Last year I read Tom Schreiner’s book, Spiritual Gifts: What They Are and Why They Matter. It is an easy-to-read, non-technical study on the nature and use of spiritual gifts. Schreiner writes from a cessasionist perspective. This means means he believes the gifts of apostleship, prophecy, tongues, and healing have ceased and are no longer in use.
But arguing for whether or not these extraordinary gifts have ceased does not comprise the bulk of the book. Rather, Schreiner focuses on the use of spiritual gifts for the building up of the church. He helpfully defines all the gifts (teaching, helps, administration, mercy, etc.) while reminding his readers that spiritual gifts do not determine spiritual superiority. Nor is the exercise of spiritual gifts necessarily a sign of spiritual maturity. Rather, love is the true measure of spiritual maturity (1 Cor 13:1-8).
In the section, “Think Reasonably about Your Gifts,” Schreiner reflects on Paul’s statement in Romans 12:3: “For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one.” I found this section particularly helpful. Schreiner comments,
Paul’s instructions here are immensely practical. We must recognize what God made us to be and avoid trying to become what we are not. It is tempting to attempt to imitate others and to live based on the faith that God has given them. As we consider someone we admire or who has influence us, we may start to think that we should become what they are. We need to consider, however, what God has called us to be (34).Spiritual Gifts, 34.
We hinder our joy and dampen our ministry zeal when we start comparing ourselves with other Christians and their gifts. But Christ has given us his body in order to help us determine where we might be gifted. “Other members of the body of Christ can and must help us discern and confirm the gifts in our lives. Sometimes they help us see that the gift we thought we had isn’t the area we should concentrate our energies after all” (35). As we proactively serve and humbly listen to the insight of our brothers and sisters, we will learn how God has gifted us to edify his people.
What is the fruit of a sober-minded evaluation of our spiritual gifts? Contentment and joy. Schreiner again,
A realistic assessment of our lives and our talents and gifts brings great contentment about our place in life if we rest in God. How many live in unhappiness because they aren’t content with what God has given them? They long and grasp for a greatness God didn’t intend for them to have (35).Spiritual Gifts, 35.
Schreiner’s point is this: Don’t compare yourself with other Christians. Don’t strive for a ministerial greatness you were never meant to have. With the help of the local body—the brothers and sisters and shepherds among you—gain a realistic assessment of your gifts, resources, and opportunities, and make the most of what Christ has entrusted to you. Here you will find joy, peace, and fruitfulness in ministry.