Accepting Spiritual Gifts
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As I was mulling over what to bring to the board as a devotional this week. I couldn’t help but think of 1 Peter 4:10-11 and Romans 12 as a whole. And how these passages draw my attention towards using the gifts that God has given us to serve others. Interestingly, I was specifically drawn to some keywords that can spread light on a common saying that suggests about 80% of all those who come to church are the “watchers” while there are 20% of the church who take part in everything. I have been searching for the “why” behind this statistic for sometime. And I think that both 1 Peter 4 and Romans 12 give a glimpse into this area as well, with how they start out. 1 Peter 4:4 looks to how we used to live our lives and it points to how our friends from the past “are surprised when (we) no longer plunge into the flood of wild and destructive things they do. So they slander (us).” We see a similar juxtaposition in Romans 12:2 where Paul warns us “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world” We see that there is a “risk” to being too “Christian” when being evaluated by the outside world.
This reigns true today. If we take some of the approaches that the Bible teaches, and we apply them today we will be at risk of social attacks, and soon name calling will ensue. This can be an incredible “turn-off” for many, and they would sooner take the sidelines than to get involved in the fray.
Why is this? Why do we have some people who just show up for the 20+ years we have known them where they simply show up 30 seconds after the service starts and fly out the back door before anyone can shake their hands? Could it be because they are scared of being caught in the targets of individuals who some would call, “woke” or “SJW’s? Or could it be because we are missing some very key spiritual lessons ourselves? Or Could it be a combination of things?
A common thing one may see around baptists is a hesitation to recognise and talk about spiritual gifts, I know not our congregation but it is still a common issue amongst our fellow Baptist and so as a result we are affected by it. Seemingly if another denomination talks about it, or highlights it heavily, we must tow the proverbial party line and avoid that topic. I equate this to my rather late introduction to the importance of spiritual gifts. There are some spiritual gifts that have kind of given the rest of the spiritual gifts that we see in the Bible a bad look due to how they have been abused, these specific abused spiritual gifts are speaking in tongues and prophesying. However, because these spiritual gifts have been abused we look at all spiritual gifts in a negative light, and as such we tend to leave them out of the discussion.
The problem with this approach is, we are just as guilty as abusing the spiritual gifts as those who misuse them in hopes of looking authoritative by using them. In an attempt to protect us from those who abuse these gifts, we tend to say “NO” to talking about these gifts and thus abusing the very gifts we are seeking to protect ourselves from. In doing so we alienate those who may possess some very important spiritual gifts and make them feel like they don’t have a place to speak or participate.
Maybe people aren’t getting involved because where they would use certain gifts to contribute to standing up to defend the church, they feel the church would condemn them for using those gifts. Thus they suppress those gifts and sit on the sidelines. Or simply they don’t realise that there are awhole hosts of spiritual gifts that aren’t necissarily named in the Bible and so they don’t realise they have something to give to their church or brothers and sisters, because their spiritual gift isn’t named specifically.
A list that was, given to me by Taylor Seminary, of Spiritual Gifts looks like the following. (I have provided you with the same list and definitions from the Book they had me read “discover your spiritual gifts the network way” by Bruce Bugbee.)
Administration, Craftsmanship, Creative Communication, Encouragement, Faith, Giving, Helps, Hospitality, Intercession, Leadership, Mercy, Apostleship, Prophecy, Evangelism, Shepherding, Teaching, Discernment, Words of Knowledge, Words of Wisdom, Healing, Interpretation, Miracles, and Tongues.
I enjoy the concept that we are part of the Body of Christ. When the stomach says it is hungry, it must send a message to the brain, the brain (through education) recognizes the need and tells, the feet and the eyes to start searching for the food, once the feet and the eyes locate the food it is up to the hands and the mouth to nourish the body settling the stomach’s dismay. However what would happen if you took out one of these members of the body? Sure in some instances you could still succeed at the overall goal of getting the food to the stomach, but you would not be as effective, infact, you may not get enough nutrition to the body. What happens when other members of the body begin to ignore certain members of the body who know that something is up in their neck of the woods that can put the whole body at risk? The whole body needs to communicate with the whole body to keep the body healthy. The hand is not more important than the feet, the feet are not more important than the mouth and so on and so on. Paul even says as much in
Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.
Here is a question for each one of you here, what are your spiritual gifts? Do you know? Have you explored this? Are you comfortable talking about your spiritual gifts? Are you comfortable identifying the spiritual gifts of others? If you can truly honestly answer yes, awesome. But I think you’ll find when looking at our overall denominational history you’ll find that as of recent years our exploration and commitment to this area is rather non-existent.
Now here is why that bothers me so much: 1 Peter 4:10 says
God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.
We are literally called to use our spiritual gifts, that God has gifted to us by the way, to serve each other. We get so stuck on the idea that spiritual gifts can be abused that sometimes we get in the way of them being used for good. Both Paul and Peter are fervently calling for us to use our spiritual gifts to further the kingdom of God, and there are many gifts. I believe in the gifts of prophecy and speaking in tongues and I also believe in the gifts of interpretation and discernment. These when used together are great gifts.
Put yourself in the shoes of someone who is confused by their spiritual gift for a second, because they haven’t been coached about their gift. All they hear about is how those Pentecostals are too charismatic, or something to that extent. Maybe they may hear from some that “God doesn’t work like that anymore.” So they have read the room and have sat down and shut up, because this is what they feel they are being told to do.
I’ve been there, I’ve gotten a word from God and I have boldly stated what God told me and I have been told “God doesn’t talk to people like that anymore.” I have brought forward ideas on how to start children's ministries and draw young adults in churches I have attended in the past only to be told “Jesse we know what we are doing, back in our day we were great at bringing in the young folks” finally after a while I just started to sit down and shut up in those churches, because I read the room, they didn’t want what God was placing on my heart. Then there were people who came around me and recognised these things as spiritual gifts, and they helped prepare me to leave that church behind to come and serve God while using the gifts he had given me.
We need to be willing to recognise that we aren’t the ones who assign God’s spiritual gifts that he assigns, we need to be open to receiving spiritual Gifts, talking about spiritual gifts, and accepting spiritual gifts. Yes we need to protect ourselves from wolves in sheep's clothing. But we can’t become so defensive that we don’t let the holy spirit work, essentially shutting out those who have gifts that we recognise in other denominations as “the most abused gifts.” We should be educating ourselves, and others on what spiritual gifts are and we need to be prayerfully informing others when we see spiritual gifts in them and encouraging them to prayerfully act on and in those gifts.