Read: 1 Timothy 4:11-16
When I was a kid, I was a major thrill-seeker. I loved the scariest roller coasters and exciting activities, but I was rarely allowed to do them. First of all, most theme parks have an age requirement to go on the extra scary roller coasters. Once I finally reached the age I needed to be, I still wasn’t tall enough! I missed on the age and height requirements, only to become much more grounded and less interested in thrills by the time I was tall enough and old enough. There was a narrow window when I was interested and allowed. That is not at all what leadership is like…there is no age requirement! There is no height or weight requirement! There is not even an educational requirement to be a leader! Leadership has its basis in the God-given gifts you already possess.
When Paul was writing to Timothy exhorting him to stay strong in his faith and in his leadership of the church, he reminds him that it doesn’t matter that he is young! Paul’s answer to young leaders is actually to set an example for older believers, because followers follow because of actions, not qualifications.
Paul goes on to say, “Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you through prophecy with the laying on of hands by the council of elders.” What Paul is referring to here is a spiritual gift. Timothy had the gift of leadership and teaching, among other things. During that time, and even in some churches today, the elders would lay hands on someone and pray over them, “commissioning” them into their role. We do this in the Presbyterian church when we ordain someone or when we send them out on mission. But Paul is talking about doing this to “commission” them to use their spiritual gifts. What a cool way to build each other up in the faith!
Spiritual gifts are not talked about a lot. But I think they are very important for building up of the body of believers. The thing is, maybe not all of us are leaders naturally, but all of us are gifted in different ways and can build up the church with the gifts we have. In some of Paul’s other letters he writes that the gifts include: wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment, tongues, ministering, teaching, exhortation, generosity, leadership, compassion, apostleship, evangelism, and pastoring.
What are your gifts? Use them to better the body. As Paul told Timothy, you don’t need to be a certain height, or age, or ability, or education level to use your gifts. Just set an example to others by using them well with your actions.
One of the most beautiful ways I have seen spiritual gifts at work was working with a young woman who was developmentally delayed. It seems that all of the clutter and pride and ambition to strive to be like others was cleared away for this person. She knew that she had the gift of compassion, so she would assist adult leaders with younger kids each week in the nursery. She showed compassion to the little ones better than I have seen with many more “qualified” adults. It was a beautiful image of a spiritual gift at work: regardless of age, ability, or education level, she shared her gift of compassion and worked as an example to others.
- Do you ever feel like you are not taken seriously because of your age or abilities?
- How does Paul say to react to that?
- What spiritual gifts do you identify in your own life? Spend some time with your family or a close friend sharing your spiritual gifts with each other.
- What are some ways you could use your spiritual gifts to better your church community?