"The Spirit's Gifting - a Complete Workout"
Differences Undivided Make Dynamic
Isn't it glorious that Jesus has saved you (if you have in fact received Him and put your trust in Him)? Isn't it marvelous that Jesus has ransomed me? And isn't it most wonderful - startling, in fact - that Christ has also brought deliverance and eternal life to that person sitting across the room who is so very different from you?! Wow!
We are all different; we all have our 'quirks' - some more obvious than others. But God delights to populate His Kingdom with all sorts of souls - some of whose personalities are so much at the opposite end of the spectrum from ours that we might have overlooked them, had we been on the selection committee. But it pleased our Heavenly Father to build His Son's church from all shapes and sizes and dispositions. It wouldn't be healthy to try to have a strictly 'homogeneous' church (although some church growth theory might advocate it). Our diversity (remarkable as it is!) is our strength.
Paul was writing to the church at Corinth, a young church which was vibrant and alive but threatened by splits; people were lining up behind various apostolic figures. Paul wasn't out though to construct his own fan club; he reminded the new believers it was Jesus who ransomed them, not His messengers. In verses 12-21 of chapter 12 he uses the analogy of the human body to illustrate how many different organs and members work together to make a person stronger. Repeatedly he stresses that there are "many parts" but one body - a body the Holy Spirit baptized them into. They were all given the one Spirit to drink (in Gal 3:27 Paul says those who were baptized into Christ have 'clothed' themselves with Christ - another picture of grouping together). Paul amusingly personifies the foot and ear, eye and head as raising complaints against other parts of the body, as if they were better or could do without the others. But let's face it - a head without a foot wouldn't have a leg to stand on!
There are many parts, but one body. God has arranged all the parts as He pleased, as He in His sovereign will determined. It is Jesus who builds His church and we'd better accept that. It's the organs different functions that make each of them such a valued part of the body. The eye needs the ear or there'd be no sense of hearing. Maybe a Greek lady felt a little squeamish sitting next to a Jewish woman, dressed so differently; maybe a slave-owner found it hard to accept a slave sitting on the bench beside him as an equal. Even today there may be certain types or classes of people you'd rather not have sit right next to you! But it's Jesus' church, Jesus' body, not ours to decide - and it's stronger for the diversity.
Charles Swindoll shares this parable about frustratingly different gifts in the Body of Christ today...
"Once upon a time, the animals decided they should do something meaningful to meet the problems of the new world. So they organized a school. They adopted an activity curriculum of running, climbing, swimming, and flying. To make it easier to administer the curriculum, all the animals took all the subjects.
"The duck was excellent in swimming: in fact, better than his instructor. But he made only passing grades in flying, and was very poor in running. Since he was slow in running, he had to drop swimming and stay after school to practice running. This caused his webbed feet to be badly worn, so that he was only average in swimming. But average was quite acceptable, so nobody worried about that except the duck.
"The rabbit started at the top of his class in running, but developed a nervous twitch in his leg muscles because of so much make-up work in swimming.
"The squirrel was excellent in climbing, but he encountered constant frustration in flying class because his teacher made him start from the ground up instead of from the treetop down. He developed 'charlie horses' from overexertion, and so only got a C in climbing and a D in running.
"The eagle was a problem child and was severely disciplined for being a non-conformist. In climbing classes he beat all the others to the top of the tree, but insisted on using his own way to get there." (Charles R. Swindoll, Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life [Oregon: Multnomah Press, 1983], p. 312).
Many parts - one body. It's foolish to expect squirrels to swim, or ducks to run. Grace includes accepting each other with our differences and not taking a cookie-cutter approach to discipleship.
Every Part Important
In vv22-24, Paul shifts gears a bit and talks about the different exposure rather than functions of the members. He points out that our unpresentable parts are treated with a special modesty that our more usually-seen limbs do not require. And the parts that are weaker, or more delicate - lungs, liver, kidney come to mind - are indispensable. So in the church there are some who are very comfortable up front or holding a microphone, while others prefer to work behind the scenes or are quiet as a mouse in the small group. But that doesn't mean those in the background roles are any less significant: every part is important. You may never see a salt miner deep underground at Goderich, but this time of the year we appreciate very much what they provide for spreading on the road. Unseen but very important. V24, "God has combined [literally, 'mixed together'] the members of the body and has given greater honour to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body..." We are one in Christ after we've knelt at the cross; no domineering or pretension allowed.
A church needs the back-ground set-up people as much as the speaker; your small group needs the insights and commitment of its quietest member. Donald Hohensee and Allen Odell are professors at Western Evangelical Seminary in Portland, Oregon. In the book Your Spiritual Gifts they use a biological analogy: "In Christ we as the members of the body have different responsibilities. We need different abilities (gifts) so we can do what is needful for the body. Each one has a place to fill, a function to perform, so that the body can function as an organic unit. If we were spiritual amoebas (single-celled animals), we could get along by ourselves. We, in fact, belong to a highly complex body with many members and we need one another. In addition to helping the body function as a unit, the analogy of the church as a body says that all of us are important. Each member is significant."
Solidarity in the Spirit
Sunk by the Spirit into a single 'soma' or body, the many who are so different discover a supernatural bond, a oneness or community, because we share the new birth in Christ: we are 'born anew' as sisters, brothers. This produces a deep solidarity and empathy. Vv24-26: "God has combined the members of the body...so that...its parts should have equal concern for each other.If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it." When someone's family member is in the hospital undergoing surgery, we pray; when they're sick at home, we may drop in a meal-in-a-basket. When their picture's in the paper, a part of us inside says, "Hurray!" and delight to see Colin's grin or Steve flipping a spatula (to name a couple of recent examples). And when someone shares a painful experience in a prayer request, we feel it, instead of blocking it out. The words "have equal concern for each other" can be rendered "the same care; look out for, provide for [each other]". Christians aren't meant to suffer alone, but to 'suffer with' each other. And where two or three gather in Christ's Name - He shows up to share the hurt and offer strength and healing.
Miracles, Healing, Helps, Administrators
For the rest of our time, I'd just like to continue on from where we left off in October 2005 when we looked at vv1-11. Paul's list of gifts includes many different types of gifts: back then we noted that, of the 27 individuals who completed the spiritual gifts inventory questionnaire, the gifts most often exhibited were Teaching, Faith, Serving, Giving, and Pastoring. I gave short descriptions of those at that time. Today we'll look at 4 others mentioned in Paul's list in v28: "And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues." (1Co 12:28) Miracles; healing; (and you might think at the other end of the spectrum) helps; and administration.
Of 27 responses, 5 in our congregation noted "MIRACLES". They related to statements such as: 12.I find it easy to believe that God can miraculously alter circumstances if we pray.32.I believe God wishes to use me to publicly cast out demons.52.I believe God will use me to speak forth a miracle when the situation looks most hopeless.72.I believe that if we trusted God more, we would see dramatic, public miracles.
The inventory defines Miracles as a "sign gift where the gifted person is able to cast out demons, show a supernatural sign to unbelievers, or perform a public healing--even in a hostile and unsupportive situation--all to the glory of God.Those with this gift will be humble, broken people, full of the fear of God."
In v28, the phrase 'workers of miracles' in the Greek is one word - 'powers'. As we talked about last week, we have an Awesome God who created an amazing universe: and although God set intricate laws in motion in nature, He can suspend those at any time, at His pleasure. He is El-Shaddai, the Almighty, all-powerful. Jesus was very adamant that all things are possible with God" (Mk 10:27). He performed miracles and predicted His followers would do remarkable signs as well (Mk 16:17).
Hohensee & Odell comment: "Evangelical Christians believe in miracles in the New Testament. We read of miracles that Jesus performed. He turned water to wine. Peter was able to walk on water. Jesus fed 5,000 people with five loaves and two fish, and He raised dead people to life again. We also read of the miracles performed by Peter and Paul: lame people were healed, the dead were raised, and evil spirits were cast out.
"Often when we think of miracles, we think only of some such wonder performed in the natural world...we wonder why we don't see more of these today. One answer may be that we (in the church) have been deeply influenced by the naturalistic teaching in our educational system. We try to explain everything in terms of natural phenomena. We only allow for God in such things as earthquakes, storms, and eruptions of volcanoes. These we call 'acts of God.' We fail to see God's miracles when we are spared serious injury in a terrible accident. We say, 'My friend was "lucky"' when overcome by deadly gas, but rescued by an observant farmhand, instead of saying, 'God worked a miracle.' The problem is that frequently we do not have eyes to see what God has done...
"God can and does work miracles. He can work contrary to the laws of nature, but more frequently He works with the timing of His own natural laws. The car stalls for no apparent reason, but as we approach a crossroad, we see another car which should have stopped go speeding through. We recognize God has just performed a miracle. God's power is still at work in the changing of the spiritu al nature of people. He raises those dead in trespasses and sins. He brings conviction to the heart of a hardened sinner by the smile of an innocent baby."
HEALING is in a somewhat similar category to Miracles. Out of 27 questionnaires, 5 of you identified with the gift of healing. Such statements as: "11.God sometimes prompts me to pray for the total healing of others in body, mind, and emotions.31.I am irritated when the physical pain of others is overlooked or ignored.51.Often I have a strong sense that God wants to heal someone through my prayers or words.71.Though prayer, God sometimes helps me to impart physical healing to others.91.When I pray for healing, I check to see if it really happened, and I don't give up until it does."
The inventory describes it this way: "Healing is a 'sign gift' which enables one to function as an instrument of God's healing grace in the lives of hurting people.The gifts of healings...include miraculous healing of the body, the mind, the emotions, and relationships."
Hohensee & Odell write: "God does heal people in a miraculous way as the result of believing prayer. Many times in our chapel services at Western Evangelical Seminary, we have received prayer requests for people who are ill. On several occasions we have seen God perform miracles. One young man called to the ministry had a brain tumour and was facing surgery. God healed him without surgery, and he was able to continue in his studies.
Godbey in his writings states, "Since the rise of the holiness movement, divine healing has become so common as to be no longer a matter of controversy." He cited several examples of people who were healed and were given additional years to serve God. He also cited a case when God did not give the gift of healing and took His servant home (W.B. Godbey, Spiritual Gifts and Graces [M.W. Knapp, 1895], p. 25).
"...Since divine healing is in [God's] sovereign will, He heals, He delays, or He refuses physical healing as He sees what is best for His servant. God may answer in one of several possible ways: (1) He may heal instantly. (2) He may heal through the natural processes He has built into the body. (3) He may heal through doctors and medicines. God gave these people these talents and the ability to discover cures. (4) He may say, "My grace is sufficient for you," as He did with His servant Paul (2 Cor. 12:7-10). In this instance, He gives grace to bear the affliction in a way that brings honour to God (John 9:3). (5) He may use the disease as a means to take His child home to be with Him. This is ultimate healing. Death has been conquered and is now servant to Jesus. It still rules over us but only at His permission...while we do not know God's will for [a] specific case, we can affirm that God has power to heal and that we want Him to work out His perfect will in the one who is ill."
Now we shift our attention to a couple of gifts that are perhaps less striking than miracles or healing, but no less vital to a healthy church. Three people identified "HELPS" as part of their gift mix. They related to this kind of statement:19.The Spirit often leads me to do a favour for someone that touches them deeply.39.People often try to give me glory for helping them, which I am able to direct to God.59.In the church, I gravitate to undone work, even if unpopular.79.God often supernaturally enhances my service to others.
One definition: "Helps enables one to assist people in skilled ways that are supernaturally enhanced by the anointing of the Holy Spirit.The helped person has the impression that they have been touched by God.Those with this gift should be highly esteemed in the Body."
In the book Your Spiritual Gift we read, "People with the gift of helps tend to a person-centered ministry. Their spiritual gift is to help others, often in a one-to-one situation. Few of us have ever heard of these women: Leola Linkous, Stephanie Wills, Marge Kelley, and Irma Griswold. They are the secretaries or administrative assistants for these well-known people: Leighton Ford, Billy Graham, Robert Schuller, and Bill Bright. The effectiveness of these men would be greatly reduced without the able assistance these women render (C. Peter Wagner, Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow [ California: Regal, 1974], pp. 224--25). Persons with the gift of helps are often behind the scenes helping to release other workers in their spiritual ministries. They do so in such a way that it strengthens and encourages those they help. Many lay people possess this gift. They strengthen the hands of those they serve. They are like Aaron and Hur who held up the hands of Moses (Ex. 17:10-12). They free those they serve from some of the administrative tasks so they can give themselves to the ministry God has called them to. Those with the gift of helps find spiritual fulfilment in assisting others."
And last but not least, ADMINISTRATION or, in the Greek, "cybernesis" - meaning steering or governing. 4 of our people said this was their gift, and it ranked #2 for each of them! These statements - 20.I can serve others by organizing and harnessing their gifts to solve a particular problem.40.I can recognize talents and gifts in others, and find ways of using these for God.60.People often look to me for guidance in coordination, organization, and ministry opportunities.80.I have a knack for getting people together in the body of Christ, and enjoy doing this.100.People come to me when they need help in desperate situations, and I know people who can help.
These are 'get it done' people - but in a way that glorifies Jesus, not attracting attention to themselves. The inventory definition: "Administration is a gift that provides insight into other people's spiritual gifting as well as natural talent, which allows for placing people who want to minister in a particular way together with those who need just this ministry.These are "well connected" advisors in the body."
Hohensee & Odell portray those with the gift of leadership as the idea people; "Administrators, in contrast to the leaders and idea people, are the doers. They know how to put into effect the ideas the leaders have developed. To use a common expression, they tend to be the nuts and bolts people. Administrators have an amazing ability to bring into being what the leaders have conceived, and once it has been brought into being, to see that it continues to operate in a smooth way. These people can organize and administer. They too do it with wisdom, fairness, humility, confidence, ease, and efficiency. They enjoy long hours in the office, overseeing the business matters, keeping everything running smoothly. They receive spiritual delight from keeping the Sunday School operating well. They help keep the records and see that the program the C.E.Department has envisaged is on target and running smoothly."
You may find it hard to imagine record-keeping as a delight: but praise God for assembling the church so SOMEONE enjoys it! Healers and helpers, miracle pray-ers and administrators - we need the ministry of each one. Have you discovered where YOU fit in yet? Let's pray.