It is He Himself who empowers those gifts in the life of the believer (1 Cor. 12:11). It is He who works in you (Phil. 2:13; Heb. 13:20-21). Using your spiritual gift is not a burden, but a joy; and when it occurs it is truly the most comfortable aspect of your life this side or glory - you are doing the very thing you were created to do (Eph. 2:10).
But please don't take my word for it. See for yourself from the Word of God.
I think it's clear that the purpose of the church is to glorify God (1 Cor. 10:31; Col. 3:17). And it does this in various ways: through corporate worship (Acts 2:41-42; 1 Tim. 3:15), through reaching the lost with both the good news of Jesus Christ (Lk. 24:45-46; 1 Cor. 9:19-23) and even material alleviation (Lk. 10:36-37), and through transforming society by the conversion and transformation of individuals (Mt. 28:18-20; Rom. 12:1-2; Eph. 5:6-14) - all through the power of the gospel (Rom. 1:16; 1 Cor. 1:18, 24)!
Yet it's only as a body that we're able to accomplish these things and glorify God in our doing them! But the body is composed of several parts, each having their own unique functions.
As Paul put it:
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone...
It is the Lord who gives each one of us spiritual gifts according to His own choosing. He arranges the parts of His own body. And that is why and how the body is able to function and glorify God (Eph. 4:15-16).
Yet instead of trusting in Christ's sovereign lordship over His own body, there are some who are calling all hands to try to be feet, or all eyes to be ears, or all ears to be noses, and on and on... Their call is generally to the effect of: aren't you probably a little too comfortable being a seeing eye? Shouldn't you also try to hear as well? Aren't you a little too comfortable being a hand? Shouldn't you try walking as well? Let's face it - no matter what your spiritual gift is and your function within the body, shouldn't you also be doing or at least trying something else?
This is what we hear over and over again with the calls to "get out of your comfort zone" for the glory of God!
Friends, God tells us to stay in our comfort zone for His glory! He's the very One who gives us our comfort zone when it comes to serving Him and carrying on the multi-faceted mission of the church, unless of course the word "gift" has lost its meaning.... What do I mean?
Instead of assuming that either (a) in addition to having a spiritual gift or gifts we also need to be contributing to the body in a way that's outside of our comfort zone, or (b) by using our spiritual gifts we must by nature be out of our comfort zone if we're to use them effectively - let us first look at what the Bible has to say about gifts in the first place. Are gifts (the way the Bible explains them) meant to make us uncomfortable? Are they a burden meant to make us fear when thinking about using them? Let's look again at what Scripture teaches...
Which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
The Lord (who gives us our spiritual gifts) gives good gifts - much better gifts than we give. So is he really going to give us a spiritual gift (that He himself empowers - 1 Cor. 12:11) that fosters reluctance and fear in using it - to the point that the only way we can effectively serve Him is if we're willing and able to step out of our "comfort zone"?
Let me use a human example(1). How many parents who have children that are terrible at athletics and detest the thought of them would give them athletic gear as a gift? How many parents who have children that are terrible at music and shudder at the thought of engaging in the performing arts would give them a piano or lessons on how to play the guitar as a gift?
We know just from plain, obvious meaning of our ordinary use of the word "gift" that these would be terrible gifts to our children. Because we know from the plain, obvious, ordinary use of the word "gift" that gifts are things to be enjoyed by the recipient. They're not burdensome. And they don't require the recipient to force themselves, by mere will power, out of what is naturally comfortable for them in using the gifts. Gifts even from a human level, understood in the normal sense of the word, play to the recipient's "comfort zone" in that they reflect what that person already genuinely enjoys. Consequently, when you know your gift is truly appreciated, you see that person using the gift you've given them. (And the reason they use it, is because they're comfortable with it!)
We are evil - and yet we know how to give good gifts to our children! How much more then does our great God and Savior know how to give good gifts to us - especially since He's the very one who has wired us in our natural inclinations and empowered us with our supernatural abilities of His own choosing?
So instead of trying to tell people they need to work outside of God's own sovereign control of His church and how he distributes His gifts, or instead of trying to tell them they need to somehow be uncomfortable when using those gifts, we need simply to rely on the goodness of God in His sovereign distribution and empowerment of His gifts and trust that they are genuine gifts - in the most basic understanding of the word. Then we need simply to encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ in the use of their own unique gifts that our Lord has actually given to each individual.
Now some objections will arise I'm sure.
1) Spiritual gift talk aside, doesn't God still call some of us out of our "comfort zone" like with so many examples in the Bible (Moses, Gideon, Jeremiah, etc.)?
I could almost grant this to some degree...with the understanding that God calls only some of us out of our "comfort zone". But there are two things we need to realize with this:
2) Surely the Christian life is more than comfort. Doesn't the New Testament say it is only through tribulation that we can enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22)?
My argument is never that the Christian life doesn't see its share of tribulations. I most assuredly affirm that Biblical truth. But that does not mean it's not also comforting partaking in those tribulations (Acts 5:41; 2 Cor. 1:3-5; Jas. 1:2-4). Furthermore, the Christian is never encouraged (in Scripture) to go out looking for tribulation (Prv. 22:3), yet he rejoices when it comes upon Him, resting in the comfort of God's sovereign hand (2 Cor. 1:3-5).(2)
Dear Christian friend, do not be alarmed by these odd calls that what God really wants from you is to step out of your comfort zone into some "radical," "crazy," spiritual adventure for which He has not Himself equipped you. He is building His church the way He sees fit. He has given you good gifts that you will enjoy using, because He is the greatest gift giver of all.
Your gifts will undoubtedly vary from others in the church (1 Cor. 12:4-7, 11, 14). But our instructions are never to live according to the flesh and try to use gifts we don't have (Gal. 3:2-3), but to use the gifts that we do have in the measure with which they've been given to us (Rom. 12:3-8).
(1) To borrow an expression from the beloved Apostle Paul - Gal. 3:15.
(2) Some might also try to argue that God has not given us a spirit of timidity but of power (2 Tim. 1:7). Therefore, we ought to be engaging in things outside our "comfort zone."
But it's that very gospel power (Rom. 1:16) that transforms us so that things that might have been outside our comfort zone at one point may no longer be as the Spirit gifts us with certain supernatural abilities. Furthermore, let's remember that this passage of Scripture itself is prefaced by Paul not exhorting Timothy to do something outside what God has given him, but to "fan into flame the gift of God" with which he was himself already individually equipped (2 Tim. 1:6ff).