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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Monday, August 18, 2008

2008-08-24 “Your Spiritual Gifts”

Romans 12:1-8

James McTyre

Lake Hills Presbyterian Church (USA)

This morning’s scripture is about your spiritual gifts.

Those of you who don’t already have pen or pencil out, find one and get ready because in just a minute I’m going to ask you to write on your bulletin.

Some of you probably already are.

It's OK.

I found a test that helps people determine their spiritual gifts by virtue of their tastes.

Dr. Alan R. Hirsch, M.D. is the Neurological Director of the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago.

Dr. Hirsch, M.D. was commissioned (paid real money) by the people who make Edy’s Grand Ice Cream to develop a personality test, which I'm going to share with you now.

Please try to focus, because this is very important.

I’m going to read off a list of six ice cream flavors.

I want you to write each of them down and then circle the one that’s your favorite.

Vanilla – Chocolate – Butter pecan – Banana – Strawberry – Chocolate Chip [now circle the one that’s your favorite.]

If you circled vanilla [stand]: you are colorful (vanilla?), impulsive, a risk taker who sets high goals and has high expectations of yourself. You also enjoy close family relationships.

If you circled chocolate [stand]: you are lively, creative, dramatic, charming, enthusiastic, and the life of the party. Chocolate fans enjoy being at the center of attention and can become bored with the usual routine.

If you like butter pecan [stand]: you are orderly, perfectionist, careful, detail-oriented, conscientious, ethical, and fiscally conservative. You are also competitive, aggressive in sports, and the take-charge type of personality.

If you like banana [stand]: you are easy going, well adjusted, generous, honest, and empathetic.

If you like strawberry [stand]: you are shy, yet emotionally robust, skeptical, detail oriented, opinionated, introverted, and self-critical.

If you like chocolate chip [stand]: you are generous, competitive, and accomplished. You are charming in social situations, ambitious, and competent.

If you didn’t circle anything [stand]... you’re either on a low-fat diet or lactose-intolerant... or you’re just cranky.

The Ice Cream Personality Test is fun, but it’s obviously about as accurate as a fortune cookie.

We’re made up of more than our tastes in ice cream.

Tastes change.

I may be a chocolate-lover today, but next week I could have a real hankering for strawberry.

Does that mean I’m a totally different person?

Most likely it just means I’m getting fat from eating too much ice cream.

Paul would say, the desires of the world are forming me, literally – wider, and deeper.

If we’re going to put who we are to the test, we need something a little more solid.

Paul says, “...as in one body we have many members, and not all members have the same function... We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us.”

According to the Bible, who you are is determined not by what your tastes are this morning, but by the grace of God which never changes.

Like buried treasures, God has hidden spiritual gifts deep within each of us.

And it’s the journey of a lifetime to find those places where we are graceful, find them, develop them, and use them – so that all the world might see God’s grace in action.

God makes each of us graceful in our own unique way.

Most of the time, when we speak of someone who’s “graceful” we think in terms of physical gifts.

Michael Jordan, flying through the air – that’s graceful.

Michael Phelps, cutting through the water – that's graceful.

Candace Parker, just standing still – graceful.

We see them and even if we don’t know much about their sport, we recognize the beauty of someone who is truly graceful.

Physical grace is easy to see and a wonder to behold.

The thing is, even if I worked out 12 hours a day, even if I gave up ice cream, even if I had a personal trainer and devoted every minute to my physical fitness, I could never “Be like Mike.”

I could drink Gatorade and eat Wheaties 24/7, but I'll never be able to dunk a basketball.

The truth is that while we can all admire the people who have reached the heights of physical grace, not many of us will ever be able to stand at their level.

We’re just not made for it.

But there’s more than just the physical.

If physical grace is the only kind of grace we see, then we’re limiting ourselves to a menu someone else has picked out.

To that the Bible speaks a resounding, “NO!”

It says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds.... For we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us.”

You may not dance like Fred and Ginger, you may not sky like Air Jordan, but you can be just as graceful in your own way with the gifts that God has given you.

The Apostle Paul has written a short list of spiritual gifts.

I don’t think the list is exhaustive, but it is instructive.

All of them are more important than ice cream, so I’d like you to take out your pen or pencil again and as I name each one, write the gift somewhere on your bulletin.

We’ll do something with it in a minute.

First, prophesy.


“Prophesy in proportion to faith,” Paul says.

What’s a prophet?

Most of the time we think of prophets as people who tell the future.

Like a gypsy staring into a crystal ball, saying, “You will meet a tall, handsome stranger.”

Most of what the Biblical prophets did wasn’t about the future at all – the Bible’s prophets told about today.

They simply looked around and they told people the truth about what was going on, right then. That’s all.

They did the deeply courageous and faithful act of telling people the truth.

And by the gift of God they did it in a graceful way that people remembered.

Has anyone ever taken you aside and said, “You need some help”? A coach, a parent, a friend... or even an enemy – has someone changed your life with just a few words that stopped you dead in your tracks and gone, “Holy smokes, they're right”?

The right word at the right time. The true word at a moment of truth.

That’s all it takes to be a prophet.

The courage to tell someone their habits are messing up their life.

The faith to say, “You're not handling things well at all.”

If being a prophet were easy, everyone would do it.

It’s HARD. But when it works, it’s more graceful than a slam dunk.

Maybe someone you know needs the gift of your truth.

Maybe you have the gift of prophesy.

Next, ministry.


When I was in seminary, they talked a lot about “the ministry of presence.”

That’s presence as in “being there,” not presents as in Santa Claus, although it’s easy to get the two confused.

A lot of us think that if we give enough presents it’ll make up for the times we weren’t present.

I used to think, “the ministry of presence” – ha! – that’s just an excuse for not knowing what to say.

More and more I think presence may be the only thing ministry’s about.

You may not know what to say to your kid when her soccer team loses the big game, but the fact that you were there and gave her a hug and took her for ice cream afterward – that’s ministry.

You may not have cooked the best pot roast in the world, but the fact that you took it to your friend when her mother died – that’s ministry.

Ministry is graceful when it means showing up even when you’d rather not.

Maybe you have the gift of ministry.

Next is teaching.


Those of you who are professional teachers and are starting a new year, you need to know that you are heroes.

You’re underpaid, you’re overworked, your classrooms are overcrowded, your textbooks are overused.

But by the grace of God you keep doing it.

It takes a special person to stand in front of a potentially hostile group of kids who would rather be just about anywhere else, and teach.

Maybe you’re a professional teacher.

But a lot of you are amateurs, who teach without even knowing it.

You teach how to change a fan belt. You teach how to throw a curve ball. You teach how to invest money. You teach how to pray.

And although you don’t have a textbook or a classroom, you teach by your example.

If you strive to maintain a high standard of character simply because someone might be watching and learning, you’re a teacher – and a graceful human being.

Maybe teaching is your gift.

Next is exhortation. E-x-h-o-r-t-a-t-i-o-n.

Exhortation may be your gift.

Everyone’s wondering what’s wrong with our world today.

I don’t have a simple answer; I wish I did.

But it seems that somewhere along the way we’ve forgotten how to exhort, how to encourage.

It's not that we're apathetic, it's just that we've learned to expect the worst.

The rat race keeps getting rattier.

Stuff keeps getting more expensive.

There's an energy crisis – and not just gasoline, but personal energy is lagging, too.

Is it just me, or is this right?

We need exhortation.

You know someone who needs encouragement. You do.

People need cheering sections – why else does Neyland Stadium keep getting bigger?

“You can do it.”

“You can make it.”

“Yea, James! Yea, Mary! Yea, Bob!”

You may not be physically graceful enough to form a human pyramid, but you can still be a cheerleader for someone and share a heart full of grace.

Maybe encouragement is your gift.

Next is giving.


Presbyterians don’t like to talk about money in church.

I don’t know why, because we talk about it everywhere else.

The Apostle Paul wasn’t shy when it came to talking about money.

He knew that if it weren’t for people whose spiritual gift was giving – whatever the amount, big or small –

he knew that if it weren’t for those people and those gifts, there wouldn’t be much of a church.

If it weren’t for people whose spiritual gift is giving, we wouldn’t have this beautiful sanctuary.

If it weren’t for people whose gift is giving, we couldn’t keep the lights on.

If it weren’t for people whose gift is giving, we couldn’t make plans for a coming year of ministry.

I remember a church retreat where the leaders took colored chalk and drew a huge outline of a body on the conference room floor.

Kind of like CSI, only much bigger.

And then they told people, “Pretend this is the body of Christ that is the church. Go stand on the part of the body that you are.”

And while everyone was racing to the hands, the head, and the heart, one older gentleman quietly strolled to a spot on the right hip.

The leader asked him, hesitantly, which part of the body he was supposed to be.

He said, “The wallet.”

And people clapped.

Giving gracefully is a beautiful gift.

And the best part of this gift is that you don’t have to have deep pockets to be a graceful giver.

Of all the people Jesus met, the only one he commended for the gift of giving was the poor widow, who put her two copper coins in the box.

People laughed at her little gift, and Jesus said, “All the rest of you are giving out of what you DO have; she gave out of what she DOESN’T have, as this was all she had to live on.

A graceful giver.

Deep or shallow pockets, maybe your gift is giving.

Next is diligence.


Which Paul has linked as the defining characteristic of leadership.

In 2 Corinthians, chapter 11, when Paul wants to brag about what a great leader he is, he doesn’t speak of his successes.

Instead, he speaks of his failures.

He says, Five times I have received... the forty lashes [of the whip] minus one.

Three times I was beaten with rods.

Once I received a stoning.

Three times I was shipwrecked; for a night and a day I was adrift at sea;

on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from bandits, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers and sisters;

in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, hungry and thirsty, often without food, cold and naked.

And, besides other things, I am under daily stress because of my anxiety for all the churches.

Paul says,

If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.

In other words, Paul isn’t some superman who has all the answers;

he’s a weak person like you and me who just sticks with it.

And for that he became a great leader.

Paul could have given up on what he believed, and life would have been a lot easier.

You could give up on what you believe.

You could abandon your dreams.

You could trade in your convictions and compromise your character – people do it all the time.

Or you can hang tough – knowing that win or lose you’re going to do it gracefully – and give the world the gift of your leadership.

Maybe diligence is your gift.

And the last gift Paul mentions is cheerfulness.


We got a puppy this spring.

The most cheerful creature God ever made.

Play, play, play, play, play – sleep.

The puppy's either cheerful or he's asleep.

If you call someone on the phone, even though you can’t see them, even if they’re on the other side of the country, you know by the way they say, “Hello,” if they’ve got a smile on their face – and it makes a big difference.

If the people at the store smile at you and say, “Hi,” chances are good you’ll shop there again.

if the waitress knows your name and has coffee waiting for you...

if your teacher looks like she means it when she says, “Good morning...”

It’s like the most beautiful thing in the world.

It doesn’t cost a dime to be cheerful, but it brings richness that can’t be counted.

Even if you have no other gifts at all, if you have the gift of a graceful smile, you have something everybody needs.

And we all have the ability to be cheerful, if we’ll just relax enough to smile.

OK, by now you should have written on your bulletin seven spiritual gifts.

Prophesy – ministry – teaching – exhortation – giving – diligence – cheerfulness.

I want you to circle the one that’s your favorite.

I’m not saying the one you think you have or the one you want to have – circle the one that’s your favorite.

Take a good look at it.

Now, here’s what I’m going to ask you to do.

In the coming week, be on the lookout for people who have this gift.

Pay attention to them.

Maybe you’ll want to compliment them on their gift, point it out to them – that’s up to you.

Mainly, I just want you to pay attention and see how their spiritual gift makes a difference.

Just spend some time watching and learning.

Do as Paul says when he wrote,

“Be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

And by the awareness of other people's spiritual gifts, maybe you'll become more aware of you own.

Or maybe you'll become aware of your own need to develop one or two of your spiritual gifts that might be lacking.

The Bible says, in Psalm 34, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” I don't think the Bible's talking about ice cream.