The Gifts of the Spirit
Vol: 29 Issue: 10 Saturday, December 10, 2016
I remember one Christmas when I was a little boy and my little brother got a gift that I had really, really wanted. I wanted his gift so badly that I didn’t even care about the gifts I had already received.
I would have traded any of mine for his, but that’s not how it worked in my family. Once you received a Christmas gift it was forever yours — but only yours. And you had better like it — or be prepared for a long speech about the expense and effort that went in to choosing it –( just for you)!
Plus, there was always the risk that next year, you would get the ‘gift of the ungrateful’ — which was no gift at all. That way, one would have a reason to be ungrateful.
Most Christians are aware that God also bestows spiritual gifts on each of us at birth. What most Christians are NOT aware of is that spiritual gifts are given to each human being, not simply to Christians.
The Apostle Paul reveals that “the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.” (1st Corinthians 12:7)
The main spiritual gifts are; 1) a word of wisdom; 2) a word of knowledge; 3) faith 4) healing; 5) discernment; 6) divers kinds of tongues; 7) interpretation of tongues.
Other’s have identified other spiritual gifts; the Pentecostals have identified nine, others have identified twenty-eight . . . but we’ll stick with these seven for the purpose of our study.
That is not to say that there are only seven, or exactly twenty-eight. I personally agree with Zola Levitt, who defined a spiritual gift as “anything a person can do supernaturally well.”
We are born with our spiritual gifts — whether or not we choose to accept them as such doesn’t come until salvation. But the gifts are there. Have you never looked at an unbeliever and thought to yourself, “what a waste of such a gifted individual?”
There are particularly gifted secular analysts; political, social, economic, strategic, and so on. These folks have the gift of discernment. It isn’t something you can learn so much as something you can’t help. Analysis demands the gift of discernment.
Some believers are gifted with the gift of healing. So are some unbelievers. Many unbelieving but gifted healers enter the health profession, demonstrating their considerable gifts without ever acknowledging the Spirit Who bestowed them.
The same can be said of wisdom, knowledge, even tongues (in the sense of having a ‘gift’ for languages). Not to mention faith. Many unbelievers are gifted with incredible faith. (Believing in evolution takes more than just ‘faith’ — it requires, to quote Hillary from the Petraeus Hearing, “a willing suspension of disbelief” — but its adherents are nothing if not faithful.)
Muslims have faith. Buddhists have faith. Even atheists have to take it on ‘faith’ that there is no God, since they have even less proof of God’s non-existence than believers have of His reality.
The issue isn’t over whether or not one is gifted, but rather how one uses those gifts. One can use one’s God-given gifts to serve themselves (and the enemy) or one can use them to serve the Lord.
“For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” (Romans 11:29)
You can’t repent to get a gift, and God won’t repent the gifts He has already given you. Note that each of the spiritual gifts are not so much something you have as something you are. Take the gift of discernment, which is one of my spiritual gifts.
One day, my brother was visiting and he commented on a news story we had just seen.
The story was blatant propaganda (to me) but my brother totally missed it. So I broke it down and showed him the various parts that, when put together, painted a picture that was entirely opposite to the actual truth.
He looked at me and said, “The way your mind works scares me. You see a hidden agenda behind everything! How can you stand it?”
I’ve always had the gift of discernment — it’s just that it wasn’t until I came to Christ that I began to use it for the purpose God intended.
Paul makes the point that, while ‘the manifestation of the Spirit (spiritual gifts) is given to every man to profit withal’, not every man accepts the call to use his gifts in the service of the King.
I know many a gifted speaker who can sway thousands with that gift but who use it exclusively to their own profit.
The interesting thing about gifts is that we almost always see our own as inferior to somebody else’s. I am always stunned when a church soloist or music minister comes up to me and gushes, “I wish I had your gift!”
First off, I always wished I could sing. Secondly, I wouldn’t wish the gift of discernment on anybody. (Trust me. Ignorance is bliss.)
Believers are gifted to a Divine purpose. We don’t know exactly how God uses our gifts but we know that God has a plan.
Paul notes that, as believers, “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one Body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.”
For that reason, Paul says, “the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?”
To further illustrate his point, Paul asks rhetorically, “If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?” (1st Corinthians 12:13-17)
The issue of spiritual gifts is one of those divisive doctrines that reminds me of being a kid at Christmas. We all want the gifts we don’t have, often to the degree that we fail to recognize the ones that we do.
We noted that both the ‘gifts and calling’ of God are ‘without repentance’. The Spirit gifts us, then calls us to use those gifts in His service. Whether we accept or reject the call, the gifts remain ours.
How can you know if you are using the gifts God gave you? The best answer to the question is found in the great Zola Levitt’s definition of spiritual gifting — spiritual gifting is something that you can do supernaturally well.
I know a preacher whose gifts are music and faith. (Those gifts are most apparent when he preaches. He has a great voice and he has faith that nobody else can tell he has neither knowledge nor discernment.)
Similarly, I know a music leader who is doubly gifted in knowledge and discernment — (and HIS gifts are most apparent when he sings.)
Each of us is gifted by the Spirit for the express purpose of edifying the Body of Christ. You can’t tell if you are using the gifts God gave you or the gifts you wish God gave you.
But you can bet your life that everyone else you know can.