Summary: The Goal of the Gifts is the Good of All
Prismatic Gifts 2 2 Corinthians 12:4-7
The Goal of the Gifts is the Good of All
Chuck Swindoll tells a story about a man living in Atlanta who was flipping through the Yellow Pages in search of a restaurant. His noticed an entry for a place called The Church of God Grill. His curiosity got the best of him and he dialed the number. A man answered with a cheery, "Hello! Church of God Grill!"
He asked how the restaurant had gotten such an unusual name. "Well,” the man answered, “we had a little mission down here, and we started selling chicken dinners after church on Sunday to help pay the bills. People loved the chicken, and we did such a good business, we found ourselves needing to shorten up our church services in order to get enough dinners ready on time. After a while we closed down the church altogether and just served chicken dinners. We kept the name we started with, and that’s Church of God Grill.”(Charles Paul Conn, Making it Happen, quoted in Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart, p 214 )
It’s easy to lose our focus, isn’t it? As crazy as the story of the Church of God Grill may sound, it’s easy enough to fall into. The folks at the Church of God Grill stopped looking at their mission, and focused instead on what was popular & successful. You don’t have to do that for long before you find yourself serving chicken instead of saving souls.
The church in Corinth had lost its focus. Instead of using the gifts God had given them accomplish His purposes, they had gotten wrapped up in the gifts themselves: fighting over who had the best gifts and determining their relative worth based on their spiritual gift.
It is a tragic irony, that often, the gifts that were given by God to strengthen the church, have become a source of division in churches for centuries. Satan has two great ways to use spiritual gifts to hurt churches: one is to make us focus too much on the gifts instead of the Giver and the Goal, the other is to make us shy away from them – or from some of them – often with the argument that they cause division in the church. The problem in Corinth wasn’t that they were ignoring the gifts of the Holy Spirit – their church abounded with gifts. But the folks there had lost their focus. Even though Paul had never been to the Church of God Grill, he knew that their improper focus threatened to destroy the church. And so he reminds them of two vital priorities for restoring focus.
The first Priority is “The Giver is more important than the Gifts” (vss 4-6)
The Holy Spirit gives a variety of gifts
Rarely in the Scriptures will you find something repeated three times in a row.
But Paul does that here
If he goes to all that trouble, there must be a significant reason.
“there are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit;
“…different ways of serving, but the same Lord
“…different abilities to perform service, but the same God”
Each phrase has two words in common:
When we look around at the gifts in our congregation, we see a broad variety:
and we could name more
But where did those gifts come from?
the same Spirit
the same Lord
the same God
What Paul is pointing out through this is that having (or not having) a certain gift doesn’t make one person any better than another.
Because each of us has received a gift or a number of gifts, from God Himself
We lose perspective when we start thinking of the gift and stop thinking about the giver.
There is a tendency I have observed to minimize our own gifts and see others as having greater ones
Part of the reason is that when we operate in the area of our gifts, it feels so natural, we think, “Oh, ANYBODY could do that!”
One time I was at a prayer meeting with my friend Ann, whom many of you met. We had to gather in groups and pray with folks we’d never met before. Our group consisted of Ann & I, a pastor from another church and his wife, who were both probably in their 60’s and three middle school girls.
The person up front would give us some guidance and ask us to pray for several minutes, then he’d give us some more areas to pray about and we’d go to prayer again. The three girls obviously felt VERY uncomfortable, which rubbed off on the rest of us. None of them prayed or contributed to our discussion. With each little prayer session, the feeling of awkwardness grew. I found myself getting frustrated, but had no idea how to do anything about it.