Place of Gifts
What is the place of gifts? Gifts are important and even crucial to many jobs and leadership positions. They are given by God for that purpose, but they are tools. The wielder of the tools is yet more important. For example, high quality running gear helps performance, but it won't make up for poor conditioning. It is better to have mediocre equipment and a strong body.
Many pursue gifts, but leave character behind. Yet character is more attainable and more emphasized by God. For many servants of God, character rather than gift has been the secret to their success in service.
An exemplary character frees our gifts that they might be used well. A poor character stifles our gifts. It's character that determines what they will effect, whether for good or for ill. Character is the more fundamental, and the more important quality for a Christian to possess.
And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. (I Corinthians 13:2)As Christians we are called by Christ to be examples and models for others. Good example demands strong character. People learn by imitation as much as by teaching, and maybe even more. Christians must incarnate the teaching and character of Christ in their lives.
Make love your aim, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts. (I Corinthians 14:1)
I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have deliverered them to you. (I Corinthians 11:2)Gifts without Character
Brethren, join in imitating me, and mark those who so live as you have an example in us. (Phil.3:17)
What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, do; and the God of peace will be with you. (Phil.4:9)
I urge you. then, be imitators of me. (I Cor. 4:16)
Now you have observed my teaching, my conduct, my aim of life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions, my sufferings, what befell me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra, what persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. (II Tim. 3:10-11)
For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you. (II Thess .3:7)
Lack of good character and bad example can produce: some bad character in others, a loss of respect for those who relate to us, a great likelihood that we will fall into sin and discredit the gospel, and an inability to discern in others the same lack of character. Here are some examples from the scriptures of gift without character.
Lucifer, before his fall, ranked highest among the angelic host. Now known as Satan since his rebellion, he is the greatest leader today on the face of the earth save Christ alone, being able to get the majority of mankind to follow him. But he lacks God's character: most evident is being pride, the unwillingness to serve. Whatever his qualities of intelligence and leadership gift, his lack of Godly character overthrew his gifts which are now employed for evil rather than good. This contrasts with Michael the archangel, who remains loyal to his King and uses his strength and wit to effect good.
Scriptures depicts King Solomon as the wisest man who ever lived. He was fabulously wealthy, possessing a kingdom at peace, well established on his throne. Yet his wisdom was overthrown, by lack of character, in this case by lack of self-control. He married foreign women who turned his heart away from God. We read in I Kings 11 that he even built a place of worship for other gods.
How wise you became in your youth! You overflowed like a river with understanding. Your soul covered the earth, and you filled it with parables and riddles. Your name reached to far-off islands, and you were loved for your peace... You gathered gold like tin and amassed silver like lead. But you laid your loins beside women, and through your body you were brought into subjection. You put a stain upon your honor, and defiled your posterity, so that you brought wrath upon your children... so that the sovereignty was divided and a disobedient kingdom arose out of Ephraim. (Deutero-canonical Book of Sirach 47: 14-21)The result was the dividing of Israel, as well as the attacks of adversaries from without raised up by the Lord. What an unworthy end for such a supremely gifted man!
Godly Character Triumphing
Here are some examples from the scripture of Godly character triumphing.
Abraham was old when called by God. He was a sojourner and had a barren wife. He was told by God that he was to be the father of many nations. On what basis? On gift? No, but because of faith and obedience. It is faithfulness, not gift, that gave Abraham victory, and allowed the promise of blessing to be fulfilled.
In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations... He did not •weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead because he was about a hundred years old, or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God. (Romans 4:18-20)
These all died in faith, not having received what was promised, but having seen it and greeted it from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. (Hebrews 11:13)
The prophet Jeremiah was called at a young age. His ministry was based upon obedience and faithfulness. His gift of prophecy was "released" by his submission to God. His lack of strength and lack of ability to speak was compensated for by the Lord himself.
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations." Then I said, "Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth. " But the LORD said to me. "Do not say, 1 am only a youth'; for to all to whom I send you you shall go, and whatever I command you shall speak. (Jeremiah 1:5-7)
And I, behold, I make you this day a fortified city, an iron pillar, and bronze walls, against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, its princes, its priests, and the people of the land. (Jeremiah 1:18)
Although supremely, even perfectly capable in everything, the keystone of Jesus' ministry was faithfulness to God, a character quality.
And the tempter came and said to Him, If You are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread'. But He answered, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God'. (Matthew 4:3-4)[Go to "Habits of the Heart"]