Gifts You Were Created For

Updated: Sep 29, 2020

I love exchanging gifts. It’s one of my top love languages. When I prepare a gift, I look forward to seeing the person open the gift just as much as I look forward to receiving one myself. There’s something about finding a meaningful gift and having the receiver open it and see that they feel loved. God put a lot of thought into the gifts he has given us. 1 Peter 4:10 says, “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.” God doesn’t exactly get to enjoy watching us “open” the gift, but he loves seeing us utilize it fully in partnership with him.

In last week’s post (Read to Know Basis), I wrote about my method of personal Bible study. Today we’ll go through a story in Matthew 21 with the same approach. This story is what I call a “weird Jesus” moment. He does something odd, we don’t know what to make of it, and we move on. But there’s a lesson here on Jesus’ feelings about spiritual gifts that we can discover if we take the time to unpack it.

18 In the morning, as Jesus was returning to Jerusalem, he was hungry, 19 and he noticed a fig tree beside the road. He went over to see if there were any figs, but there were only leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” And immediately the fig tree withered up. 20 The disciples were amazed when they saw this and asked, “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” 21 Then Jesus told them, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and don’t doubt, you can do things like this and much more. You can even say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. 22 You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it.” Matthew 21:18-22

What happened? (Looking first at verses 18 and 19)

Jesus was hungry, noticed a potential source of food that was not bearing fruit. He got hangry and cursed the tree.

Your first reaction?

I am a bit surprised and confused about such a rash move from an otherwise thoughtful and prudent person. Why did a plant set him off? Was he really just that hungry or was there something else going on here?

How does this apply to our lives?

I believe Jesus did this as a metaphorical display. I think he was comparing the barren tree to a person who is not using their God-given spiritual gifts. We need to use the gifts we’ve been given. If God gives us a talent to do something that doesn’t come easy to other people, we need to find a way to use it for God’s glory. We need to self-assess and figure out what gifts God has given us, then pray about how God wants us to use them.

What does this tell you about Jesus?

Jesus is revealing to us his passion against unused gifts. It’s like giving someone a gift that you put your heart into and then seeing them not appreciate it, use it wrong, or even toss it in the trash. Jesus wants us to pair up with the Holy Spirit to bear fruit for his Kingdom. He wants to work with us, but that means we have to take some steps as well. Not us alone, not him alone, but both of us creating something completely unique and new together. It’s like doing a project with your spouse: you grow closer together while creating something new. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what you’re doing, but you’re growing your relationship by having a common goal. But with Jesus, not only is the relationship-growth a fruit, but the fruit he can make with you is Kingdom enhancing.

What happened? (Looking now at verses 20-22)

The disciples were more amazed that the tree withered up so quickly instead of why Jesus did this in the first place. In verse 21, Jesus is essentially saying, “why are you still surprised at the limitlessness of my power?” Verse 22: You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it.

Your first reaction?

You say I can pray for anything? This doesn’t seem to always work the way I had in mind. I wonder what he means. Do I just not have enough faith?

How does this apply to our lives?

It’s important to note that “ask for anything you want” ≠ the desires of your heart. (Jeremiah 17:9 says: “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?”) So we know that what he means has little to do with our own desires. What is important is the if/then statement. IF you have faith THEN you will receive. But how do we obtain more faith? Maybe the problem isn’t necessarily our lack of faith. Maybe the problem is that we tend to focus on what we can do (how much faith we have), when we should instead focus on how powerful God [the one we have faith in] really is. The faith required to move mountains is a faith that is in line with the heart of God, setting aside our own desires and replacing them with God’s. When our hearts align with his, his power flows through us and we can produce fruit together. It is when his will becomes our desire that we can do these big things.

What does this tell you about Jesus?

Jesus wants us to have the type of faith that puts such trust in Him that we give up our own heart’s desires and seek to make his will our desire. He is limitless in his power, and he wants us to understand this. He wants us to trust him, know him well, and to work with him to better his Kingdom.

[John 15:1-8 follows the same lesson/takeaway as our cursed fig story. Paralleling your findings with other verses can help you know if you’re on the right track.]

To continue with the 1 Peter verse mentioned earlier: God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen. 1 Peter 4:10-11

The first step in using your God-given gifts well is to discover what they are. You can take your own assessment here. This site shows you your top 3 gifts and explains ways they might be used. Pray and ask God how he wants you to use these, and then go all in! We learned how upset it makes Jesus when gifts go unused. I believe Jesus was using the fig tree to display this to his followers. Use your gifts and do so with faith in God. Focus on how powerful he is, not on your flaws or inabilities. He has displayed to us that when we partner with him, big things can happen! He will give us strength that we don’t have on our own. Go and try things you never thought you could do before, and be bold in your prayers. Do so knowing the power does not come from you, but from your God who has LIMITLESS power.

Just don’t be like this guy.

Ashlee G

Ashlee is a wife and SAHM, an eager follower of Jesus, and a chronically loud-laugher. She loves finding new ways to look at the Bible, in hopes to grow closer to Jesus and to find fresh ways to learn and teach others.

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