Summary: In order to serve according to our giftedness, we must make sure that we not only understand spiritual gifts, we must discover, develop and deploy our gift mix. Since ignorance about this topic may be a chief cause of retarded spiritual growth, it’s impe
Defrosting Your Spiritual Assets
A man from Illinois decided to travel to Wisconsin to go duck hunting. He shot and dropped a bird, but it fell into a farmer’s field on the other side of the fence. As the flatlander climbed over the fence, a dairy farmer drove up on his tractor and asked what was going on. The hunter said, “I shot a duck and I’m retrieving it.” The old farmer replied, “This is my property and you’re not coming over here!”
Well, this made the hunter mad so he said, “If you don’t let me come over the fence I’ll call my Chicago lawyer and I’ll sue you.” The farmer smiled and said, “Apparently you don’t know how we do things up here. We settle disagreements with the Wisconsin three-kick rule. I’ll kick you three times, and then you kick me three times, and so on, back and forth, until someone gives up.”
The Illini liked this challenge because he thought he could easily take the old farmer. The Wisconsin Badger climbed down from the tractor and planted the steel toe of his heavy work boot into the man’s shin. The man fell to his knees. His second kick went directly to his stomach, knocking the wind out of him. The farmer than landed his third kick to the side of the hunter’s head. The disoriented man slowly got up and said, “Okay, you old codger, now it’s my turn!” To which the farmer responded, “Nah, I give up. You can have the duck.”
Many of us battle over things as well. Sometimes we fight because of a lack of information and other times we kick people simply because we want to. As we’ve been learning in our series called, “Improving Your Serve,” most of us default to our selfish settings instead of looking for ways to put others first. Two weeks ago we focused on checking our motives, preparing for problems, putting the needs of others first, and following the example of Christ. Last week we learned that we must surrender our bodies, minds, and wills to God and have a proper estimate of ourselves before we can effectively serve.
The whole topic of spiritual gifts has been a battleground for many years, going back to the church at Corinth. This tension can result from an overemphasis on certain gifts, or it can come because we like to pick fights with those who are wired differently than we are.
Before we jump into our text in 1 Corinthians 12, let’s set the context. The Corinthian church was beset with many problems and difficulties. 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. In particular, some people thought they were more important than others because they had some pretty spectacular gifts. When Paul wrote this letter to the church he specifically addressed these issues.
Chapter 12 gives us six directives to help us defrost our spiritual assets.
1 Be Informed About Spiritual Gifts
When we come to 1 Corinthians 12-14 we see that Paul wanted to make sure that they had a proper understanding about spiritual gifts. The church at Corinth desperately needed instruction on this topic, and so do we. Notice verse 1 of chapter 12: “Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant.” This is a topic that is too important for believers to be uninformed about and it’s certainly too critical to fight about. John MacArthur writes, “No local congregation will be what it should be…until it understands spiritual gifts” (“The Church,” Page 136).
Definition. Let’s begin by defining what a spiritual gift is. One of the best definitions I’ve come across is from Bruce Bugbee, founder and president of Network Ministries: “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).
Difference between spiritual gifts and natural abilities. It’s important to recognize that a spiritual gift is given by the Holy Spirit at conversion, whereas a natural talent is something we’re born with. While we must yield our talents and abilities to the Lord’s work, we must pay particular attention to unleashing our spiritual gifts for the good of the body of Christ.
Difference between spiritual gifts and the fruit of the Spirit. Both the fruit of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:22-23) and spiritual gifts are necessary for a life of servanthood, but they make very different contributions. This chart helps to explain the difference:
(chart to come)
Distinct categories. While there are many ways to categorize the gifts of the Sprit, I like the one suggested by Chuck Swindoll. He sees three gift groupings. Based on 1 Peter 4:11, there are two primary areas of distinction: speaking and serving. The third category would include the “sign gifts,” which are more temporary in nature. 2 Corinthians 12:12 says that these gifts were given to the apostles and were critical to the church in its embryonic stage: “The things that mark an apostle-signs, wonders and miracles-were done among you with great perseverance.” These gifts were especially important in the first century, before the cannon of Scripture was put together. 1 Corinthians 13:8 suggests that many of these kinds of gifts will cease to function: “Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.”