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Every born-again Christian has a desire to minister to others. Newly converted people usually have a tremendous zeal to reach the world for Christ. Then, as the newness of the born-again experience wears off, they sometimes have to take precautions not to lose that zeal.

One of the best ways to retain your zeal for ministry is to determine and operate within your place in the Body of Christ. Many times we try to operate in an area of ministry to which we have not been called. We try to "latch onto" or "compete with" ministries we may admire because we are uncertain of our own place in the Body.

The results of this can be devastating: we become frustrated and discouraged and do a disservice to the people to whom we try to minister. Have you ever seen a ministry and decided, "I'm going to do that too"?

Ask, Don't Latch
Many years ago my husband Wally and I were assistant pastors at a church in Amarillo, Texas. Every morning a 9 a.m. several of us met to pray. One woman in particular was a true intercessor. After an hour of prayer, the rest of us were ready to stop—but she was just warming up! I respected and admired her so much that I—not God—decided that I had a similar calling on my life.

One day I said to her, "God has called me to be an intercessor—just like you." But to my surprise, she replied, "No, He hasn't. You respect me, so you're trying to latch onto my position in the Body. Marilyn, you need to pray and ask God what He has really called you to do."

At other times we may try to compete with other Christians in the Body. Before we entered the ministry, I met a woman who was a great soul winner. She would go to a hospital to minister and end up winning 10 to 15 souls to Christ.

I thought, "If she can do it, I can too! She won 15 souls to Christ, so I'll win 20!" Was that desire spiritually motivated? No, really it was carnality. I was trying to compete with my sister in the Lord.

We Must Know Where We Belong
But why did I do that? Because I didn't know where I belonged in the Body of Christ. The lesson we all need to learn is this: In order to be effective ministers, we must know where we belong in the Body.

There are seven foundational gifts: prophecy, serving, teaching, exhortation, giving, organizing, and mercy. Seven is the number of completion and the Bible says that we are complete in Christ. When you observe the seven gifts in operation throughout the Body of Christ, you see His complete ministry.

As you study the foundational gifts, you will not only be able to identify your own gifts, but you will also gain insight and respect for other people in the Body of Christ. You will see what motivates them, and you will clearly understand how much you need the rest of the Body.

Sometimes we want to be the Lone Ranger; we want to ride into the sunset saying, "Hi-ho Silver, away!" In other words, we want to do it all. But we all need each other, and without every gift operating we will miss the completeness of Jesus.

Use All The Ingredients
After identifying your foundational gift, you may realize that you may not be operating in it fully. For example, you may say, "Marilyn, I know my foundational gift is teaching. But I don't teach. Why isn't God using me?"

Just as in cooking or baking, it is necessary to use ALL the listed ingredients to make your dish come out right. If you don't use all the ingredients, you will end up with a big mess on your hands. It is the same with foundational gifts.

Identifying our gift is one of the ingredients; however, to produce an effective ministry, we must combine our gift with other godly ingredients. Romans 12:1-6 gives us the recipe we must follow to use our gift effectively.

First, we must be willing to sacrifice our time and energy:
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
(Rom. 12:1)
People often say, "I can't go to church on Wednesday nights! That's when my favorite TV show is on." Or, "Sunday morning is the only time I have to sleep in. Although I don't actually go to church, I'm there in spirit."

But Romans 12:1 says that we must be willing to give of our physical beings in order to minister. It may be a sacrifice, but it is a necessary ingredient to successful ministry.

Second, we must keep our minds renewed to God's Word:
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.
(Rom. 12:2)
Natural wisdom is earthly, sensual, and devilish (James 3:15). It stems from our carnal, fleshly natures. If we trust in carnality or flesh, sin will be produced. And sin can only lead to death. We must continually renew our minds to God's Word, which will bring abundant life to those to whom we minister.

Third, we must remember that grace is the key to our gifts:
For I say, through grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
(Rom. 12:3)
Grace means that God gave us a gift in spite of what we deserved. He doesn't give us gifts because of our looks, education, or personalities. When people say, "I have a ministry," I think, "No, you really don't have a ministry. God has the ministry, and you allow Him to flow through you."

Let's not get on an ego trip about God's grace; it is available to all.

Fourth, we must remember that our gifts are unique:
For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members of one another. Having then different gifts according to the grace that is given us.
(Rom. 12:4-6)
When we gain a burden for something, oftentimes we want others to share that burden. You may have a very strong desire to give or to exhort, but don't get upset with your neighbor if he or she doesn't share those same desires.

Perhaps the Lord has given your neighbor a desire to teach or to organize. We all have different gifts according to the measure of grace given to us. And in order for the Body of Christ to function effectively, all the gifts must be in operation.

Finally, you may ask, "Marilyn, is it possible for me to have more than one foundational gift?" As you study the gifts of God, you may, and probably will, recognize that certain traits of more than one gift can be operational in your life. (Most of us are used in a number of ways when we're available to Jesus.)

But there will be one gift with which you identify the most closely and in which you obtain the most success. That gift—whether it be prophecy, organizing, giving, serving, exhortation, mercy, or teaching—is your foundational gift.

Once you have identified your gift, you will notice it flows through all your spiritual activity within the Body. For example, if you counsel others, and your foundational gift is mercy, you will be a merciful counselor.

Allow the Holy Spirit to lead you and guide you in this study of foundational gifts. He will show you your perfect position within the Body of Christ.

Pray with me now:
Dear heavenly Father, I thank You for giving me a unique and perfect foundational gift. I realize that it is not through my own works, but through Your grace that I have received this gift. Father, I promise to be available to minister in my gift whenever You call me to do so. And I promise to keep my mind renewed to Your Word, so that I will know what is Your perfect will. Now, Father, as I study the different gifts listed in Romans 12, I ask Your Holy Spirit to reveal to me the identity of my special and unique gift. In Jesus' precious name, amen.
Source: Know Your Ministry by Marilyn Hickey
Excerpt permission granted by Marilyn Hickey Ministries

Author Biography

Marilyn Hickey
Web site: Marilyn and Sarah
"Encouraging, optimistic, always upbeat and energetic" at the young age of 84, Marilyn Hickey actively ministers internationally, most recently in Sudan, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, India, China and Pakistan, as well as domestically in the United States through Bible Encounters and speaking engagements.

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