229. No-One Said It Would Be Easy

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott – 

Subdue

No-one said it would be easy (or if they did, they lied).

God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it” (Gen 1:28).

So apparently there was something in their destiny that Adam and Eve would need to subdue. And it is always that way:

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4).

Most of us are familiar with that scripture, but how many of us really do consider it joy when we encounter difficult situations? Yet we would probably all say we want to be mature, complete and lacking in nothing. Do we see every obstacle as an obstruction and a barrier, or as an opportunity to overcome and grow in faith? That is what will make the difference in our experience.

Every battle on the pathway of our destiny is intended to create dependence on and intimacy with God. We are not supposed to overcome it alone, independent of Him, but to learn that we need Him. When we come up against something that seems impossible, if we keep looking at the obstacle it gets bigger and bigger until we end up in despair. If we look instead at God (who is God of the impossible), we get hope. Faith can arise and then nothing is impossible.

Jesus said we could speak to obstacles and tell them to move, but only if we have hope and faith in our hearts. He has been there and knows what it is like to face obstacles. If we try to avoid the battles, conflicts, trials and tribulations then we are cheating ourselves of experiential intimacy, growth and transformation. That will actually hinder our development into maturity. Sadly, the kind of gospel preaching many people have responded to has completely failed to prepare them for the battles they will face.

The first step

When God gives us a vision, usually we do not immediately get to see the whole of His purposes in it. Often, we only get the first step or two, like Abraham did: ‘Leave everything behind and I will show you where to go’. This encourages us to pursue Him for further revelation, and we then find that this only comes by first pursuing relationship with Him.

He uses that initial encounter or vision to get us started on the pathway. Sooner or later we will meet opposition which we need to press through to overcome, often from well-meaning believers, friends or family who try to put us off doing what God is asking us to do. Other people’s negative words have hindered many from fulfilling their destiny.

Fight for it

“And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel” (Gen 3:15).

Adam lost his inheritance but God’s ultimate plan did not change. He promised restoration through conflict. There is conflict, enmity, between the path of the tree of life and the path of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

We have to be willing to fight for our destiny. Jesus himself overcame the circumstances of His illegitimate birth and an early attempt on His life. Later on, He faced temptation and opposition from all kinds of people, from his own family and disciples through to the religious and political leaders. He persevered even to sweating drops of blood in Gethsemane and willingly giving up His life on the cross.

Abraham

Many other people we read about in the Bible experienced the same thing. Abraham did not just get the Promised Land handed to him. God took him (and his descendants) on a journey in which they could learn to trust Him and be obedient, with varying degrees of success. When the people of Israel came out of Egypt they crossed the wilderness to the Promised Land only to find it full of giants needing to be conquered. But God gave them divine strategy to overcome the opposition they faced.

So where are you? Are you in slavery in Egypt, wandering around in the wilderness, or are you in your own Promised Land, fighting to take possession of your inheritance?

Joseph

Joseph had wonderful visions, but his family reacted badly. He had a coat of many colours, favour, a double portion… and it seemed he had lost it all. He was betrayed by his brothers, thrown into a pit, and sold into slavery in Egypt. He suffered false accusation and imprisonment. He was forgotten and let down by other people time and again.

Most people would have given up, thinking ‘those dreams must not have been from God’. Not Joseph. He continued to believe that God’s plan was alive and well. The reality is that he started out somewhat naïve, and his destiny for ruling could never have been learned in his father’s house, so God removed him. His experience of exile and prison taught him about people: through encountering animosity and jealousy he became streetwise.

Instead of being deflected from our purpose by treating everything we face as misfortune, how about we call it ‘refining’, and allow it to transform and change us?

David

David eventually became the great king he was destined to be, but not without first facing family opposition, killing a giant, surviving the previous king’s attempts to assassinate him, living in a cave with a bunch of oddballs (which sounds a lot like ‘church’ to me) and fighting off Philistines trying to rob him of his family and possessions. Only when he had overcome all that could he fulfil the purpose of God in his generation.

Esther

Esther was seemingly on a fast track to nowhere. Orphaned, kidnapped to a harem, separated from her remaining family, not allowed to speak to anyone, she went through a whole year of purification in order to spend the rest of her life in futile servitude at the whim of the king. God had other ideas. As her uncle Mordecai asked her, ‘What if you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?’ God is saying the same thing to each of us today.

She saved a whole nation by taking her life in her hands, stepping out of cultural expectations and going to see the king uninvited. You may not know the significance of your destiny, what its consequences might be in the plans and purposes of God for yourself, your family, your nation, your world. God has a purpose for you. Be an agent for change. Be a world-changer.

Let’s be willing to be transformed, to come into maturity. Let’s embrace the fullness of who we are and fulfil every part of the destiny God has for us. We sing,

I am royalty
I have destiny
I have been set free
I’m gonna shape history
I’m gonna change the world
(Jake Hamilton – The Anthem).

It’s great to sing that we are going to change the world – but it will only happen if we believe that, because of who we are in God, we really can.

SoundTrack: Jake Hamilton – The Anthem

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219. Redemptive Gifts (3) and Other Influences

Mike Parsons – 

Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who rules, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness (Rom 12:6-8).

We are continuing to look at the seven redemptive gifts mentioned in these verses: Prophet, Servant, Teacher, Exhorter, Giver, Ruler and Mercy. We receive those gifts at conception, and they affect the course of our lives. But there are other contributing factors that will also influence how the redemptive gifts are expressed in a person’s life.

Parenting

Every child’s parents have their own redemptive gifts, which impact how they view the world and how they raise their children. So the parents’ gifts will leave a very significant imprint on the children, independent of what the child’s own gifts are. Any potential character weaknesses of a parent’s gifting can shape the child as well.

If a child’s parents are servant and exhorter, for example, the child may grow up in a home where the exhorter is financially irresponsible and is living in denial. The servant parent will try to help meet the child’s need, and the child may grow up lacking the knowledge needed to be financially responsible and a good steward of resources, which will be a particular problem if their own gifting is giver!

On the positive side, a child who has the redemptive gift of prophet and is raised by an exhorter will most likely be much more relationally oriented than others with the gift of prophet.

Birth Order

Firstborn children tend to be more driven and perfectionist by nature. Second-born can be competitive or very passive, and the baby of the family is often much more relational and horizontally focused. Being firstborn can intensify all the strengths and weaknesses of any gift (perhaps double the benefit, but also double the challenges).

Maturity

A person’s level of maturity will colour how they live out the characteristics of their redemptive gift at different times in their life. Those who are immature (or those who are not seeking to live in the fruit of the Spirit) will exhibit the weaknesses of their gifts more than the strengths. Whilst none of us has reached perfection, we should all be working on our character issues to grow up to maturity. The recognised weaknesses of our gifting are not an excuse for immature behaviour.

Gender

It is easy to stereotype certain gifts such as prophet, ruler and teacher as being more masculine and servant and mercy more feminine, so that men often reject the idea of being a mercy or servant because they perceive it as being weak. In fact the gifts of servant and mercy have some of the strongest spiritual authority.

Women with the gifts of prophet and ruler often find it hard to be accepted, validated, and nurtured in a church setting, since the natural boldness and strength of their gifts can intimidate some men who traditionally occupy those roles.

Both men and women need to see the beauty of God’s design, instead of trying to be something other than who God made them to be.

Woundedness

Everyone has experienced painful situations and relationships that have left them wounded. Wounds can change our perception of ourselves and of God.

For example, someone who grew up with an abusive authority figure may become very self-sufficient and independent because they believe they have to make it through life on their own. If they are an exhorter, servant or mercy gift, this will seriously conflict with how God designed them to function.

How we are broken, the pain in our soul, our wrong response to pain, the coping mechanisms, and how we compensate for those wounds will influence how our gift is expressed. Any walls of self-protection we build as a way of surviving painful circumstances may hinder the proper expression of our gifting.

Left-Brain vs. Right-Brain

Whether a person is right-brained or left-brained is an organic issue.

Right-brained people tend to see the whole picture. They are generally more creative and emotional, because emotional concepts and messages operate in the right half of the brain. Left-brained people see the various parts, process logically and in a linear fashion, and think more strategically.

Some people have a fairly effective blend between the two sides of the brain and can transition between them with ease, whilst others may be dominated by one side or the other.

Each of the gifts will be expressed differently, depending on whether the person is right-brained or left-brained. For example, a left-brained teacher will look different from a right-brained teacher. Left-brained teachers will enjoy spending hours researching in the lab or in the library, whereas right-brained teachers will flourish in the classroom and light up when their students “get it”.

Prophet and ruler tend more toward being left-brained in their basic God-given essence and expression, whilst the servant and mercy gifts are more right-brained and therefore may tend to be more emotional and expressive through actions, rather than vocally.

Culture and Time Frame

The family, community and time in history in which a person lives can have a radical impact on how they perceive themselves and express their gift.

A woman with a gift of ruler who lives in a culture where women are subservient will likely have a large reservoir of untapped potential if she is not given an opportunity to shine.

Your nation and family of origin also have an impact.

Your family and your community or country have influenced you because of what they needed or what was expected. If you were raised in a nation with a redemptive gift of prophet (such as the United States or Germany), you will have natural affinity for more of the characteristics of prophet, because it is what your culture affirms and cultivates. But this does not mean that your redemptive gift is prophet.

While we are on that subject, notice that redemptive gifts are not restricted to individuals. Nations, regions, cities and churches have them too. Here are some more examples of the gifts of nations, as identified by Arthur Burk:

England – Ruler
Wales – Exhorter
Scotland – Prophet
Ireland – Teacher
Brazil – Giver
Canada – Mercy
France – Exhorter
Germany – Prophet
India – Servant
Italy – Exhorter
Netherlands – Giver
Norway – Mercy
Spain – Prophet
USA – Prophet

In summary, then, we may not know a particular individual’s redemptive gift, but we can observe external behavioural characteristics of the seven gifts. We can observe whether someone is quiet or verbally expressive, whether they prefer to work alone or to be in a group, or whether they are task-oriented or relational-oriented. But we need to bear in mind that we cannot always tell just from observation whether what we see is a true expression of their redemptive gift or is being affected by one of more of the influences we have mentioned.

Here again are the links we gave last time, to questionnaires which can help you identify your own primary and secondary redemptive gifts. But before you jump into them, you might like to read what Arthur Burk thinks of tests such as these!

[Please remember that all of these are only indicators which may give different results, and that those results may be skewed because of the ‘other factors’ we have looked at in this post].

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