Be Excellent: Spiritual Gifts
1 Corinthians 12:1ff
February 7, 2016
Have you ever wished that you were something you weren’t? At one point or another most of us have. There are times I wish I was a professional athlete, playing a game and making millions. But I know I can’t — I’m too old, too fat, too slow, and just not quite talented enough. It’s a nice dream, but not a reality. Then there are times I wish I was one of you with some of your talents.
On the flip side, have you ever wished you were NOT something you ARE? That may be a little different, but many have that thought too. It may be the career path you have chosen, and you don’t want to be there, but you feel stuck. It may be the aging process or it could be your just tired of what you’re doing on a daily basis.
My point is this: we are all SOMEONE and have SOMETHING to offer. And whether we like it or not, or whether we believe it or not . . . there is a place for each one of us. We might dream about being someone else, or not being who we already are, but there would be a void in this world if you were not here.
As we continue looking at excellence, today we are diving into spiritual gifts. For some, spiritual gifts has been a battleground. Even in the early church there was great confusion. This tension can result from an overemphasis on certain gifts, or we downplay gifts we don’t have or think we simply don’t have gifts.
Before we jump into our text in 1 Corinthians 12, let me set the context. The Corinthian church had lots of problems. The church was filled with division, arguments, lawsuits, and immorality. On top of that, there was confusion about marriage, food sacrificed to idols, worship, the Lord’s Supper, the Resurrection, giving, and spiritual gifts.
When it came to spiritual gifts, some people thought they were more important than others because they had some spectacular gifts. When Paul wrote this letter to the church he addressed these issues.
Paul basically spent 3 chapters making sure the people of Corinth had a proper understanding about spiritual gifts. In 1 Corinthians 12 ~ Paul wrote – – –
1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed.
This is a topic that is too important for believers to be uninformed about and it’s certainly too critical to disagree about. John MacArthur wrote, “No local congregation will be what it should be…until it understands spiritual gifts” (“The Church,” Page 136). We need to understand what spiritual gifts are and are not and how they apply to us, so that we can be the church Christ has called us to be.
One of the best definitions I’ve come across is from Bruce Bugbee, founder and president of Network Ministries. That’s the spiritual gift inventory I like the best.
He wrote – – Spiritual gifts are divine abilities distributed by the Holy Spirit to every believer according to God’s design and grace for the common good of the body of Christ. (What You Do Best in the Body of Christ, Page 52).
What we need to understand is that EVERY believer in Christ has spiritual gifts. Sometimes we think . . . ‘Oh, I have nothing to offer, I’m no good!’ That is FALSE! You have something to offer, you just have not realized what your spiritual gifts are. You are needed. Everyone is needed. It’s what makes this church complete or incomplete.
Paul wrote ~ 4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord;
6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.
7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
Paul wanted the Corinthian church to understand how their unity can be enhanced by appreciating the different gifts God has given them. God wants us to understand there are a variety of gifts, a variety of services, and a variety of activities, but it is the same God, the same Spirit who gives them to us.
Nobody has them all! That’s ludicrous. Paul tells us God empowers / accomplishes these gifts in us. The image in the Greek is so cool for us to better grasp what God is doing. To empower us – it’s like we flip a switch in a room and an electrical current energizes a wire, which then brings light to a darkened bulb. That’s the image of what God is doing for us – – when He empowers us. He is the one with all of the power which energizes and empowers us.
That’s a great image. Now we need to know that God is giving us the electricity, the wiring is perfectly in place, everything is 100% perfectly connected. The only thing left is for us to flip the switch. But sometimes we don’t do that. We tend think others can do what we are called to do.
And Paul knew from the problems in Corinth that people not only thought others could do the work, they also thought some gifts were better than others. As a result, there were some people who did nothing, others did everything and some gloated. It was a crazy mix, and that still happens in the church world.
Paul explained and compared the church to a body and used that description to describe how the church should operate. He said — —
12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.
13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — Jews or Greeks, slaves or free — and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many.
Paul’s point is that there are differences among us. He makes no effort to gloss over that. However, he says there is UNITY in our DIVERSITY. We are ONE BODY! He says this again in Ephesians 4.
With today being the Super Bowl, can you imagine players on the Broncos or Panthers who don’t think they are needed. Players who think they are insignificant. Every player is important.
What if the running back told the offensive line, “I don’t need you; I can do it on my own.” They linemen will smile and let him try. They will help him come back to reality. They’ll provide what former coach John Madden called the “Look Out Block” – as the linemen let the defenders rush by, they shout — “LOOK OUT!”
Every member is necessary; every member is valuable; every member must do their job . . . whether on a football team, in an orchestra, in the human body, or the body of Christ, the church. There MUST be unity in our diversity if we are to really make a difference in the world. If we don’t join together – – we’re in trouble.
I want to go back to verse 7, where Paul said, 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
This is such an important point. Sometimes we begin thinking we were given these spiritual gifts for our own good. We start to use the gifts and begin to brag about how busy we are in the church and we tell the world how important we are and the church couldn’t exist without us.
That was happening in the Corinthian church and Paul wanted them to understand, and he wants us to learn this as well! Gifts are given so they can be used to build up the church, so we can have a greater impact on the world. The church is called to go into the world and make a difference – and we can do this when we use our gifts for the common good – – the body of Christ.
And you don’t get to choose what your gifts are. Paul told the Corinthians –
11 All these (gifts) are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as He wills.
So, you don’t get to choose. God determines your gifts. Our job is to learn about our gifts and then put them to use.
In his book, Doing Church as a Team, Pastor Wayne Cordeiro, wrote the following:
“Every member is a minister. God calls us to be full-time ministers! Full-time? Yes! Not just on Sundays, not just at Bible studies, but full-time.
Do we love God just part-time? Do we serve Him just part-time?
We are all full-time citizens of heaven with a commission and an assignment to accomplish during our stay here on this planet.
Before you are a businessman, you are a minister. Before you are a homemaker, you are a minister.
Before you are a student, a grandparent or a CEO, you are a minister.
Some may protest, ‘I work for the state, a construction company, a school, a hospital, a store, or say I’m retired, or I farm.
I don’t work for the church!
My company pays me, not the church! How can you say I am a full-time minister?’ (Doing Church as a Team, 37-38).
Isn’t that great?! You might not like what Cordeiro is saying because it means you need to move out of your comfort zone, but the fact is sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that we can just come and worship for an hour, leave, think good thoughts, but never really fulfill who God designed us to be. We miss the mark, and folks missing the mark is the definition of the word, sin. We end up missing our purpose, our plan for life, and when we miss it, we never attain the true joy and satisfaction God had planned for us all along.
When you think about it, the people who don’t know Christ at your workplace or school are more likely to listen to you than they would a pastor. Teachers are reached best through other teachers, nurses through other nurses, students through other students, and so forth. Of course, this does not mean the pastors sit back, drink coffee all day and tell jokes. It means our main job is to pray and equip the you for ministry.
The first step in being equipped for ministry is to have a relationship with God in which you know who God is calling you to be.
So, the question is this . . .
do you know what your gifts are?
If you do, are you using your gifts?
If you don’t know your gifts, there’s no better time to meet them.
I have spiritual gift inventories for you to complete. You can fill it out, it takes about 20-30 minutes, there are no right or wrong answers. I will score them, and give you your results.
Next week, we will take a little deeper look at spiritual gifts and move on from there. Remember, this is all about being excellent. Being an excellent Christ follower takes work. But the rewards are so great!