Question: Will God take back the gifts at times?
Answer: The gifts are given by God, and God never takes back the gifts. We can have three different attitudes toward God’s gifts: (1) we can misuse them, like the Corinthians; (2) we can bury them, like the one in Matthew 25; and (3) God can stop the gifts. Through man’s unbelief, some gifts such as the gift of prophecy become no longer available.
Question: Can we ask for the gifts?
Answer: Yes. First Corinthians 14 clearly says that we should pursue the gifts.
Question: What does it mean to misuse the gifts?
Answer: God does not take back the gifts. At the time of judgment, God will ask us how we have used our gifts. If a man misuses his gifts, he is using them according to his human way or for his own glory, as the Corinthians did. Yet God does not take back the gifts, because the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable (Rom. 11:29). Suppose a sister preaches the gospel in a meeting, and a man is saved. One may ask that since a sister should not preach to a man, why is she able to lead a man to salvation? I can tell you that this is indeed an exercise of the gift, but it is a misuse of the gift. It is God’s gift that is saving men. Sometimes, a gospel preacher goes to a wrong place to preach the gospel and saves a few men. Yet this also is a misuse of the gift. Those who bury their gifts are usually those who have only one talent. The more they consider that their gifts are insignificant, the less they exercise them. The gifts stop because the believers do not have the faith to use them.
Question: Can a man know whether or not he has a gift?
Answer: Sometimes he can and sometimes he cannot, but others know. In most cases, others know through the fruit of his work. The Corinthians knew in themselves that they had the gifts. Some feel sorry for Moses because he did not know the glory that was shining on his own face. Yet it was fortunate that Moses did not know, for had he known that his face was shining, the shining would have gone away. Therefore, we should allow others to find out if we have the gifts.
Question: If misusing or burying the gifts will bring God’s judgment, is it better that we do not ask for the gifts lest we fall into judgment?
Answer: The more gift a believer has, the more chance there is for him to receive the reward. The more reward a believer has, the more glory he will receive. If a believer has never been dealt with, it is better that he does not ask for gifts lest he fail in the future judgment. But those who know God should ask for more gifts, so that they can use them for the church and not for themselves. I do hope that God will raise up more gifted ones.
Question: How do we know that we are misusing the gifts?
Answer: In the parable of the talents in Matthew 25, there are three kinds of gifts—five talents, two talents, and one talent. They were given to three slaves, who were told to do business. The gifts are the capital. When the slaves took the gifts to do business, they could make a profit or incur a loss. If they made a profit, their master would not suffer. If they incurred a loss, their master would suffer. Brothers who have the gift of evangelism can surely save people. But if their works are not done according to God’s will and if they are doing these for self-glorification, to meet some personal needs, or for the sake of going along with human affections, they will lose their spiritual power and will be left only with the power of their gifts. Today, many of God’s servants are leading conferences, reviving men, helping men, and saving men. Among them, some are indeed gifts given by God. You may find out that although they have the gifts, they do not want to stand on the ground that God wants them to stand on. You may be amazed that they can still save, help, and revive men when they themselves are not standing on the ground God wants them to stand on. Actually, this is a misuse of the gifts. They can save and revive men because they have God’s gifts. It is God’s gifts that are saving men, reviving men, and helping men. This kind of misuse of gifts is very dangerous. Today God does not interfere and does not say anything. But when we go before the judgment seat, He will reckon with us. As in the parable mentioned in Matthew 25, He will reckon with us according to the amount of gifts that He gave us as capital and according to the way we did business in the world with these gifts.
We must never think that, as long as we have a fine and thriving work and others love to listen to us, we are right. We have to beware of misusing our gifts. Many times, it is possible for a believer to preach out of a desire for fame and praise from man. But the conscience knows that this is wrong. Once a brother went to a place to preach the gospel. When he returned, I asked about his work. He told me that he went and came back, and a few persons were saved. Yet he still did not know if it was God’s will for him to go. This is to misuse the gift. God has entrusted the gifts in your hand, and He will not reckon with you until the time of the judgment seat. Yet we should consider God to be reckoning with us every day. If we think that He will not reckon with us until many years afterward, we may use our gifts in a careless way.
A gift is a kind of spiritual ability, capacity, power, and knowledge which enables one to work. For example, I may be very good at calligraphy. Whether or not I have a proper fellowship with God, my calligraphy remains good. If I am in God’s will, I write good calligraphy; if I am not in God’s will, I still write good calligraphy. The same is true with the gifts. When we are in God’s will, we can help others when we exercise our gift. When we are not in God’s will, we can still help others when we exercise our gift. (Of course, there is a question of whether or not such help indeed has any spiritual value to it.) But we will reckon with the sin of misusing our gifts when we face the judgment seat. This is why we have to be careful that we do not work for glory, praise, men’s approval, fame, profit, or to gratify ourselves. If we do, we are misusing the gift.