it's not there to make us feel good, but to be a "a special way of serving others." In 1 Corinthians, Paul wrote about spiritual gifts and listed nine of them (see 1 Cor 12:8-10). Then he concluded, "But it is the Spirit who does all this and decides what gifts to give to each of us" (v. 11, CEV).
But what about our worthiness? Do we have to be more spiritual first? At one point that question troubled me. Then I realized that a gift is a gift; it's not a matter for boasting, only for accepting. Consider Samson who had a gift of strength. Morally, he was weak, but his spiritual gift and his moral behavior were quite different issues. I thought of a deposed televangelist. I believe he had a gift to heal that often worked; I also think his personal life didn't match his spiritual talent.
Once I was able to get past that issue, I prayed for God to help me to recognize my gifts, enhance them, and use them to help others. And when I help others, I glorify God in the process.
Recently I've become aware of another gift that I've had for a long time. I'm not going to name it, but the recognition was one of those "Aha!" moments. At first it scared me. It felt so awesome, something too big for me. Even so, I thought, I've been praying about my spiritual giftedness. If the Gift Giver is pleased to reveal this to me—and I felt that's what happened—that makes me responsible to do something about it.
Such thoughts make me rejoice. I keep thinking, God has entrusted me with this gift. It has pleased God to give this to me, so I need to learn how to be more effective in using it.
Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them…. --ROMANS 12:6a, NKJV
Giver of Good Gifts,
thank you for the gifts you have given me
to glorify you
by enriching my own life
and those of others. Amen.
For more from Cec, please visit www.cecilmurphey.com.
Cecil Murphey has written more than one hundred books on a variety of topics with an emphasis on Spiritual Growth, Christian Living, Caregiving, and Heaven. He enjoys preaching in churches and speaking and teaching at conferences around the world. To book Cec for your next event, please contact Twila Belk at 563-332-1622.