The Gift of Gifts
It is not so far from Christmas that we can’t talk about gifts. One grandmother was surprised at her grandson’s disappointment with his gifts one Christmas. He explained, ‘When you asked whether I would like a big check for Christmas and I said “yes”, I didn’t think you were referring to the pattern on a new tie.’
A woman once told her friends, in front of her husband that they were only giving practical gifts this Christmas, like a mink coat or socks.
Among the gifts I receive regularly are after-shave, deodorants and powders. I keep wondering if someone is trying to tell me something.
We have an unusual family member who is averse to even opening his Christmas presents. Someone observed that almost a year later, his Christmas presents were still lying around wrapped in his car. This year my ever-practical wife insisted that he open them as he received them.
He may be a little like us in the Church, yet to unwrap the gifts we have been given.
Many are still travelling through the Christian life believing they have no gifts to offer the church. I have a mission to help Christians who believe they have nothing to offer to discover the gifts they have, and to encourage those who believe they have every possible gift to be less convinced about that.
Sometimes the Church suffers at the other extreme from those who believe they have gifts in some areas they do not. For example, I have been made treasurer of a number of groups, but never for long.
I identify with a young man who sang a solo in church. It was agony to the ears of the congregation from beginning to end. After, one of the men said to him, ‘Son, you did your best, and we can’t blame you for what happened. However, the person who asked you to sing should be driven out of town.’
This morning I want you to see three things about gifts.
1. There is such a thing as a spiritual gift.
We understand natural gifts. We say what a talented football team the Adelaide Crows are. Or, how those Chinese swimmers manage to develop their athletic gifts. Or in the movie Shine, we marvel at the talent of David Helfgott. However, when we talk of a spiritual gift, we are talking about something a little different. Though a natural gift like playing the piano can become a spiritual gift as it is offered to the Lord, there are specific gifts which come from the Holy Spirit to every Christian.
The Spirit even works in our lives before we become Christians helping us to find faith in the Lord. But when we become Christians, the Holy Spirit gives us one or more gifts.
It is like when someone gets married. In my case, into my life came someone with great musical talent, a splendid cook, good humour, and fortunately much patience. Those gifts became a part of my life as Janis became my wife. When the Holy Spirit becomes a part of our life He brings gifts as well, the ones he knows we and the Church need.
Ephesians 1, verse 11 says it is the Spirit who does all this and decides which gift to give to each of us.
2. There is a purpose to spiritual gifts
Gifts are special ways of serving others. They are not to make us feel important, or superior over others. They are not for attracting attention to ourselves or a way of manipulating others because we claim to have certain gift or insights. It is a way of helping others become what God wants them to be, the Church to be what God wants it to be.
It is like when our house was being built. The work of each tradesman was dependent on the others. The concrete people couldn’t do their work until the block was cleared and level. The frame constructors couldn’t do their work until the concreters had laid the slab. They couldn’t do their work until the plumber had put in the piping and so on.
Each required the other to do their job for them to be effective. So too with us. We need each other to be using the gifts we have to build the household of God.
These are not necessarily lifetime endowments, but dynamic gifts when needed. Take for example the first gift listed here: wisdom. The Greek literally says, ‘a word of wisdom’. This means special insight in a difficult situation.
I was once chairing a public meeting of 300 people. There was one nomination left for a key committee. I wanted it to be filled by a woman, and two women nominated themselves. How could the meeting decide? I asked them both to come to the podium to tell us a little about themselves. One told of how her sole resolve was to follow the Lord and live a life of obedience to Him. The other spoke about different matters, which disclosed how unsuitable she would be in this committee. It was clear to all how to vote.
Now I had wisdom in that moment in that situation, but that does not mean all my decisions are wise. Far from it. But it does illustrate this truth, that the spiritual gift is given as it is needed to build up the church. There are times when you will have special gifts from the Spirit that the church needs to receive from you.
Let’s look at some gifts.
There is the gift of knowledge. Sometimes a person has special insight and understanding. Peter saw that Ananias and Sapphira were lying to the church about their generosity. Paul discerned that the fortune telling slave girl was doing this through demonic influence – all gifts of knowledge.
There is the gift of faith. This is not just saving faith, but great faith. Like Robert Schuller looking at an Orange grove and seeing a crystal cathedral, like the Robertsons building a church to fit a hundred in Golden Grove back in 1867 when there were more cattle than people.
Some have power to heal the sick through prayer, occasionally.
If the Lord answered every prayer we made the way we wanted, we would be in charge and not God.
So too in Ephesians 1, verse 10, might miracles can be wrought through great faith.
Others bring prophetic words about what God requires or is doing, a major part of the preaching ministry.
Others recognize the word of the Spirit in such prophecy.
Others speak in tongues and some can interpret what message of God is in the utterance.
Other gifts are listed in 1 Peter and Romans 12.
3. Everyone has spiritual gifts
I don’t want any of you to believe you have nothing to offer the Church family. Discover and unwrap them.
By George Robert Iles