This week's Bible Study - January 3, 2016

Equipped with God's Gifts

Background Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12:4-11  

Quotes of the Week:
I would like to think all our gifts and talents and abilities come from God. Margaret Keane

If you are a fan of college football, the end of a calendar year and the start of a new year is a great time for you! One of the commercials that played often in the 2015-2016 Bowl Season was the AllState Mayhem Do It Yourself (DIY) commercial. In it, there are several people that created mayhem in their own projects. Although I am sure others know more about it than I do, the intent was to vote for the 'favorite' and then all of their tools would be taken away. It's quite humorous, in concept. If that were true, I probably wouldn't own any tools, due to the many 'mayhem' moments I've created in my own home projects. Often the problems in these types of projects is the use of the improper tool. In one of the instances, a person had to cut a tree down, so he went to find the biggest chainsaw he could find. Perhaps that was the best tool, but perhaps it wasn't. I've noticed that the good DIY people tend to have the right tool for almost any situation (and they know how to use it - and thankfully they are neighbors). This lesson will discuss some of the tools that we as believers have been given and help us to understand if we realize that we have them, and perhaps how to use them.

We have recently completed another Christmas season. As believers, we know the real reason for the celebration is the wonderful gift we have been given in Jesus Christ. However, many people spend very little time focusing on Jesus, and are much more focused on gifts. At some point in our lives, we really, really like to get gifts. At other points in our lives, we prefer to give gifts and are less concerned about what we get. If you think back to when you liked getting more than giving, did you ever find yourself really wanting a certain gift, but someone else got it instead of you? If this occurred to you and a sibling or a friend got something you wanted, were you jealous? Did you hold something against them because they were given something you wished you would have had?

In our spiritual lives, we would like to think that this doesn't relate, but in many churches there are people who are jealous of gifts and talents that others have. Why is it that that person is always singing solos? Why are they always asked to teach? Why are others seemingly more respected than myself? As we think about spiritual gifts (which may be seen as life tools), we need to realize that we each have been gifted individually. Are we more focused on finding our own gift and using it, or are we whining because we didn't get the gift that we wanted?

If, in the case of unrealized expectations of a gift, you were the giver, how did you feel? In some cases, the gift may be bought at the last minute or not really thought through. In that case, you can't really expect the recipient to ooh and aah over the gift. However, if you have taken the time to really pick out a personal gift for someone and they act as if they were unappreciative, how would you feel? A non-favorite commercial of mine shown at Christmas is when a wife is given a car by her husband and as they go out and look at it, she longingly looks at a car that drives past. I often wonder how God feels when we disregard the gifts that He, our Creator, has selected for us, as we desire for something else.

Spiritual gifts are mentioned in several places in Scripture. You can find parts of lists in 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, Ephesians 4 and 1 Peter 4. While these gifts may provide benefit in many areas of our lives, the primary intent of spiritual gifts is that they would be used for building up God's people. Churches would benefit immensely if its members would find out what gifts that God had given them and began to use them to the benefit of the church. There are also many ways to use our gifts to minister outside of the walls of the church as well. Just as the proper tool is used when doing a task around the house, the proper gift is very beneficial in the context of ministry. Unfortunately, in churches we often find 'screwdrivers' trying to do the job of 'hammers'. We see how this would hamper our DIY project, but we seldom realize the importance of gifts in ministry. What is your gift and are you using it?

In the church at Corinth, there were a variety of spiritual gifts that were present. You can read that they likely had the most gifts of any of the churches, yet they were by far the most carnal church. In writing to them about numerous issues in 1st Corinthians, in chapter 12 Paul told them not to be ignorant in regard to the gifts that they had been given. In many cases, the gifts were being used and became one of the key dividing issues in the church. It is interesting to think that these people were given many gifts. Wouldn't you tend to think today that if someone seemed particularly gifted (spiritually) that we would assume that they were more of a spiritual person than others? A key point is that spiritual gifts are intended to bring people together and bring honor to God, as opposed to promoting self. Unfortunately, gifts can be misused.

( 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 )

We read in these verses that there are different varieties of gifts, services and workings, but there is the same source. As an analogy, you may think about things that are the same, but are also different today. For example, there are many snowflakes in a snowfall, but each of them is unique. They are all snow, but different flakes. There are different leaves on a tree. They all may be of the same variety tree, but each of them is indeed unique. There is power in diversity and when a church recognizes that and can harness that power, many things can be done. Unfortunately, many churches desire that its members all have the same gift and are all 'cut from the same mold'.

There are different kinds of gifts that are considered charismatic in that they glorify God. However, it is the same Spirit that distributes all the gifts. There are different kinds of services, such as administration and oversight of ministries, but they are derived from the same Lord. There are different kinds of works, implying results oriented, but it is God that is at work in all of them. When we realize that the source of all we do is the Lord, there is tremendous value in knowing that we are not the ones responsible for results. One other benefit of using what God has given us is it helps us to keep focused on where God is at work and less likely to complain about what others are doing. Realize that God has gifted each of us, but He has not gifted us all the same.

( 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 )

We continue to read that we are given our gifts for the common good. In essence, we should all be working towards a common purpose. When people use their gifts in a way that is focused on bettering themselves, they may see some value, but it is not as God had intended. Have you ever wondered how much of what you are doing is for the good of others, as opposed to only the good of yourself? Are you contributing in some manner to the community of believers of which you are a part? Are you having some impact?

Then, Paul writes about specific gifts. You can find many lessons on each specific gift, but this lesson is not intended to be exhaustive on any gift specifically. Here we will only offer a point or two on each. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom. Wisdom is the ability to pull multiple facts together to discern how to approach a situation. There are some people who are able to gather facts, but they have little ideas of how to put them together. Those with the gift of wisdom are able to look at all of the information given to determine a course of action. How often have we (or others you know) gone off without consideration of all the facts?

To another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit. Knowledge implies the ability to understand things deeply, beyond simply having facts. I have heard this gift related as a good tour guide, who can not only tell you facts about things, but they are able to go deeper. Some may think that it is related to wisdom, but this knowledge can also be the ability to understand what a person is dealing with. Knowledge isn't being book smart, but it can be more about a specific point in time.

There is the gift of faith. Some people seem to think that having more faith is the key to God's action in life. Some will blame themselves when tragedies befall them, thinking that if they only had more faith, things would have gone differently. Obviously, this can be a slippy slope. Unfortunately, many teachers will indicate that having faith is the key to all situations, and when you fail, you simply didn't have enough faith. Those that are gifted in the area of faith find themselves being able to fully rely upon God.

There is the gift of healing. When we read about healing, we often think of healing from diseases. If this gift still existed in this manner, people would clamor to find those who had this gift, in order to be healed from sickness and disease. Although there were some that were gifted to heal others in the time of Jesus and His disciples, we need to be careful about expecting this today. God can still heal, and in many cases He does, but even then, it is Him and not so much what any person does. The gift of healing today may be thought of when a person is able to help others through a crisis.

Similar to healing, there was the gift of miraculous powers. I believe that both healing and miraculous powers were sign gifts, showing that God's presence was on certain people. In the early church, many of these gifts were prevalent, but in our day, we see less of healings and miracles, especially directed by a person.

There was the gift of prophecy. This gift was given to some to be able to understand where the path that God was leading. We think of the Old Testament prophets who correctly prophesied the coming of the Messiah, as well as God's judgment upon His people. In the context of a Biblical prophet, to truly be a prophet, they had to be correct 100% of the time. While nobody today can make that claim, there are some who are very much aware of God's Word and are able to apply it to many situations. A prophet today is able to fully rely upon what God has said and is not likely to be phased by emotion. Prophets help others to stay centered on the Word of God.

There is the gift to distinguish between spirits (i.e. discernment). There are some who are gifted with the gift of discernment today, being able to identify truth and error. We are constantly bombarded with all kinds of thoughts and philosophies. When circumstances occur in people's lives, there is often the desire to let emotions drive all decisions, with little respect for the truth of the situation. People with the gift of discernment are critical to help understand the truth, so that things can be handled appropriately. People with these types of gifts tend to be good in counseling others.

The last two gifts deal with tongues, speaking and interpreting. There is much that could be said about these, as well as the others, but the intent of the tongue related gifts were to be able to communicate clearly with those who could not otherwise understand. Unfortunately, some have focused on the speaking gifts, as well as other sign gifts and made them the end, rather than the means. There is a problem when the primary emphasis is not to glorify God, but to seek the gift.

As you can see, this passage tells of many different gifts, but the list is not totally inclusive. Other passages that were referenced will point to other gifts and there is a ton of information online to help each of us understand more about each specific gift. The point of this lesson is that we all have been individually gifted and we have been gifted differently and uniquely. When we can utilize our gifts and work with others, we can accomplish much. Each of the gifts is needed. When you think of a football team and if you saw everyone as a quarterback, how good would the team be? In most sports, it is the team that can make an individual great. I have heard about professional golfers who have showed great reliance on their caddies. Although the golf pro makes the shots, the caddy is helpful in determining the club and ensuring that the clubs are in good shape. What would change in our churches (and in our own lives) if we not only realized how we had been gifted (and used our gift), but also saw the importance of others and their gifts?

All of these gifts have the same root. They are from the same Spirit. God has gifted us as He has seen fit. We can't choose our own gift. God hasn't given us a gift certificate with which to go and purchase a gift that we might desire. Your gift is something that is innate to you. You may have some training in order to develop your gift, but no class will be able to replace what you have been supernaturally given.

Do you know your gift? If so, are you utilizing your gift in your life? Are you serving in some capacity in a ministry (within the church, or in some other manner furthering the kingdom of God)? If you are not aware of your gift, I would encourage you to spend some time to understand how God has gifted you, so that you can begin to see part of what God may have in store for your life. While I am not providing a link to a specific test (as they tend to move around a lot), click here for a search for spiritual gifts tests online.