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At Ordinary Believer, we believe that God has a specific purpose for everyone. He has given each person special skills, talents, and abilities. We believe these are spiritual gifts, given to edify (that is, to build up) the church.
That is quite a thesis statement; don’t you think? Some of you reading this will disagree with my thesis, or at least one or two of its parts. You may believe that everybody has a general purpose, for instance, to love others. But do you believe you have a specific purpose that is unique? Or you may think talents, like playing the guitar, or painting, aren’t spiritual gifts.
Let me see if I can convince you that my statement is firmly congruent with what the scriptures teach. If you still disagree or still question that it’s accurate, please respond in the comments below.
Does the Bible Speak to Individuals or the Church?
I have heard others teach on purpose. They will say that God has given us clear commands as to what is our purpose. These preachers cite verses, such as the Great Commission:
“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen.” – Mat 28:18-20 NKJV
Or this one:
“Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” – Mat 22:37-40 NKJV
Indeed, we should all be doing these things. However, I believe these commands are given not to individuals, but to the collective church. What I am asserting is that God speaks purpose not only to his church, but to individuals, as well.
A Missionary Discovers His Purpose
This story illustrates what I mean: Once I was listening to a Christian talk show. The host of the show was interviewing a missionary to Cambodia. They were discussing how the missionary received his call to Cambodia.
The missionary explained it this way:
“One morning I was reading the Bible and came across this passage in the book of Jonah, ‘And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left–and much livestock?’” – Jonah 4:11 NKJV.
“When I read this,” the missionary explained, “I knew God was calling me to reach the Hmong people in Cambodia.”
“What?” I thought. The last time I looked, Nineveh is a long way from Cambodia. How did the missionary read this and immediately believe that it was God telling him to go to Cambodia? Was he guilty of reading this verse out of context? Well, perhaps.
Universal Interpretation, Specific Application
But, then again, I have also heard the Spirit of God speak specific things to my heart when I have been reading the Bible. If God tells me to apply a certain passage of scripture to a particular situation in my life, he can also speak a specific message to someone else concerning their life.
Maybe this has happened to you also. Have you ever read a passage, like “Love your enemies,” and immediately thought of someone who opposed you and thought, “You should love that person more!”? When the disciples heard Jesus say this, they didn’t understand this to be speaking about your neighbor who yells at your kids for walking across his lawn. But this is the meaning that the Holy Spirit spoke to your heart.
I’m not saying that all the verses in the Bible mean something different depending on who is reading it, but we all can have different ways to apply the truth of the word to our situation. The interpretation is universal, but the application may be particular to you.
A Purpose for Each One
But that still doesn’t explain how I believe that God gives everyone their own special purpose in life. Do each of us really have a specific task or mission from Heaven?
Consider these passages:
“For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith;” – Rom 12:4-6 NKJV
“But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” – Eph 4:7 NKJV
“For I wish that all men were even as I myself. But each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that.” – 1Co 7:7 NKJV
“But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit,” – 1Co 12:7-9 NKJV
Gifts and Functions
Do you see that God distributes his gifts to each one individually? God gives me one gift and he gives you another. Now consider another passage of scripture.
“As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” – 1Pe 4:10 NKJV
Again, we see that God has gifted each of us in a special, unique way. But in this passage, we see something else. Not only are we uniquely gifted, we are told to use our unique gift to minister, or serve, others. We not only have a unique, specific gift, we also have a unique, specific function, or purpose.
What Are Spiritual Gifts?
We, each one of us, should be using our specific gifts to serve others, edify the rest of the body, the church, and do good to all men, and women, especially those who are of the household of faith.
But are all gifts, “spiritual gifts?” We normally think of things like prophecy, or divine healing, or speaking in tongues, as spiritual gifts. Things like architecture, or knitting, or music are simply skills that anyone can learn. Right? Yes, anyone can go to architecture school, but not just anyone can be Frank Lloyd Wright. James says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” – James 1:17 NKJV. I believe any talent, skill, or ability used for God’s service is a “spiritual gift.”
Nothing Without Jesus
You did not achieve your ability to do anything by your own intelligence or natural understanding. It is a gift from God. Jesus told his disciples, “. . .without Me you can do nothing.” – John 15:5 NKJV. Our abilities, all of them, are not our own doing. They are gifts from God. Let us use whatever skills, abilities, and talents we have to serve mankind, and especially those who are of the household of faith.