We look at other people’s gifts and wish they were our own. We devalue our own gifts and fail to use them because they seem insignificant when held up beside someone else’s gifts. Rather than viewing ourselves as integral parts of a whole, we languish in jealousy and hinder the body of Christ from operating properly. (1 Corinthians 12:21-22).
Avoid the spiritual trap of comparison by being accepting what God says about you. You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), God’s workmanship created for good works in Christ (Ephesians 2:10), and known by God before the foundation of the earth was laid (Jeremiah 1:5).
Root your identity in who Jesus says you are, not in the way that you measure up to your girlfriends.
We expect that everyone has the same spiritual gifts that we do and we judge them when they don’t. We project our gifts onto other people and get frustrated when they don’t serve God in the same way that we do. Administrators get so frustrated with less-than-administrative types because we simply are not as organized as they are. People with the gift of discernment get frustrated with the encouragers because they think they avoid conflict. Givers may judge those with the gift of hospitality for using financial resources to provide a beautiful setting for a special event. Do you see how this can work?
At the root of the projection trap is pride. Avoid the projection trap by recognizing how much you need your brothers and sisters whose gifts are different from yours (1 Corinthians 12) and express your thankfulness for them. As a teacher and leader, I need the administrators to handle the details so that I can serve my role in the body of Christ. I am SO thankful to be in a church where I have support around me – someone to handle sound, someone to make copies, someone to set the tables up and organize snacks. When people express to me how thankful they are for my teaching, I’m able to say, “You are so welcome. And I am so thankful for the whole team who makes this happen each week.”
Don’t expect everyone to have the same gifts that you do. And appreciate people whose gifts are different from yours.
We reject God’s gifts when we have a million excuses why we can’t use our gifts. The most common one is that we lack a title that we think we must have if we are going to use our gift. We think we have to have the title of “Pastor” before we can shepherd others. We think we have to be the “Event Coordinator” before we can exercise our gift of hospitality. We, particularly women, worry about stepping on someone else’s toes if we venture into “their domain.”
Avoid the rejection trap by first being honest. If you’re worried about stepping on someone’s toes, talk to that person. I’m guessing that she (or he) would be happy to have your help. If you think you need a title to use your spiritual gift, just start using your spiritual gift right where you are. Be faithful in the small things, and God will increase your sphere of influence (Matthew 25:14-30).
Whether it’s because you don’t have a title or because you are worried about stepping on someone’s toes, don’t reject God’s gifts. Be honest and be faithful.
Satan is not creative, he’s crafty. He has come to steal, to kill, and to destroy (John 10:10). As the father of lies (John 8:44), his strategies always involve deception. If he can convince you that you have one gift, but God has really given you a different gift, he has immobilized you. You are not advancing God’s kingdom, and actually are hurting the body of Christ when you believe the lies of Satan and insist that you have a gift that you don’t have. If he can take your gifts and cause you to use them for selfish purposes, then Satan has scored a victory.
The deception trap can work in another way as well. Every spiritual gift has an underside. If you have the gift of mercy, then the underside of that gift might be that you say “Yes” to every request that comes your way. As a result, you are wearied, on the edge of burn-out, and can’t serve God with joy. If you have the gift of discernment, then the underside of this gift might be a judgmental and critical spirit. If you have the gift of apostleship, then the underside might be that you risk new ventures on your own strength rather than under the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
Avoid the deception trap by asking a more mature leader, preferably someone with the gift of discernment, for their counsel. Humble yourself by sharing what you think is your spiritual gift(s) and ask for their insight. Beware of pride rising up if they are not able to affirm what you have identified as your spiritual gift and ask for their help in identifying your spiritual gifts. Once you know your spiritual gifts, take time to identify the underside and be on your guard for how this manifests itself in your life.
Don’t insist that you have a gift when others don’t affirm it, and watch out for the underside of your spiritual gifts.
Probably one or two of these traps are particularly dangerous for you. You may have even found yourself wincing a bit as you read through the descriptions. That’s okay. The first step to avoiding spiritual traps is to recognize them as a tool of the enemy. You’ve taken that first step today.
And, if you’d like to email me directly, I’d love to hear from you! firstname.lastname@example.org
This post is part of a Virtual Book Club in which we read and discuss the book S.H.A.P.E.: Finding and Fulfilling Your Unique Purpose in Life, by Eric Rees. In addition to my own study and experience, much of the material and many of the insights originate in this book. I invite you to join me and my friends over the next few months as we work together to find and fulfill our unique purpose for life. It proves to be an exciting journey!