For the Common Good (12:7)
We tend to think of our gifts as our own (to do with as we please, they were given to us after all). Scripture challenges this mindset in two ways. First, we own these gifts in the same way that children “own” the presents they give to their parents. The present was purchased with parents’ money. We have “spiritual” gifts through the indwelling Holy Spirit (I Cor 12:11) by the Father who bought us from slavery to sin by the death/resurrection of His Son (I Cor 6:20). Let us thoroughly enjoy the gifts, but never forget whose they are.
Second, the gifts were given for a reason – to bless the Body of which we are a part. Any other use of the gift is dishonoring of the Giver. The very fact that God gives us gifts to bless others shows God’s heart to free us from our inherent selfishness and self-centeredness (Luke :23-24). If you do not know what your spiritual gifts are, begin by looking at the ministry needs of your local church. If God gifts believers to be a part of the Body and you are not currently using your gifts (because you do not know what they are), you can expect to find a vacancy in your area of gifting.
Reflection: Do we have the “mind of Christ” necessary in order to rightly receive and use the gifts God has given us? Can you relish a gift that was primarily to bring you joy by blessing others? This will be examined further under the heading “All Rejoice Together” below.
Application: Give your kids a gift at Christmas or on a birthday to share with others. This need not be their only gift. For younger kids the gift and recipient should be very concrete (a box of food to deliver to the food bank). For older kids the gift and recipient can be more abstract and require more creative engagement (a gift card to be used to minister to others).
All Suffer/Rejoice Together (12:26)
While this initially may sound like a very “nice” thought, it requires something that can be quite uncomfortable – openness about life’s hopes and challenges. People cannot properly rejoice together unless they know each other’s hopes before they’re realized. People cannot suffer together unless they invite one another into their hardships.
In a physical body this is easier. If my ankle hurts, my whole body knows it. If I am trying to learn to juggle, my whole body is aware of the dream. However, in the spiritual Body of Christ, we can hide if we want to. Many of us want to. Others of us lack enough concern for our fellow believer to even notice what is not being said. Quite a few Bible study groups are so formal that “suffering” or “rejoicing” questions rarely get asked. You can tell this is the case when people apologize for bringing up a more personal request for help or say “I hope this is o-kay” when they share a more personal praise.
Application: Read the blog post “Teachers Equipping Ministers Through Prayer Time”
Reflection: Do you view vulnerability as a “good word”? Consider the following definition of vulnerability. Vulnerability is a willingness to share any part of my life, joys or struggles, when my sharing can glorify God, edify a fellow believer, or serve in the process of evangelizing an unbeliever. How does that definition help you see what “healthy vulnerability” would look like?
Earnestly Desire the Higher Gifts
Saying that there are “higher” gifts does not mean that God plays favorites. It does mean the God has a purpose in using people. God’s ultimate purpose is not our joy. God’s goal in gifting individuals is that we would take joy in seeing more people accurately know and enjoy Him. Some gifts or certain usages of a particular gift accomplish this purpose more broadly than others.
Secondly, we can see that we get some voice in our gifts. We are to strongly desire higher gifts. God wants us to have contentment without satisfaction in ministry. Our great goal in life is to influence as many people as possible as deeply as possible for God’s glory.
Consider the following questions as you seek to “earnestly desire the higher gifts.”
- What spiritual gifts do you have?
- Where and how are you using them?
- What priorities do you need to focus on and what sins do you need to avoid in order to be a clean instrument for God?
- Who have you seen use similar gifts effectively? What can you learn from them?
- Where would you see your gift influencing more people if given the opportunity?
- How could you enhance the depth of influence you have where you currently minister?
- How often do you pray for God to fan into flames the gifts God has given you (II Tim 1:6)?
Using your spiritual gifts boils down to having a passion to see God glorified as you influence others to find their joy in God. Live life as a scavenger hunt looking for the opportunities to accomplish this.
Introduction to the “Living Our Faith” series.