A sailing boat needs the wind, a torch needs batteries and a car needs petrol. But what do Christians need to keep going in their faith? What fuel do Christians require to persevere as followers of Jesus and be fruitful in his service? The answer is the Holy Spirit. It is God’s Holy Spirit who provides the inner power, strength and stamina we need to persevere as Christians.
The good news at the start of our passage in 1 Corinthians today is that the Holy Spirit has taken up residence in every Christian. As Paul writes in verse 3: “no-one can say ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit”. If we are people who believe that Jesus is Lord then we have the Holy Spirit within us. If by our lives and our lips we are declaring that Jesus is Lord, then we can be certain that God’s Spirit is at work in us.
The remainder of our passage in 1 Corinthians 12 describes just one of the many things that the Holy Spirit is doing for us. It tells us that every follower of Jesus has been given gifts by God’s Spirit. It tells us that every church, and every Christian, has been given gifts. As verses 4 and 6 tell us, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit” and “There are different kinds of working, but the same God works….in all men”
As we look at the remainder of this passage this morning, I hope we will gain a better understanding of the types of gifts God’s Spirit has given to his people. I hope to encourage you to discover and use the gifts God has given you. And I want us all to realise that the gifts we’ve been given are for the good of others, not just ourselves. In short: God’s gifts are varied. God’s gifts are to be used. And God’s gifts are for the common good.
- The Spirit’s gifts are diverse!
I wonder what gifts you got for Christmas? I hope your family and friends gave you a good selection of presents! If you were here for Epiphany Sunday last week, you will remember the three different gifts that the wise men gave to the baby Jesus at the first Christmas, 2000 years ago. Three gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Our New Testament passage this Sunday tells some of the gifts that God’s Holy Spirit gives to Christians today. Gifts given for life, not just for Christmas. And although some of his gifts may be more miraculous and spectacular than others, they are all precious. They are all carefully chosen for us by God. Unlike some of the gifts we may have got at Christmas, they are all valuable, all useful and all just what we need.
Verses 8 to 10 of 1 Corinthians 12 list some of the gifts God’s Spirit gives to Christians. Gifts of wisdom, knowledge, faith and healing. Gifts of special speech like prophecy and tongues. And God’s Spirit even gives some Christians the ability to perform miracles! Elsewhere in the Bible we are told of other talents and abilities the Spirit dispenses, like helpfulness, hospitality and musical ability. Yet more gifts include being merciful, being generous and being good at administration.
There are so many different gifts that God’s Spirit is willing and able to give to Christians! (In fact I sometimes think Heaven’s storeroom must be full of more gifts than a department store on the eve of the January sales!) The gifts of God’s Spirit so varied that no one person has every gift. The Holy Spirit decides exactly what gifts to give to each Christian. As verse 11 says “All these gifts are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines”.
- The Spirit’s gifts are to be discovered!
Its exciting to think that God’s Spirit has given us all special gifts. He has given Christians, his Church, the gifts we need to serve God, to serve one another and share the Gospel with unbelievers. And so we all have a responsibility need to discover what gifts God has given us and to deploy them effectively. Every Christian needs to discern their God-given gifts and make good use of them.
At Christmas my children didn’t leave their presents wrapped under the tree. As soon as possible they tore off the wrapping paper to discover what they’d been given, and immediately started to play with them. We should do the same with the gifts God’s Spirit has given us. We need to discover them and use them. I hope my children, and all of us here, will spend the rest of our lives unwrapping and using the great gifts that God’s Spirit has given us as Christians.
For a start, we should all take opportunities to discern and test our gifts. We should look for ways to find out what talents and abilities God has graciously given us. We should have a go at doing new things for God and for others and see what comes most naturally. We should keep our eyes open to new opportunities to use the gifts God’s Spirit has given us.
We should also help each other discover our gifts. We should be on the look out for the gifts and talents that God has given our Christian brothers and sisters. What do we think the person sitting next to you in church is good at or could be good at? We need to tell each other what gifts and qualities we see in them, and encourage each other to put them to good use.
And thirdly, we need to ask God himself to show us what gifts his Spirit has given us. We need to pray that he will open our eyes to the abilities we have been given, and help us put them to good use in our church and our community. We need God’s help to spot our gifts and to use them wisely.
- The Spirit’s gifts are for the common good!
If you’re given a great present at Christmas its tempting to boast about it, isn’t it? Its also tempting to keep your presents to yourself. But its wrong to boast about our gifts and its wrong to be selfish about what we have been given. The same is true about the gifts God’s Spirit gives us. After all, they are gifts. They are talents and abilities God has generously given to us. They are not things we deserve or things we should keep to ourselves. We must use our gifts to serve Jesus and to serve other people. Verse 7 of 1 Corinthians 12 says are given “for the common good”. Gifts are given to individual Christians so we can all contribute to the ministry and mission of the church.
The church should be a safe space for people to discover and develop their gifts. And the place where we can put them to best use. As I look around St. Michael’s, there are a whole host of opportunities for people to use their gifts. For example:
- We need people with teaching gifts to lead our home groups and Sunday Schools.
- We need people with the gift of hospitality to welcome new members of our congregation into their homes;
- We need people with administrative gifts to help manage the church’s affairs week by week.
- And we need people with gifts of leadership, faith and wisdom to serve on our PCC;
There really is no shortage of opportunities in church life for us to discover and deploy our gifts. Let me know if you would like to give something new a try in 2015!
As I finish this morning, I hope we’ve been excited to learn that God’s Spirit gives gifts to Christians. God has given us all different gifts and talents. Gifts that we can discover and deploy in the church and in our daily lives. Gifts that will help us follow Jesus, serve his church and serve our community.