Exhortation…Pastor/Shepherd…Teacher…Prophesy…seriously? I only fully understood the meaning of one of these and these were what the test said my Spiritual Gifts were. Well, that must be a mistake. I should take a different test. Same answers. Hmmmm…must be my state of mind at the time…I’ll take the tests at a different time of day and when I’m in a different mood. Same answers. *Sigh* Ok…ok…I will study up on these and figure out what they mean (since they supposedly add up to mean…well…me.) Exhortation seemed to mean cheer-leader…that bugged me. Pastor…ummmm…not interested in that job! Shepherd…I live in Flower Mound? Teacher…done that…I get that one…and I really liked it. Prophesy…ummmm…as in “the end of the world is near!”??????
Needless to say, I was seriously disappointed in the results of the test (ahem…many tests.) Like I said, I understood teacher. I felt fulfilled and joyful when interacting with those wacky middle-school students. I so deeply enjoyed it when a lightbulb would go off in their minds and I could see their expressions go from confused to happy and craving more knowledge. But the other gifts…those were a bit of a mystery. Many sources kept defining these incredibly complicated qualities with one or two words: Exhortation = encourager. Pastor/Shepherd = parent (the descriptions all sounded this way to me.) Prophesy = counselor. So, I went deeper. Turns out, these short descriptions don’t even come close.
Exhortation is not simply an encourager: (an encourager doesn’t have to understand or identify with the encouragee (is that a word?)) It is the ability to counsel or challenge others toward a healthy relationship with Jesus and is often utilized to motivate people to make God-honoring choices. Exhorters regard trials as opportunities for growth and sympathize with the suffering Christian, but see the pain through the lens of God’s sovereignty rather than through the lens of suffering. Exhorters express love through availability. (Ok…yep…that is me…add feels a deep need to feed people and you would see my picture with this definition!)
Pastor/ Shepherd is not simply two very different job titles, as it turns out: Apparently, the word pastor is related to pasture and the Greek word for it means “herdsman.” So, like actual shepherds, these people have a great need for long-term relationships and will sacrificially give themselves to other people in such a way that they are built-up in their faith. They are concerned with the health, growth, and well-being of those that they are committed to. (Ok…yeah, that one sounds like me too…I don’t just want relationships…I need them…and I get a bit protective of those people…but I’m more comfortable with the word shepherd than I am with the word pastor…so we’ll just go with that one.)
Prophesy, as it turns out, is not just for nut-jobs: Apparently, it is a deep-rooted calling to expose sin…not for the sake of punishment…in order to lead to restoration in relationship with God and to bring unity to people. (Ok, yeah…that is absolutely my heartbeat!) Also, people with this gift are quick to repent of their own sin when confronted with it but can be crushed by this too because they see the depravity in that sin. (Yes! That is me! When I realize I have wronged someone…even just a little…I am devastated by it and have a hard time getting past it. (Just ask Stan. I know it sometimes wears him out!))
So, what in the world is the point of me writing about this? Well first, some of you may not be familiar with your spiritual gifts and I would encourage you to investigate them and learn about them. (You can google free online spiritual gift tests…I really like the one at churchgrowth.org…good descriptions that also touch on your potential pitfalls and strengths.) Next, I would urge you to look at what areas of your life feel the most fulfilling and see if there is any overlap between that and the results of your tests. Why? Because that is where you will be the most energized, the most effective, and the most…”you.” I have gone through long periods of time where I didn’t feel like “me.” I felt almost like a visitor in my life. But last year, when I started musing…I became more “me” than I have ever been. (I didn’t do any of this intentionally…I just felt like I should start writing…although I had no agenda and have never been a skilled writer…so I did.) I feel closer to God and am more energized by this aspect of my life than any other. Since I started writing, I have had countless conversations, lunches, and meetings with people I didn’t know before…because I was able to somehow touch some part of them through this…it is uncanny and still blows my mind every time it happens. It is encouraging to see ability in me to bring about something positive for other people and it not wear me down to a nub because it is so exhausting…if anything, it energizes and excites me. Finally, I would ask you to invest in your giftedness. Find some way to give space and time to explore your giftedness so you can see yourself and God more clearly. (Know that anything you sacrifice in pursuing this will be worthwhile because this is your actual calling…your purpose. I never have enough time but I am spending about 1.5 to 3 hours per day writing. I don’t miss whatever I was doing before because whatever it was is so much less valuable to me than this. I will also say that it has freed me up to say no to more things as well because I know where my purpose is so, I consequently, also know where it is not. Other things aren’t bad…they just aren’t MY things.)
So, how are you doing with this? Do you know what your giftedness is? Are you using it? Do you know how to implement it in your life? How can you bring truth, healing, and love to others through your gifts? What might you need to sacrifice in order to be obedient in this area?
My prayer today is that we would not just go through life aimlessly, running along like a hamster on a wheel, without a purpose…but that we would determine where our gifts and passions intersect so that we can be tools in the hands of an amazingly loving and creative God. Much love friends,