Ecclesiology 038: Spiritual Gifts 17

Ecclesiology 038: Spiritual Gifts 17
1 Corinthians 12:7 • Dr. Andy Woods • October 14, 2018 • Ecclesiology


Andy Woods

Ecclesiology 38, Spiritual Gifts 17

10-14-18     Lesson 38

Let’s take our Bibles if we could and open them to 1 Corinthians, chapter 12 and verse 7.  And as you’re turning there I’m going to open us in a word of prayer.  Father, we’re grateful for today and grateful for the freedom that we have in this country to worship You in Spirit and truth.  And I just ask that the illumination of Your Spirit today as  your body gathers, particularly here at Sugar Land Bible Church as we look into  Your Word in Sunday School and in the sermon that follows.  I pray You’ll bless the fellowship time. I  pray, Father, that today we would leave here strengthened and edified and fortified  with the battles that we’re facing throughout this week and we’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory.  We ask these things in Jesus name, and God’s people said… Amen.

Just to kind of remind you of where we’ve been in Ecclesiology, which as  you know is the doctrine of the church, a very important doctrine.  We’ve been looking at the purposes of the church and of course one of its great purposes is to equip you for your ministry based on whatever spiritual gift God has given you.  So that requires us to do a little bit of study which I’m hoping we can finish today, Lord willing, at least the spiritual gifts part of it, it requires a little bit of understanding of the whole doctrine of spiritual gifts. So we’ve asked and answered basically a total of four questions in this study.  The first two we’ve done, the third one we’re doing and the fourth one, if time permits we may be able to get into it today.

We looked at some general observations about spiritual gifts and then from there we got into the very difficult question are all the spiritual gifts for today?  And our conclusion, at least here at Sugar Land Bible Church, is that about seven of those gifts, I have them there on the screen [Apostle, Prophet, Worker of Miracles, Tongues, Interpretation of tongues, Healing, Knowledge] have passed.  Which leaves for about sixteen edificatory gifts remaining.  And we spent several weeks giving you the explanation for that so we won’t reteach all that.

But that took us into question number three, what are the spiritual gifts that remain in the church today.  And I’ve given you this pneumonic device, I think several times, Twelve, twelve, four, four.  That stands for Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, 1 Peter 4 and Ephesians 4, and those are the four sections of the New Testament that basically enumerate the various gifts of the Holy Spirit.

We were taking a look at those gifts last time and just giving you a basic definition of them, where they’re found in the Scripture and if I remember right we looked at ten of them and we’re going to look at the remaining six today.  And we’re also going to get into (if time permits) how to discover  your spiritual gift and/or gifts.

But we saw that prophecy was the ability to proclaim truth without error.  Number two, teaching was the ability to explain clearly what God has revealed.  Number three, pastor-teacher is the ability to equip and mature the body of Christ.  Number four, evangelism is the ability to share the good news of Jesus Christ with unbelievers.  Number five, exhortation is the ability to encourage others in the body of Christ.  Number six, discernment is the ability to detect moral and/or doctrinal error.  Number seven, administration is the ability to effectively run or manage a church program.  Number eight, leadership is the ability to cast an organizational vision and motivate others towards the fulfillment of that vision.  Number nine, knowledge is the ability to understand complex biblical truth.  And number ten, wisdom is the ability to find knowledge from the Scriptures and apply it to daily life.

So that means there are at least six gifts, we haven’t looked at yet so let’s start taking a look at those this morning.  If you felt I went through that fast I probably did but we did a whole lesson from last week covering those first ten gifts.  So if you haven’t had a chance to hear that I would encourage you to go back into the archives on our website and take a listen or take a look at that.

This takes us to number eleven and that’s why I had you open up to 1 Corinthians 12:7 because that’s where you find this eleventh gift, it’s called the gift of service.  And I would just define the gift of service as follows: it’s the ability to minister to the practical needs of other people.  Probably the best example of service that  you can think of in the whole Bible would be Jesus, right?  You might remember that scene in the Upper Room where He got down on His hands and knees and He really began, it’s a stunning scene, He began to wash the hands and the feet of His own disciples.  So here is their Creator and here is their Redeemer down on His hands and knees washing their feet… it’s an amazing scene!  That’s service.

And then Jesus says in John 3:15, “For I gave to you a” what? “an example that you should do as I did to you.”  So that really is what Christianity is all about once a person is saved and it really is about what service is about.  And some people actually really excel at this, we’re all supposed to do it but some people have a gifting in it and that’s called the spiritual gift of service, the ability to meet the needs of other people in a practical way.  It’s just a generic gift, service.  And then you have a twelfth gift mentioned in the body of Christ and you’ll find it in Romans 12:8 and this one is called the gift of giving.  [Romans 12:8, “he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.”]  What is that?  It’s the ability to give material goods and financial resources with what?  With joy, because God loves what kind of giver?  A cheerful giver, with joy so that the needs of the Lord’s work are met.

So the church is just like any other institution, whether it be a business or a family or whatever, any organization needs finances to survive.  All of us that have been touched by a ministry in some way are obligated to financially support that ministry.  I don’t know where we got this idea that church is free.  The gospel is free but the basic expectation of the Lord when He sent the disciples out to minister there in the land of Israel is they’re going to be supported financially by those that are blessed by their ministry.  You’ll see that in Luke 10 and other places.

We’re all called to financially give; we’re not big on giving you a specific amount to give, that’s really between you and the Lord. We don’t really believe in tithing as a requirement for all Christians, if you want to tithe that’s probably a pretty good place to start if you’re interested in doing that.  Some people can’t and some people should be doing a lot more than tithing.  But what you’ll discover in the New Testament is there is no monetary amount.  You’ll discover in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 in the principles of the church age are the principles of grace giving.

So it’ll use a lot of adverbs in that section of the Bible, a lot of give secretly, give joyfully, give proportionately, give sacrificially, etc.  But there is a special gift in the body of Christ where there are some that excel far beyond the norm; it’s a particular spiritual gift called the gift of giving.  And it’s necessary because the church, like any other group, needs finances to survive.  Even Christ’s work on the earth was supported by people.  When you study the life of Christ  you’ll see in the Gospel of Luke that He was actually financially supported by women.  How about that in Luke’s Gospel?

And those that have the gift of giving, I’ve noticed that they all have something in common because I’ve run across many people in my life had this spiritual gift, they don’t view money as something that’s theirs, almost to a person when I’ve met people that have this gift they view it as the Lord’s money and they view it as the Lord has entrusted them with certain material things.  And they see themselves as sort of a channel from the Lord to a particular ministry, so God doesn’t give to them, God gives through them.  That’s sort of their mindset; it’s not their money.  And so obviously this would be a very important gift in the body of Christ.  So you may find yourself in that position where the Lord has given you finances way above and beyond what’s needed in your daily life and if  you’re in that position you need to look at it as well God put me in this position and He wants to use me sort of as a channel or a vehicle to help His work.  So that’s the financial gift of giving.

And then you have another gift in the body of Christ which is very important, particularly to someone like myself that travels a little bit.  You know, you’re often staying in the homes of people and things like this and so you see this gift really coming into fruition, it’s the gift of hospitality.  You’ll find it in Romans 12:13 and 1 Peter 4:9, and hospitality is the ability to make guests feel comfortable and at home.  [Romans 12:13, “contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.”  1 Peter 4:9, “Be hospitable to one another without complaint.”]

And  you can see why the Holy Spirit gave this gift, particularly in the first century because there was so much traveling going on, there weren’t hotels like Hiltons and things like that, like we have today, so ministries were subsidized in the early church, by the way, they met in homes, so ministries were largely subsidized by traveling ministers and ambassadors from the apostles coming and staying in the homes of Christians.  In fact, if you read the book of Third John there’s a guy there named Diotrephes who is in deep trouble with the Lord because he was not exercising basic hospitality and he was usurping authority in a church and he was not receiving the traveling ministers that the Apostle John had sent and anybody that received John’s traveling ministers, Diotrephes would retaliate against him. It’s kind of a story there in 3 John as an ecclesiastical tyrant.  And the whole point of the book is there’s a denial here of basic hospitality that should have been shown.

Now of course, the counter balance to Third John is Second John where heretics are wanting to come into homes, people without sound doctrine.  And Second John says don’t even let such a person into your home.  The early church, as we said before, met in homes so hospitality doesn’t mean you open up your home or your church to everybody and every doctrine but  you can see if someone’s doctrine is correct then there is a spiritual gift in the body of Christ called the gift of hospitality.

And then you have a fourteenth gift and you find this in Romans 12:8, and you can see why this gift would be needed, it’s called the gift of mercy.  [Romans 12:8, “or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.”]
Mercy is the ability to devote energy to those in pitiable conditions.   I was under a pastor once in the Dallas area that clearly had the gift of mercy and he was the type of person that would gravitate towards anybody virtually within his sphere of influence that was sort of in a helpless condition.  In fact, if you were in a conversation with him and somebody walked into the church that he knew was having a difficult time it was interesting to watch him operate, he would just cut off the conversation you were having with them and he would  immediately be attracted to this person and he wanted to minister to them in a practical way.

And you know we live in a fallen world where a lot of bad things happen to people, even in the body of Christ as we know, you can go through trials and so how comforting it is that the Holy Spirit has given a particular gift in the body of Christ called the gift of mercy to devote energy towards those in pitiable conditions.  And these gifts, as hopefully we’re learning, is not just the paid staff doing these things but all of us are gifted in ways and we’re all called to continue to exercise these gifts in the body of Christ.

When I think of the gift of mercy, of course my mind goes back to Jesus, and there’s a tremendous statement about the mercy of Christ in Matthew 9:36.  Jesus says this, “Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them,” why is that?  “because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.”  That’s a tremendous statement there of the mercy of Christ.  And so Christ is drawn to these people because of their helpless condition, they’re stressed, they’re dispirited, they’re like sheep without a shepherd.  And everything within Christ wanted to reach them and help them and minister to them.  And you find those kind of concepts or thoughts dwelling up in your mind about people that may be a sign that the Holy Spirit has given you the gift of mercy.

And then you have a fifteenth gift mentioned in the body of Christ and you’ll see this in 1 Corinthians 12:28.  [1 Corinthians 12:28, “And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.”]  And this is a very important gift, it’s called the gift of helps.  It’s the ability to  free up others from certain responsibilities so that they can exercise their gifts (the people they’re freeing up in other words) so they can exercise their gifts more effectively.

And I remember in my last trip to Israel, I was with Dr. Randall Price and we were going up to Armageddon, we weren’t in Armageddon but we were going to the Megiddo where you can overlook the valley where the final war was going to take place.  And on the way up there Dr. Price turns to me and says, “oh, by the way, did I tell you you’re going to be speaking when we get up there.”  So I’m thinking no, I don’t recall you telling me that so I’m trying to kind of think through what I’m going to talk about in just a couple of minutes.

But I was like fumbling around with my Bible and my phone and my backpack  and I remember there was this lady there that almost, every time I tried to put something down or fumble around she immediately was trying to help me, so I had all these papers I was shuffling around.  She was… it was like clockwork, she’d just gravitated towards me and was helping me arrange things and grab things and put things in their proper place, and I was thinking to myself boy, I’m sure glad she’s here.  And what she was basically doing is she was kind of easing my mind with all these other issues so I could focus on what I was supposed to be doing which was giving a talk in front of some people once we got to Mount Megiddo.  And so I told her, well  “you obviously have the gift of helps” and she’d never had any teaching on spiritual gifts.  She said “what?”  I said “the gift of helps.”  She says “what’s that? “ And I started to explain it to her and she goes “why do you think I have that?”  I said “because you just instinctively, it’s like clockwork, no one has to ask you to do it, you just want to help people so that they’re sort of freed up from other responsibilities, so the people you are freeing up can focus on what they’re supposed to be doing.”  So that’s the gift of helps.

And I think you have a tremendous description of the gift of helps in the Book of Acts so take a look just for a brief moment at Acts 6:1-7.  This is where the Lord raised up deacons in the church.  Deacons have the gift of service, generally speaking, and they’re generally people that have the gift of helps.  These are people that will take care of some of the transitory and temporal things that have to be taken care of to free up other people so they can devote their energies into areas where God has them.

So take a look here at these first six verses in Acts 6, it says:  “Now at this time while the disciples were increasing in number,” so the church is growing at this point, “a complaint arose on the part of the Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving” or distribution “of food. [2] So the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, ‘It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables. [3] Therefore, brethren,” and here’s your qualifications for deacons because we select deacons at this church and you might wonder who should be put down and nominated as a deacon, here’s the qualification, verse 3.

“Therefore, brethren,” so they obviously have to be believers, “select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom,” now remember wisdom is the application of divine knowledge, so it’s not just people who can give you all this explanation in terms of knowledge, it’s people that know how to actually apply it to daily life, “select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task.” What task?    The whole issue of widows being overlooked in the distribution of food.  And see what was going on  is the church was growing and widows were being overlooked and what people do is they run to the leadership and they fix this and fix that, fix this and fix that.  And the problem is if leadership gets involved in all of these service projects they can’t deal with what God has called them to do because there’s only so many hours in the day.  Right!  The purpose of the elders, in this case the apostles, was to give themselves to the Word of God and to prayer.  And so if they get involved in distributing food their energy is dissipated away from their primary calling which is prayer and the Word of God.  And consequently the church, I think would have been derailed right out of the gate; that’s why this story is given to us in the Book of Acts.

So if you get like myself involved in every single service project, and people want to do that to you as a pastor, and then people from outside the church will want you to be involved, can you show up here and pray at this event and do this and do that and if you’re not careful what you’re going to find is your study time starts to get decreased and you start to get messages that really aren’t message that you’ve studied out, you’re just kind of going off the top of your head.  And the body of Christ is really not being nourished correctly because Jesus did say to the spiritual leaders, “Feed My sheep.”  Right?  And that doesn’t happen by osmosis, I can’t get up and teach off of my head as if God is giving me some kind of direct revelation. It requires study time to do that.

That’s why 2 Timothy 2:15 to young Timothy, a pastor, “Study to show yourself approved unto     God, as a workman that need not be ashamed but accurately handles the word of truth.”   That’s not necessarily an easy thing to do unless you have study time to do it.  So I’m teaching here at the church three times a week, that requires a certain amount of preparation.  And the more projects you get involved in in the church there’s less time to study and the quality of the teaching starts to disintegrate and so that’s what was happening here in early Christianity.

Bu the way, there’s a parallel in the Book of Exodus, chapter 18.  Moses is there at Mount Sinai, at the foot of Mount Sinai, actually I think he’s in the Midian area there, there’s sort of a debate as to where he was but that’s really not the issue that I want to bring up, it’s the fact that he’s out there with probably about two and a half million people.  And according to Exodus 18 he’s out there judging every dispute the people have.  And his father-in-law, Jethro, (you get some good advice by the way  from your father-in-law) come to him and says to him, you can read it all in Exodus 18, what you are doing is not good,  you’re going to wear yourself out.  So what you need to do is  you need to select men of character and capability to create a lower court system.  This is the beginning of Israel’s judicial system, and let them handle these disputes and the ones that are the most difficult you can be the Supreme Court and you can handle those on your own.  And so Moses did that and Israel was saved from judicial chaos.

The same kind of thing is happening here at the beginning of the church age related to service projects.  So the name of the game is this is an internal attack on the church to get the apostles away from what they’re supposed to be doing.  The need was very legitimate (the distribution of food), the issue is how involved are the apostles going to get in this.

So what it says is we’re going to create deacons, people with the gift of service, with the gift of helps, we’re going to turn this ministry over to them.  Why?  Verse 4, “But we,” that’s the apostles, “will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”  That’s the gift of helps.  See that?  Deacons took on the project, it liberated the apostles to what they were supposed to be doing, and the church continued to prosper as a result, which it wouldn’t have done had this decision not been made.

Verse 5, “The statement found approval with the whole congregation; and they chose Stephen,” now people think oh, deacons, you know, they’re not that important.  Well Stephen is a big deal, he’s the first one chosen.  In fact, he’s going to be martyred in Acts 7, and Stephen, to my knowledge is the only one who dies that we have record of whose soul goes into heaven and Jesus, there at the end of Acts 7, is standing up.  Usually Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father but here the Lord is standing up to honor Stephen.  So you shouldn’t look at deacons as some kind of dishonorable position.  It’s very honorable because Stephen was the first one selected.

It says, “…and they chose Stephen,  a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit and,” now the second one they chose is “Philip,” Philip is a big deal because Philip is actually the one that’s going to take the gospel to Samaria in Acts 8, and correct the Jewish-Samaritan conflict.  And there’s several others mentioned here, some of these names are hard to pronounce, “ Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch.”  And it says in verse 6, “And these they brought before the apostles; and after praying, they laid their hands on them.”

And then look at the result, see, if  you don’t have this decision, verses 1-6 you don’t have the result, verse 7, “The word of God kept on spreading;” now why would the Word of God keep on spreading?  Because the apostles could now devote themselves to the teaching of the Word of God.  You get them involved in a service project, which is a legitimate need, you shut down the teaching of the Word of God and “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.”  [Romans 10:17]

So the Word of God kept on spreading, “and the number of disciples,” that would be converts, “continued to increase, not just a little bit but greatly in Jerusalem,” and the church was so effective in this ministry that the last clause there in verse 7 says, “and a great many of the priests” that would be folks from unbelieving Israel, people in authority in unbelieving Israel, maybe some of the very people that were involved in the decision to turn Christ over to the Romans for execution, even people like that “a great many” not a few, “a great many priests were becoming obedient to the faith.”  [Acts 6:7]

So Luke, in the Book of Acts, is trying to document the birth and growth of the church and that’s why this little story is included here in Acts 6:1-7, because it’s how the church almost got derailed by getting its leaders involved in the waiting of tables and the need for deacons to come alongside the apostles and liberate them from the responsibility of waiting on tables so they could devote themselves to the Word and prayer so the church could continue to expand.

[Acts 6:1-7, “Now at this time while the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint arose on the part of the Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food. [2] So the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables. [3] “Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. [4] But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” [5] The statement found approval with the whole congregation; and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch. [6] And these they brought before the apostles; and after praying, they laid their hands on them. [7] The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.”]

So when you see a historical account like this you start to see the need for (A) the gift of service, and (B) the gift of helps and how critical that gift is.

And then we come to a sixteenth and final gift, you’ll find it in 1 Corinthians 12:9, it’s called the gift of faith.  [1 Corinthians 12:9, “to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit,”]  Now “without faith it’s” what? “impossible to please God.”  [Hebrews 11:6, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”]  So obvious all of us like all of these gifts, do these things to some extent.  It’s just some people excel in certain areas and those are people that we call gifted in that area.  And there are just some people  you run into and I get jealous a little bit because I wish I were more like this but it’s almost like no matter what happens to them they just have this very deep and abiding trust in God. So it’s the ability to trust God in the midst of very extraordinary difficult circumstances.  And that kind of faith is given, I think, for a lot of reasons, but one of the reasons it might be given is as a role model to the rest of us as to what we ought to be doing when we hit difficult circumstances.

I don’t know if we need visitations, there are some people you go visit them in the hospital and they’re more optimistic than the people that are doing the visitation.  And you actually went in there to try to encourage them and you leave there and the opposite  has happened.  Maybe God sent you in there so you’d get encouraged by the person suffering that is walking through life’s difficulties with the gift of faith, and they just have this calmness and tranquility about things.  Yeah, God’s in control, and you want to get kind of mad at them, you know, aren’t you worried, upset a little bit?  Oh, not really, I’m trusting the Lord through this.  And so that would be the gift of faith.

So there are at least sixteen gifts that I can think of that are mentioned that are alive and well in the body of Christ.

This takes us to the final part of our study on spiritual gifts, which is this fourth and final question, and that question is this: How do we discover our own unique area of gifting?   And I have at least eight observations for you to think about as you’re on this very exciting journey discovering your spiritual gift and/or gifting.

One of the observations we made is each believer, 1 Corinthians 12:7, Ephesians 4:7, has a spiritual gift.  [1 Corinthians 12:7, “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”  Ephesians 4:7, “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.”]   So if that’s true how do you discover which gift is yours?  Or better yet, which gifts are yours because there are gift mixes, certain gifts seem to run in tandems, like knowledge and teaching for example run in tandems.  There are certain gifts that seem to go together naturally, like maybe service and helps.

So how do you discover what your gifts are?  The first observation I have for you is this: number one, know what the spiritual gifts are and what their purposes are.  And you’ve already satisfied that requirement, right, because we’ve gone through all of them and you know what they are in general.  And you know why God gave them.  God gave them, not to put gift wielders on a pedestal but He gave them so you could be a blessing to other people. That’s why they’re given.  So basically know what they are and know what their purposes are.  I mean, how do you gravitate in your area of gifting unless  you know what some possibilities might be and you discover those possibilities because they’re enumerated in the New Testament.

Second sort of insight that I have for you is obey the revealed will of God to all believers.  Obey what God has already said.  There are so many people that they’re looking for a special insight from God or a special path from God or some kind of unique design for their lives and I believe God has all of that for us.  But they’re disobedient in the basic principles of Christianity.  And the Bible says in Luke 16 and verse 10, “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much.”  How can God trust you with greater insight, greater specificity for your life if you haven’t been obedient to Him in the clear areas in the Bible where we’re told to obey God?   So “He who is very faithful in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much, and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.”  I wouldn’t expect anybody to get very far in their journey concerning spiritual gifts until they’ve learned to obey God, not a sinless life but hopefully a life that sins less in the areas where God has clearly revealed His will, which would be these sixty-six books.

There are certain statements in the Bible where it says “the will of God is,” and I always find that interesting, I write those down.  One of them is in 1 Thessalonians 4:3 because everybody is trying to discover the will of God for their life.  Well here it is in black and white.  “For this is the will of God,” there are certain statements like that in the New Testament, “this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality;”  Wow, look at that?  So if I’m not obeying God in the area of sexuality, if I’m looking at things on the internet I shouldn’t be looking at and entertaining thoughts that I shouldn’t be entertaining, then I’m really not progressing in progressive sanctification, the middle tense of my salvation.

And since the Bible says if you’re faithful in the little things you can be trusted with greater things.  If you find yourself in that predicament then I wouldn’t really expect a lot of insight from God concerning what His special design is for your life.  But once we start to take every thought captive to Christ and we ask the Lord to give us the power to overcome certain temptations so that we can obey Him in daily life God says well there’s a person I can trust with greater insight and so I’ll start to gradually sort of roll back my script, if you will, for them individually.

So number one, know what the spiritual gifts are and their purpose; number two, obey the revealed will of God.  Number three, ask yourself this question: what do you naturally gravitate towards?  And I remember when I was in Jr. high school and high school I used to watch people that were good in mathematics, and they would gravitate towards those classes involving mathematics.  Or people that were good at the high jump would sort of… it was like a magnet, they would just get pulled in the direction of track and field. And you naturally gravitate towards the things that God has gifted you in.  So if you find yourself really attracted to a certain ministry you might say to yourself well maybe this is a gift that God’s given me.  I remember when I was a Sunday School teacher at a Baptist church when I first started there in the ministry and the pastor got sick and one time he asked me to teach a sermon, which I was scared to death to do, but I got up and taught the sermon and said wow, I kind of like doing this.  And I sais maybe he’ll get sick more often.  [Laughter]  So I started to kind of gravitate toward teaching publicly, and so it was just kind of like a magnet that was pulling me in that direction.  So that’s something to pay attention to.

Sort of the fourth observation that I would have for you is what ministries do you enjoy?  Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will” what? “give you the desires of your heart.”  God’s pretty practical; He knows that if  you’re serving Him as a sad-faced saint totally miserable in what you’re doing then you’re probably not going to be the best advertisement for Him.  Right?  So what you’ll discover with God is He’s so good that the things He wants you to do you will actually find a certain joy in them.  You’ll find a certain satisfaction in doing them.

In fact, using your spiritual gift I’ve discovered is an intrinsic satisfaction that you really can’t find doing any other single thing.  Even going on a cruise or going skiing, all of that is wonderful but what really motivates you in life is your area of service is internal satisfaction and so it’s no shame to ask  yourself what ministry you enjoy doing.  What pulls you and what do you enjoy?  Now there’s a lot of people that enjoy doing things and they’re obviously not gifted at it and there it’s sort of hard to talk them out of what they think they’re supposed to do.  If I enjoy singing but I couldn’t carry a handle with a note on it but I love doing it hmmm, maybe that’s not an area of gifting.

So that gives me a fifth observation, not only what ministries you enjoy doing but another question ask and answer is this: does anybody get a especially blessed when you serve God in a particular way.  So it’s not just a drawing to something, it’s not just an enjoyment doing something, you have to ask yourself am I starting to receive unsolicited remarks?   Unsolicited means people coming to you spontaneously, quietly, anonymously, without you trying to trigger something in a conversation artificially.  Or people come to you and say you know, when you do such and such it really helps me, it really blesses me.  And that should be something to look for because remember when we went through the observations about spiritual gifts?  What is the purpose of spiritual gifts?  They’re given to edify who?  The church.

We went through a bunch of Scriptures that reveal that.  1 Corinthians 12:7, 1 Corinthians 14:26, Ephesians 4:11-12, 1 Peter 4:10.  In fact let me just read one of those to remind us of this principle. That’s why it’s necessary to understand what the gifts are and what their purpose is.  Their purpose is not to give you a bunch of internal satisfaction although God in His goodness oftentimes provides that.  The purpose of gifts is to allow you to be a channel of blessing to somebody else.

[1 Corinthians 12:7, “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”   1 Corinthians 14:26, “What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.”  Ephesians 4:11-12, “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, [12] for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;”  1 Peter 4:10, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”]

So 1 Corinthians 14:12 says, “So also you, since you are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek to abound for  the” what?  glorification of the person wielding the gift… it doesn’t say that, does it.  It says “seek to abound for” what? “the edification of the church, [that you should cause it to abound]”    Over in verse 26, same chapter, says “What is it then, brethren?” “Brethren” means he’s talking to Christians because the concept of spiritual gifts is for the Christian.  What would the unsaved person know about spiritual gifts, they’ve got to get saved first.  “What then is the outcome Brethren, when ye come together, each one hath a psalm, hath a teaching, hath a revelation, hath a tongue, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done” for what? “edification.”

So when you find yourself in ministry doing something that brings you internal satisfaction and other people start to serendipitously come up to you and say you know, I’m really blessed when you do X, Y and Z.  And you start receiving these comments on a regular basis then the Holy Spirit is confirming to you, through your life circumstances, what your area of gifting is. Why should that happen?  Because the gifts exist for somebody else, not just for the person wielding the gift.  So when  you use your gift and your gifting someone else is blessed and you like doing it and you start to receive comments to that effect, serendipitously on a frequent basis that’s what the Holy Spirit is showing you, what your area of gifting is.

Now here’s another observation.  What are you most critical of?  We generally think criticism is a bad thing, right?  But criticism, and if you find yourself highly critical of something you might want to take that as aha, that might be a sign of an area where you’re gifted in.

For example, I remember vividly when I was a high school student one of my best friends in high school, the two of us were in church together and the music group was playing and it was a choir or something like that, and all of a sudden she just starts complaining, I could hear her doing it, she starts complaining to me how bad the music is, this person is off key, that person is off key, this person ought to be standing here, that person ought to be standing there, the microphone should be over here, the microphone should be over there. And of course, you know, I’m like just listening because I thought the whole thing sounded wonderful to be honest with you, because I don’t have any aptitude in music, what would I know about it?  Well, it turns out that as time has progressed and life has unfolded that she is the one now at church leading all of these worship and all of these kinds of things.  And I  just find it interesting that the very area that she’s gifted in is the very area where she was highly critical of and she could criticize things intelligently because God had given her an aptitude in it.  See that?

So I remember very early on, I was just very critical of teachers, they didn’t cover this, they didn’t cover that, da da da dah, well, I think the reason I could do that, and I can’t even watch Christian television any more, all I do is criticize everything from top to bottom, I remember when I was living in my mom’s house she would watch me channel surf so-called Christian television, I would criticize this guy, criticize that guy, my mom would say well, you’re just critical of everything aren’t you.  Well, I think the reason I was critical, not of music, I didn’t know any better, but teachers, because that’s what my way of gifting is, God had given me an aptitude in that.

And so if  you find yourself intelligently criticizing things rather than suppressing the thoughts coming into your mind, because we’re all trained to say criticism is always bad, well criticism is not always bad!  In fact, if you find  yourself highly critical of something, even we’ve had people come in here and complain about the décor of the building.  I don’t know why they would do that, it looks nice to me.  Well, it looks nice to me because I don’t have an aptitude in architecture or basic cosmetic beauty.  I mean, my apartment looked like a fraternity house living on box crates and my wife came in there one tome when we were dating and she says well, this all has got to change!  And I said what do you mean, I think it’s great.  So I wasn’t really criticizing architecture and beauty because I don’t have any aptitude in that.  So if you’re highly critical of something take that as a sign that the Lord is using this as one of many factors determining what your area of gifting is. And then what are  you most critical of?

And then number seven, you have to at some point step out on faith.  You have to try something.  You have to be willing to fail at something.  And so many times we’re so afraid of failure that we don’t do anything.  And we saw in our observations about spiritual gifts that that’s not an excuse in God.  If God is tugging at your heart to do something at some point  you’ve got to step out and try it.  For example, in Romans 12:6 it talks about faith in relation to spiritual gifts.  It says, “Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us,” and then it says, “each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith;”  you have to step out in faith and try something.

Generally, and I don’t have this up here on my list, I probably should have included it, generally the things that you’re most afraid to do, I hate to tell you this but those are probably the things God wants you to do.  Jonah was called to preach to Nineveh, and that’s the last place he wanted to go; he went the opposite direction, to the west, to Tarshish, what we call Spain, but God wanted him to preach to Nineveh in the east, not Spain in the west, or Tarshish in the west.

So one of my biggest fears, I think I’ve shared this with you before, was public speaking.  To me when I was in high school and really all the way through college the most terrifying thing you could ever ask me to do was to get up and talk publicly.  In fact, and this is true, and it wasn’t just little butterflies, it was what?  Modern psychology would probably call it a phobia, I mean I would just lock up, I couldn’t even complete my thoughts.  So I would actually go into classes and I would look at the syllabus to see if there was any public presentation required and if there was I would drop the class and try to take it with someone else who didn’t have that requirement.

And really what pushed me out of the fear barrier is I forced myself to sign up for speech when I was in college, and I got up in front of a group of maybe seven or eight and I gave a talk and they timed it and they wrote down your grade and all this and that and they gave it back to you and it said on the sheet, seven minutes and twenty seconds.  And I was startled that I had been up there for seven whole minutes… now you guys are praying for those days to come back.  [Laughter]  And so I started to sort of crash through the fear barrier.  But there was a time where I just did not want to do any public speaking at all and it’s a spiritual conflict because generally speaking the things that you  really don’t want to do or are your most intimidated by (I should put it that way) are things that maybe God wants you to do.  So what are you really afraid of?  What is it that you feel pulled to do but you say I could never do that?  That might be an indicator from the Holy Spirit.

So at some point you’ve got to step out in faith.  You know, everybody dogpiles on Peter because he walked on the water and he began to sink but at least he got out there and gave it a shot.  Where were the rest of them?  They were back in the place of security.  So I like Peter, he’s my kind of guy, he gave it a shot, he did well for a little while then he sunk but look at what Peter became in the Book of Acts.  Look who’s leading 3,000 people to Christ on the day of Pentecost, through an oral presentation… The Apostle Peter.  So at some point you’ve got to step out in faith.

And then this last one is do not despise the day of small beginnings and that’s a citation from the Book of Zechariah, who was one of those postexilic prophets and he was sort of called to re-stimulate the exiles into rebuilding the temple.  And the temple that Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed was the Solomonic temple and that was a temple of majesty and everybody… the older people could remember it and so when they began to build the new temple after they came back from the seventy years of Babylonian deportation the older men, when they saw the new temple and remembered the majesty of the Solomonic temple, all they could do was weep and cry because it was so small compared to what they remembered.

Now the younger guys, they had never seen the Solomonic temple so they thought the new temple was great.  So Zechariah whose called to motivate Israel to rebuild this temple gives the people a word from the Lord in Zechariah 4:10 and he says, “For who has despised the day of small beginnings?”  Don’t say well if I do this no one is going to know, how will I ever get known doing this ministry, it’s so small, it’s so simple, no one cares, well, that’s not really how God works. God says don’t despise the day  of small beginnings, just step out in what He’s called you to do.  And what you’ll discover is as  you’re faithful to God in what He’s called you to do I think what you’ll discover is He will start to gradually increase your spirit influence based on a track record of faithfulness.

But the problem with people today, particularly in the west, in North America is everybody wants to start at the top.  And that really is not how it works in God; you start exactly where He has you and you allow Him to increase your sphere of influence according to His providence.  But a lot of people never even get out of the boat, like the other disciples, because the task just seems too small for them.  So I would say don’t despise the day of small beginnings.

I have eight steps and I added a ninth.  Number one, know what the spiritual gifts are and their purposes.  Number two, obey the revealed Word of God to all believers.  Number three, what do you naturally gravitate towards.  Number four, what ministries do you enjoy.  Number five, does anyone get especially blessed when you serve God in a particular way.  Number six, what are you most critical of.   Number seven, step out in faith.  And here’s where I added an eighth one, what are you most intimidated by?  And then number nine, don’t despise the day of small beginnings.

I have his picture up because this is the founder of Princeton College which originally was called the College of New Jersey, which was just a little tiny Bible… what we would call today a little tiny Bible study group and yet God over time took that little group and expanded it into one of the key institutions in American history.  Obviously that institution is away from the faith now, it was a key mainline school for a long time in the United States, much like Harvard.

So hopefully this study on spiritual gifts has helped you; we’ve looked at what are some general observations about spiritual gifts.   Are all the spiritual gifts for today?  What are the spiritual gifts?  And then we did number four, how do we discover our unique area of gifting.

And so the next time we reconvene we’re finally leaving the purposes of the church and we’ll look at the activities of the church.