SHAPE: Abilities!

03.18.2018 | by Dave Johnson, Senior Pastor

If you’re new to River of Life or have missed a few weeks, we are in a four-week series titled Imagine If.  Imagine if we all lived our lives according to the unique SHAPE God spoke into us rather than what others have spoken into us!   SHAPE is an acronym that Pastor Rick Warren developed several years ago.  It stands for:

Spiritual Gifts





For the third message my original intention was to combine our abilities and our personality in the same message, but the more I studied it became evident that combining them was a bad idea; too much information for one sermon!  So, I decided to briefly write about our abilities and speak about our personality!

From the start please know one’s abilities are not necessarily the same as one’s spiritual gifts.  It’s easy to confuse them but they are different.  For certain, their starting point is different…for example, one’s abilities are given when one is physically born, whereas one’s spiritual gifts are given when one is spiritually born—or the moment one decides to truly follow Jesus.  Everyone has natural abilities given to us by God, but when one places complete faith in Jesus, God downloads at least one spiritual gift, and as we saw from God’s Word a few weeks ago, God often places several gifts in His followers.

Where it can get interesting is a lot of times the spiritual gifts God gives us are radically different from our natural abilities with which we were born.  For example, the gift of knowledge (the supernatural ability to get detailed “inside information” from God to help build up others) or the gift of healing (the supernatural ability of being a “vessel” where God literally heals others through us) are radically different from all-natural given abilities.  No one is born with the supernatural gifts of knowledge or healing.

On the other hand, sometimes the spiritual gifts we receive from God when we choose to follow Him, speak into our natural ability…taking them to a deeper level.  For example, if one has a natural musical ability and then becomes a believer and follower of Jesus and receives a musical gift, one’s music will go into a level of touching the soul; the core of who we are spiritually.  Another example is those born with the ability to teach—that’s how their wired!  When they “cross the line”, and follow Jesus, God might give them the spiritual gift of teaching, adding a very powerful unseen component and strength to their natural ability to communicate.

I’m going to briefly address three ways our abilities are to be used and three ways of working through our abilities!  It’s going to be in outline form, like the ones we’ve been providing at our worship services…so here we go!

Our Abilities Are To Be Used

  1. To Honor God

    1. 1 Corinthians 10:31 states, “…whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (NIV). Whatever your ability, honor God!  If you have an ability to make amazing wedding cakes, do so to give glory to God.  If you have the natural ability to write, write in such a way that it brings a smile to God’s face.  We all have natural and unique abilities and they have been given to us by God, so give Him the glory by giving Him the honor!
  2. To Make a Living

    1. Deuteronomy 8:18 makes clear, “Remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth” (NIV). When something good happens in my life, it’s easy to think, “Wow…I’m good!” Like when Ann and I worked out a great deal with the realtor to purchase the house in which we live.  Following the great deal, there was an underlining message that whispered, “We deserve this because we are hard workers and made a wise choice.”  But the fact is, it’s God who gives us the ability to make good choices, work, earn money and make a living.  So, if you are living life well and enjoying every second, good for you, but take a minute and thank God for giving you the ability to do so!
  3. To Share

    1. Ephesians 4:28 says, “Begin using your hands for honest work, and then give generously to others in need” (NLT). Our abilities are to be shared!  I thank God for several of my neighbors who are mechanically minded and good with their hands.  They’ve come over to rescue me on several occasions from what I considered, “near death experiences,” like a leaky faucet or backed up sewer line (Yuk!).  On the other hand, Ann and I have been able to help our neighbors with biblical principles for healthy marriage and parenting.  God wired us to share the abilities He’s given and doing so gives life a smoother ride!

Working Through Your Abilities

Estimate—audit your abilities!

  • The first step to working through your abilities is identifying your abilities! Romans 12:3 in the Phillip’s Version says, “Try to have a sane estimate of your capabilities by the light of the faith God has given to you.”  If you’re an adult and reading this, you’re probably thinking you have a pretty good grip on your God-given abilities, yet what I find interesting is often others see abilities in us that we don’t see!  I encourage you to ask your spouse, a close friend or someone who knows you well, “What do you think are my abilities?”  You might be surprised with some of the abilities God has given you!  Take an audit and make a list of your abilities!

Dedicate—your abilities back to God!

  • The second step to working through your abilities is to dedicate your abilities back to God. Romans 12:1 declares, “Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to His service and pleasing to Him” (GN).  Simply say, “God you gave me these abilities and now I’m going to give them back to you!  I want to use them for the three reasons you gave them to me!”  2 Timothy 2:21 is clear: “Those who make themselves clean from all those evil things, will be used for special purposes, because they are dedicated and useful to their Master” (TEV). A God-given ability can be used for the wrong reason.  You might be a brilliant organizer, but are you organizing a rescue or a robbery?  A lot of brilliant criminals are using God given abilities for selfish purposes. Dedicate your ability to God and use it for unselfish reasons!

Cultivate—your abilities!

  • The third step to working through your abilities is to cultivate them. This means practice, improve, sharpen and develop your abilities.  Any ability God’s given you can be increased with use and practice.  Ecclesiastes 10:10 rings with common sense, “If the ax is dull and its edge unsharpened, more strength is needed but skill will bring success” (NIV).  You want to be successful…it takes skill.  How do you develop skill? … practice…sharpen your ax. If you have a dull ax it takes more energy to cut through life.  Work smarter, not harder!

In conclusion, God has made an enormous investment in our lives and He expects a return on His investment!  Are we using our God given abilities to help other people? To help our church reach our community? Imagine what it would look like at River of Life if we all rallied and used our God given abilities to further God’s Kingdom?  Imagine if we all started sharing our abilities with those inside and outside our church?  In Luke 12:43 Jesus made a promise about the future: “When the Master comes back and finds His servant doing His work, that servant will be blessed” (NCV).  As a pastor that’s what I desire for all people…for all of us to be blessed by God in this crucial area of identifying, dedicating and cultivating our God given abilities!  On the Victory Side…Dave