1 Corinthians 12
Two weeks ago I preached the second sermon in the series on what it means to be a member of the church. Three weeks ago I talked about how we promise to be faithful in our prayers. Two weeks ago I talked about presence. This week I am talking about gifts. When we say our membership vows we promise to be faithful to this congregation by the giving of our gifts. There are two ways of looking at this. One is that we promise to give our money. We promise to give monetary gifts, we promise to tithe. The other is that we promise to use the gifts God has given us. That doesn’t stop with money, it also means the talents, the spiritual gifts, and the special abilities that make us, us. Today I want to talk on our special gifts God has created us with. Next month I will be talking about the giving of our monetary gifts and tithing but for today, let’s talk about our spiritual gifts.
Spiritual gifts are the special gifts that God has created us with. They are the things that make us who we are. When God was knitting me together in my mother’s womb he said, I want to give Jim the gift of listening so he can be an ear for those in pain. I want to give him the gift of administration, so he can take chaos and make order and so he can cast a vision for a congregation. I’m going to give him the gift of presence so that he can bring peace, and comfort to situations in life. I’m also going to give him a good sense of humor so he can laugh and make other’s laugh. Those are things that God gave me as my spiritual gifts in life.
I have learned these over the course of my faith journey and I have started to see why God created me the way he did. The hardest part of this journey though is realizing that the way God created me may not match how I wish God created me. I would have loved it if God said, I am going to give Jim the ability to have an extremely high metabolism, so he can devour life and bring people to Jesus through his rock hard abs. My wife might be wishing God went along with this too! But he didn’t. I wish God gave me the ability to be more extroverted. I wish I could feel 100% myself in large groups with people I don’t know very well, but he didn’t; he made me introverted and quiet. I wish he gave me the skills and talents to play a professional sport, I’m not picky, I would have taken any sport, but he didn’t.
I say all this because when I look in the mirror I have learned over time that I am exactly what God desired me to be. Sure he would love it if I kept better care of myself and dropped some weight but the talents, the abilities, the spiritual gifts I have, God gave me for a reason. The same thing is true for each and every one of you here today. Brothers and sisters in Christ, we are created by God and God looked at us and said, this is good. God knitted you together in your mother’s womb and he knew the reason why he gave you the gifts that he did. He knew why he gave some of you the gift to work with numbers, or the gift of vision, or the gift of planning or organizing. God looked into your soul, gave you the abilities and talents you have and said, this is good.
In the 12th chapter of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he explains that we all have been given gifts and abilities. He even names some of them, the gift of healing, prophecy, discernment, the gift of tongues, teaching and administration. But if you would search all of scriptures there are actually 20 different spiritual gifts. Those twenty are,
· Administration – to organize human and material resources for the work of Christ.
· Apostleship – the gift of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ to other countries and cultures.
· Compassion – the gift of exceptional empathy with those in need that moves us to action.
· Discernment – the ability to focus on what is truly important to God.
· Evangelism – the ability to share the gospel of Christ with those who haven’t heard it.
· Exhortation – the gift of exceptional encouragement.
· Faith – the ability to hold fast to the truth of God in spite of things that get in the way of faith.
· Giving – the ability to manage money to the honor and glory of God.
· Healing – the gift of conducting God’s healing powers into the lives of God’s people.
· Helping – making sure that everything is ready for the work of Christ to occur.
· Tongues – the ability to communicate to other’s by using their national language, or the ability to speak to God using God’s prayer language.
· Interpretation of Tongues – the ability to interpret foreign languages or the ability to translate God’s prayer language.
· Knowledge – the gift of knowing truth through faithful study of scripture and the human situation
· Leadership – orchestrating the gifts and resources of others to accomplish the work of God.
· Miracles – the ability to operate at a spiritual level that recognizes the miraculous work of God in the world.
· Prophecy – the gift of speaking the word of God clearly and faithfully.
· Servanthood – serving the spiritual and material needs of others.
· Shepherding – the gift of guidance.
· Teaching – bringing scriptural and spiritual truths to others.
· Wisdom – the gift of translating life experience into spiritual truth and of seeing the application of scriptural truth in daily living.
Each one of you have one, or if not more than one, of these gifts that God has bestowed on you. Truthfully I imagined that after worship we would gather together and figure these gifts out but that did not work out as I had hoped. Please let me know a way I can make that happen though because it if vital for you all to realize who God created you to be. You will be amazed that after going through a spiritual gifts inventory how empowered you can feel and how assured you can be about how God created you. Help me figure out a better time or place that we can do that together. It is important to realize your gifts because we are told that we need to work together.
The night before the Duke/Carolina game Coach K always invites in all the undergrad and grad students camping out for a little pregame-day pep-talk. This was the only Duke/Carolina game I had the pleasure of attending and I sat there on the bleachers of Cameron Indoor stadium ready to soak up every word Coach K said. Now whether you like him or not I hope you will still see the validly of his image here. As we sat there he talked about the image of a fist and how it can be a powerful thing if all five fingers are working together. Yet if one of the fingers is out of place, that finger can be broken and the fist is no longer effective. In his book Leading with the Heart, he goes on to explain the five fundamental qualities that make a team great, “communication, trust, collective responsibility, caring, and pride.” (p.71) If all of these qualities are present in a team and they are working well, then that fist is powerful and can win any fight.
Little did Coach K know, or maybe he did, but he mirrored the image that Paul gives us in chapter. Paul goes beyond the fist though and says that we, all followers of Christ, are the Body of Christ. And just like our bodies, it is made up of different parts. Each part is created for a specific purpose and when all the parts are working well, the body is healthy and efficient.
Think about all the different aspects of the human body. Let’s take the circulatory system as an example. That system is in charge of pumping blood through the body. The blood starts in the heart. The blood enters the right atrium and is pushed into the right ventricle. Then the blood leaves the heart and heads to the lungs where it switches carbon dioxide for oxygen and then heads back into the heart. The oxygen rich blood enters the left atrium and then the left ventricle before it is sent out to the body through the arteries. The arteries go throughout the body and get smaller and smaller until they hit the capillaries. There it delivers the oxygen and then heads though the veins back to the heart to start the process all over.
This is only one system in our body. This doesn’t account for what the digestive system, or the endocrine system or the respiratory system does, and there are even more systems then that. All of these systems are working with organs, which are working with each other right now to keep us alive. If one of these parts fail to live up to the purpose they are created for, bad things start to happen. If an artery starts to get blocked up and blood cannot flow any more, what happens? A heart attack! Paul says, “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!’ 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. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”
Each one of you is a part of the body of Christ. “I am a part of the Body of Christ.” Say it with me, “I am a part of the Body of Christ.” A little louder, “I am a part of the Body of Christ.” Now one last time like you believe it, “I am a part of the Body of Christ.” I pray that you will realize you are because God wants you to live into and do your part.
I know what some of you are thinking right now. “Jim, you don’t understand, I am not called into ministry like you.” That may be true but that is not an excuse for why you cannot live up to the potential God created you for. The main purpose of life is to glorify God and God is glorified when we use the gifts that he gave us to use.
I have been building some stools for Dean to use to get into the bed and to get up to the sink. A while ago I was given an orbital sander. It is a great tool that makes the process of sanding much easier. How silly would it be for me to take these stools and sand them by hand when I have a tool right next to me that would make the process so much better. If our gifts and talents were able to be manifested into tools and we could see them all laid out on a workbench, why would not use them? It would be silly for us to see that we have been given the gift of leadership but we always sit on the sidelines and let others lead. That would be a waste of your gifts. It would be horrible if you were given the gift of compassion yet you were never allowed yourself to reach out and help the people you know are hurting.
Each one of us is a part of the body of Christ and if this body is to be healthy and effective, God needs all the parts doing what he created them for. God needs you to be you. We need to stop our human brain from telling us that we should be like someone else. We need to look at ourselves in the mirror and say what God said when he created you, “This is good. I love what I created, this is really good!”
We promise to be faithful in using our gifts in this congregation. We promise to help the ministry and the life of this congregation by using the gifts that God has given us. God needs you to use your gifts. So may your be happy with how God created you and may you recognize the spiritual gifts you have been given. May you stop holding back because of fear or worry and use the gifts you have been given in order to be the perfect part of the Body of Christ that God created you to be.