Friday, January 16, 2009

“Spiritual Gifts and Prophecy”

The spiritual gifts that God gives to all His followers can be overemphasized or at least easily misunderstood. Emphasis can be placed on understanding what our individual spiritual gifts are. Yet, they are generally manifested as everyday activities, although not in the sense we consider ordinary. If a person has the gift of teaching, he should teach. If the gift of preaching, he should preach. If the gift of music, he should honor God with music, etc.

There are several things we should bear in mind regarding spiritual gifts. Gifts can be original, that is, given by God at conception, or they can be acquired, which would come through diligent study or practice, and the blessing of God. They can be natural, which is part of our nature (our makeup, if you will), gifts at birth that are relatively easily developed; or they can be spiritual, specially given by the Holy Spirit at any time in our lives. Gifts can be temporary for an acute need or situation (we would have no control over this), or they can be long-term, say for a lifetime, maintained either by continued use, the lack of which will cause the gift to diminish or depart, or they can be maintained permanently by God’s constant intervention. What indicates whether these are “gifts of God” is how they are used. If we allow God to have control of them, He will use them to benefit others. If not, we are likely to (do I dare use the word “shall”) fall into the trap of false gifts, which may appear to be genuine to some, but actually draw away from God, and thus are Satanic.

Spiritual gifts may seem ordinary, but we should not place upon them ordinary importance, for they arise from our connection to God. We should expect to know at least some of the gifts that God has given to us, but we will hardly know all of them. We can know this much for sure, that if we have given our hearts to God, He has given to us at least one gift, whether we know what it is or not. There is a danger in placing too much emphasis on knowing, lest we fret about what we think we should have and believe that we don’t have; or we might run away from what we do have, and don’t want to admit that God might want to do something special in us. Let’s not place God in a box and limit His miraculous power to use us by limiting Him to only those gifts we think we have. For example, let’s listen in on Moses in Exodus 4:10-12:

“And Moses said unto theLORD, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue. And the LORDsaid unto him, Who hath made man’s mouth? Or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? Have not I theLORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say” (emphasis added).

In other words, “Don’t try so hard, Moses, let Me do it—in you.” Yet, if you find you have been studying to learn a new activity and it is simply not developing, maybe that is an indication that God does not want you to do that work. He possibly has found someone else whose personality may be better suited for that activity. Don’t let pride get in God’s way. The advice given in Matthew 10:14 can also apply to talents: “Whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.”

Although God will control our thoughts and desires (if we let Him), there are diversities of gifts and different ways of doing things. God does not want us to place everyone in the same box. We all have different personalities and different ways of approaching the same goal, or even the same activity. He will work in each of us in different ways as He sees what will make our work the most effective. We should be ready to recognize the various gifts manifested in others. Let the Holy Spirit reveal to you what you need to know at any time or in any situation.

On the other hand, let’s recognize the difference between the gifts of the Spirit and the gospel itself. Although there are diversities of gifts and different ways of doing things, there is only one true gospel (Acts 1:6-9). We should be ready to discern both. “Spiritual discernment” is one of the gifts of the Spirit (the “eyesalve” of Revelation 3:18). From E. J. Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, pp. 36, 37:

“The brethren in Jerusalem showed their connection with God in that ‘they perceived the grace that was given to’ Paul. Those who are moved by the Spirit of God will always be quick to ‘perceive’ workings of the Spirit in others. The surest evidence that one knows nothing personally of the Spirit is that he cannot recognize His working. The other apostles had the Holy Spirit, and they ‘perceived’ that God had chosen Paul for a special work among the Gentiles; and, although his manner of working was different from theirs, for God had given him special gifts for his special work, they freely gave to him the right hand of fellowship ...

“Remember that there was no difference of opinion among the apostles nor in the church as to what the gospel is. There were ‘false brethren,’ it is true; but inasmuch as they were false, they were no part of the church, the body of Christ, which is the truth. Many professed Christians, sincere persons, suppose that it is almost a matter of necessity that there be differences in the church. ‘All cannot see alike,’ is the common statement. So they misread Ephesians 4:13, KJV, making it seem that God has given us gifts ‘till we all come into the unity of the faith.’ What the Word teaches is that “in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God,’ we all come ‘unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.’ There is only ‘one faith’ (verse 5), the faith of Jesus, as there is only one Lord; and those who have not that faith must necessarily be out of Christ.

“... There are, of course, different degrees of knowledge, but never any controversy between those different degrees. All truth is one.”

Do not hesitate to let God give you His gifts. Do not try to presume that we already have all the gifts God will give us. Do not think that you don’t have any gifts, or that you need more than what you do have. Don’t try to run ahead of God on this issue. We may not understand our gifts. They may be temporary, or they may be permanent. We may be aware of them, or we may not. We even may feel that God is placing us out on a limb. But do trust God that He will not place you on a limb so you will fall off and embarrass Him. He is very capable of holding you with a hand that will never let go. Just look at Moses. Even Jesus Himself said, in John 5:30, “I can of mine own self do nothing.” —Craig Barnes