An element of my sermon this week that received positive feedback was a comparison of spiritual gifts that I found in the Romans volume of the Life Application Commentary series. This table provides an example of how different gifts might respond to the same situation.
The situation is this: A family obviously struggling with poverty has just walked into a worship service and captured the attention of the whole congregation, at least out of the corner of people’s eyes.
|The prophets will ask the congregation||What is wrong in our society or neighborhood that needs to be corrected? What caused this family to experience these problems?|
|The servers will ask the person||Are there others we need to help too?|
|The teachers will ask the person||What can we do for you?|
|The encouragers will say to the person||How can we help you avoid this situation in the future? What skills, wisdom, and spiritual insights will give you better direction?|
|The givers will ask the person||You must be feeling bad. Please know that we will care for you any way we can. Before you know it, you will be helping someone else.|
|The leaders will ask the church||How much will we need to meet these needs? How can the church respond to this need in the most effective manner?|
|The merciful||Will probably not ask any questions, but welcome the person with smiles, hugs, warm acceptance, and understanding.|
Life Application Bible Commentary: Romans p236
None of these responses are more correct than another. Love motivates each of people and they are obviously using their gifts to serve others. Yet, according to their gifts, each person responds to a different aspect of the family’s circumstances.
A significant theme surrounding the concept of Spiritual Gifts is “unity”. Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 both talk of different gifts, but one body. Ephesians 4 contains one of the strongest unity passages in the Bible in verses 2-6:
Always be humble and gentle. Patiently put up with each other and love each other. Try your best to let God’s Spirit keep your hearts united. Do this by living at peace. All of you are part of the same body. There is only one Spirit of God, just as you were given one hope when you were chosen to be God’s people. We have only one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. There is one God who is the Father of all people. Not only is God above all others, but he works by using all of us, and he lives in all of us. CEV
Then just after encouraging the church toward oneness, Paul describes how Christ gave the church people with a variety of gifts “so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity…”.
When we read the table above, and the various responses it’s difficult to see how that church could have unity as it decides how to respond to the family’s plight. Yet that’s exactly what God seeks from the church. Our spiritual gifts are to serve, express love and unite us to each other. As Ephesians 4:2 notes, it requires “humility, gentleness, patience and love”. Recognising our spiritual gifts is a first step to working with them.
In his book “What You Do Best in the Body of Christ” (rev. ed. 2005) Bruce Bugbee writes,
God is glorified and people are edified in the church that teaches and develops gift-based ministries. God is honored and pleased when the gifts he has given are used to glorify him in ministering to others. Jesus called attention to the kind of deeds that are done in such a way that people may see them and glorify the Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16). When spiritual gifts are properly expressed, people can see the servant’s motivation to serve others, noting that these acts of servanthood could only be the result of a heart that has been truly transformed by a loving, gracious, and caring God. This truly models God’s love for the world. (p43)
- What questions do you still have about Spiritual Gifts?
- Can you give an example of when someone else’s spiritual gift has filled a weakness you have to allow you to work well together?
- How do you decide where to serve in God’s kingdom? Does your gifting play a role in your decision?