Finding Your Spiritual Gifts
1 Corinthians 12:1-11
Hetty Green died in 1916 living like a pauper. She left an estate with an estimated value of $100 Million Dollars, which is the equivalent of more than 1 billion dollars today. Hetty regularly ate cold oatmeal because it cost too much to heat it. Her son had his leg amputated because she took so long to get him adequate care while looking for a free clinic. Hetty died in the midst of an argument over milk. She argued that skim was best because it was the cheapest. She was wealthier than just about anyone in the world but she lived like the poorest of the poor. She never enjoyed nor benefited from the riches that were hers.
A second person I heard about lived on the West Coast of America living in poverty until one day he found out that he was the only living heir to a British Nobleman. He immediately went to the store and bought the best suit he could find, bought a 1st class ticket to London returning to England in style and then lived the life of a Nobleman! He received what was rightfully his and he began to act upon it! Which illustration best describes your spiritual life?
In our Scripture today, Paul said, I” do not want you to be ignorant.” Six times in his letters, Paul uses that phrase: twice in reference to the Jewish people regarding Jesus, once in reference to his plans to visit the church at Rome and share the Gospel with them, once regarding the sufferings he and his team had endured throughout Asia, once in reference to the end times and the resurrection of the dead, and here, where he says “I do not want you to be ignorant” about spiritual gifts. Spiritual gifts are special abilities distributed by the Holy Spirit to every believer according to God’s design and grace. They are spiritual endowments used for the ministry and purposes of God so that each of us can make our own unique contribution in the name of Christ to glorify God and continue the ministry of Jesus Christ. Spiritual gifts allow us to serve one another better because we are no longer drawing on our own abilities and power but rather are using God’s abilities in us and drawing upon the power of God as we minister in the name of Jesus. Just as your passion answers the where question, where you are to serve, spiritual gifts answer the what question, what you are to do when you serve.
There are five things Paul has to say about spiritual gifts. First, Paul explains that a spiritual gift is a manifestation of the Holy Spirit . Verse 7. The term "spiritual" is appropriate because the origin of all spiritual gifts is the Holy Spirit who equips us. It is also appropriate because the purpose of these gifts is spiritual and not worldly in nature. They are meant to do God’s work in the kingdom. They are referred to as "gifts" because that is what they are. They are gifts given to us. They were not chosen by us, or earned by us. In fact, the Greek word translated as "gifts" in Romans 12:5 is "charismata", which means "special gifts of grace." In other words, any ability we have is 100% the result of God’s grace toward us. What is grace? It is undeserved favor from God. You see, you can learn a skill, you can acquire a talent, but you’re given a gift. A gift is not something you can earn. It’s not something you can learn. It’s something that’s given to you and spiritual gifts are given by the Spirit.
Second, spiritual gifts are given “for the common good.” Spiritual gifts are not given to glorify you, to make you feel important, to make you better about yourself or better than someone else. They’re given for the benefit of others, for the common good of the whole church. As we learned last week, they are to build up other believers and to build or expand the kingdom of God. In other words, it allows you to minister to others and love them by serving them in the name of Jesus. They do one other thing. They make following and serving God fun and that allows us to serve God with a joyful heart. Spiritual gifts makes doing the work of God fun and fulfilling, because when you’re exercising your spiritual gift or gifts, especially if it’s also in an area you’re passionate about, as we discussed last week, you experience the presence of God in your midst, you ca see God at work through you and you can experience its impact. So gifts are for the common good and you are part of that common good. There’s nothing better.
Third, every believer is given at least one spiritual gift. Paul makes a point of saying that gifts work in all men and that he gives them to each one. Spiritual gifts are not limited to those who have are leaders in the church, or to those who are called into fulltime ministry. "We (not I or some) have different gifts according to the grace given us." vs. 6. When you become a Christian, the Holy Spirit will manifest himself, and one of the ways he does that is in the giving and us using those spiritual gifts. This differentiates a spiritual gift from abilities or talent or skills; abilities or talents may interact with a spiritual gift, and spiritual gifts are often exercised in areas where a talent or skill already exists, but a spiritual gift is a manifestation and empowerment of the Spirit to do the work of God. It may look like a talent or skill, but it is much more than that because God is working in the midst of that gift. So Spiritual Gifts are not us, but God within us!
Fourth, there is a diversity of spiritual gifts (vv. 8-10) Each person is given a gift so they can play a critical role in God’s work of salvation in the world. Paul says, “there are all kinds of spiritual gifts,” and he lists a few of them in our Scripture today. We know that this is not an exhaustive list because elsewhere in his writings, Paul mentions spiritual gifts that are not among the nine listed here. Through the three main passages Paul wrote concerning spiritual gifts, a list of 21 spiritual gifts and then two from the Old Testament, totaling 23. So Christians by necessity have differing spiritual gifts to accomplish all God wants and each is critically important.
Fifth, we are mutually dependent on one another. Paul uses the human body as an example. "Each of us have one body with many members that do not all serve the same function." Just like it is necessary for us to have eyes, ears, hands, mouths, and feet all working together to function correctly and efficiently, so it is necessary in the church that people have different gifts which they use cooperatively for the common good.
When you came in you received Lego building blocks of differing sizes and shapes. I’ve got a challenge for you; I want you to build something with your Lego blocks but there is one condition, you cannot use anybody else’s Lego block. Now what can you build with one Lego block? The answer is nothing! Some of you have received very large Lego blocks which everyone can easily see but you still can’t build anything with it by yourself. Some of you have received small Lego blocks which are almost unnoticeable to others, but despite their small size you could still build a wonderful building if you were to cooperate with others. This is how it is in the church. We all have gifts of different shapes and sizes, i.e. function and even prominence, but it is only when we all work together that we can build up the church of the living God.
How many houses are built using only a hammer? None! How many symphonies are played using only one type of instrument? None! How many healthy churches are built by one or two gifted individuals? The answer is none! God has made the church "one body with many members" with each member having a different and vital function through their gifts. Verse 5 says we are "one body, and each member belongs to all the others." This means we are all mutually dependent and responsible for every other Christian. We need each other and we have an obligation to use our gifts to benefit the whole church. In the same way that all the members of a football team belong to each other in the sense that they need each other and are responsible to do their part for the team to be a winner, so the individual Christian can’t do God’s work alone but must operate as a member of the team to which they belong.
So you, if you are a Christian, you have a spiritual gift . . . right now . . . and it’s a gift that the Spirit of God, in his sovereign, infinite wisdom has chosen for you. So you don’t have to wonder if you have a gift, you don’t even have to earn it to get it. You just have to identify it. If you want more fun and more fulfillment in your life with God: discover your spiritual gift or gifts and finding where God wants you to serve, that’s your passion. If you do that, you will experience a level of fun and fulfillment that is unmatched and lift your spiritual life to heights you didn’t know were possible. So how do you discover your spiritual gift or gifts?
Last week, we worked through a Passion Assessment in the final moments of our celebration. How many of you now have a clearer idea of God’s passion set in your heart today? This morning, we’re going to have you fill out the “Spiritual Gift Assessment” that was included in your bulletin. I know it’s lengthy, but I’m going to give you time to go through it, and then I’ll explain how to score yourself and figure it out. Right now, let’s take a few moments to prayerfully assess your spiritual gift . . .
What happens you use your spiritual gifts? 1. You contribute your part to the body of Christ and God’s work in the world, allowing the body to work to its full capacity. 2. 3. When you use your gifts, you will be obedient. If you are busy doing anything for God . . . good. If you are busy discovering your gift . . . better. If you are developing and serving using your gift . . . best. 4. When you use your gifts, you will grow in your effectiveness in ministry. In other words, you will have a great impact for God.