Giftedness and Guileness

Recently a friend was talking about his ministry in the worship team. A professional highly skilled musician, he delights to please God when playing at church services. 
He’s aware that his music knowledge, flowing with the team and his beautiful playing will bless church attendees and set the platform for speakers at each service. But his priority is that his musical skill and anointed God-given giftedness will firstly honour and please his Lord. His greatest desire is that God alone gets the glory.
Very quietly, and meaningfully, he shared this: ‘God spoke to my heart and reminded me how precious this gift is. That ownership is his, not mine, that I must never abuse it in any way. I’m aware my playing touches peoples’ hearts and souls but I would never exploit this God-given ministry gift.’
Our hearts were touched by his insight and wisdom in accepting God’s direction. It was obvious he knew that what is from God, is God’s alone and should be dedicated to him.
God is a giver
God is the giver of good gifts to his children (Matt. 7:11). Salvation through Christ’s finished Calvary work is, of course, the greatest gift anyone can accept. 
But God also delights to generously give us many gifts to enjoy as we journey through life. A good local church is one such gift, where we can be encouraged, cared for, prayed for, and blessed.
And if led to serve in that local church and allow a ministry to develop, God desires to provide giftedness equal to that ministry. Many have natural gifts from birth that develop in growing into adulthood. Then there are other skills we pick up as time goes by.
But no matter how our talent comes about, if we want to ensure God is honoured in our ministry, we’ll desire the Holy Spirit’s rich anointing on whatever gift we have. Then their usage will bless others and please God. We will also guard that giftedness and use it primarily for his glory. 
If it so happens we receive some blessing in the process, financial or a gift, such as a ministerial stipend or ministry support gift, this is acceptable. But an incident of finance-over-giftedness shared with me recently is unsettling. A little background…
Gullible Christians
It’s an oft-quoted comment that Christians without balanced Bible knowledge, who don’t understand scripture and don’t look to sound leadership, are gullible. They fall for new scams and wrong doctrines that come along. 
Even this year certain ‘so-called Bible teachers’ and ‘big name prophets’ predicted with seeming absolute certainty that Australia will soon be finished, that the world would end earlier this year. The latest ‘prophecy’ is that Jesus will return in 2017!

Erroneous date-quoting about the end of the world and Christ’s return we can handle when we recall Jesus himself said that no one knows, only the Father (Mark 13:32. See also our January blog The Real The End?)
It’s other deceitful things creeping into churches and befuddling Christians who don’t know their Bibles, getting them spiritually conned, that concern me. Especially where unwise ministers aren’t protecting their people, particularly their young people!
Unwise wandering
Recently one minister shared this with me. He’d discovered that some of his young people had gone to ‘another church’ to hear a ‘great visiting overseas prophet who spoke seemingly accurate prophecies.’
To his horror he learned this ‘prophet’ was demanding money from Christians for prophetic words. Because his giftedness was a blessing he would demand finance and was obtaining email addresses. Then he emailed unsuspecting, gullible followers who yearned to hear his ‘gift from God’ and tell them to stand in the prayer line and give him $200 for a prophecy!
This is nothing new – abusing spiritual giftedness, wrong teachings and deceptions re-arise every so often. And some people never learn. So many Christians over many years have wandered around different churches and after ministries to hear prophetic words that will tickle their ears. They’ve been called ‘spiritual gypsies.’
We’re glad to write that even though they’re young in their faith, this minister’s youth knew instantly that something wasn’t right and refused to go back. They chose to be spiritual mini-shepherds and warned friends.
Pastors are called to be guardians of their flocks. Paul’s 2 Timothy 4:2-4 end days warning to young Timothy regarding people who would run around needs to be noted by every churchgoer, not just ministers:
‘Proclaim the message with intensity; keep on your watch. Challenge, warn, and urge your people. Don’t ever quit. Just keep it simple. You’re going to find that there will be times when people will have no stomach for solid teaching, but will fill up on spiritual junk food – catchy opinions that tickle their fancy. They’ll turn their backs on truth and chase mirages.’
Jesus warned: ‘False prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect’ (Mat. 24:24).
Yes, we should expect the supernatural in our churches. In fact Jesus commanded his first disciples to ‘Heal those who are sick. Bring those who are dead back to life. Make those who have skin diseases “clean” again. Drive out demons’ (Matt. 10:8).
But he carefully warned (v9), ‘You have received freely, so give freely’ and then made it clear that such Spirit-filled ministries are to be carefree regarding finance: ‘Don’t think you have to put on a fund-raising campaign before you start. You are the equipment, and all you need to keep that going is three meals a day. Travel light.’ 
Biblical principles
Church shepherds need to wisely guard their flock, especially their unsuspecting young people. Christians need to know what scripture teaches
• Even if prophecies appear accurate, the character of the ministry may be open to question.  In ministry, finance is not the name of the game
• Pleasing God must be foremost, followed by blessing his people
• Elisha was a prophet who refused to accept finance to move in the miraculous (2 Kings 5:16). God was not pleased with Elisha’s servant who sneaked away and lied to get such rewards (v27)
Elisha’s challenge to Gehazi is very relevant to everyone: ‘Tell me, is this a time to look after yourself, lining your pockets with gifts?’ This prophet – and God – considered finance-hunting an abuse.
One’s attitude should be like our friend’s awareness of his musical gift. We should want to ‘freely give’ as we’ve received and ensure that God alone is glorified. That we are so careful how we handle our God-given giftedness.  

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