By Jean-Luc Lezeau, Director, Euro-Africa Division Stewardship
Summary: God uses diversity and differences that may arise among us for His own profit. It is He who created diversity in His creation.
Could Paul preach about unity in Ephesians and yet refuse to take Mark along with him in Acts? Doesn’t it seem like he’s preaching one thing and doing another? Do these texts contradict each other? The answer is an emphatic No. The early church was doubly blessed by Paul and Mark’s separation—instead of one missionary team, they had two.
God uses diversity and differences that may arise among us for His own profit. It is He who created diversity in His creation. How many different kinds of flowers do you know? Did you know there are over one thousand different varieties of roses alone!
Diversity in creation
Consider the creation of man. God could have created a prototype with a standard, one-size-fits-all mind and brain, and duplicated it ad infinitum. Instead He created humankind to be free, with the capacity to think and to choose. Children can be raised exactly alike and yet one never knows how each will turn out. Does this mean if a child turns out bad, the parent no longer loves that child? Certainly not! Some of us are like the prodigal son—we have had the same privileges as the rest of humanity, but we have turned out different. Yet God loves us just the same. We should have the same attitude towards those who have gone astray.
Diversity in gifts
Have you discovered your spiritual gifts? Does the church use all the gifts which are present in its midst today? Statistics reveal that 10% of the active members involved in diverse evangelistic activities are the source of 90% of the baptisms. Do you realize that we could have 10 times as many baptisms if we used all the potential of the spiritual gifts in our church today? Would you go to a dentist to have your car repaired? Or to a bricklayer to have your haircut? Or to the bakery to have your house remodeled? Each has mastered a trade. The members of our church are to be looked at in a similar manner. We cannot expect all to have the same gifts and qualifications.
Those who have received gifts know what to do; it is not because they learned how to use them but because the Holy Spirit guided them. Very often we plan and start evangelistic efforts and all church members are expected to participate actively. However we all have a different heredity, education, and experience. How can we expect every church member to think and react the same way when we talk about evangelism? We are not coherent with our preaching.
God wanted diversity. Like the human body and its different parts, each has its unique place, function, and role to play. The question is how to find it.
A pastor said to his congregation: Too many of us waste too much time distinguishing a spiritual gift from a talent. Both come from God and as such everyone should use them for His glory. The Bible says that each of us has at least one gift or talent. An elderly woman later approached him saying I have been a member here for more than 40 years and I’ve always wanted to do something to share my faith. But, I’ve never discovered my spiritual gift and I have no education. I feel useless. The pastor reassured her that there must be something she enjoyed doing that she could use for outreach. She left pondering on what the pastor had told her. She prayed about it all weekend. Suddenly she realized that baking was the only thing she liked doing and that she did well. Certainly that was not a spiritual gift! But the pastor had said that talents come from God and should be used for his glory. A young couple had moved in next door just a few days earlier. She decided to bake a loaf of bread for them as a welcome gift. With special attention and prayer she baked the loaf. She timidly knocked at her neighbor’s door. When the door opened, she thrust the loaf into the young woman’s hands saying, This is just to welcome you, I am your neighbor and quickly ran back to the safety of her home.
Since baking was the only thing she could do well, she baked another loaf of bread the next day with the same prayerful process. And again she delivered it with only a few words. The young lady was surprised at the second gift from the same woman. The third day it was the same and the fourth as well. It was the only thing the old woman could do! And the young couple began to appreciate the daily gift of such good bread. They soon began expecting the bread every day. Then came Saturday. They waited for the bread but it didn’t come. They almost felt cheated. How could the woman have forgotten to bring the bread?
Eventually she was back on Sunday with a loaf of bread. The neighbors were eager to know if she had been ill. I was OK, the woman replied. But I am an Adventist, and I do not work on Saturday.
The neighbors asked, Adventist? Is that an illness?
It is a religion. We go to church on Saturday, the woman hurriedly responded.
Their curiosity had been aroused now. They said, We have never heard of such a religion. Can you tell us more?
I am not too good at explaining things. But I could ask my pastor to visit you, the woman shyly responded.
Certainly, they said enthusiastically. But since we are Catholics, we will invite our priest to be there too.
A date was set for the young couple, the Catholic priest and the Seventh-day Adventist pastor to meet. The pastor explained the biblical reasons why he believed in and observed the seventh day. The young couple turned to the priest, expecting him to rebuke the pastor. But the priest realized the pastor based his teachings on the Bible, and that it was the Pope who had changed the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday.
The studies continued. The couple eventually joined the church and so did the priest. Three people joined the church because of an old woman who could do nothing but bake good bread.
A witness of His love
Look at 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4 and Romans 12. There are 27 gifts listed. (We could find more in other passages.) 1 Corinthians 4:10 says that we all have at least one of them. 1 Corinthians 1:7 says that there is not one missing. Gifts are very often related to one’s character. If you observe the different behaviors around, you may get a glimpse of people’s gifts.
At a church potluck, a woman entered the room carrying a large tray of delicious food. Unfortunately, she tripped, bringing everything down to the floor. How did the members of that church react? From observing their reactions we can guess what their gift might be.
The prophet: I have always told you this doorway was faulty.
The merciful: But it was not her fault! The carpet was not laid properly; she did her best.
The doctor: Let’s fix the doorway or teach her how to walk around it.
The administrator: This has cost us $30 dollars in cleaning supplies and time.
The hospitable: I don’t have much, but you’re all invited to my place.
The generous: I will bring whatever is needed. I have plenty at home.
The servant: Goes to help clean the mess, without saying a word.
We must be very humble and recognize that God wants to use us as much as He can. He has given us everything we need to live and to be a witness of His love towards us. Let us give up our own nature and let Him be the principal actor in our lives.