Scripture Text: 1 Corinthians 12:1-11
Last week, we had the special privilege of the younger people in our congregation leading us in worship. We were so blessed to have the youth in this congregation using their gifts and willingly leading us in worshipping Jesus through song, service and the proclamation of His Holy Word. Our youth are the future leaders of the Church and we have to start now training them to serve. God expects for us to work together to accomplish His work. In order to do this, we need to know what our gifts are and we need to know the ways we can each serve God and serve each other. God has gifted each one of us, including the youth, to use the gifts He has given to us for His work. Imagine receiving a precious gift and never opening it or using it. Would that gift be wasted? How would the one who gave you that gift feel about it? Imagine how God must feel when we waste the gifts, talents and resources He has given to us.
Having worked in ministry for a while now, I have come to realize that being the Church means we work together for a common goal. Being the Church is a team effort. There is no “I” in Church. There are a lot of things that have to happen for us to fulfill the mission God has given us. However, there is typically an 80-20 rule at work in any organization. For instance, 80% of a company’s sales are usually made by 20% of its sales staff. In a church, there could be 80% of the work that is done by 20% of the people in the church. Is that true for us? There should not be an 80-20 rule in God’s Church. There should be 100% commitment and 100% team effort to do 100% of the work God has given us to do. We are all in this together. Rather than asking or thinking about what the Church or others in the Church can do for you, ask what you can do for the Church. Rather than expecting others to do something for you, ask yourself how you can help serve others.
Being a Disciple Means We Are Different
Do you remember the example Jesus gave us from washing His disciples’ feet? If Jesus washed their feet as an act of humble service, then He expects all of His disciples to do the same. As Jesus served, we ought to serve others, with humility, considering others more important than ourselves. Jesus expects all of His disciples to follow His example and to serve one another. Paul wrote this section of the letter to the Corinthians in response to some question or concern the church in Corinth had. Apparently, some had questions about how to use their spiritual gifts. As part of that issue, Paul pointed out that there is a difference in a person when they start following Christ. You are a different person when you become a disciple of Jesus Christ. Look at the following verses.
1 Corinthians 12:1–3 1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. 3 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.
Paul did not want the church in Corinth to miss this essential point. Before you believed in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, before you trusted in Him and followed Him, you were led astray. You were following the wrong things and worshipping the wrong one. When God drew you to Himself and you confessed Jesus as Lord, you became a new creation and a new disciple. You were then led by someone else, the Holy Spirit. There is a difference in a person once he or she begins to follow Christ. Had some in the Corinthian church abused their gifts and actually cursed Jesus? Maybe so. Now that they belonged to Christ, there was an expectation that they would be different and that they would use their gifts properly. God had empowered them by His Spirit to do so.
Being a Disciple Means We Have Diverse Gifts
Being a disciple also means God has given us a mission and He has equipped us to accomplish that mission. I think of the military going into battle. The government deploys our brave men and women to defend America’s interests. In order for the military to do their job, they must be trained in a variety of different tasks. That’s why you have different people who do different things. Also, in order for the military to do their job, they must be supplied with a variety of resources. That’s why our troops are supplied with such things as food, clothes, guns, ammunition, vehicles, communication equipment, surveillance equipment, and other resources. These things are necessary for our military to do its job. The same is true for the Church. God has given us a mission, our marching orders. He has told us to make disciples of all nations. God, however, does not send us on our way without the proper training and without the proper equipment. He instructs us with His Holy Word and He empowers us with His Holy Spirit. This power comes in the form of a variety of different spiritual gifts. Look at the next passage.
1 Corinthians 12:4–6 4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.
Paul mentioned that there are different gifts. There are different kinds of service. There are different activities. All of these come from or are empowered by the same Spirit, the same Lord, and the same God. We should not overlook Paul’s reference to the Trinity here: the Spirit, the Lord, the God (or Father). Paul’s point is that as God is one in three Persons with no division, God wants His Church to understand how to be unified and yet appreciate their God-given variety. This is actually related to the very next section in the letter where Paul wrote of the various members of the Church. In that section, Paul wrote that there are many members, or disciples, in the Church. Just as there are many members in a church, there are also many gifts of a church. We are like the military. There is one army, with many soldiers, who each have different gifts, skills, and resources. All of them and all of their resources come together to help the military accomplish its goals. What exactly are these gifts? Let us look at the list Paul wrote.
1 Corinthians 12:8–10 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 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.
Apparently, some people in the Corinthian church seem to have created divisions over spiritual gifts. Paul’s use of the body analogy implies that they had placed so much emphasis on one gift that those without that gift felt that they were not part of the body. Considering its prominence in this section of the letter, that one gift is probably speaking in tongues. However, God has built the Church to express a unity-in-diversity. Thus, Paul mentioned several gifts: wise counsel, knowledge, faith, healing, working miracles, prophecy, discernment, speaking in different languages and interpreting different languages. Not everyone has the same gift. If everyone in the army drove a tank, who would man the guns? If everyone in the army was a sniper, who would take care of communications? If everyone in army did reconnaissance, who would actually do the fighting? We each have different gifts and do different things, but we all serve the same God and we are all needed to work together to accomplish the mission of the Church.
Being a Disciple Means We Use Our Gifts for Good
In this letter, Paul listed several spiritual gifts; however, that is not all of them. The spiritual gifts that Paul mentioned in this letter are not the only ones God graciously gives to His children. Look at what Paul wrote to a different church in the city of Rome.
Romans 12:6–8 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
In the above passage, Paul mentioned that God gives us such gifts as prophecy, service, teaching, exhortation, generosity, leadership, and acts of mercy. My point in this message is not to describe each gift or to even suggest that these are the only gifts that God gives His children. The point I would like to make is that God graciously empowers His Church to do things with a variety of spiritual gifts and we ought to use those gifts to do what He has empowered us to do. The reason God gives us gifts is to do something with them. We certainly should not sit on them. Like a birthday present or a Christmas gift, we need to receive it, unwrap it, and then use it, otherwise, it is wasted. The reason God empowers us with these gifts is for a “common good”. Look at the verse seven.
1 Corinthians 12:7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
We are to use the gifts God gives us “for the common good”. What is this common good? Basically, the gifts God gives His children are intended for the mutual good of the whole Church. As Paul mentioned later in this letter, we are to strive to excel in building up the Church (1 Corinthians 14:12). No disciple of Jesus Christ should use his or her spiritual gifts for private use or personal gain. There should be no sense of envy, rivalry, superiority, or inferiority, because this is the kind of love shared among Father, Son, and Spirit. God’s gifts are never given for the benefit, much less for the gratification, of the one who received them. They are given for the benefit of the whole Church. Just as the power of vision or hearing is not for the benefit of the eye or ear, but for the whole body, so are God’s gifts for the benefit of the whole Church. When we use God’s gifts to exalt ourselves, it is a sin not only against the Giver, but also against those who should receive their benefit, which is the Church. Therefore, use the gifts God gives to you and use them for the good of His Church.
Being a Disciple Means We Trust God’s Will
This passage tells us several things. As disciples, we are different now than before we followed Jesus. As His disciples, God has empowered us with different gifts and abilities in order to accomplish His mission and purposes. This passage also confirms the sovereignty of God in the dispensing of His gifts. If you are the giver, you have the authority to give whatever you have to whomever you want. What right does the recipient of your gift have to tell you who gives, “I do not like the gift you gave me. I would rather you give me the gift you gave to that person.” Likewise, who are we to tell God, “I do not like my gift, I want something else.” Notice the last verse of this passage.
1 Corinthians 12:11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.
All spiritual gifts are empowered by the same Spirit who determines who receives the gifts. All of the gifts are given by the same God as He desires. This is very similar to God arranging the members of the Church as He desires (1 Corinthians 12:18). God is the One who builds His Church. He is the One who assembles the building blocks and who brings us together. God is the One who also places us in different areas of service. He is the One who gives whatever gifts He desires to His children so they can do His work. The very sense of the word used for these spiritual gifts denotes God’s grace, meaning they are undeserved. The responsibility we have is to know what God has given us and to use what He has given us faithfully. Let us not be like the wicked servant who buried what the Lord had given him to use (Matthew 25:24-30).
Six Tips for Discovering My Spiritual Gifts
One thing we can learn from this passage is that God empowers each follower of Christ with one or more spiritual gifts. God does this so that we use those gifts to build up His Church. The more we help people discover, develop, and deploy their spiritual gifts, the healthier God’s Church becomes. So, what are your spiritual gifts? How has God empowered you to do His good work? Maybe you do not know what God has given you. Maybe you do not know how you can or ought to serve the Church. Dr. Charles Stone, Lead Pastor at West Park Church in London, Ontario, Canada, once published six tips that were meant to help people discover their spiritual gifts. I have modified his list a little, but maybe this will help you and help others you disciple to discover their gifts.
I think the first thing you ought to do to discern what God has given you or what He wants you to do…is ask Him. Since God is the Giver and He gives as He desires, it seems logical that you should go to the Source first. Pray about it. Ask Him. What do you sense in your heart is your gift? Where do you sense God leading you to serve?
- Ask Yourself, “What do I enjoy doing/what do I do well?”
A good indicator of where a person’s giftedness lies may be found in activities that give him or her joy and satisfaction. It may be found in what interests you. What are you passionate about doing? What excites you or gives you joy? Those are indicators of what God has gifted you to do or what God wants you to do.
- Ask, “If I could I would do…”
If you could do something and time and money were no issue, what would it be? If you knew you could not fail what would you do to make a difference? If you could, what concerns, area of peoples’ lives, or areas in the church to make things better would you do? Those kinds of questions can uncover a God-given passion.
- Take a Test Drive.
Jump in and commit for six months in a potential ministry to discover if it is a fit. Do not be scared to fail. The biggest failure is to never have tried. A word of caution, though: Just because something you do does not produce the results you think or does not appear successful, does not necessarily mean you were wrong to pursue it. It also does not mean that you are not gifted in that area. It may just mean that a particular ministry did not have the right circumstances at that time to thrive. But the point is, give it try!
- Look for Results.
When you exercise your gifts and you are fitted in the right place of service, you will see effectiveness. God will produce spiritual results in the lives of people. When we use our gifts, we become a channel through which God’s Spirit flows. Another word of caution, though: Just because you do not see extraordinary results does not mean you are a failure in God’s eyes. Many of the prophets and apostles in the Bible would be labeled failures by the world’s standards. Measure results in how your service helps the church accomplish her mission, how it helps others grow in Christ, and faithful you are to God.
- Seek the Advice of Wise people.
Lastly, seek out gifted people in the area where you think your gifts may lie. Ask them to help and mentor you in using your gifts. By wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory (Proverbs 24:6). The affirmation of others can indicate your giftedness; therefore, seek the advice of wise, godly people.
In closing, many Christians have this sense of “Consumer Christianity”. They believe the Church is here to serve their needs. They look for what the Church has to offer them, rather than what they can offer the Church. Jesus came to serve, not to be served. He expects the same from us. Therefore, do not ask what the Church can do for you; ask what you can do for each other. Being a disciple of Jesus Christ means that we love one another just as Jesus loves us and we serve one another just as Jesus served us. To serve one another means that we are using the gifts that God gives to us in order to accomplish His work and His will. Being a disciple means that we discover those gifts God has given us and that we use those gifts to help build up His Church. How has God gifted you? What is He asking you to do? If you know, then do it. If you do not know, then find out what it is, and then do it. Church is a team effort. Let us work together to be the disciples Jesus has called us to be. This is good news. Thanks be to God. Amen!
This sermon was delivered at Good Hope Baptist Church in Wake Forest, NC. More information about Good Hope may be found at the following site: www.GoodHopeBC.org.