Deep inside each human heart there are a number of cravings, including a craving for identity, belonging, and meaning. Another common craving is for a sense of contribution. We long to do something significant with our life – to somehow make a difference in our world. This expresses itself in different ways in different people but it’s there deep inside of us whether we’re aware of it or not and whether we respond to it or not.

What about you? Have you discovered your spiritual gifts? Have you developed them and deployed them for the benefit of others and God’s work in the world? Many of you have and you’re using your gifts to contribute to God’s work in the world. Some of you know your gifts, but maybe you’re not using them to their full extent. Maybe an opportunity hasn’t come your way, or maybe you’re in a time of transition, or maybe you’re a bit burnt out from running too hard in a recent season in your life. Others of you may still be on the journey of discovery, still figuring out how God has wired you and where you can best fit. Wherever you are at in your journey, I believe God has something to say to you today.

A very important thing on God's heart is that each one of his followers understands the importance of their contribution to what he is doing in and through His church. The church is like a human body, made up of many members growing and functioning together in ministry (see 1 Cor.12:1-31. Eph.4:11-16 and Rom.12:1-8). In these texts we learn a number of important things:

1. You are a Part of the Body of Christ
Every true believer is part of the church, which is the body of Christ. There is one body but many members. Like in a human body, all the parts serve an important function. Without diversity and specialisation of function, there would no longer be a body but merely one giant organ, unable to do anything. Each one of us is needed and together we can fulfil God’s purpose in our generation.
God is doing a great work and he has selected you and me to be a part of it. What a privilege to be in partnership with God to accomplish His mission in the world. We are all included. History is full of examples of ordinary people that God chose and used for extraordinary tasks. God doesn’t see where we are now – he sees what we can become. You can do something to build God's kingdom.

2. You have been given a Spiritual Gift
Each one of us have received gifts so that we might serve others (see also 1 Pet.4:10) and that the church might be built. Everyone (regardless of age, race, socio-economic status or gender) has at least one gift. You may also receive more than one, at the same time or at different times in your life. Paul gives a variety of lists of possible gifts.

Rick Warren describes our spiritual gifts as fitting our SHAPE: Spiritual Gifts, Heart (what you love to do, your passions and interests), Abilities (natural abilities), Personality and Experiences. Pray and ask God for direction. Explore the possibilities. Look for needs. Opportunity must be met with availability. Sometimes you will first discover what gifts you don't have. Examine your feelings. Serving God should be enjoyable. Evaluate your effectiveness. Spiritual gifts are task-orientated so we should expect them to work and produce a positive result. Expect confirmation or positive feedback from others. This is very important. Spiritual gifts are for use within the body, therefore the other members should confirm your gift.

Our gifts, talents and abilities are to be used to advance God’s kingdom and make the world a better place wherever we are: at home, in our neighbourhood, at work or school and in the church community. Remember, we ARE the church ... when we are gathered and we are still the church when we scatter throughout the week to different parts of our society. Ministry is not just IN the church gathering. It includes that, but it is much broader than that.

3. You have a Specific Job to do
God has designed his church so that everyone is a minister. In fact, we are all in full-time ministry, serving God and people with our gifts throughout the week. Each member has a special function - a role to fulfil, a task to complete, a job to do (see also Eph.4:16. 1 Pet.4:10). Our task is linked to our gift(s). For example, the eye is a part of the body; it has the gift of sight, and its job is to look, observe, watch and see ... so that others benefit from its contribution.

4. The Growth of the Body is Dependent on your Contribution
The church is incomplete without everyone's gift. If an individual member is not using its gift or doing its job, the body is hindered in its growth and its function. It becomes handicapped and it doesn’t function effectively. In contrast, when people discover and use their spiritual gifts, the church grows (see Eph.4:7-16). When we use our gifts, everybody benefits. The body receives the ministry God intended and God is glorified whenever the church operates according to his design.

5. You will be Rewarded for the Work that you do
As members of Christ’s body we are equal in value. Though some parts may be more prominent, that does not make them more significant. In fact, Paul is concerned that in Corinth some gifts/people are being demeaned while others are being overly exalted which was never Christ’s intention.
We are saved by grace, through faith, not of works, lest any should boast. It is a gift of God. However, we are God’s workmanship created for good works (Eph. 2:8-10). This is God's purpose for us. We will be rewarded according to our works (see Matt.16:27; 25:14-46. 1 Cor.3:10-15). This should give us a healthy fear of God and cause us to place our priority on eternal things and the work of the Kingdom. Reward is not given for position, title, gift or function, but according to what we've done with what we've been given. God’s gift to us is our potential. Our gift back to him is what we do with it. Discover, develop and deploy your gifts. Every time we give a cup of water to someone in Jesus' name he notices it, he remembers it, he accepts is as to himself, and he will reward it (Mk.9:41).

Conclusion
Are you contributing to your church? If so, great. Without you, the church would not be what it is today. Continue to serve faithfully and joyfully this year, knowing that your work is not in vain (Heb.6:10. 1 Cor.15:58). If not, then why not get started today. There are so many ministry opportunities available for you to serve in – right now. Join the team – you’ll be glad you did.
Another important area of contribution is our finances. The ministries of the church are funded by the voluntary donations of the church members. For those who give faithfully and generously, thank you so much. You are honouring God with your resources and you and enabling the church to carry out its mission. For those who haven’t taken the step of faith to become a regular and generous giver, why not make a decision to do so today.

Sample Discussion Questions
1. Share about your own career or ministry aspirations. What has been your journey in discovering your best and most enjoyable contribution?
2. What are some lessons from the metaphor of the church being like a human body – the body of Christ?
3. What do you think are your spiritual gifts? Ask those in the group what they think they might be?
4. What are some of the benefits of volunteering for a ministry in the local church?
5. What are some of the challenges?
6. How does our life outside of church gatherings contribute to God’s work in the world?
7. When Jesus returns we will appear before him and be held accountable for what we have done with the resources he has given us (time, talents and finances). What do you think this will be like?
8. How does our regular contribution of finances assist God’s mission through the church?
9. Finish in prayer, asking God to help each person in the group make an even more effective contribution to his work in the church and the world this year.
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