Allowing Gifts to Operate

Both Were Great but Different Than One Another
a gift
a gift

There has only been one year in NFL history that an NFL team went undefeated from the first game of the season all the way through the Super Bowl.  The team that accomplished this feat was the 1971-72 Miami Dolphins. As you would imagine, the Dolphins had a lot of great players. Among them were two running backs named Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris. These were players that that others would try to emulate if they wanted to be a great running back.



One of the significant things about Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris was that even though were both great running backs, their style of running was night and day different. Csonka was a bulldozer who could run over anything that came into his path. Mercury Morris was a lighting quick slasher who tore through defenses and left defenders grasping for air by using his speed and agility. Of course it is normal in football to have two different types of runners in the same backfield consisting of a power back who runs people over, and speed back that is elusive and hard to catch. Once in a while a runner has both size and speed like Jim Brown, Earl Campbell, or Adrian Peterson. These are the guys that can go through or around people, whichever they choose.

Variations Among Great Players

In basketball you will also see variations among great players. One team I enjoy watching is San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs have great teamwork and they have a couple premier players. Tony Parker is a point guard who can handle the ball and kill you with either penetration, midrange shooting or outside shooting. He harasses defense with his quick drives to the basket and when they finally team up to adjust to ability to drive, he passes off to the open man who is wide open for a three. The Spurs are also fortunate to have a big man who is a hard to stop by the name of Tim Duncan. He can kill you inside with his height, power, and post up moves, and he can pass off as well.

The point in taking about all of these football and basketball players is that they are different from one another. Intelligent coaches quickly surmise the strengths of these players and put them in a role where they can capitalize on their strengths to the advantage of their team. Occasionally players like LeBron James or Magic Johnson come along who have the capacity to play in a variety of roles that would typical of a big man, small player or midsized player.

It’s Best to Use  the Style That Fits Your Abilities

When we talk about the differences in football and basketball players, it would be really silly if Larry Csonka decided his own running style was the best and went on a campaign to convert Mercury Morris into being a bulldozer like himself. While running people over may be the best way for Larry to succeed, it may not be the best way for Mercury Morris to succeed. If Tony Parker decided that his success was an indicator of how everyone else should play, he could demand that Tim Duncan imitates him by dribbling around the perimeter more instead of posting up closer to the basket. Unfortunately, Tim Duncan would probably find that this strategy wouldn’t work for him and he wouldn’t want to keep imitating Tony Parker. Parker could get upset about this and believe that his way is the best way, but it would be a silly assertion, as Tony Parker is using the best way to play given his strengths and abilities, not someone else’s. For players to be successful, they must be allowed use the specific abilities that cause them to be so outstanding. It would be foolish for a coach to refuse to let Mercury Morris use his ability to dodge defenders just because the coach admires running backs who run over defenders.

Everyone Has a Gift

Can we see the spiritual application of this? Hopefully we can. Within the church, there are many abilities, many talents, and many spiritual gifts. These gifts are recognized in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12 and 14, and Ephesians chapter 4. God went to all of the effort to create people the way they are with the talents, gifts, and abilities that he gave them, and he did it on purpose. God made people the way they are and sent his Holy Spirit to give the gifts that he gave so that people could serve others, feel useful, and have a purpose within his Kingdom. Everyone has a gift. Some are fortunate to be like LeBron James who has many gifts that he can use. These type of people often end up being the go to person who seems to do it all. But it can backfire when others feel inferior and no room is made for their gifts. The combined sum of the available gifts ends up adding up to nothing because the gifts are never used.

The Danger of Favoring Some Gifts and Excluding Other Gifts

It is easy to have our own pet personalities that we like, and specific Spiritual gifts that we like or don’t like to see in operation. Pastors have favorite gifts that they like to see operate in their church. Members of a congregation have favorite preaching, teaching, and Pastoring styles that they favor in Pastors. Members of a congregation often have favored gifts that they prefer to be used amongst one another based on those who have the dominant voice of influence within the group of people. All of this favoritism can kill the gifting, the motivation, and the purpose of people in a given assembly of believers. Of course it tends to minimize the role of those who don’t fit in within a trend that is based on a narrow scope of preferred giftings and ministry styles. This is a little like playing football or basketball with a popular style of play without remembering to take advantage of the strengths of each player on the team. The object shouldn’t be to fit into a certain style of play.  The object is to draw out the best in each player in order to score and keep the other team from scoring. Players, coaches, and teams fail when they fall prey to preferences that don’t take advantage of the strengths that are given to them, and so do churches, ministries and home groups.

Allowing Gifts to Be Used

God picked people that others would never pick because he saw the gift within them that others couldn’t see. Jesus knew the gifts of healing, miracles, evangelism, and preaching that Peter, James and John had. But being lowly fishermen, they may have seemed unqualified to others. Jesus knew that these were the men that would follow him. They would also walk in his power rather than to depend on human wisdom and ability. If we are wise, we will follow the example of Jesus and let people be who God called them to be.  We will find a way to let people operate in the gifts, talents, and abilities that God has placed in them. I never said this would be easy. Many gifts are hidden and those gifts must be drawn out. Others have gifts but are not willing to use them, or they use them irresponsibly. But with God’s wisdom and discernment, finding the gifts in others and giving them opportunities to use those gifts should be one of our goals if we desire to see God’s Kingdom increase in our midst.

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