In early February, I had the opportunity to teach a spiritual gifts class at Agape Humphreys, the protestant chapel ministry where Bethany and I serve in Korea. It was a good opportunity to dig deeper into this important topic and how it can greatly impact the wider church community.
Paul devotes multiple letters and chapters to the topic, so clearly it concerned him how Christians utilized their gifts. He even tells the Corinthians he doesn’t want them to be unaware of them (1 Corinthians 12:1). I believe Satan, the evil one, would love few things more than for Christians to be unaware of their spiritual gifts and to use this ignorance to sideline them from effective kingdom work.
I had about 60 minutes to flesh this topic out. In preparation, I observed three major takeaways after examining Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12.
1. Our gifts are meant to be given, and we get more of God when we obediently give. We are to be living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). God has given at least one spiritual gift to us when we receive salvation (1 Corinthians 12:7-11). The problem is we want to crawl off the altar and revert back to idolatry by building our own kingdoms. But as disciples of Jesus, we must fix our eyes on Him (Hebrews 12:2), sacrifice and give, because that’s what He did for us and what wants for us. When we give, we empty ourselves of our flesh, our selfishness, and the Holy Spirit rewards that obedience to fill us with humility, selflessness, wisdom and other fruits of His righteous nature. Obedience in following Christ’s commands enables the world to see Jesus more clearly through our faithfulness and exercise of spiritual gifts in ministry.
2. When we give our gifts–we do it as an act of worship (Romans 12:1). We do it for the Lord. The world says “get.” Take what’s yours–go for that promotion, that bigger house, that luxury item, fill in the blank–you deserve it! God says something very different. He says “give.” Further, He says don’t be conformed to the world, but be conformed to my Son. God says, “If you follow me in faith and offer your lives in service to me, I will renew your mind, I will transform the way you think. Your desires will align with mine.”
3. Don’t think too much of your gifts (Romans 12:3). You are one part–an important part–but one part of the body of Christ. Understand you are part of a team–you have a specific function and when we work together using our gifts in concert, the world sees the body of Christ. They see Jesus in the way we love and serve one another and outsiders. Whatever gift God has given you (verses 6-8), use it!
There’s a grave danger with this last observation. Pride can creep into our lives if we view our gifts or ministry as most important and superior to the gifts or ministries of other believers. “But he gives greater grace. Therefore he says: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). If you are operating from a prideful heart, Scripture says God is your enemy. The reason is that we have put our ego ahead of God. We have placed a false god of pride and personal advancement in place of the true God (Exodus 20). We can abuse our gifts and talents and become enemies of Kingdom work. That’s a frightening thought.
So the modus operandi for using our gifts should be graciousness and humility. Matt Chandler rightly observes that “we see things dimly.” We are human–we can’t see the bigger picture that God can. We are all one part of a larger body working for the common good–to strengthen people’s faith in King Jesus.
I look forward to sharing some more observations on spiritual gifts in the coming days.