The following devotional is a condensation of a message presented during the Women’s Ministries meetings at the General Conference session in Atlanta, Georgia, United States, on June 30, 2010. —Editors.
Two categories of people exist in our communities: those desperately in need of a Savior, and those equipped to proclaim God’s message of grace about a Savior. And the problem facing us is that those in the second category typically find all kinds of excuses to avoid sharing what they have.
Bad weather is a frequent excuse. Other obstacles to sharing include tiredness, selfishness, busyness, low self-esteem, the belief that we’re unprepared, that it’s not our personal calling, etc. The list is endless.
An important consideration for us is that Jesus sacrificed His life that we might obtain eternal life. He endured temptation, rejection, humiliation, insults, betrayal, false accusations, and, finally, the cross. Through it all, however, He remained focused on His mission; and so must we. Salvation is not cheap; someone had to pay the price. And Jesus paid it with His life.
He does not ask us to pay for our salvation with our lives. But He calls on us to sacrifice our talents, our time, our treasure (all freely given), in order to continue His mission in the world. Each individual is to give according to what God has given them. When you’ve had a personal encounter with Jesus, when you’ve received His grace, when you’ve recognized His tender, loving care, you will see what other eyes may not: hurting people as the apple of God’s eye. The gospel is not just a story; it’s an experience that, once we acquire it, does not allow us to rest until we share it. In the sentiments of Paul, the love of Christ compels (see 2 Cor. 5:14, 15).
Inheritance or Personal Commitment?
A Catholic woman once asked me, “Joy, why are you a Protestant?”
“Because my father is Protestant,” I responded honestly.
It was an issue of inheritance, then—an issue of culture, having nothing to do with personal conviction. But the question prompted me to seek God’s grace to reveal to me the truth of the gospel; and the knowledge of that truth changed my life completely. It was no longer about my father, about inheritance, about culture; but about Christ, about choice, about commitment.
Today, I pose the same question to you: Why are you a Seventh-day Adventist Christian? Because of inheritance? Marriage? Because you want to keep your job? Or is it because you believe the words of John 3:16, that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life?”?
Have we truly, personally, believed? Is our belief strong enough to form the basis for us to proclaim God’s grace with love to the community? Do we bear a burden for those who are suffering and perishing without the knowledge of God’s grace? Do we consider it our responsibility to proclaim God’s grace to our communities, using the spiritual gifts that God has Himself given us?
If you and I have accepted Christ as our personal Savior, then we have an urgent responsibility of embracing the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19 through the individual use of our spiritual gifts to proclaim God’s grace.
In His ministry Jesus focused on people, in all walks of life. But He especially had a soft spot for the poor, the hurting, the victimized. We see this in His parable of the judgment in Matthew 25:31-46. God has blessed most of us women with the gift of reaching the hurting in our communities—widows, the terminally ill, the lonely, the abused, the rejected, the destitute, prostitutes, prisoners, the illiterate, the marginalized, and all others who feel hopeless.
Others in our communities may have all that the world offers, but still feel empty within. While they long for true fulfillment, they have no idea where to find it. They look for joy through drugs, alcohol, tobacco, sex, and other things that offer only temporal relief. Still others in our communities are daily seeking for truth.
What these all need is the gospel of love and compassion.
Finding Our Spiritual Gift(s)
Someone said that “a true spiritual gift opens doors, changes lives, and builds up the body of Christ.” And the first step in identifying our own gift is accepting Christ fully. Only then will He turn our talents into spiritual gifts. The reason we still hold so firmly and selfishly to our own talents, our own time, our own treasures, is that we’ve not fully accepted or appreciated God’s amazing grace.
When we talk about proclaiming the gospel, we tend to think of it as a job for experts—those who’ve mastered the art of public speaking, with doctrinal formulas and fundamental beliefs at their fingertips. And yes, this may be right—if we have in mind the few who are gifted in that area of public evangelism. But what about the rest of us? Where do we fall? Does Matthew 28:19 apply only to those who are eloquent in speech? Or does it apply also to those who have no credentials to baptize?
I suggest it does. The Bible mentions a great diversity in the types of gifts God wants to put to use: giving, exhortation, discernment, knowledge, leadership, prophecy, teaching, wisdom, service, mercy, healing, faith (see 1 Cor. 12:8-12). By God’s own design, such diversity provides capabilities to believers to serve as powerful tools for the proclamation of the gospel.
What is your gift? So many think they have none.
An old woman, after listening to a touching sermon from her pastor on spiritual gifts, felt that though she’d been a Christian for many years, she’d never discovered her own God-given gift—not even from the list of the 27 the pastor gave in his sermon. Uneducated, she’d all her life been employed as a home cleaner.
But her pastor reassured her that God had, indeed, given her at least one gift, and that all she needed was to begin the process of discovering it. “Just think about the things you do best,” the pastor told her, “and pray that God would show you which one of them to use for His glory.”
As she prayed it kept coming to her mind—again and again—that she loved to bake bread and that she did it well. Could this be her gift, even though not mentioned in the list the pastor mentioned?
An idea came to her. A young couple had just moved in near her home. She could bake something as a welcome present for them! And so she did. “I live next door,” she said as the new neighbor answered her door. “Here’s a housewarming gift for you.” And with that, she turned and ran away.
The new neighbor remained glued to the spot, thinking to herself, There are some funny people living around here! But it’s nice that they should welcome us in this way! Then as she unfolded the napkins, the smell of good, fresh bread filled the place. At dinner, she told her husband what happened and put the bread on the table, its pleasing aroma filling the room. It also tasted great!
Our sister made a loaf for the neighbors every day that week; but on Sabbath she didn’t. The neighbors waited, but no loaf came on Sabbath. Having come to enjoy this special bread, they were disappointed.
On Sunday morning when our sister took over another loaf, the neighbors, delighted to see her again, asked what had happened the previous day—which gave her a chance to talk about her faith and the Sabbath. They wanted to know more about Adventists, so our sister invited her pastor to meet with them. For their part, they invited their own priest to join the meeting.
In the end, to cut the story short, the young couple, together with their priest, accepted the Adventist message. All because our sister used her gift—the gift of baking bread.