Summary: I used a jigsaw puzzle to illustrate how spiritual gifts operate in the body of Christ.
Most of you know that Mary and I really enjoy putting together jigsaw puzzles. It’s a fun activity that we can do together and we can actually talk with each other while we’re working on the puzzle. And if any of you are interested, we’ve even brought a bunch of our old puzzles to church and you can find them on the bookshelf in the lounge area. Feel free to take some home for your family. I just have to warn you that many of them are missing a few pieces which apparently fell on the floor and were eaten by our dogs.
I am happy to report that last Sunday we finished our latest 1,000 piece puzzle and we actually had all 1,000 pieces when we finished for a change. And this week as I was thinking about spiritual gifts, I realized that a jigsaw puzzle is the perfect way to illustrate some important truths about spiritual gifts. So this morning’s message is going to be one big “In the Bag” message. You’ll notice that there is no sermon outline in your bulletin this morning. There will be no PowerPoint for the sermon this morning, either. This morning’s message is one to be experienced more that it is to be an academic learning exercise.
However, I do want to encourage you to stay for the “Connections” Bible study afterwards where we will have a chance to dig into this topic in some more detail. If that time is anywhere near as edifying as it was last week, I know it will be a valuable use of your time.
So go ahead and take your Bibles and turn to 1 Corinthians chapter 12 and follow along as I read the first 11 verses of that chapter:
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.
(1 Corinthians 12:1-11 ESV)
[Hand out puzzle pieces to congregation]
Let’s imagine that the puzzle pieces I just handed out to you are spiritual gifts. The first thing that we can learn about spiritual gifts this morning is that they are received, not achieved. None of you did anything to achieve the puzzle piece that I just gave to you. You didn’t earn it, you didn’t develop it. In fact, you didn’t even ask for it, did you? And none of you got to determine which piece you received. I made that determination.
That’s a pretty good picture of how we receive spiritual gifts from God. Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit apportions to each one as he wills. He alone determines which gift or gifts He gives to each person. And He is the one who empowers those gifts. So one of the first things we can learn about spiritual gifts is that they are different than talents.
A talent is something that I can develop in my life. Although it is true that most talents are also God-given, even unbelievers have talents. But they don’t have spiritual gifts. For instance, we have some people in this body like Susan and both Steve Ponzos who have musical talent. And I think they would all agree that they have that talent because God has gifted them with it. But because it is a talent, and not a spiritual gift, it is something that they can develop on their own by practice and training.
You may have noticed that Steve the Younger is not here this morning. That’s because he and Jeremy are up in the woods attempting to develop a new ability of bow hunting. And when they return tomorrow, we’ll see how that’s going.
We have others like Gene Melzer and Jim Copeland who have great talents when it comes to maintaining, repairing and fixing things. And I could go on since all of us have talents and abilities. But they are different than spiritual gifts. But there are a lot of unbelievers who also have musical and mechanical talents.