Summary: All believers have at least one gift that can be put into service for Christ and his Church.
Traditionally they have been called “child prodigies.” Although educators often label them as “gifted and talented.” They are young people blessed with unbelievable intelligence, or amazing artistic talents, or seemingly unnatural physical abilities. We have all heard stories about a twelve-year-old graduating from medical school, or a six-year-old playing concert worthy classical music on the piano. Examples of child prodigies would include Mozart who learned to play the piano at the age of four. He composed his first pieces of music at five and at age eight, he wrote his first symphony. Another example would be Pablo Picasso who had already become an accomplished and renowned painter in his teenage years. In more recent history many of you have probably seen the video of Tiger Woods as a two-year-old on the Tonight Show hitting golf balls. Two years ago a young man named Michael Kearney received national attention when he earned a $1,000,000 on the television game show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” He too was a “child prodigy.” Michael finished high school at age 6 and earned his first college degree at age 10. He actually began teaching college by the age of 17. He spoke his first words when he was four months old. At the age of six months, he said to his pediatrician, “I have a left ear infection.” He had learned to read at the age of ten months. When Michael was four, he was given diagnostic tests for the Johns Hopkins precocious math program and achieved a perfect score.
Although their stories astound us, such gifted individuals are very rare. They are the exception to the rule as we say. The vast majority of us are astoundingly average. And yet as I look at you today I can say with confidence that each of you is gifted. Before you deny being gifted remember that I am not the one saying you are gifted. God says it of you and God cannot lie. Listen to God’s description of how you are gifted. (Read text.) As we direct our attention to the Apostle Paul’s inspired words from 1 Corinthians 12 we hear God say to each of us:
“YOU ARE GIFTED!”
I. The Holy Spirit has given you the gift of faith
II. The Holy Spirit has given you gifts for serving others
Four times in this letter that we call “1 Corinthians” the Apostle Paul used a short phrase like “now about” to transition to a new thought or topic. Remember that Paul addressed a long list of spiritual and practical concerns connected to the Christian church in Corinth. In the first eleven chapters he wrote about divisions in the church, lawsuits between Christians, sexual immorality, marriage, adiaphora (that is something not commanded or forbidden by Scripture), worship, and the Lord’s Supper. Then beginning in Chapter 12 and continuing through Chapter 14 Paul addressed the issue of spiritual gifts among Christians. The text we are considering marks the beginning of his thorough treatment of the topic.
In a style that we have learned to expect from the Apostle Paul he began by simply saying, “Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant.” With those words Paul was beginning a lesson on gifts given to Christians by the Holy Spirit. As he stated he was setting out to lead the Corinthians out of their ignorance into a better understanding of spiritual gifts. But this would be more than a doctrinal lesson for the Corinthians. They would learn that they were gifted people. The Holy Spirit had given them the gift of faith and the Holy Spirit had given them gifts for serving others. May we too be led to understand that those truths apply to us as well. The Lord of the Church is still speaking through these inspired words saying to each of us, “You are gifted! You too have been given the gift of faith. And you too have been given gifts to serve others.”
Perhaps I am stating the obvious when I say that any intellectual, artistic, musical, or athletic abilities that a child has are gifts. No child prodigy decided to be born a genius, an artist, or an athletic superstar. Yes, it is true that people like Mozart, Picaso, and Tiger Woods had parents that helped them develop their gifts but clearly they were gifted at birth with abilities above and beyond those of the average person.
In a similar way none of us can take credit for being gifted in the area of spiritual things. It was the Holy Spirit that first of all gave us the gift of faith in Christ. Through the Means of Grace, the Word and the Sacraments, the Holy Spirit has brought to each of us the gifts of forgiveness, spiritual life, and salvation. And it is also the Holy Spirit that has given each of us gifts to use for serving others.