27 May 2018
Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12:1-28 both are passages on spiritual gifts, both say similar things, but I think to read one without the other would give an incomplete picture.
Look at this bird feeder. That I made. Its excellent don’t you think? I think that I’m going to start learning how to do more handiwork things, and then I can help out around the church. Maybe I can help build new chairs, if we need new doors and stuff. I can do that. That would really help the church I think.
The fact is, this is the most rubbish bird feeder you’ve ever seen. And that’s fine, because craftsmanship isn’t one of my gifts. Now, you may think well, craftsmanship isn’t really a spiritual gift, and it isn’t listed in the new testament by Paul, but its mentioned to Moses once or twice, and we cant deny that some people can just see the end product, can see ways of putting things together that others can’t. In the same way, some people can lead, some can teach, some can work with money, some can sing, dance, play an instrument, do paperwork, organise things, love people, be hospitable, some can give, some can plant churches, some can prophesy, or speak in tongues, some are evangelists, servants, shepherds, intercessors, healers, the list goes on. The Bible gives some, but I think there’s many, many more. And I also think, that we shouldn’t be too worried about labelling or listing them. John Piper said spiritual gifts are any ability the Spirit gives you to express your faith in order to strengthen another person. So, to use a basic example, if you cook exceptionally well, and through your cooking, you can strengthen the faith of someone else in some way, then cooking is a spiritual gift that you have. Piper further says “So any virtue at all in the believer’s life, which he is enabled to do with zest and with benefit to others can be called his gift.” Its just easier, for this message, to use a list, but please don’t think they are confined to what I say here. Your spiritual gift could be hugs, it could be anything that God empowers you to do to strengthen others. It’s what you’re good at, if I’m not good at working with my hands, then forget that, do something I’m good at, but do it to build the church.
I believe that if you look at the Spiritual gifts that are named, what you’ll see is a list, not a comprehensive one, but still a list, of some of the attributes of God. And spiritual gifts are God’s way of, through the Holy Spirit, allowing us to use these attributes to work for the good of His church and His kingdom. For instance, God is definitely an artist, He’s painted the most stunning pictures we’ll ever see, He is teacher, He is wise, He is a leader, craftsman, organiser, musician. Forest/veld.
All of these attributes and more fit together to make the perfect God of the universe. If He had only one, He wouldn’t be perfect. In the exact same way, all of the gifts given to us on earth fit together, to make a whole, unified, effective church. And there are a few points that I want to mention about these spiritual gifts, and how we can use them. Or how we should use them. I’m going to use myself as an example, simply because I’ve got a reasonably good understanding of myself.
1 Corinthians 12:17: If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? If the whole church was a leader, who would make the music? Who would do the paperwork? Who would teach? And yes, people can be blessed with more than one, but no one can have them all. I am not a craftsman, but I can teach. I can’t sing or keep a beat, I definitely can’t dance, I can’t do paperwork, or work with money, I’ve never had a prophecy, I can’t interpret tongues, I wish I had supernatural faith, but I struggle sometimes. I’m not an evangelist, I’m not a healer, and miracles aren’t worked through me. But I can teach, I find myself struggling in criminal law tests, because I can’t help but have mercy and compassion. And that’s fine; it’s fine that I don’t have those others, because there are other people who do. If everyone was a dancer, who would teach? So this is the first point- there are different gifts, shared among different people, all do not have the same. We are not all eyes or ears.
When I said that I could teach, I wasn’t bragging. I can get really nervous up here and stumble over my words and not make much sense, but sometimes I understand something, without knowing how, and I just know how to explain to someone else. Sometimes, I’m up here, or I’m talking to someone, or I’m writing a message or I’m in cell, and the words just come, and I’m not sure what I’m saying, or where its coming from, but its coming. And that’s why I say I’m not bragging, because as I’m up here, teaching, the gift isn’t mine. Like I said earlier, spiritual gifts are attributes of God, and although not all of His attributes are gifts- no one has the gift of omnipotence luckily- there aren’t spiritual gifts that are not attributes of Him. And Spiritual gifts come from Him, through the Holy Spirit. It’s basically, God loaning His attributes to us, allowing us to use them, to uplift other people, to build up people’s faith, to further His kingdom. Second point: Spiritual gifts are not ours. The only reason I can teach is because God allows me to; He gives me the ability to. Therefore when I say that I can teach, its not bragging, it cannot be, because actually what I’m saying is: the Holy spirit teaches through me. Romans 12:6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. Given, not earned or achieved. Given. To boast about spiritual gifts, and it does happen, people do try to glorify themselves, but to boast about spiritual gifts, is like boasting about how warm your feet are because your dad gave you a pair of shoes. It doesn’t really make sense, does it?
But it ties in with my third point, when people boast about spiritual gifts, what they’re normally saying is, look, God blessed me with this, and it’s bigger or flashier than yours. For instance, and please, I’m not trying to insult anyone or cast judgement, but who remembers the Prophet of Doom, who said he had a prophecy and then the people all let him spray them with Doom. And I’m not going to say whether I believe he received such a prophecy or not, that’s not really for me to say, but I can say this- people believed he was a prophet, and so they flocked to him. He became popular not God, because prophecy is a wow gift, I’m not even going to deny that, prophecy is flippen cool, and speaking and interpreting tongues, that’s cool, being a pastor, that’s cool, music, cool. Administration, that’s probably the least cool gift I’ve ever heard of. Supporting others, not flashy. But necessary. I’m going to spill major church dirt now, I hope they don’t kick me out, but when I worked in the office last year, there were two people who could administrate, or organise in any way. Phil and Diana. The rest of us were completely useless at it. And so Im standing up here, Pete stands up here, but without Diana, without Phil, without them planning and organising all this, it would be a shambles. In the youth house, neither myself nor Reuben nor Rachel is neat. There’s a storeroom in there that Lydia told Reuben to clean out in 2016, and he told me to do last year. It’s still dirty. Without people who support us, without oom Leon, tannie Mary, tannie Christina, the youth house would be completely unusable. And they’re not in the spotlight, but they’re crucial. Those gifts are crucial. The church can’t survive with only prophets and preachers. And so this is my third point: there are no greater gifts. 1 Corinthians 12:18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. And then verse 21 the eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” verse 22 and 23 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. There are no greater gifts, they all fit together equally like the parts of your body. You don’t think of your gallbladder often, but without it you’d struggle.
Second last point: the purpose of gifts. Gifts are to edify, exhort, and comfort the church. 1 Corinthians 12:7– now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. John Piper, in the same sermon as earlier, said The way to think is this: the reason we have spiritual gifts is so that we can strengthen other people’s faith; here is someone whose faith is in jeopardy; how can I help him? Spiritual gifts are for helping each other, they belong to God, and its not really accurate to say that He’s given me the gift of danicng for insatnce, rather, He’s given the church the gift of dancing. If a gift does not build up the church, or encourage others, or glorify God, its not really a gift. You are not the receiver of your gifts, but the vessel for them, the church is the receiver.
The last point is what we do with our gifts. They are to build up the church, and we should use them for that. People get so hung up on what gifts are called, and which ones we have, that we forget to use them. The thing to do is to ask: Are we doing what we can do to strengthen the faith of the people around us? Are we doing what we’re good at to build the church? Piper again says: “I really believe that the problem of not knowing our spiritual gifts is not a basic problem. More basic is the problem of not desiring very much to strengthen other people’s faith.” It doesn’t matter if we know our gifts or not. We should be doing what we can, what we’re good at. Because ultimately, God has given us these gifts to use, not to hoard.
To end, Im goung to put aside all the theory, and get very very practical. There’s the parable about the master, who gives his servants the talents, the golden talents, to keep safe while He’s away. And He praises the one who made more, and he berates the one who did nothing with it. God has loaned us our gifts, when He returns, when we stand before Him, and He asks why we haven’t used our gifts, are we going to tell Him its because we didn’t know what they were called? I don’t know about you, but when He asks me what I did with what He gave me, I hope with all my heart to be able to say that I used them to further His kingdom, to build up His church, and to glorify Him. Not because I want something, not because I can earn anything by it, but because, after all He has given me, surely this is the least I can do.