1 Cor 12:1,4-20 WHAT DOES GOD WANT? 6/6/04S&C
What does God want? Have you ever wondered? I remember agonizing in prayer one day, and suddenly God appeared in the clouds. I remember it well. It was a blazing sunny day—the only sunny day of my childhood. He spoke to me directly, and told me in detail exactly what He wanted me to do for my whole life. It was incredible! You know what ‘incredible’ means, don’t you? Unbelievable.
But what does He want? Sometimes you read biographies or hear speakers that sound a little like ‘the above’. It is estimated that during D L Moody’s lifetime, he traveled more than one million miles, spoke to more than 100 million people, and led hundreds of thousands, if not millions, to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Presidents Lincoln and Grant both attended his famous revival services. I am told that after the great Chicago fire that destroyed his lecture hall and schools, Dwight Moody was in desperate need of funding--big funding—to re-build. As he was walking down the street, he approached a man he knew, and asked him for a million dollars. That would take more nerve than I possess, but Moody did it. The surprising thing was that the man pulled out his chequebook and gave it to him. Tell me the Holy Spirit was not involved.
George Mueller was exactly the opposite; he never once asked anyone for money, but he ran orphanages on his knees. Any time he needed anything, he went straight to the Lord, and the Lord took care of it. In an autobiography, he said, “Let not Satan deceive you in making you think you could not have the same faith , but that it is only for persons situated as I am…I pray to the Lord and expect an answer to my requests; and may not you do the same, dear believing reader?”
The implication is that if you’re spiritual enough, you can do it, but I don’t know anyone who could run an orphanage on his knees today. And if anyone could do it, why weren’t there more orphanages run that way in his day? Certainly there was great need, as there is today. But here is an example of his faith:
One morning the plates and cups and bowls on the table were empty. There was no food in the larder, and no money to buy food. The children were standing waiting for their morning meal, when Mueller said, "Children, you know we must be in time for school." Lifting his hand he said, "Dear Father, we thank Thee for what Thou art going to give us to eat."
There was a knock on the door. The baker stood there, and said, "Mr. Mueller, I couldn’t sleep last night. Somehow I felt you didn’t have bread for breakfast and the Lord wanted me to send you some. So I got up at 2 a.m. and baked some fresh bread, and have brought it." Mueller thanked the man.
No sooner had this transpired when there was a second knock at the door. It was the milkman. He announced that his milk cart had broken down right in front of the Orphanage, and he would like to give the children his cans of fresh milk so he could empty his wagon and repair it. No wonder, years later, when Mueller was to travel the world as an evangelist, he would be heralded as "the man who gets things from God!"
In his seventy years of ministry, he received seven and a half million dollars from God. Today, that’s not a lot of money, but Mueller, a Lutheran pastor, lived in the early eighteen hundreds! Do you pray in that league?
And was he correct? Could anyone pray like that? Now, he had an advantage; until he was saved at twenty, he was a thief, and he was good at it. He became pastor of a large church as well as director of eight orphanages, and his yearly salary was $8,000, of which he gave away all but $1,800. Perhaps that’s why God gave him the phenomenal gift of faith that he never really recognized as such. He honestly believed that God would do the same for anyone. I’m not sure if Moody’s gift was faith or miracles, or both, along with his gift for evangelism. He never talked much about gifts either. It was simply not a hot topic in those days, but he surely recognized the Holy Spirit’s influence in his ministry.
The problem is that sincere, modern day disciples reading about these men, and others like them, usually come away feeling frustrated and inadequate. It simply doesn’t work like that for them, and they question their spirituality or even God. God does not play favourites; He is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. Then how do we explain Mueller and Moody, and a host of others? We simply cannot put God in a box and insist that He always act the same way. He may not change, but His actions certainly can and will, according to the situation and need. The success of the ministries of Mueller and Moody, and us, is largely a result of the gifts of the Holy Spirit at work within us.
You don’t have one? Or do you simply not recognize it, as these giants didn’t? Peter Wagner has identified 27 different gifts of the Spirit. They are listed on the back of the Missions Prayer Bulletin. These are gifts referred to in the scriptures, but the list may not be complete. Are you good in any of these areas? Perhaps you are gifted there. Sometimes, it’s better to ask a spouse or a friend what your gifts are; they are more objective.
I thought I was gifted mechanically, but I’ve always had that ability, so it’s not a gift of the Spirit. I remember the day I listened to God in Collingwood, and took a step towards ministry. He was so pleased that He gave me the gifts of service and of pastor. My outlook changed from that day. A concern for the needs of others replaced my former selfishness. Oh, I didn’t become perfect all at once; that took several years—which are only beginning—but it was an obvious start.
There are three lists of gifts in the Bible: Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4. They are all set in the context of the Body of Christ. God isn’t interested in any ‘Lone Rangers’; He wants us to use our gifts to supplement others’ gifts so the Church will grow—spiritually and numerically. The greatest teaching we have about the gifts is in 1 Corinthians 12, where Paul is trying to help the Corinthian Church see that all the gifts are equal in value, that not everyone has the same gifts, and that the gifts are for the benefit of the whole church.
Some folks have a gift of helps. They often think their gift is not very valuable, but when it’s missing, confusion often results. These folk are gifted to do ‘behind the scenes’ work. Often no-one knows about it, until it’s not done. The many gifts of helps and service displayed at District Conference made it an enjoyable experience for everyone. Some folks actually wore armbands that said, in effect, “I have the gift of service. Ask me.” Zellers has taken a page from the scriptures, and is doing a similar thing in their stores.
When Paul says, in 1 Corinthians 12:31, “eagerly desire the best gifts”, he is not saying that each one should desire the best gifts for himself, but that, as a church, they should desire the best gifts for their church. Again, a gift is a gift; you don’t ask for it. 1 Cor 12:11 says the H S decides who gets what. Verse 18 says God arranges the gifts in the body just as He wants them to be.
At EBC, there was a group that got the reputation of being a ‘holy club’. They all shared similar gifts, and hung around together. They didn’t exclude anyone, but others were intimidated by them. Looking back, I suspect the whole school would have benefited if they had been more willing to mix and share. God doesn’t like ‘Lone Rangers’, but neither does He like ‘Holy Clubs’. The gifts are given to share with the whole body.
Your gift or gifts are an indicator of what God wants from you. If you are a great teacher, which some of you are, it’s highly unlikely that God wants you to do office work—administration—unless, of course, you also have a gift in that area. If you are comfortable having people into your home for a study, or prayer, or a visit, it may be that you have the gift of hospitality, but if you get paranoid when someone knocks on your door, probably you don’t. The fact is that if you’re a Christian, you have at least one gift to share with the Church. That’s your birthday gift from the HS when you were born again. Strange as it may seem, He wants you to use it. 1 Peter 4:10 says, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Cor 12:7 says the gifts are for the common good ie. to benefit everyone.
Some of you may be familiar with John MacArthur from California. His church has grown at 500% per decade. He claims the reason for the growth is simple—the church is organized around the spiritual gifts: teachers teach, leaders lead, prayers pray, and givers give. All the gifts complement each other, and God blesses their efforts.
Stuart Briscoe, in Illinois, has an army of gifted helpers that do plumbing, electrical, auto repairs, lawn care, cooking, housework—you name it—for those who are not able to do it for themselves, some temporarily, some long-term, some Christians, some not. But how does cutting a non-Christian’s grass benefit the Church? It’s a contact, for starters; it often gives an opportunity to share their faith, and introduce them to Jesus. Rock Mills Youth did something similar a couple of weeks back; they washed cars for free as an opportunity to present a pamphlet that explained the Gospel. I haven’t heard the results yet, but those kids received a blessing and had a lot of fun just working together for the Lord. “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” Galatians 6:10 We are told to do good, especially, but not exclusively, for Christians.
But what if people take advantage of us? Well, they took advantage of Jesus—they followed Him to be healed. But once healed, they followed Him for who He was. It may not—no, it will not—happen every time, and God told us not to throw our pearls before swine, but, until we try, we may not be able to distinguish between the sheep and the swine. God loves the swine, too. Did that ever occur to you? We are cautioned not to throw our pearls to them, but nowhere are we told not to pray for them. If God could turn Saul around, He can turn your neighbour around, too.
Just because you don’t have the gift of intercession doesn’t let you off the hook to pray; just because you don’t have the gift of evangelism doesn’t excuse you from sharing your faith at every opportunity. Those who are gifted will simply have more opportunity and perhaps, better results. Brad Bright, son of Bill Bright, said that his dad didn’t have the gift of evangelism, but he loved God so much that he talked about Him everywhere he went to anyone who would listen. Actually, Bill Bright was rather reserved, and he had to overcome the shyness to share with others. Even on vacations, Dad would suddenly disappear, and we would turn around to find him telling someone about the Lord.
Brad says, in his book, when Dad got a wrong number caller, he would them about Jesus. When he was riding in a taxi, he would tell the driver about Jesus. He talked to CEOs, carry-out boys, doctors, hotel maids, criminals, lawyers, and politicians.
The gifts of the Spirit are an indication of the direction He wants each of us to take. But whether we think we are gifted or not, there are certain things we should do, simply because we’re Christians. One of those things is to tell others what God has done for us. No one can argue with that. And if you can’t think of something He has done for you, or in you, recently, then you’d better have a talk with Him. The Christian life is a life of growth and change towards becoming like Jesus. It never stops in this life. The gifts that He gives us are simply tools to help us, and to help us help others, to be more like Him.
That’s what God wants!
Father, thank You for the challenge you’ve given us to tell the World about You.
Thank You for the gifts of the Holy Spirit that give us direction and make us more effective in your work. Help us be faithful in acknowledging and developing our gifts.
Help us together, to make a difference in our world for You. Help us to always do what You want. Amen.