Phil Bartelt started things out this past Sunday with “Kingdom Life,” a Spiritual Gifts Game Show!
Do you know your spiritual gift(s)? Are you using your gift(s)?
When we had sermon discussion group after the worship service, we had a great time talking about what it means to have spiritual gifts, and yet there were a lot of questions that we weren’t able to answer satisfactorily:
Have certain gifts ceased? Paul will talk about this concept coming up soon in 1st Corinthians 13:8 when he says “But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.” And yet in chapter 14:39 he tells the church “be eager to prophesy and do not forbid speaking in tongues.” We know that Paul wasn’t the kind of guy who would contradict himself, but these verses leave us questioning what he meant. This is another big debate in Christian theology around the world. (How many of such debates have we encountered during this 1st Corinthians series???) At sermon discussion, I asked if we could pause this particular line of discussion until we get further along. In our sermons on chapter 14 we’ll talk about it more specifically.
When do we receive spiritual gifts? Growing up, I was always taught that we receive gifts from the Spirit at the moment we become followers of Jesus. But many times we see people who have natural abilities that they can use for Christ. Are those natural abilities the same thing as spiritual gifts? If so, do all people receive spiritual gifts at birth? And maybe those gifts are only energized by the Spirit at the moment a person begins to follow Christ? But hold on, what if a person doesn’t remember the specific moment they started following Christ? While some people have a distinct moment of decision when they chose to start following Christ, for many other people it has been a lifelong process.
As you can see, we didn’t come to a conclusion about that second question because there isn’t a clear answer in Scripture. What we do know is what Paul says in this chapter, that “to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” That’s pretty amazing to think about. Each follower of Jesus has the manifestation of the Spirit in their life!
And that leads to another question we discussed: what if we don’t feel like we have spiritual gifts? Paul says that all have gifts, but maybe you don’t feel like you have any? Maybe you watch people serving the Lord, teaching a class, playing an instrument on the worship team, praying in front of people, or sharing their faith in many ways in their community, and you think “I don’t do those things; I wonder if God skipped over me?”
That led us to look at the various lists outside of 1st Corinthians where Paul mentions other gifts. Romans 12:3-8 has a bunch, as does Ephesians 4:11. Some have wondered if these lists are meant to be comprehensive, meaning that if you don’t find a gift in these lists, then it must not be a spiritual gift. Playing music for example. It’s never mentioned as a spiritual gift, so it must just be an ability? I don’t feel it is best to look at the gifts lists in Scripture that strictly. Paul was likely being illustrative rather than exhaustive, meaning that he listed out a bunch of gifts, not intending to speak about every single possible gift the Spirit might give. As I say that, I admit that I don’t know for sure. I am also hesitant to call every ability a gift of the Spirit. Christians through the ages have done a great job categorizing gifts. At Faith Church we have used the PLACE materials to help people begin to think about recognizing and using their gifts. PLACE incorporates personal abilities, passions, experiences and personality types into a much fuller assessment of how God uniquely made each one of us. I encourage people to work through the PLACE materials rather than just take a spiritual gifts inventory.
And no matter how you begin thinking about your giftedness, it is best to bring other people into the process. Ask people who love you how they see your giftedness. Then seek out ways to use your gifts in the context of the church. Some of the best advice I received as a young man headed off to my first year of college was from my mom. She encouraged me to try a lot of things. Don’t get stuck in a rut. I gave it a shot, and I’m glad I did. It gave me a chance to learn a lot about myself and how God uniquely shaped me. People can do the same in the life of the church. Be willing to serve, even if you are very unsure that you are gifted in a particular area. Try new things. Put yourself out there!