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"A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other." - 1 Corinthians 12:7 (NLT)
I love coffee, but when I was given an AeroPress as a gift, I had no idea what it was let alone what to do with it. Besides, we had an espresso machine on the kitchen counter. So, I set it aside and forgot about it. Until the Saturday morning, our espresso machine broke down. Suddenly the gift came back to mind. I dusted off the box, opening it to discover the amazing experience of AeroPress coffee brewing. I hadn’t chosen the AeroPress, didn’t understand it, but some friends who knew my love for coffee knew they were giving me an amazing gift. Spiritual gifts are also gifts we don’t get to choose. We may not even understand them at first. But they’re given to us by our Heavenly Father who loves to give good gifts to His kids.
The Holy Spirit gives every single one of us a different ability to do something that benefits the world around us. There are a variety of gifts outlined in several books of scripture. The gifts we encounter in 1 Corinthians 12 include gifts which reveal Jesus like a multi-faceted gemstone, shining and reflecting a different light from different perspectives. The individual gifts God gives us help us to serve one another, stretch each other, and, together, show the world a clearer picture of Christ: How He leads, His power and might, His insight, how He serves, and the high value of communication and unity.
Our gifts are not just for our benefit, and they are absolutely in no way intended for our glory. Today’s text reminds us these gifts are given so we can help one another. We can’t elevate our God-given gift over anyone else’s, so it’s silly to compare or critique one another’s gifts. We would also be foolish if we were to dismiss any of the gifts and miss out on the fullness of the expression of God’s reflection through His body, the Church. Each of us are gifted to carry one piece of the whole. And each one of us needs the rest of us to become all God wants us to be.
"It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have." - 1 Corinthians 12:11 (NLT)
My little boy is one of my favorite people on the planet. He’s funnier than most grown-ups, he’s as loving as they come, intuitively brilliant, a really smart little guy. I could brag on and on. And yet, he’s still trying to figure out some of the finer details of life. You see, my five-year-old hasn’t yet caught on to the fact that not every birthday party is his birthday party. We’ve found ourselves celebrating someone only to look over and see the pout on his face. He’s still figuring out it’s not all about him.
We all eventually discover we won’t get center stage all the time. But in the church, we don’t have to fight for our place - we’re already insiders! We don’t need to fight for attention from our Good Father. He’s already all about every one of us. We have a unified diversity thanks to our gifts. And only God decides how we are gifted.
One set of gifts are those of Leadership and Vision: revealing how Jesus begins and completes a new work, speaking truth about who God is and what He’s doing, conveying truth in a way that makes it easy to grasp, influencing the reproduction of desired traits and giving direction, and wisely applying God's truth in the right way and at the right time.
The gifts of vision and leadership can be up-front gifts, connected with influence and popularity. But they’re also found behind the scenes. They are important to the church either way. Leaders and visionaries are influencers. God uses them to help all of us discover direction, unify around His plans, and challenge us to get moving. Gifts of leadership shine brightest when the gifted leader walks in front, modeling Christ, and calling people to action.
- Are you a gifted leader? Seek to hear well from God and step out in boldness. He always provides the resources when He’s called you.
- Who has God placed in your path with this kind of gift that you can encourage, cheer on, support, and even follow? Do your part and be a blessing to leaders around you.
"...we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit." - 1 Corinthians 12:13 (NLT)
Have you ever asked for something without really expecting it to be granted? The keys to your parent’s car or $20 bucks when you’re headed out the door with your friends. Perhaps it was a raise, a job, a house. Or one of those moments you threw caution to the wind thinking, “I guess it can’t hurt to try?”
But maybe the thing you’ve asked for has way bigger stakes. It was a miracle you wanted. Prayers for healing, protection, provision, or breakthrough. You needed it. You asked for it. Only half-heartedly expecting it, if you were honest. But sometimes God says yes! And miracles happen. We ask, others ask… and God does something amazing. Whether our faith in asking was great or small, we simply stand in awe, overflowing with gratitude.
I picked up a bit of wisdom many years ago: “Never beg, never refuse.” It applies whether the need is for healing, financial breakthrough, or otherwise. See, we have a Good Father who loves to give us good gifts. Even when His answers don’t align with what we expect, we can still receive them with open arms because our Father is good. And we don’t have to beg for what we need because we’re much-loved children of a Good King.
God’s gifts sometimes fit into a category we might simply call God’s Power. The miraculous display of the power of God at work. God bringing wholeness and restoration, the way it is in Heaven coming down to Earth. But one of the greatest of miracles, one of the greatest examples of healing, is when God draws the body of Christ together in unity. People who guard the unity of the Spirit are an amazing blessing in the Kingdom. Formerly wounded, selfish people walk toward healing and other-centeredness… it’s evidence of the power of God at work in a world where this kind of miraculous healing simply is not set up to happen without God’s intervention.
"All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it." - 1 Corinthians 12:27 (NLT)
Are you one of the many around Southland who can say they’ve sat in at least one sermon where Jon or another teacher seems like they’ve been reading your mail? One of the prayers we pray is that God put words and phrases into sermons around here… words and phrases He’s already been speaking to the people listening. On a Saturday a few weeks ago, I recalled a time when, as a child of about 8 years old, I was hiding under the dining room table while my parents were arguing, the atmosphere in our home completely tense. That recollection came and went on Saturday morning. Then, on Sunday, sure enough, one of Jon’s points in his sermon was for us come out from under the table and take a seat at it. Naturally, I was floored and my ears perked up to what God was wanting to say. One gift in the body of Christ is something you might call Only-God Insight.
*Someone speaks specific words God has already been speaking.
*A friend seems to know exactly the right time to stop in your office to chat.
*The text comes through at the very moment you needed to read those words.
These gifts include those of special knowledge, or insight from above, almost from God’s perspective. Also the gift of discernment - of spirits and otherwise - as God gives insight into the godly or ungodly intentions of others or the spiritual source of words, actions, or thoughts.
These “only God” moments make us pause, back up for a moment, and just marvel at the way God can easily intervene in His world to bring about change. There’s nothing like that moment when someone stops to say they’ve been praying for you, or they felt like God was putting you on their heart, or they sense the spiritual source of something you feel like you’ve been battling with no hope for breakthrough. And suddenly, in a few words, there’s movement, direction, encouragement, strength to keep going. These gifts are huge as God builds us up as the body of Christ.
"So you should earnestly desire the most helpful gifts. But now let me show you a way of life that is best of all." - 1 Corinthians 12:31 (NLT)
I can’t count the number of times I locked my keys in the car during my first year of marriage. On one of those occasions, Sara and I were living in Greensboro, North Carolina. It was a beautiful Sunday, and we’d taken a long, leisurely stroll in the botanical gardens. Only to discover I’d done it once again. We were locked out of the car at the end of our long walk.
Now, this was before we had cell phones. So I had to walk miles and miles to find a phone to call a locksmith. But just when hope seemed lost, I saw a church off in the distance. I arrived only to discover no one there spoke English. It was a Korean-speaking congregation preparing for their evening service. Fortunately the sign language for “phone” comes across pretty easily. But the welcome in another language from my Korean brothers and sisters in Christ and the simple sharing of a telephone was the greatest expression of love I could have experienced on that particular day in Greensboro.
In a moment slightly reminiscent of Acts 2, God bridged the communication gap, brought understanding to people of different languages, and worked to help me and my bride that day in Greensboro. God helped us understand one another and combined that with gifts of helping others and faith that God wants to use us - one-another - to take care of His kids… And it all culminated in a display of the greatest gift of all: Love.
Have you ever been locked out? Have you ever felt like you’ve been running into a door that’s been shut and barred from the inside? Make no mistake: Love is the key to open that door. Whatever spiritual gift God has given you, when you pair it with love, it’s unlocked to become the best version of that gift it can be. And it can open the door for others in your life to experience God’s love for them.