That’s usually the first thing I think of when I am given a gift. That means I can use it, enjoy it, or do whatever I want with it. But, more than anything, it’s mine.
That kind of exclusivity isn't unfounded. The gifts under the Christmas tree or at the birthday party did, in fact, have our name on them. They were intended for our enjoyment and use. It is my gift.
The problem with that kind of perspective, though, is that this is not how Jesus intends for us to view the gifts he’s given to us.
Yes, the mercy he has poured out on the cross is intended for us; it is our salvation. But that salvation, or any other gift of God, isn't merely to find its end in our lives. The grace of God doesn’t end with us.
God's mercy and kindness are poured out on us so they can be displayed and shared with others. This is Peter's point when he reminds his readers of their identity in Christ.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. —1 Pet. 2:9
The gifts are all mentioned there—a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's possession—but notice the “that.” It indicates there is a result that flows from the merciful grace of God: "that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light."
Telling others about the greatness and goodness of the God who saved us is how Jesus intends for us to put his gifts of grace and mercy to use.
STEWARDS OF GOD’S VARIED GRACE
Not only does God intend the gift of grace in salvation to be shared with others, but the gracious gifts of the Holy Spirit are not meant to be an end in themselves either. Just as Peter used the metaphor of ancient Israel to display how a Christian displays their identity in Jesus through sharing God's brilliance with others, he taps into another metaphor about the purpose of the spiritual gifts: stewards.
I don’t think I ever understood the concept of a steward until I saw Peter Jackson’s film The Return of the King, based on the Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien. The Steward of Gondor was appointed by the king and was responsible to care for the kingdom of Gondor and to act on behalf of the king in his absence. The steward wasn't the king, so his authority and power were derived from the king, but he carried the responsibility to represent the king and care for the kingdom well. The kingdom had better be in just as good shape as it was when the king left it.
What does it mean that we are "stewards of God's varied grace" (1 Pet. 4:10)? That the gifts (“varied grace”) of God are to be used "to serve one another." To further clarify, God’s gifts to us—whether speaking or serving, teaching or shepherding—are stewarded well when they are used for someone else’s benefit.
MY GIFTING, YOUR BENEFIT, GOD’S GLORY
But there’s a deeper purpose behind this stewardship. It has an ultimate goal. Peter continues, "that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ." Our gifts are meant to display and show off the glory of God in everything we do. This kind of stewardship grows delight and awe for God in Jesus. Right stewardship of the gifts of God are for bringing glory and honor to God forever.
Here comes the challenging question: How are you stewarding the varied gifts of God? Sometimes we use the gifting well, and it does bring glory to Christ. Sometimes we sit on the gifts or say “mine!” and forget the purposes that God has for us in giving us these gifts.
I've had that gnawing feeling in my heart about a specific gift the Lord gave me. At the beginning of 2017, Jonathan Dodson and Brad Watson approached me about taking the lead at Gospel-Centered Discipleship as the Executive Director. It's been a role I've enjoyed and cherished deeply. And hopefully, I've stewarded this ministry well over the last two years.
But the gift that I've perhaps neglected to steward well is the gift of GCD’s platform for "making, maturing, and multiplying disciples of Jesus." I've been content to let our staff writers and other authors carry the water in writing excellent content for discipleship but, for the most part, I've held myself out of that game.
I’ve been given a gift, but it isn’t “mine!”—it’s for you and for the glory of God. That’s why this is the first in what will be a weekly column from me.
I’m not the all-wise guru of discipleship, nor am I the best writer or thinker who will help you along as a primary source. But I have been given a gift with GCD and I’ve been given a gift as a writer. I want to steward both of those well . . . for you, and for Christ!
I hope you'll follow along with me on Tuesdays as I get my sea-legs about me with this column. I'll be writing as a pastor, as a disciple-maker, and hopefully, a friend, to help fulfill our mission to "make, mature, and multiply disciples of Jesus."
Jeremy Writebol is the lead campus pastor of Woodside Bible Church in Plymouth, MI and the Executive Director of Gospel-Centered Discipleship. He is the author of everPresent: How the Gospel Relocates Us in The Present and a contributing author to several other publications. He writes personally at jwritebol.net.