Speaker: Rachel Newport
Following the festive break we are now returning to The Goose Chase series on the holy spirit. This week and next week we will be looking at gifts of the spirit however it is a huge topic so we won’t be able to cover everything in detail. There might be a bit of overlap with next week’s sermon but that’s ok. If God says something to you twice you know need to listen carefully!
Now I can’t help but notice that it is the first Sunday of 2024 and I bet some of you have made new year’s resolutions. I hate to start on a disheartening note but statistically speaking only around 14% of you will stick to your new years’ resolution. 30% of you will have abandoned your resolutions by the 10th of January. Are you feeling hopeful yet? Most people don’t manage to stick to their new year’s resolution because they are made in moments of excitement and inspiration without any sort of plan being made of how to achieve that goal. People also like to think big. Now I wouldn’t want to limit God in any way because as we all know he is the God of the impossible, but, if you have decided you want to sort out your spending habits, get organised, lose weight, read more and exercise more then that will seem quite overwhelming to achieve all in one go.
Last year my new years resolution was to become a “no” person rather than a “yes” person, with reference in particular to my job. It’s difficult objectively to measure my success in this goal but I think I have done relatively well. Part of this came from the necessity of going back to a busy job after being on maternity leave and not really having the option to stay late to finish excess work because I had a nursery pick-up to do.
So my point is this. Can I encourage you to hear what God wants to say to us this morning and then make a plan of how to put it into action. I am also speaking to myself when I say this! Don’t walk away thinking “that’s nice” and then not give it another thought once you’ve had your cup of coffee after the service. If you don’t know what your spiritual gifts are or you think you know what they are but you aren’t exercising them then make a plan. Even better, have accountability with a trusted Christian friend or church leader.
In James chapter 1 verse 22-24 we are instructed – Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.
I’m going to look at the topic of spiritual gifts in 3 parts today. The first is this:
1. Your spiritual gifts are not your own
I’m going to start by looking at a man named Bezalel in the Book of Exodus. To set the scene, the Israelites have left Egypt for the Promised land of Canaan and are wandering in the desert led by Moses. At Mount Sinai God gives Moses the 10 commandments written on two stone tablets. In Exodus chapter 25:9 God commanded the Israelites to build a tabernacle (a portable place of worship) where God could dwell in the midst of his people during their exile wandering through the desert “Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you”. The man who was tasked with building the tabernacle and the ark of the covenant (which is the ornate wooden chest that would contain the two stone tablets of the ten commandments) was Bezalel. This was a big deal and a lot of responsibility but God didn’t leave Bezalel to figure it out on it’s own. This is what God said about Bezalel in Exodus 31:3 - and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— This is the identical phrase (Rûah Elohim) used when the creation of the heavens and earth began in Genesis chapter 1 verse 2 “the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters”. This is a phrase we have heard many times during our series on the Holy Spirit. When the Spirit gifts Bezalel with skills, it is not for his own indulgence, but for others and to honour God. Paul echoes this sentiment in Ephesians 4:12 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up . Specifically, our spiritual gifts are to build up the family of believers.
The paradox here is that doing things to serve others builds us up and brings us joy. I’m sure you will know this from your own experience – giving someone a lift, a homeless person your spare change or sending someone an encouraging card. Some argue that this is why altruism (a self-less concern for the wellbeing of others) doesn’t exist. If using your spiritual gifts is actually bringing you joy then it isn’t truly altruistic?
Knowing that you are using your spiritual gifts for the benefit of others, especially within the family of God will bring you more joy. I think we could all do with a little more joy in our lives. There are lots of awful things happening in the world at the moment and the daily grind can get us all down but focussing on helping others through the power of the holy spirit reminds us of our Godly purpose.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 says "Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing."
The second thing I’d like us to look at is this:
2. So how do I know what my spiritual gifts are?
Let’s have a look what Paul says in Romans about spiritual gifts.
If you’d like to follow I’m reading from
Romans 12:4-8 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your[a] faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,[b] do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
The spiritual gift of serving always makes me think of those of us who make the brews after church on a Sunday. This is just one example of the spiritual gift of serving being exercised in the church. I often laugh to myself because I used to do this many years ago at another church, but the honest truth is I am terrible at making a brew for other people. I like my tea quite weak and milky which will sound disgusting to most of you I am sure! I get unduly anxious when I host anyone in my home and usually delegate the brew making to my husband if it is feasible. You’ll be relieved to hear that I haven’t helped to make the tea and coffee available after the service.
Let’s now take a look at Paul writing to the Corinthian church on the topic of spiritual gifts. I’m reading from
1 Cor 12:27-31 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles?30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues[a]?Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.
That last phrase seems to imply that not all spiritual gifts are equal i.e. the apostles and prophets are above those that speak in tongues for example. Christians can be divided on what Paul was meaning when he said this and I felt like I couldn’t skip past this last verse because it caught my attention.
A couple of points to consider when looking at this is that when spiritual gifts are listed in the bible they are different lists of gifts (with some overlap) and their order changes. In Romans 12 prophecy is listed first and mercy is last. I’m not going to dwell on this for too long but to explain this let’s look at Paul writing to the Ephesians for clarification
Ephesians chapter 2 verses 19-21 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.
Apostles and prophets founded the church so the list from Ephesians may just be a chronological order of the gifts manifesting in the church.
So moving on. Spiritual gifts can include our natural talents which have been transformed by the Holy Spirit but they can also be totally supernatural. This is why using some sort of Spiritual Gifts quiz is helpful but not a complete picture of your spiritual gifts. A quiz might only test your capabilities through your experience but may miss out on your potential. People who know you might be able to tell you what they think you’ll be good at but the best way is to just start doing something. Involves getting out of your comfort zone and It might mean hard work to master a skill. It doesn’t mean you have to be the best at everything.
Let's take the gift of knowledge for example. This is not a gift that is earned by studying God’s word with dedication (although this is an admirable and good thing to do). By definition you cannot earn a gift. The gift of knowledge is when supernaturally, God gives you some information that would be humanly impossible to otherwise know.
A biblical example of this can be found in 1 Samuel chapter 9. Saul was looking for his father’s donkeys and someone recommended he speak to Samuel who was nowhere near the donkeys and had never seen the donkeys. The day before Saul arrived to see Samuel God spoke to Samuel and told him that a man from the land of Benjamin would visit him and Samuel was to anoint him as a ruler over the Israelites. When Samuel explained this to Saul he also says in verse 20 As for the donkeys you lost three days ago, do not worry about them; they have been found.
There is no human way that Samuel could have known that Saul was to become a ruler nor the location of the donkey’s that Saul didn’t even mention when he spoke to Samuel. This was the gift of knowledge at work.
Another example is the gift of healing. I am sure we are all grateful for healthcare professionals that help us to heal from our physical ailments, but the spiritual gift of healing is supernatural. A type of healing that modern medicine can’t do that can only be from God.
Each of us as brother and sisters in Christ has spiritual gifts and each of us is different in our gifts. And I can guarantee that there is untapped potential spiritual gifting in you, the members of this church. Do not let your own thoughts about your gifts and abilities limit you.
The lists in Corinthians and Romans are not exhaustive. Now that upsets me a little because I like things to be categorised neatly in packages and that isn’t always the way that God works. Broadly speaking you can separate spiritual gifts into 3 categories. Gifts of ministry, gifts of manifestation and motivational gifts. This just one way that I personally find helpful to think about the gifts.
Ministry gifts include prophecy, pastoring, teachers and apostles (messenger).
Manifestational gifts include healing, a word of knowledge and speaking in tongues.
Motivational gifts include giving, encouraging and showing mercy.
Now there certainly is some overlap with these lists but it’s just an idea how you might want to think about it.
One personal example that I would like to share is the gift of generosity. I am certain that this is one of my spiritual gifts because my attitude towards giving money and time is unusual amongst most of the people I know and I truly believe that this is a spiritual gift, a manifestation of the holy spirit. I hope you can see I’m not listing this example to be “holier than thou”, I am just so aware of how generous God has been towards me.
As a child when I was growing up, we lived without much money with my parents and two siblings. My Mum recounts times when they had 17p in the bank account and had no idea where our next meal was coming from. Most of my clothes were second hand and we didn’t go on holidays unless someone from the church offered to pay for us. I was always that child in the school class photo standing out for wearing a non-uniform jumper because we simply couldn’t afford the uniform.
Coming from this sort of background often a natural response is to hoard money etc. But despite this I have always been known to be generous with my money and time. Once I left home aged 18 I became a poor student and even then I would give whenever I felt God prompted me (out of my student loan). This included putting money in envelopes to give to people God called me to and lots of other things. I just think it’s one of the ways that I stand out as a Christian in my workplace and amongst my friends and family. People that know me know that I couldn’t care less about money and it’s not just because I am no longer a poor student and have a job now. Where I can be generous in secret I do, but when that’s not possible I will give imperfectly and to the best of my ability prompted by the holy spirit.
Each of us have spiritual gifts! Just think of Dorcas in the book of Acts, making clothes. Or, think of what Jesus said about visiting those in prison, or giving a small cup of water to the very least. There is nothing too big or too small and none of us are a spare part. We are all needed.
So how do you find out what your spiritual gifts are?
- Pray and ask God
- Ask other Christians that know you
- Ask others to pray for you and fill you with the holy spirit (more on this in the next couple of weeks)
- Try a quiz (plenty online) but don’t be limited by it
- Step out of your comfort zone and try something new
3. So how do I put my spiritual gifts into practice?
Nicky Gumbel describes, ‘The church has been likened to a football match, in which thousands of people desperately in need of exercise watch twenty-two people desperately in need of rest!’
There may be seasons in your life where you exercise your spiritual gifts in different ways. Being Mum to a toddler with both parents working shifts means that I am somewhat temporarily limited in how I can serve the church with my spiritual gifts at this time. As previously discussed, nobody would want me to make you a cup of tea after the service and you certainly wouldn’t thank me for singing at the front. There will be seasons where you need to receive and be blessed by the spiritual gifts of others more than you are able to give back to the church and that is OK. That is us functioning as the body of Christ and I thank God for each one of you that blesses me with your spiritual gifts.
When we exercise our spiritual gifts we should do it peaceably and in unity. If anyone has ever worked in a team you know this is harder than it sounds but this is what God calls us to do.
Eph. 4:3-16 tells us:
"3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8 This is why it[a] says:
“When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.”[b]
9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions[c]? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work."
We should use our spiritual gifts without envy and with humility. Envying others comes naturally to most of us. We can look around at other people in church, admiring their talents and the devil wants you to believe that someone else’s gifts are better than yours. Do not allow this lie to rob you from blessing other believers and God through exercising and celebrating your spiritual gifts. Confess any envy in your heart then act like you aren’t envious and your heart will follow. I’m speaking to myself when I say this.
Galations 4:25-26 teaches us
Since we live by the spirit, let us keep in step with the spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
This is a thriving church but we have not yet reached our potential in terms of spiritual gifts. Think of all of the ministries that go on in this church to start. Trust house, kids life, life groups, little gems, SMASH. Think of how much maintenance a church building like this requires and the preparation and planning that goes into each service and event. There are so many ways we can bless each other through our spiritual gifts.
To conclude, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are for those who have received salvation so if you haven’t accepted Jesus as your Lord and Saviour I would encourage you to speak to one of our church leaders before you go today if you want to know more and I know they would love to pray with you.
What are your spiritual gifts? Make it your new year’s resolution to find out what they are through prayer and wise counsel. Put them put them into practice with humility, peace and grace to bless your church family.
I will finish with 1 Peter 4:10
“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace … ” (1 Peter 4:10).