Summary: Our lack of progress is not due to the absence of certain sign gifts but our failure to utilize the gifts we have. Churches are struggling to make a mark in our communities because God’s people will not engage and put to use the gifts God has given to Hi
The Gift of Mercy and Ministry
God has given gifts to each of His children. In Acts 9:36-43, we are introduced to an ordinary lady with an extraordinary life. Tabitha is an example of one who had a combination of gifts. I want to speak to you on the topic of, “The Gift of Mercy and Ministry”
About the early church:
The 1st century church was the most spiritually gifted church in history. They had all the gifts of the Spirit: the sign gifts, the speaking gifts and the serving gifts. They spoke with tongues, they raised the dead and they spoke the oracles of God. Please understand the sign gifts were for the Jews. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 1:22, “the Jews require a sign.” As we read the New Testament, we will find that in every instance of the sign gifts being demonstrated –Jews were present. You will also see a definite decline in their use. For example, in the early days of Paul’s ministry (Acts 29:9-11) as he was preaching a long sermon, a young man fell asleep in the window. He fell out of it, three stories to the ground and was killed. Paul goes down and raises him from the dead. Later in life as an aged man nearing death, Paul tells Timothy (1 Timothy 5:23) to take a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities. If Paul could raise the dead, surely he could heal Timothy of his stomach problems right? Other examples can be given here but the point is: the sign gifts were already in a steep decline towards the end of the 1st century. But during the period of the early church –during that 1st century, this group of people was used in a tremendous way. They literally turned the world upside down for the cause of Christ and for the glory of God. No doubt, the gifts of the Spirit were a vital part in their effectiveness.
But that does not mean we are limited or cannot have the same impact in our current era as they had in theirs. The fact of the matter is we have more tools available to us than they had. We have the completed, inspired, inerrant Word of God. Published and preserved! We have freedom and ease of communication, printing, technology and the like. When you consider the early church it is truly amazing how they did so much with so little. At the same we are brought to the convicting reality that the modern church is the exact opposite. They did so much with so little and we do so little with so much!
The point I am making is that we must not excuse ourselves from the responsibility that the Lord has given to us. Our lack of progress is not due to the absence of the sign gifts but our failure to utilize the gifts we have. Churches are struggling to make a mark in our communities because God’s people will not engage and put to use the gifts God has given to His people.
In Acts 9, we find such an example. Tabitha was has an ordinary lady who lived an extraordinary life. She did not possess the sign gifts. She was not in a place of prominence. She did not have the status of a superstar or church celebrity. She was completely unknown outside her immediate sphere of influence. Yet God knew exactly who she was and He honors her faithfulness by including her in the book of Acts. There is a tremendous lesson here to be learned! You may not be in a place of high visibility. Your service and contribution may not be seen by the congregation –But the One who really matters, the One who sees all things, sees your labor of love and work of faith. God sees the body. We are members of one body, but we are members in particular. This passage illustrates this beautifully. God views Peter and Tabitha as equals in ministry.
As we consider this passage this morning, there are three things I want us to observe about the testimony of Tabitha. These three observations will help us gain a greater understanding these particular gifts.
When you look at the life of Tabitha you quickly notice that she invested her gifts.
1. Investing Her Gifts
Tabitha had and utilized at least 3 different spiritual gifts: the gift of ministry, the gift of helps or mercy, and the gift of giving. What are the characteristics of these gifts?
The Gift of Ministry: the term ministry literally means ‘service’. It is the God-given ability to help or serve joyfully and in love. This person has a built in need detector and they are happiest when they are helping others. They prefer to serve behind the scenes and avoid the ‘spotlight’.