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“Discovering Our Varied Gifts” Part 1

Jan.15, 2012 1Cor.12:1-11,27f


Do you have your helmet and shield ready, and other protective gear? We’re on a journey through a subject and passage of Scripture that have proven to be mine-fields for some churches. “Spiritual Gifts” can be an explosive topic if you don’t approach it the right way; and there are specific gifts mentioned in 1Corinthians that have caused casualties. Over here, for instance, we see a burned-out smoking frame from a church where some individuals insisted on interrupting the service to speak in tongues whenever they felt like it. Over there, we see a crater caused by dissension when an individual who claimed they had a prophetic gift offered advice the church leaders refused to heed. And up ahead there we can make out the limp shadow of another churchgoer, afflicted by chronic back pain, who spent all she had to go to a conference put on by a faith-healer who claimed everyone attending would be healed. Apparently ‘spiritual gifts’ is not a topic for the faint of heart!
    If we’re venturing through this mine-field, what ‘mine-sweeping tools’ are available to help us not get destroyed? Thankfully the apostles suggest at least 4 questions that provide a solid general foundation for exploration of spiritual gifts.
    First, “Is Jesus exalted by our expression?” Remember last week Peter wrote, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others...with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.” (1Pe 4:10f) The purpose of spiritual gifts is not to make much of ourselves, but that God be praised. Likewise Paul writes in 1Cor 12:2-3: “You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute [dumb, non-speaking, expressionless, lifeless] idols. Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says [gives expression to God’s grace by stating], "Jesus be cursed," and no one can say [give the expression], "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit.” So, at the outset of these 3 chapters on the subject of spiritual gifts, Paul reminds us the benchmark, the central reference point, has to be Jesus. Does our manifestation of our spiritual experience honour Jesus as Lord? Or does it draw attention away from Him, make Him seem less?
    The point of a spiritual gift is not how great WE are but how great God is. At the end of the section in chapter 14(24f), Paul gives this example: “But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare.So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, "God is really among you!"” Because of the prophecy being expressed, Jesus is exalted.
    A subordinate question here is, “Who gets the credit, the glory?” The church is still hampered by the legacy of televangelists from the ‘80s whose ministries and ‘image’ became more important than godly ethics and behaviour. Paul clearly shows that God is the one responsible for assigning spiritual gifts: it’s HIS doing, so He gets the credit; it’s not something any human can boast about. V11, “All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.” V18, God has arranged the parts “just as HE wanted them to be.” 24, it’s God who has combined the members of the body; 28, “GOD has appointed” various gift-roles in the church. So God should get the credit; Jesus is to be exalted, not us.
    Second, “Is Love being realized?” Last week we saw Peter commanded, “Above all, love each other deeply” - then started talking about spiritual gifts as a way to do that. Here, Paul plants chapters 12 and 14 on each side of chapter 13, the ‘love chapter’, making it very clear in the first 3 verses there that spiritual gifts without love are worthless, even annoying. Prophecy to fathom mysteries or faith that moves mountains are nothing without love. So, to the diagnostic question: “Is Jesus exalted?” we can add, “Is love being realized?”
    Third, another big question to guide the expression of our spiritual gifts is: “Is the Body helped?” Are others in the church being edified, built up? Look closely at 12:7, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” Not for your own personal jollies, but to strengthen everyone. Paul stresses this over and over. 14:4-5, “He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church...[later] interprets, so that the church may be edified.” 14:12, “try to excel in gifts that build up the church.” 14:17,  “the other man is not edified.” 14:26, “All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.” And 14:31, “For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged.” It’s a corporate thing, not just for an individual; are others being genuinely helped by your gift? After all, Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as our Paraclete, our Helper (Jn 14:16,26). If others aren’t actually being helped or blessed by your exercise of your gift, maybe you’d better take another look at it.
    And a fourth question, “Is the beauty of unity in diversity reinforced?” Is there a sense of harmony, sympathy, interdependence – or is everyone madly dashing off in all directions, preoccupied with their own self’s gifting? Verses 4-6, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.” Different, yes - but the same source. Vv8-11, many different gifts but they’re all “the work of one and the same Spirit.” V12, “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body.” 21, “The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don’t need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don’t need you!"” They DO need each other; their very difference makes them interdependent. And 12:25-26, “so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” A real sense of oneness, sympathy, mutual concern and support instead of division. So, variety and diversity of gifts ought to cause rejoicing and unity as a team or body, rather than petty jealousy or bitterness. “I don’t have as high a profile-gift as that person so I’m just going to sit back here in the shadows and sulk.”


1Corinthians 12 is famous for including some of the more sensational gifts, like miracles, healing, and speaking in tongues. But today I want to focus briefly on a few of the less-sensational gifts Paul mentions, and then Gary’s going to share some pointers on how we can begin to discover our gifts.
    1Cor 12:8 says, “To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom...” The book LifeKeys (JAG Kise, D Stark, SK Hirsh) says that a person with the gift of wisdom “has the ability to understand and apply Biblical and spiritual knowledge to complex, paradoxical, or other difficult situations.” Charles Bryant adds: “Many times, the spiritually wise do not realize the wisdom of their statements or actions, but they feel compelled to express themselves, despite possible challenges or charges of being simpleminded.What they say often brings to light the hidden but obvious truth.It simply rings true.” People with the gift of wisdom might agree with these statements: “It is easy for me to make practical applications of the truths found in the Bible, thinking through different courses of action and determining the best one.People often come to me for advice about personal and religious matters.I am often able to find a profoundly simple solution in the midst of a difficult situation.”
    12:8 adds that to another is given “the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit...” LifeKeys says a person with the gift of knowledge “has the ability to understand, organize, and effectively use information, from either natural sources or the Holy Spirit directly, for the advancement of God’s purposes.” C.Bryant notes people with this gift “speak often with terms that link God and human life...[they] can relate the Bible verses to realities and living today.” Such a person may agree with the statements: “I enjoy studying the Bible and other books to gain insights and background for God’s Word.I seem to understand how God acts in our lives.At times I find myself knowing information about a situation that has not been told to me by anyone else.”
    12:9 says that “to another [is given] faith by the same Spirit...” That is, extra faith besides basic faith to trust in Christ. LifeKeys says these people have “the ability to recognize what God wants accomplished as well as sustain a stalwart belief that God will see it done despite what others perceive as barriers.”
    George Muller was once on a trans-Atlantic voyage that had been delayed for 22 hours by dense fog off the banks of Newfoundland. Muller had to be in Quebec on Saturday afternoon; this was Wednesday. He told the captain this; the captain retorted it was impossible. Muller replied, “If your boat can’t take me, God will find some other way.I’ve never broken an engagement in 57 years.” Muller suggested they go below and pray. The captain asked if Muller didn’t know how dense the fog was; Muller replied, “My eye is not on the fog, but on God who controls the fog and every circumstance of my life.” Muller prayed the simplest prayer the captain had ever heard. Then Muller restrained the captain from praying, saying, “First, you don’t believe God will do it; and second, I believe He has done it, so there’s no need for you to pray.Open the door, Captain, and you’ll find the fog gone.” So it was. He kept his Saturday appointment in Quebec! That’s an example of the gift of faith.
    V10 notes God gives “to another distinguishing between spirits,” also known as the gift of Discernment. LifeKeys says such a person “is adept at recognizing what is of God and what is not of God.” Bryant calls this “a special ability to ascertain intuitively and spiritually what is of God, or human nature, or of Satan.” People with the discernment gift might resonate with these statements: “I can generally rely on my first impressions of people and whether their motives or character are authentic.I tend to ‘know’ where a person is coming from.” “I sometimes sense when something like a book or presentation will bring people closer to God - or cause them to be pushed away.” “I can distinguish different, nongodly sources of spiritual energy.”
    And towards the end of the chapter, Paul mentions another sublte gift: v28, “those with gifts of administration.” Bryant describes these persons as “organizing and coordinating persons and materials effectively to reach objectives and goals consistent with God’s plan for the church.” They can also “easily discern goals, dreams, and plans that are not realistic or workable.” Such a person might feel: “I like to organize facts, people, or events.When I’m working on a project or event, it’s easy for me to see the necessary steps in the process to solve potential problems.I am generally careful and thorough in handling details.”
    Now, Gary, our Elder for Prayer and Visioning and our congregational “Natural Church Development” specialist, is going to share more about the actual process of how to discover our spiritual gifts. (RE Logan & TT Clegg, Releasing Your Church’s Potential)           [GARY LISLE’S CONTENT FOLLOWS: “Gift-Oriented Ministry”]
    We must first believe that God has pre-wired his church to function to grow effectively. Everything we need to do God's work for this fellowship is already here. What WE need to do, by faith, is maximize what is here in our church. Also, each of us is given, by the Holy Spirit for the building of God's Kingdom, certain gifts. Our role is to release the spiritual gifts God has given each one of us to function. For most of us here, we need some help discovering what our gifts are and we are beginning that process today.
    I believe, as do many others more knowledgeable than I, that our satisfaction in life is directly linked to the degree in which we fulfill the God-given calling entrusted to us - our giftedness. If we are not 100% sure now, how do we discover our gifts?


    At birth, God places within all people an intrinsic motivation to do a certain kind of work or in the case of babies and young toddlers, play. Our granddaughter Clara loves music and when it is playing on whatever toy she might be engaged with, her body moves and she is quite content to sway and move to the sounds. Her brother, Isaac, loves to take his cars, (he has over 50) and make different designs and patterns. These were not things they were taught but rather they were born into them.
    It should not be a mystery to us what our motivational pattern is. We all have a trail of evidence throughout our lives we can follow to discover this pattern. The problem is, we don't often pick up the clues or make any effort to do so. So, what is the process?
    First, identify and describe times of personal satisfaction and achievement. Then, look for the common threads, and your motivational pattern will clearly emerge. Remember, this is not those things that others told you were significant, but rather those things that YOU PERSONALLY felt good about. When I think about this, most of things I felt best about as a child involved doing things or following my older brothers around or playing sports, or helping my mother in the kitchen.
    Everybody, whether or not they are believers, have a motivational pattern. Now, when we are saved, you get a new nature (a desire to please God), you get spiritual gifts (special abilities to serve God), and a unique calling that God wants you to use your gifts for the advancement of His kingdom.


(We all have more than one gift, so we need to look at these and focus our ministries most appropriately.)
Here are some key words/questions to help you discern your spiritual gifts and those of others:
    1St is JOY - What ministry activities bring you personal satisfaction and fulfillment? When you use your gift, do you like it? For me, it gives me a lot of satisfaction doing the breakfast here in Blyth and handing out the food baskets and toys with the Salvation Army. What brings you joy?
    2nd word is Insight. Do you spot special needs and or problems in some situations that go beyond the perception of others? Maureen has a great gift of organization. She can look after our finances and sees things much better than I can and with much less effort and stress. Insight is another way to discern gifts.
    3rd is Results. Where have you been particularly effective? What ministry activities are easy for you to do? What behaviors do you seem to do repeatedly? We have been blessed with the gift of teaching, and thru the years, whether at school, coaching, speaking at functions or at bible study it seems to work. In most cases the results have been positive so that is reassurance that we are being effective in these areas of giftedness.
    4th comes Confirmation. How have others in the Body of Christ affirmed and or encouraged you in your ministry? Coming back to our years of coaching, we have been given the opportunity to continue with this ministry even though we have retired and colleagues and students don't seem to want us to get lost. Many parents have thanked us and encouraged us to continue with our work with these young athletes long after their own have left the system. 
    So, what are your spiritual gifts and are your ministries organized and aligned with your giftedness? As we move forward as a church we may need to adjust and re-organize our church ministries to match the fellowship's individual ministries.
    All of this is not to say that you focus exclusively on gifts and nothing else. There are certainly lots of commands that we have to obey. We might think that because we don't have the gift of Evangelism we don't have to witness but we are all COMMANDED to witness, some are just better at it - gifted.  Witnessing through your actions is a quiet but effective witness as well.


Each person is uniquely 'wired' in the way they respond to situations and people.  Knowing your personality or temperament will help you understand what kind of work environment is helpful to you; it will help you know how to work with others with different personalities; and it will help you temper your instinctive responses to be most helpful to others.  Personality conflicts can be negotiated better when there is an understanding and appreciation for differences. There are all sorts of personality tests (True Colours Personality Test, DISC, etc.) as well as feedback from others that know you that can help us in this area.
    With our church, as we grow in Christ, it is paramount that we learn to work together and use our differences to complement the overall outreach and mission of our church. We can't expect Ernest to have all the gifts and we just be along for the ride. That's not how it works. Lots of you are using your gifts most effectively and we, the leadership of LWCF are really thankful for all you do. But do we all realize our gifts and are we using them to glorify God and do His work here at LWCF? As I mentioned in the beginning, I believe God has pre-wired our church to function to grow effectively. We all have a part to play as we learn more about our giftedness.