Daily Readings: Deuteronomy 9-10, 1 Corinthians 12
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
1 Corinthians 12:7-20
When I read this passage this morning I was struck by the fact that I have discounted most of these gifts of the Spirit for my entire life up until the last 6 months. Whenever I have breezed through this passage in Corinthians in the past I have always lumped it together in my mind with Romans 12 where Paul said:
For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
In fact, embarrassingly enough, I always pictured these two verses together and didn’t fully internalize, until this morning, that they occur in two separate letters from Paul to two different churches. I always just skimmed through this verse in Corinthians, assumed that I had grasped the main point that we all have different gifts and should use those for the kingdom, and moved on.
This morning I realized why.
Throughout my life I have always been far more comfortable with the concept of people being gifted in serving, teaching, encouragement, giving, or leadership. These are easy to observe. Telling someone that they should focus on maximizing those particular gifts listed in Romans could just as easily be advice read in a secular personal development book on helping people utilize their strengths.
However if I ever turned my mind towards unexplainable physical healing, hearing the voice of God, speaking in tongues, or other miracles…now the skeptical side of my brain started began operating at full power!
Did that person actually get healing or are they just caught up in the moment?
Did he really hear that from God?
Did she actually speak in tongues or is there an explanation for that?
Did that miracle really occur or is this just a story that has grown over time like a spiritual telephone game?
It is far more intellectually comfortable for me to shrug my shoulders and think “maybe, maybe not, but I guess I will never really know”, and to turn back to appreciating the person who is using their gift of leadership, serving, giving, etc.
For the longest time these gifts scared me. I didn’t want to acknowledge the possibility that I could ever hear from God, receive physical healing, etc. What if I decided it was truly possible, put myself out there to God, and believed completely that God had given me a spiritual gift beyond things like leadership, teaching, or service…and then it didn’t happen? What if I prayed with all of my heart to hear from God…and was met by silence? What if I prayed over someone for healing…and it didn’t happen?
Now don’t get me wrong, gifts like leadership, service, teaching, etc. are absolutely spiritual gifts! The problem for me has always been the fact that these are the only gifts I was willing to accept in myself personally or truly recognize in others. Simply put, these gifts are far more comfortable to acknowledge in ourselves and in others, and can occasionally cause us to not be willing to ask the question, “Have I also been gifted in any of these other, less comfortable, areas?”
Throughout me life I “believed” that these spiritual gifts existed in theory and that God gave these gifts to some people in the abstract, just not anyone I could actually observe. Every time I heard about unexplainable miracles from someone I actually knew the enemy swooped in immediately and made sure that my mind went immediately to, “Really, though?”
Even Jesus said that, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home.”
We all like believing in miracles, just not at the hands of the guy in the cubicle next to us, the teacher in the next room, the nurse that we work with, etc.
Miracles are far more comfortable in the abstract.
It wasn’t until a night several months back that I accepted that God might actually want to do the miraculous for me personally and not just in theory. It wasn’t until that night that I accepted that God might want to speak through me to others and not just in a far away church plant in a foreign country.
Since then I have had multiple instances of people in times of worship come up to me unsolicited, not knowing what I was praying about, and say something along the lines of, “I really feel like God wants me to tell you that…”
They have spoken such incredible words that went straight to what I was wrestling with at that moment, and that probably made no sense to them whatsoever. And they were anything but generic.
I have had God put on my heart several times in the last few months that I should go up to someone I barely knew, and in some cases didn’t even know the name of, lays hands on them, pray for them, and speak to them incredibly specific things that he wanted to tell them. I have seen men weep for joy that God would speak to them in this way and tell me afterwards that it was exactly what they needed to hear at that exact moment. Truth be told, my first thought on multiple occasions when the Holy Spirit leading was, “Really? Why that? What if I am wrong? What if this is not from God? What if I tell them this and it falls flat?”
There have also been several times where I felt God telling me to go lay hands on someone and pray for someone; and nothing specific came to me. However, I had no doubt that I was meant to be praying for them even if that prayer was simply a silent, “Father, you already know what they need. Wrap them up in your arms and let them know that you are here and that there are other people lifting them up to you.”
Going after the Holy Spirit is scary.
I am so much more comfortable writing, speaking, or mentoring.
Opening up to the possibility of the miraculous is not comfortable.
And like Paul wrote today, we all have different spiritual gifts. I have prayed over many people for physical healing in these last several months as well and, as far as I know, none of them have received it. That may not be my gift. However, I will keep on praying for healing for others with complete conviction. This spiritual gift may surface for me at some time in the future or it may not. However, I know others who absolutely have this gift and I no longer say that with the internal caveat of, “…maybe.”
Discovering whether God designed you to be an eye, a hand, a foot, or an arm starts with truly believing that these parts exist in the first place. It starts with accepting that our God is still a God of the miraculous, not just in theory in a far off land, but in today’s world with people you actually know.
God is faithful. Gifts of the Spirit are real. We are all parts of the same body, simply with different gifts. Don’t be afraid to ask the question and really seek after all of the gifts God might have given you!
Thought to ponder
What is my default thought process when I hear about miraculous happenings close to home? Have I been open to the work of the Holy Spirit in my life and willing to truly seek out what Spiritual gifts I may have been given?