"Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery. Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you." (1 Timothy 4:14-16)Paul has already taught us that "to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good" (1 Corinthians 12:7) and Peter reminds us "as each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." (1 Peter 4:10) Each one of us has received some special gift from God and it is not only our privilege to work with God but it is also our responsibility to use that gift for the benefit of others. These gifts from God are given freely by His grace and are distributed according to His own will and purpose. However, for many, their gifts have been neglected and left unused within the Body of Christ.
There are many reasons why people have failed to discover, develop, and deploy their gifts in the service of others. Some are the result of bad teaching, others by the lack of opportunity, and others simply due to the busyness of life. What ever the reason, the Body needs our gifts and we need to serve. Speaking of Jesus, Paul says, "from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love." (Ephesians 4:16) The key to the Body being held together and growing up is what each joint supplies. If we fail to supply what God has given us then we harm the Body and retard its growth. Love calls us to use what we have and to serve the Body that it might grow up unto God in love.
Paul speaks of the bestowal of gifts through prophesy and the laying on of hands by the eldership (or presbytery). Unfortunately, we do not have this event with Timothy and the presbytery recorded for us for that would have been very instructive. However, we do have Paul's sending out by the presbytery recorded for us. "Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers... While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.' Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away." (Acts 13:1-3) Part of the role of the presbytery is to identify, confirm, and release ministry within and without the church. Unfortunately, many of the elderships I have been a part of have primarily been focused on tasks: organizing church programs, setting budgets, handling crisis between members, etc. While some of these administrative and ministry oriented tasks are necessary, they are not the whole of the calling of an elder. Elders through out history, and not just church history, were not always a formal collection of leaders but were rather men who were well respected because of their age and the wisdom and understanding they evidenced through the life they lived. It is important for the "older generation" to invest themselves in the "younger generation" to see them mature and be released into what God has called them too; praying and fasting and then committing them to the will of the Holy Spirit.
Paul reminds Timothy to "be absorbed" in these things; his giftings, callings, and the prophetic utterances over his life. This particular word means to "toss them around in your mind." With the busyness of life it is easy to push these things to a dark corner of our mind where we will get to them "when we have a chance." But our calling and our purpose in life should always be front and center in our mind; being the ruling factor in all we do and in every decision we make. Also, often the call of God requires action on our side. Those things spoken to us from God do not always happen without our participation. We must take action and be involved in what God has called us to. This may involve preparation, for example, for some that may mean college or other forms of training. For some, their calling may require partnerships and relationships with others that they may work to gather to achieve their individual callings. And often the calling of God will require industry, discipline, and diligence, like dedicating time each morning to read and write. All these are ways we cooperate with the Holy Spirit and the grace of God to see the things spoken of God advanced in and through our lives.
Finally, in the process, we must never loose sight of our own walk and salvation with God. What is the use to have ministered to men only to find ourselves shipwrecked in the end? Paul put it this way, "but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified." (1 Corinthians 9:27) This attention to ourselves is not selfishness but is for our own preservation and for that of those we minister too. Too much wine has been spilled by those who, in dramatic form have ministered the power of God, only to have fallen far from the life they once preached. It is better to be modest in our ministry and godly in our life than to be godly in ministry and rejected in life. Take time for yourselves. Take time for those things that are more important than ministry. Learn to love the things that have first place before you love the things that have second and third place. In the end, your private life will minister more than your public life ever will. Preserve your self that you might also preserve others.