Don’t Neglect Your Gift (1 Timothy 4:12 – 4:16)

 “Don’t let anyone belittle you because you are young. Instead, show the faithful, young and old, an example of how to live: set the standard for how to talk, act, love, and be faithful and pure. Until I get there, make sure to devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, and to teaching. Don’t neglect the gift that was given to you through the prophecy spoken when the company of the elders laid their hands on you. Cultivate all these practices; live by them so that all will see how you are advancing and growing. Take care of yourself, concentrate on your teaching, and stick with these things. If you do, then you will be effective in bringing salvation {sanctification] to yourself and all who hear you.” (1 Timothy 4:12-4:16)


There's a scene at the beginning of The Equalizer where a young lady named Teri asks Robert (The Equalizer) what happens in Hemingway’s story, "The Old Man and the Sea." Robert tells her that the old man catches the fish. She asks, "Why didn't he just let the fish go?" Robert replies, "Old man's gotta be the old man. Fish has got to be the fish. Gotta be who you are in this world, no matter what." 

In the context of the story, I don’t think it was a statement of fatalistic resignation or some silly version of, "You are perfect just the way you are!" Robert was pointing out that we are all made for a purpose, with a role to play. We have to find that purpose and live it. It's an acknowledgment that we are made for some things and not others. You see the importance of this principle in Scripture numerous times, but I am going to point out my favorite one: Gideon. We meet Gideon in Judges 6 (11-14):

“Now in Ophrah, a messenger from God sat under an oak tree that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite. Gideon, the son of Joash, was beating out wheat in the winepress so that the Midianites could not see what he was doing. The  messenger appeared to Gideon and said, “The Eternal One is with you, mighty warrior.” Gideon replied, “Sir, if He is with us, then why has all this misfortune come on us? Where are all the miracles that our ancestors told us about? They said, “Didn’t the Eternal deliver us out of Egypt?” But now He has left us. He has made us servants of the Midianites.” The messenger of God replied, “Go out with your strength and rescue Israel from the oppression of Midian. Do you understand that I am the one sending you?”

There is nothing wrong with farming, but Gideon was not made to farm; he was made to fight. Gideon had forgotten who he was – who God made Him to be. Note the combination of how this will work: Gideon is to “go out with his strength” - because “I am the one sending you.” So God will send Gideon to a place where Gideon’s strengths will allow him to flourish in the service of God’s kingdom.

Paul is clearly reminding Timothy of his spiritual calling. It’s not clear what precisely it was, but the laying on of hands was a type of ordination, a formal and weighty confirmation of the gift God had given[1] – in this case, the ability to lead in the church. Then Paul says, “Don’t neglect it. Cultivate. Live. Grow. Take care of yourself. Concentrate.” Even supernatural gifts require ‘sweat equity’ on our part.  

We are not all called to be Timothy, but I think the principle applies to us all.

“The word χάρισμα may be applied to every gift of God bestowed on man by God…  In the N. T. it denotes both generally the new spiritual life wrought in the believer by the Holy Spirit, and also specially every faculty imparted for special Christian work…” (Meyer’s NT Commentary,

Paul in encouraging Timothy about his particular gift because it’s a letter to Timothy. I don’t think we are meant to get to caught up in what the gift was, or how we can get what Timothy had.  This reveals a broader truth: God gives gifts. I am going to broaden this and address the gifts that have been given to us in the larger sense as described in Meyer’s commentary. It will include our spiritual gifts, but it will also include a look at the many ways in which God gives to us things that make us “us,” and how we can use these things for the glory of God.

Here’s our working question: How can we “go out in our strength” and use it for the glory of God and the good of His kingdom? How can we be sure we are not neglecting the many kinds of gifts that God has given us?

GODLY PASSIONS (point you towards where you need to take your gifts)

David said, "My zeal for God and his work burns hot within me." (Psalm 69:9). Jeremiah said, "Your message burns in my heart and bones, and I cannot keep silent." (Jeremiah 20:9)

We typically are passionate about something. It could be a cause (poverty, depression, abuse, addiction) a group of people (the persecuted, imprisoned, the poor, the unborn, the church, or your family) or a talent (music, athletics, sports, cooking). I love the quote from Eric Liddell, the Olympic sprinter featured in Chariots Of Fire: “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast! And when I run I feel his pleasure.”

Passionate emotions are part of our ‘image bearing’ of God, but they can also be a hint about where God wants us to take our gifts. What breaks your heart or brings you joy? What are the things that are not okay with the world? What are the things that, when you do them, you ‘feel God’s pleasure’? Your passions may be a signal about where you need to take the gifts God has given you. If the people who know you were asked right now what you are passionate about, how would they answer? Maybe….you should ask them J

OPPORTUNITIES (help you discern how to use your gifts)

We talked a little bit last week about the phrase, “You can be anything you want to be.” It’s not true. You are going to be restrained by your financial situation, family obligations, the economy, your education, the particular need of the city or church in which you live, your background of life experiences, your health or physical ability, your intelligence…

God is sovereign over our circumstances, but we are responsible for what we do in our circumstances. What can I do in my present circumstances? Can I change them or not? How do I “go out in my strength” in the midst of them? I’m not saying we should be resigned, but we should be realistic.


Some of these gifts are creational gifts: God made the world in a particular way, and as biology and heredity unfold, you are born a particular way. God is the First Cause, but not necessary the immediate cause. I don’t think God looked at Anthony in the womb and said, “I think I will have you be extroverted when you are young and then trend introvert for your entire adult life. And here’s some ADD and heart problems.” But God did look at the world and say, “I want biology to work this way,” and here I am. Some of these are supernatural gifts: the Holy Spirit gives spiritual gifts to those who follow Christ.

  • Creational Gift: Personality – ( Myers-Briggs Personality test is used by 80% of Fortune 500 Companies. There is even a website that will match you up with careers. [2]
  • Creational Gift: Intelligence Type: Multiple Intelligences. According to Howard Gardner, intelligence is 1) The ability to create a valued product or service or solve problems or 2) the ability to gather new knowledge. There's Linguistic intelligence (“word smart”), Logical-mathematical intelligence (“number/reasoning smart”), Spatial intelligence (“picture smart”), Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence (“body smart”), Musical intelligence (“music smart”), Interpersonal intelligence (“people smart”), Intrapersonal intelligence (“self smart”), Naturalist intelligence (“nature smart”)  -
  • Creational Gift: Strengths ( Big Picture or details? Visionary or implementer? Talk or listen? Think or do? Quick on your feet or methodical? Organize or implement? What about the quirks you have -  let's call it the ‘abilities in your disabilities’. I found a website called “151 Positives of ADHD.”[3] Here’s a slide about 25 Things To Love About ADD.[4] Goalkeeper Tim Howard credits his Tourette’s for his ability as a goalkeeper. He says it gives him an advantage by channeling his nervousness (though doctors think it could just be that the mental and physical discipline he has developed helps him).[5]  Dyslexics are better at identifying visual clues. They can spot what looks out of place in a room. People who read less have more of a holistic perspective. 35% of entrepreneurs have dyslexia,[6] which is a huge overrepresentation. People with Asperger’s often have advanced vocabularies and pattern recognition. They tend to focus on details, work well alone. They are sincere and good at sticking with rules and boundaries.[7] NASA is one place in which they flourish, so much so that “Dr. Temple Grandin, an adult with autism who became a successful engineer, academic and speaker, believes that her disorder is an asset. She once famously called NASA a sheltered workshop for people with autism and Asperger Syndrome. She believes that people with autistic spectrum disorders are the great innovators, and “if the world was left to you socialites, nothing would get done and we would still be in caves talking to each other.” (
  • Spiritual Gifts: In Christianity, spiritual gifts (or charismata) are endowments given by the Holy Spirit. These are the supernatural graces which individual Christians need to fulfill the mission of the church. They are described in the New Testament, primarily in 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, and Ephesians 4. ( Also, check out the footnote for a list from Ministry Tools Resource Center.[8] The Bible is clear that God gives gifts as He wills (1 Corinthians 12:11). You don't have earn these. You don’t level up like you are in a spiritual video game. Whatever you have will be God’s gift to you. Use it wisely and well for God’s glory and the good of the church.

AFFIRMATION (helps you focus on your gift)

What do others say about you? What do you hear over and over? If you don’t know, ask. Email five to ten people close to you and ask them for feedback. What are my strengths? What are my weaknesses? What kind of thing could you see me doing? What should I just probably not do? ( And then take the advice seriously. How many times do we read in Acts, “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us?” God speaks through his word, his spirit – and his people. Listen to them all.


Don’t neglect the gift that was given to you through the prophecy spoken when the company of the elders laid their hands on you. Cultivate all these practices; live by them so that all will see how you are advancing and growing. Take care of yourself, concentrate on your teaching, and stick with these things. If you do, then you will be effective in bringing salvation to yourself and all who hear you.” (1 Timothy 4:12-4:16)

Note the reason we do this. It’s not about us and our ability to look or be awesome. It’s not so we can make more money. It’s about Christ. It’s about surrendering who we are to Jesus, then focusing who we are in the service of Christ for the sake of His message of salvation, which is the only true hope of the world.  

This brings me to the greatest gift: salvation. Salvation reminds us that God will take you – you with your terrible family of origin, and your hidden or not so hidden sins, and your pain and sorrow, and your self-loathing and depression, and your anger and lust, and your addictions and heartache and loneliness, and your trail of sin…. and he will forgive you and make you new.

Don’t neglect the gift of salvation. None of these other gifts matter without this. Other than spiritual gifts, you can learn everything I just told you by watching Oprah. The gift of salvation is the only thing that makes the other gifts worthwhile, and it gives you the reason you even pursue them in the first place: to spread the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.