Friday, January 27, 2017

Spiritual Gifts


Spiritual Gifts

Last night we just wrapped up a little series on spiritual gifts. We started by looking at the story of Jonah. Jonah ran away from God when God asked him to go to Nineveh to bring a message of judgment. God could have used someone else or could have done it himself but he wants to do it with Jonah and so follows him with a storm, has him swallowed by a fish, and then vomited up on the shore. God wants to work with us to bring his kingdom on earth and he equips us to do that with spiritual gifts. We've looked at 12 gifts in 3 weeks! Here is what we said about each of the gifts:

The gift of mercy is the divine strength or ability to feel empathy and to care for those who are hurting in any way. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. When you see someone hurting, you also feel/sense hurt. Sympathy is feeling sorry for someone but empathy is feeling alongside someone.

People with the gift of mercy often have a deep loyalty to friends, need deep friendships, able to sense when people are hurting, tend to not want to offend other people, leans on emotion rather than reason, and has a desire to remove hurt

King David had the gift of mercy, especially with Saul. Even though Saul was trying to kill David, David did not want any harm to come on Saul, even giving up two different opportunities to kill Saul. The Apostle John was another person with the gift of mercy as he frequently writes about God’s love.

The gift of serving is the divine strength or ability to do small or great tasks in working for the overall good of the body of Christ. The gift of helps is the divine strength or ability to work in a supportive role for the accomplishment of tasks in Christian ministry with the ability to often see the need before others do. Basically the difference between the two is serving is helping out in a Church capacity and helps is helping out in other capacities.

People with the gift of service/helps have a natural drive to show love by meeting practical needs. Typically most satisfied with tangible work; prefers short-term tasks since they get a sense of accomplishment from finishing tasks; are dependable; would rather do the work themselves; easily frustrated by time limits; can easily over-commit to things; tend to be perfectionists; and get frustrated by others who are supposed to be helping but aren’t.

In the Bible the people with service gifts are the prophet Samuel and those who are labeled as Deacons. Those with the gifts of helps are Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 13-14)

The gift of evangelism is the divine strength or ability to help non-Christians take the necessary steps to becoming a born-again Christian. Basically the gift of evangelism is telling people who have never heard or accepted Jesus before about Jesus, telling them the Gospel.

People who have the gift of evangelism tend to be outgoing; able to strike up conversations with strangers; typically are talented communicators; have a good memory of names and faces; tends to dominate other people.

In the Bible we see the Apostle Philip as an evangelist (Acts 8:26-40) and Paul throughout Acts is an Evangelist.

The gift of exhortation is the divine strength or ability to strengthen, comfort or urge others to action through the written or spoken word and Biblical truth. It is basically the ability to encourage someone. It could be telling them something you think they are good at, what you appreciate about them, or recognizing something that they did that was good. It’s purpose is to motivate them to do something, like grow closer in relationship with Christ or serve someone.

People with the gift of exhortation tend to be optimistic; tries to solve every problem; can visualize the steps to take to get to the next level; likes starting new projects (sometimes leaving an unfinished one behind); can see the silver-lining in problems; willing to be open to others; focuses on experience over head knowledge; prefers to speak face to face; and typically sets unrealistic goals.

In the Bible, Paul is a major encourager as he helps train nervous, young church leaders (Timothy and Titus).

The gift of wisdom is the divine strength or ability to understand and to bring clarity to situations and circumstances often through applying the truths of Scripture in a practical way. Wisdom is not just a gift but also a tradition. We see the Wisdom tradition in the books Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job. Wisdom was a huge thing for the Israelites when they were in exile in Babylon. Worshipping God for the Ancient Israelites as laid out in the Torah, their Bible which contained Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and Numbers, was all about living in the land God promised them and all worship was formed around the Temple in Jerusalem. Now they did not live in Jerusalem or even the Promised Land and their Temple was in ruins. Now they had to interpret all the verses about the Land and about worshipping God in the Temple in a new way to figure out how to live faithfully to God in Babylon. The gift of Wisdom today is a similar thing. How do we take the words written 2000-3000 years today and apply them to our lives to worship God and remain faithful to him? Many of the conversations happening in the church today are wisdom questions. How do we take what the Bible says about homosexuality and apply it to live faithfully with the LGBTQ community today? How do we take what the Bible says about love your enemies and apply it to the issue of terrorism? These are wisdom questions.

In the Bible we see Solomon as the figure of wisdom which allows him to rule over Israel faithfully and leads Israel to be faithful. In the New Testament, Stephen, who was the first one killed for being a Christian, preached about Jesus to the Pharisees using Old Testament Scripture, interpreting it with Wisdom to the situation of his life immediately after Jesus was raised from the dead and ascended to heaven. The Bible says that people were arguing with Simon about Jesus being the Messiah “But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking.”

The gift of healing is the divine strength or ability to act as an intermediary in faith, prayer, and by the laying-on of hands for the healing of physical, mental and spiritual sickness. Intermediary is a mediator. Someone who comes into a situation reconcile. This person comes into a situation of unhealthy and mediates for God’s healing in the sick person’s life. Now the gift of healing is a little different from the other gifts that we have been talking about. The other gifts are more like motivations or leanings. Gifts like leadership, exhortation, mercy, service, and evangelism are more like motivations or leanings that God has given people. People who have the gift of exhortation tend to encourage others naturally, without really thinking about it sometimes. The gift of teaching, for me, is a leaning. When I am in a group discussion and where we share our opinions I naturally form my opinions in a way that I am teaching rather than just stating. The gift of healing is different in that it is a sporadic, momentary gift. God may give you the gift of healing in a moment. This means that having the gift of healing doesn’t mean that every time you pray for someone they are healed, it doesn’t even mean that most of the time you pray for someone they are healed. The gift of healing means that in that one moment where someone is healed when you pray God has given you the gift of healing in that moment.
            In the Bible we see the Apostles given the gift of healing at times. Peter and John heal a man at the Temple gates in Acts 3; Peter heals a guy who was paralyzed in Acts 9; Paul heals a guy from a fever in Acts 28. For those of you who go to Jericho you can talk to Ron and Constance Zacharias who have had experiences of God giving them the gift of healing in a moment.

The gift of prophecy is the divine strength or ability to communicate God’s truth and heart in a way that calls people to a right relationship with God. It is similar to the gift of Evangelism. Evangelism is directing people to come into a relationship with God. Prophecy is calling people already in relationship with God to and even better relationship with God.  This could include confronting people about sin that is keeping them from God or call out when someone is making a compromise in their faith.

If you are a prophet you tend to be confident in use of Scripture, quite teachable, not easily swayed by emotions, have a deep trust in God, see the world black & white, can be insensitive or harsh, can have little patience with people, could become intolerant or prideful, sometimes can have a gloomy approach to life.

Of course in the Bible we have lots of prophets in the Old Testament. We often can view them as future tellers but that is not really what they are. There is a little bit of future telling but very little. They were more interpreters of history. They do say that a nation is going to come and conquer Israel but that was not the main message. It was not ever really future telling cause everyone knew it was coming. First Assyria was a large nation that was conquering its way towards Israel so everyone knew that they were coming. Later Babylon was the same thing, they were a large nation conquering their way towards Israel so everyone knew it was coming. The main message was therefore not that they were going to be conquered but why they were going to be conquered. They sinned by worshiping other gods and committing unjust things. That was the prophetic part of the prophets.

The gift of tongues is the divine strength or ability to pray in a heavenly language to encourage your spirit and to commune with God. The gift of tongues is often accompanied by interpretation and should be used appropriately. There is a lot of hesitancy and confusion around this gift because it is definitely one of the most mysterious gifts. I’ve never spoken in tongues myself but I have heard people speak in tongues multiple times. Basically it is speaking in a heavenly language. I’ve heard someone describe it as the Spirit speaking through you to God, which allows you to pray more closely to the will of God. Now there are a lot of misconceptions and hurt around this gift because of how it has been abused. Mostly this stems from some churches within the Pentecostal denomination (there are probably others but that’s the only one I know) that make the gift of tongues the supreme gift. In some Pentecostal service you are only a true Christian if you can speak in tongues. Many people have walked away from the church because of this.

Now the important thing to remember is that the Spiritual Gifts are designed to build up the Church. Insisting that unless you speak in tongues you are not a Christian does not build up the church. The important thing with the gift of tongues then is that the gift of speaking in tongues and the gift of interpreting tongues should be hand-in-hand. So I’ve heard people speak in tongues multiple times. Back in Kelowna we would have a week of prayer where most of the churches of Kelowna would get together and pray for the city. I was in a group with some old ladies who, as we were praying were speaking in tongues. However, I gained no encouragement nor did I grow in my faith at all because of it. Why? Because I had no idea what they were saying, they might as well have been speaking gibberish. This is why the gift of interpretation of tongues needs to be present. This gift allows someone to understand what the person speaking in tongues is saying. It allows everyone to hear what the Spirit is praying for through that person.

The gift of leadership is the divine strength or ability to influence people at their level while directing and focusing them on the big picture, vision, or idea. Leaders are able to guide people to reach a common goal or purpose. You likely have the gift of leadership if people automatically turn to you for leadership, if you naturally step into the role when there is a leadership vacuum, or when someone is leading and you think "I could do that better."

There are plenty of leaders in the Bible but the most famous and probably most effective (other than Jesus) is King David who leads his people in a time of peace and prosperity as well as keeping them faithful to God.
The gift of pastor/shepherd is the divine strength or ability to care for the personal needs of others by nurturing and mending life issues. It is really a genuine care for people and a desire to see peace in their lives. The naming of the gift as shepherd comes from shepherds of sheep. The shepherds look after their sheep protecting them from danger. A shepherd role can be seen in Psalm 23:2-3 "He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name."

The gift of administration is the divine strength or ability to organize multiple tasks and groups of people to accomplish these tasks. Administration can be similar to leadership but is more about putting people in the right roles. It can also be an organization of information (e.g. finances). If you enjoy things like math problems, statistics, charts, Excel sheets, you likely have the gift of administration

In the Bible we see the gift of administration at work with the deacons set out to look after the support for the Hellenist widows (Acts 6:1-7) allowing better organization of the support and allowing the Apostles (who probably didn't have the gift of administration) to focus on teaching.

The gift of hospitality is the divine strength or ability to create warm, welcoming environments for others in places such as your home, office, or church. This includes integrating people into a group so that they feel comfortable, welcome, and part of the group. You likely have this gift if you are always looking to have people over to your house, are particularly concerned whether or not people are fitting in or feeling comfortable, or if you can identify someone who is new. We see people with this gift usually in roles of greeting, ushering, or hosting in our churches. 

In the Bible Martha has this gift of hospitality as she hosts Jesus and his disciples and gets to work busy in the kitchen to prepare a meal for them (Luke 10:38-42)
We concluded our series by giving everyone a "Spiritual Gifts Test" to help them get a starting point on finding their gifts. Ask you student about it!


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