Dr. Stephen Phinney
DON’T LOOK DOWN ON YOUR YOUTHFULNESS
Then I said, "Alas, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, because I am a youth." But the LORD said to me, "Do not say, 'I am a youth,' because everywhere I send you, you shall go, and all that I command you, you shall speak.” (Jer 1:6-7)
Shortly after I received the Holy Spirit into my life, I was asked to speak at church gatherings at sixteen years of age. However, I had a problem. Fear blocked me from accepting these invites. I suffered the type of fear that bound my tongue. Meaning I would stutter through my words as my body would shake in fear. In due time, when asked to speak, I required the church to have a podium that the audience could not see my shaking body, a glass of water on the podium, which my shaking hands made it impossible to drink. So, what did I do? I humiliated myself by stepping up to speak when fear ruled my body & mind.
I had no clue what “Not I, but Christ” was all about at the time. I also was functionally illiterate and could not read from the Bible as speaking. This resulted in speaking from the heart. As my wife would tell you, a miracle began to happen. Scriptures began rolling off my tongue without knowing where they came from. This phenomenon prompted my soon-to-be wife to teach me how to read – using the Bible.
Looking back on that difficult time of my life, I most assuredly looked down on my youth, thinking I had to be a seasoned preacher to preach. Boy, was I wrong!
I was given a gift through this weakness. My ministry in Christ started with full dependence on the Holy Spirit to preach through me. I had no other choice. Many years later, I discovered my Spiritual gifts. The primary gift given to me was Prophecy, which requires hearing the Holy Spirit’s words before writing or speaking. As odd as it is, this blessed method has remained with me to this day – in both speaking and writing.
Many people do not think they are mature enough to use their gifting! Most think they have not been saved long enough to use God fully and allow God to use them fully. Now in my mid-sixties, I know nothing could be further from the Truth. Once you have received the Holy Spirit upon salvation, you are qualified to be used by God. Furthermore, once your Spiritual gifts are activated by ‘laying on of hands,’ the believer goes from confidence to a powerhouse. I am a living example of this profound Truth.
1 Timothy 4:11-16 tells us: “Prescribe and teach these things. Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe. Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching. Do not neglect the Spiritual gifts within you, which were bestowed upon you; through the prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery. Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress may be evident to all. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; preserve in these things; for as you this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.”
God wants us to prescribe and teach these things. Prescribing meaning, writing them down, and then teaching them to the Body of Christ. God is calling us to know our gifting. We are not to look down on our youthfulness. He wants us to speak with the power of God, allowing the Holy Spirit to speak through us - my most favorite thing about being a believer. He allows the fruit of the Holy Spirit to show Himself through our conduct, His love, appropriating the measure of faith He has put within us. Thus, walk in the purity of His light while we live. We are to be examples to those who are new to the reality of being filled with the gifting of Christ in us - teaching them by example how to walk in & through the Spirit. All are resulting in operating in the fullness of His gifting within us.
How do we accomplish this? It is accomplished by being devoted to the Scriptures & living the reality that He lives within us. Since the Word of God is alive and sharper than a two-edged sword, by teaching what God’s Word says, we will exhort one another to function in their God-given gifts. However, this requires an ability to hear the voice of God within your soul continuously.
God wants us to take pains with these things – to take this matter on as a burden. He desires us to absorb them and soak them up like a sponge. When people see God’s gifting flowing through us, they see Christ's Life within us! This is how we reveal our progress in our walk with Him to the world around us.
Lastly, God wants us to pay close attention to our teachings regarding this topic. This topic needs to be handled by Christ through us. Many churches have been divided over the topic of Spiritual gifts. The gifts are for unity, not to bring more division. This is one topic I refuse to wrangle words. If God says it, I believe it and teach accordingly.
DISCOVERING YOUR SPIRITUAL GIFTS
You might be a beginner in the process of discovering your Spiritual gifts. Some of you have known for many years, while some are just “looking into it.” In either case, God knows you are interested in knowing your Spiritual Gifts. Here is a list of items to keep in mind as you explore the realities of God’s gifts:
Be willing to explore what God has for you. Read each of the Scriptures stated in this series. Use this publication as a Bible Study. Pray through each Scripture. Learn what the gifts are, how they are used, what characterizes them and how they function within the Body of Christ.
Don’t lean upon your feelings. Many look to their feelings to label their gift. This is the greatest error in discovering Spiritual gifting! God will reveal your gift(s) through the presbytery (elders) of your church. The Spirit will bear witness with the process and use the gift if it is of God. It is true that when you are functioning in your gift, you will “feel” like you have found your “niche.” When, or if, you are functioning in a task that is not your gifting, you will “feel like a fish out of water.” The reality is, you won’t be able to function in a comfortable and free manner if it is NOT the Spirit flowing through you. It is a true statement that God does not strap you with a gift you will not enjoy, let alone experience power as a result.
When functioning in your gifting, you will see positive results. Since Spiritual gifts are designed to benefit the Body of Christ, not yourself, you should see the fruit of His gifting through you in the lives of the people you are helping. You might not see a positive result in the lives you are ministering right away, don't panic; it may be a sign the resistance is on the other side. If you are using your gift to exalt yourself or by using a gift to prosper your ministry, you might see earthly results of your methodology, but God will soon correct you in your misinterpretation of Spiritual gifting.
Expect confirmation from the Body of Christ. It is a good idea to allow the Body of Christ to be a part of the process of confirming your gifting. God speaks through the Body. People observing us are equally as important as the Spirit’s revelation in our prayer time. That’s because it is the same thing. If you believe you have particular gifts and no one else agrees with you, then you should go to the presbytery (church leadership) for confirmation.
The Lord is the One to lead you to discover your gift(s), not humans. Even though God uses the above process, God reveals His gifts in you. Remember that He is the Gift Giver, and He knows what is in His “gift bag.”
As God reveals more of His supernatural ways, you openly accept His manifestations of the Spirit in a worthy manner of His calling. Do not limit God to your human reasoning or fears – let God be God even in your gifting.
Before you can move forward in knowing your Spiritual Gifts, you need to be willing to be sacrificed. In our next article, we will discover the importance of Romans 12:1, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this work; but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” We will reveal in this single verse; God takes a renewed mind by cleaning the mind through the manifestations of His indwelling gifts.