Our inheritance in Christ Part 3/4- Spiritual gifts- gifts of grace
"But concerning the gifts of the Spirit I will not leave you, brothers and sisters, in ignorance. 2 You know that when you were Gentiles, you were powerfully drawn to mute idols. 3 Therefore I make known to you that no one who speaks by the Spirit of God can say, Cursed be Jesus. And no man can say, Jesus is Lord, save by the Holy Ghost. 4 There are diversities of gifts; but there is one Spirit. 5 And there are diversities of ministries; but there is one Lord. 6 And there are diversities of powers; but there is one God, who worketh all things in all. 7 By one the Spirit is manifested for the benefit of all. 8 To one is given by the Spirit a word of wisdom; to another a word of knowledge by the same Spirit; 9 To another faith, in the same Spirit; to another the gift of healing, in the one Spirit; 10 To another power to do miracles; to another prophetic speech; to another the gift of discerning of spirits; to another divers tongues; to another the gift of interpretation. 11 But all these things worketh the same one Spirit, which divideth to every one his own according as he will. Many members - one body 12 For as the body is one, and yet has many members; and all the members of the body, though they be many, are one body: so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and are all made to drink into one Spirit. 14 For even the body is not one member, but many. 15 If therefore the foot should say, I am not a hand; therefore I am not of the body, is it not of the body? 16 And if the ear should say, I am not an eye, therefore I do not belong to the body, does it not therefore belong to the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If it were all hearing, where would the smell be? 18 Now God has appointed the members, each one of them in the body, as he willed. 19 But if all the members were one member, where would the body be? 20 But now there are many members, but the body is one." (1 Corinthians 12:1 ff)
My dear friends, dear followers,
nothing is more argued about, nothing is more deceived with, and nothing is more sought after, desired, and questioned than 1 Corinthians 12, the list of spiritual gifts Paul mentions in the only letter he explicitly addresses to the entire church of Christ.
The presence of the Holy Spirit, His working through us, is the final abandonment of the rational level, of what we can humanly comprehend.
Accordingly, our insecurity, our excitement and also our vulnerability in this area is high. The charismatic gifts are the mystery of Christ.
Many therefore reject them outright, forgetting that they thereby classify God as inconsistent, as changeable - because the spiritual gifts are not new. The Bible speaks of them in the Old Testament as well as in the New Testament-the only difference is in Joel, where the pouring out of the spiritual gifts on all believers is announced as fulfilled by Peter in Acts 2.
This is indeed new.
Spiritual gifts before were tied to a select few whose hearts were on trial, and whom God recognized as full-hearted: Noah, David, Solomon, Moses, Elijah, Elijah, and all those of whom we read as outstanding characters.
Great names in whose context we marvel at how God reveals Himself.
Solomon, who asks for wisdom, and whose wisdom became so famous with his Solomonic judgments that it is proverbial today.
Noah, whose gift of faith defied all opposition, who simply carried out God's commission to build an ark on solid land- mocked, ridiculed, and without any sign that what he was doing made any sense.
Elijah, who was followed by signs and wonders- rain that stopped falling, flour and oil that stopped running out, the son of the widow of Sarepta who was brought back from death when he threw himself on God and begged him to bring the boy back.
Daniel, who was given the gift of prophecy, who was the only one who could interpret dreams, who could tell what they meant and who was always right. Moses, who followed visions, who saw and experienced the wonders and presence of God as perhaps only Elijah did.
Jeremiah, who served prophecy with all that he was- symbolically, involved, embodying the message- often beyond any pain threshold.
The list is endless- but what is striking is that the gifts were given very specifically, very uniquely- and despite personal weaknesses. Often they worked even in the areas where the correspondingly blessed could not triumph worldly, because neither their worldly status nor their character strengths would allow it.
No, David-one would never have thought that he would become king-the little, youngest, last son who was a shepherd. But he had a shepherd's heart, a heart that gave itself for keeping the flock together and against the enemies outside- and he loved God with lightheartedness and praise in his heart.
No, what we read between the lines about Jeremiah does not sound like the capacity for suffering that he had to muster like no other when God instructed him to lie symbolically for a long, long time, to wear loincloths, to make a fool of himself in the village community and in his circle of friends where he lived. But he was willing to surrender, he could not help but carry God's truth fervently in his body and speak the truth against all odds.
All of them, by God's strength, accomplished exactly what He wanted to accomplish in them and through them.Through Him- and through their obedience, their willingness not to question what often seemed so absurd.
This life of total surrender to God, however, always took its toll:
Fields were abandoned, marriages made for symbolic reasons, imprisonment endured, ridicule and scorn endured, and not only Jeremiah but also Elijah lamented, "Oh, I want to die! Alas, I cannot!" "Oh, if only I had never been born!"
God expected a lot, an extreme amount of devotion from those He gifted-and His help, while never late, now didn't really come in a comfortable, convenient time frame either. He tested the faithfulness of these hearts, hid, made wait, allowed supposed hopelessness and persecution.
In all these times, which the Bible has always called "pruning", "pressing", these gift-bearers are formed, according to His will. They have to go through it, whether they like it or not, and it sharpens their character, reveals weaknesses, selfishness, and the real depth of their trust and love for God.
"LORD, you have beguiled me, and I have been beguiled. You have taken hold of me and overwhelmed me. I have become a laughingstock all day long; everyone mocks me. 8 Yes, as often as I speak, I must cry out, shouting "violence" and "destruction"; yes, the word of the LORD has become a mockery and a derision to me all day long. 9 Yet ⟨sooft⟩ I ⟨mir⟩ say: I will think of him no more, and speak no more in his name, it becomes in my heart like burning fire, shut up in my bones. And I have struggled ⟨in vain⟩ to endure it ⟨farther⟩, I cannot ⟨more⟩! 10 Yes, I have heard the talk of many: terror all around! Indict ⟨him⟩! We want to report him! All my friends are lying in wait for my case: perhaps he will be deceived so that we can overpower him and take our revenge on him. 11 But the LORD is with me like a mighty hero, therefore my persecutors will fall down and not overpower ⟨me⟩. They will be utterly put to shame because they have not acted wisely; an everlasting shame that will not be forgotten. (Jeremiah 20:7ff).
No, this does not sound like what is sold to us today as a joyful gift of prophecy to be learned. It does not sound like super prophets who can call things into existence with their words, and certainly not like the prophecy of the future that one only has to "claim".
It sounds like surrender, of being used-and of having to learn that we cannot abstain from, cannot oppose, the power of God's Spirit. What he puts in us will determine our whole life and everything we experience, where we go through, will work towards making this gift in us more effective and stronger, clearer, purer, experienced and real.
This is why I am not a fan of gift tests. Gift tests analyze our own strengths, our human abilities that God will surely use, but they ignore weaknesses or perceived failures where God can reveal His strengths. And often we have learned to build up strengths that hide actual weaknesses or have been fought for as survival patterns. Our true strengths, our true being-only God sees everything in us clearly-and often we are not even aware of them.
Nothing is a more powerful testimony than that of the one who was fatherless, who experienced suffering, violence and rejection, loneliness and homelessness- and who in his desperate struggle with this pain recognized the goodness of God, who through his own healing becomes a source of healing for others.
What gift does such a person hold? The gift of healing. That which was granted to him out of kindness and love is also what he passes on to others.
Nothing is a more powerful testimony than that of someone whose trust has been deeply broken by abuse, by violence, by bullying, by loneliness, by being overwhelmed, and who has had to learn to trust because God was the only hope. And who, through what she was granted: Turns, proofs of His faithfulness- becomes a testimony of God's trustworthiness. What gift does such a person have? Well, the gift of faith.
Nothing is a more powerful testimony than that of the one who was never understood because he thought in contexts that were "too high" for others. The one who felt more intensely, who constantly perceived the nuances, who foresaw developments, and who, for this reason, was considered an unlucky crow. Who had to learn to express truth in love and find images and allegories to convey knowledge in such a way that others could understand it. Who thought that the constant overstimulation and this highly abstract thinking, the so real dreams were signs of a mental disorder and asked himself desperately why then they always make sense, why they are true, and why the words are missing to convey them, because the experience is so deep and filling like inner fire.
What gift does such a person have? The gift of prophecy.
God shapes us, uses us, and we do not have the free choice of which gift we would like to have, because from the beginning He has directed our story so that we became the perfect vessel of what He wants to pour out as gifts in us.
And every gift we bear will work out for the good of others.
It is not witchcraft in the truest sense of the word.
But we must understand that spiritual gifts are not a super natural superpower, but are placed within us as a part and blessing that grows out of our history and redemption.
Neither can we learn them, nor do we all have every gift-that only Jesus has, that the one Spirit who effects them all has.
You will know what God wants to use you for when you see how others respond to you, what you give them, what goes out from you:
Are you someone who prays and there are breakthroughs in someone else's life? Often? Suddenly everything falls into place, doors open, unexpected provision is poured out? Do people tell you that things suddenly happened that made God so tangible? Then you probably have the gift of miracles and signs that become effective when you pray wholeheartedly for the other person.
Are you someone about whom people say that they always leave you with clarity, with peace, and that you have the best advice in store that could be found-given often with, "At least it has helped me in similar situations? " Then you probably have the gift of wisdom, the knowledge of God's will.
Are you someone about whom it is said that your presence alone is like a balm? That it feels so good just to be there? That one relaxes in your presence, feels accepted, regains hope? Then you probably have the gift of healing.
Are you someone who always strikes the right note for different groups of people, who "speaks their language"? Who can pick people up, who is at home in youth jargon as well as having a feeling for language? Most likely, you also have the gift of tongues.
Are you someone who has a strange gut feeling and recognizes lies immediately? Are you someone who can literally feel vibrations and false intentions -and to whom people come who are completely confused, or who question what they can and cannot believe? What's biblical-and what kind of just looks pretty but isn't real? Then you probably have the gift of spiritual discernment.
Look into your life. Where have you struggled the most? What issue kept coming up? Confusion? Wrong paths? Broken primal trust? Abuse? Lack of advice, overstimulation and not being understood, being different? Where have you been and are you forced to keep seeking God, totally dependent, where do you learn the most, where do you experience Him most deeply?
Take your time. And then ask God to fill that area with His love and kindness. To turn all those buried, muddled pieces of the puzzle into the gift He has placed in you for His glory.
He will do it. And you will learn. In your gift. In what he has given you. In your very own way, with your story, in your place, for your people and tribe.
It is enough if you give all in your gift. Because others have others, and it is the interaction that covers everything. So: if you lack wisdom: there are people gifted with wisdom out there. Maybe they need your healing presence, your prayer for healing, for comfort and strengthening.
All gifts are needed.
Why prophecy the most? Well, not for divination and election predictions,. that much is certain. Prophecy puts everything in the higher frame, it draws the wide perspective, the goal. The other gifts fill in the details, and all the gifts work together.
It is an incomprehensible inheritance. It is such a fullness. May we bow before the one Spirit who is all in all, Jesus Christ.
And may we recognize that it is He who works through us-and that we are not the new Ninjago heroes whose superpower is ...green.
Sibylle/Daughter of Zion.
Bible. Luther 2017, quoted here from www.bibleserver.com
Photo: pixabay, thx to Geralt.
Worship: Child of God, Vineyard Worship feat. Kathryn Scott