You have a voice

Daily Readings: Deuteronomy 13-14, 1 Corinthians 14, Psalm 49

For this reason the one who speaks in a tongue should pray that they may interpret what they say. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding. Otherwise when you are praising God in the Spirit, how can someone else, who is now put in the position of an inquirer, say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since they do not know what you are saying? You are giving thanks well enough, but no one else is edified.

I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.

1 Corinthians 14:13-19

Truth be told, I have always spent much more time throughout my life as a Christian with 1 Corinthians 12 talking about different gifts and how they are all valuable along with 1 Corinthians 13 where Paul says they are all of them are worthless without love. These tend to be far more focused on as sermon topics. It feels good to hear the statement that we are all valuable contributors to the kingdom in our different strengths and nobody would ever disagree with the power of love.

However, 1 Corinthians 14, that is a different story. I tended to skim over that one.

For the longest time, in my walk with Christ, I would hear other people talk about their gifting and say things along the lines of, “I don’t really have the gift of evangelism or discipleship. I feel that God has called me more to…” followed by all sorts of gifts that don’t involve actively sharing our faith with others. Many people would reference praying for others (but silently because I have never been good at praying out loud), generating financial resources that can be used for kingdom building purposes, just living my life in a God honoring way that will rub off on others, etc.

I bought into this quickly, because it was always far more comfortable for me to pray silently on occasion, make money and donate, “lead a good Christian life”, etc. Leave evangelism to those who have that gift! Maybe I am just not a mouth in the body of Christ, but more of a hand. All parts are necessary, right?

In first Corinthians 14 today we see Paul address this head on.

He doesn’t say, “Stop speaking in tongues because that is not a valuable gift.” He says, “So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding. Otherwise when you are praising God in the Spirit, how can someone else, who is now put in the position of an inquirer, say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since they do not know what you are saying? You are giving thanks well enough, but no one else is edified.”

Whatever spiritual gifts you feel you have been blessed with, lean into those! Do those with extreme consistency and conviction. However, Paul suggests today that we should also be intentional about praying out loud, encouraging people, and sharing our faith with others in a way that they can actually internalize.

It is wonderful to pray every morning for your brother-in-law that God would open his heart, but you should also talk to him about the love of Christ.

It is great to be constantly lifting up that co-worker in prayer and asking that their heart would be open, but you should also invite them over for dinner, make a sincere effort to build a deeper relationship with them, and eventually invite them to visit a small group, church, or event where they could be exposed to Christianity in a tangible way.

Donating money to help overseas missionaries and praying for them constantly is fantastic! I have no doubt that they appreciate your support financially and through prayer. However, it is also important to take any opportunity possible to communicate with them how much you value the work they are doing whether and asking if there are any other ways you can support them. These interactions might be through Skype, email, letters, or however possible depending on the region of the world they are in. Whatever the method, words of encouragement are powerful!

Praying silently for a brother or sister in Christ to receive mental, emotional, or physical healing is a great thing to do, but don’t be afraid to lay hands on them as well and pray out loud. You have no idea what God might stir up in their heart as a result of your willingness to step out there and take a risk for the Kingdom of God.

I spent a large percentage of my life avoiding these types of activities. It was simply far more comfortable for me to pray silently, donate money, and go about my life without putting myself in a situation where I could feel the sting of rejection or perceived failure.

This doesn’t mean that you now go stand on a street corner with a sign, but rather that you are willing to put yourself out there for Jesus. Sometimes this might be a longer process. It might take a long time pursuing a genuine relationship with that co-worker that eventually gets to the point where you are able to share the gospel with them.

The problem with the concepts of evangelism, discipleship, and building genuine relationships, is we want them all to look like a single scene in a movie. We want the type of evangelism where someone goes from not believing in God all the way over to giving his or her life over to Christ in the midst of a 5-minute conversation where the gospel is shared. We want the scene to be set perfectly, the mood to be right, and the transformation to be obvious and complete!

Then we immediately discount ourselves as not having the ability to pull that off.

Real evangelism can take time. True discipleship is hard. Walking with fellow believers in an authentic, vulnerable, and spirit led way, is scary. Building stronger relationships to the point where you are able to go deeper in your faith together and be where you can be a tangible source of support and encouragement along their walk, is a process.

This isn’t Hollywood. We are not filming an hour and thirty-minute feel good movie targeted at Christians about a conversion story. This is life. It is ok if it takes time. Simply be willing and open to how the Spirit moves you to advance the plot.

Never allow yourself to believe the lie that you were simply not created to share with others. Don’t ever accept the attack that your voice will not be heard and that you will lack the right words to say. Reject the notion that you are not qualified, ill equipped, the wrong messenger, etc.

In the body of Christ, some of us are an eye, some an ear, some a foot or a hand…but we are all called to be a mouth from time to time. We are all called to use our voice for the good of others. This may take vastly different forms with all of us, but you were given a voice for the Kingdom.

Don’t be afraid to use it.

Thought to ponder

When was the last time I had the opportunity to pray over someone or with someone, be a source of encouragement, or share the gospel; but allowed fear and insecurity to cause me to hold back? Who is one person in my life that God is calling me to actively pursue for him?

“Physical healing, prophecy, hearing from God…really?”

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.

I prayed desperately with tears streaming down my cheeks several months ago that God would heal my unbelief.

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?

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