How Should I Use My Gifts?
Can he be a Christian? When you graduate from high school and begin to move off on your own, it can be an exciting time. But it can also be a challenging time. It’s challenging because, for the first time in your life you are on your own and you are meeting people who are not like you. They don’t act like and don’t believe the same as you believe. I remember meeting a guy who said he was a Christian, and yet he also believed many, many strange teachings. He believed in conspiracy theories and that if you got a Social Security number, you were receiving the mark of the beast and then wouldn’t get into heaven. I was confused. So I went to my pastor and asked him that question: can he be a Christian? Can a person pile up that much false teaching and still be a Christian? The pastor read to me these words—the words that Paul begins with this morning: “1 Now concerning spiritual gifts: brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be unaware. 2 You know that when you were pagans, you used to be enticed and led astray by mute idols. 3 Therefore I want you to know that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:1–3 CSB17)
No one can say, “Jesus is Lord” (and mean it) unless the Holy Spirit created faith in that person. And when that pastor said that, it was so very comforting to hear. Whenever someone says, “Jesus is my Lord and Savior”, we need to stop, pause and rejoice in that. For there is only one reason that happened: The one Holy Spirit gave that person faith. But as Paul continues notice what he emphasizes. The one Holy Spirit gives faith. But then with that faith he gives a variety of gifts. We read: “4 Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are different ministries, but the same Lord. 6 And there are different activities, but the same God produces each gift in each person.” (1 Corinthians 12:4–6 CSB17)
Now you’ll notice the word that Paul uses here. The word is service or ministry.1 Here Paul is speaking about spiritual gifts. He is speaking about gifts that have to do with God’s word. He is not speaking about gifts that everyone on the face of the planet has. And yet, even though he is speaking about spiritual gifts, what he says next could be said about any gift that a Christian has. Paul tells us: “A manifestation of the Spirit is given to each person for the common good:” (1 Corinthians 12:7 CSB17)
Before Paul goes into detail, outlining the sort of spiritual gifts the one Holy Spirit gives, he first answers a question: how should we use our gifts? As Christians we use our gifts, whether spiritual gifts or not, for the common good. With that in mind we can walk through some of these spiritual gifts: “to one is given a message of wisdom through the Spirit, to another, a message of knowledge by the same Spirit,” (1 Corinthians 12:8 CSB17) Here Paul is speaking about the spiritual gift of preaching and teaching. Next Paul writes: “to another, faith by the same Spirit,” (1 Corinthians 12:9 CSB17) Here Paul is speaking about the strength and power of faith. For there are those out there in the church that when God makes a promise to them, they simply, humbly, and strongly hold onto that faith without doubting or sometimes even wavering. That is a spiritual gift. 2 And Paul concludes the list this way: “9 to another, gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another, the performing of miracles, to another, prophecy, to another, distinguishing between spirits, to another, different kinds of tongues, to another, interpretation of tongues. 11” (1 Corinthians 12:9–10 CSB17) What is fascinating about the remaining items on this list of spiritual gifts is that these are gifts that have faded away. After all, when I was called to be your pastor, “working miracles” was not on the list of duties.
But with all of these, notice the point that Paul is making. He keeps coming back to the main point. There are many different gifts. But there is one Holy Spirit. And we use these gifts for the common good. All of us have spiritual gifts. But each of us has different gifts. And even the gifts that we have that are not spiritual can be used in a godly, spiritual way. There is nothing spiritual about cleaning the church, counting money, mowing the church lawn, and bringing food for a potluck. But these gifts can be used in a very beautiful and spiritual way. They can be used for the common good.
But right there is where we see our very own sin, don’t we? As we grow up, we can ask the question, when will I have a gift? And then, when the one Holy Spirit follows up and gives us a gift, our next temptation is to say, “Look at me, I have this gift—and it’s a gift that you don’t have.” And then, the final temptation we face is that, instead of using our gifts for the greater good, instead we use them for ourselves, by ourselves.
And we might say, “look at my gifts.” But instead of looking at your gifts, look at your Savior Jesus. Look at the great, amazing gifts that he had. He raised people from the dead. He healed people. He preached. He taught. He healed. All these gifts he had. But how did he use them? He used them in line with his Father’s will, for the greater good. And because of this, when your Father above looks down, he does not see the times you pridefully said, “where are my gifts, O Holy Spirit?” He does not see the times you said, “Why don’t people appreciate my gifts?’” He does not see all the gifts that he gave you and you used for yourself, by yourself. Instead he sees his Son using all his gifts perfectly for the common good, even giving up his very life on the cross. And all this he does for you to pay for your sin.
How then should you use your gifts? Use them for the common good. This the sort of reading from God’s word that moves us to go home and ask the simple, but powerful question: what gifts has God given to me? And whether we take out pen and paper or make a mental list in our brains, we first of all, pause and pray to the one Holy Spirit who gave these gifts to us and thank him. Then we ask the one Holy Spirit to give us both a joy in using our gifts and opportunities to us them.
How will you use your gifts? Use them for the common good. But the final words in this part of God’s word read this way: “One and the same Spirit is active in all these, distributing to each person as he wills.” (1 Corinthians 12:11 CSB17)
Notice those last few words: “as he wills.” One of the other temptations we can fall into is to yearn, pine away, and envy the gifts that the one Holy Spirit has given to others. What helps us use our gifts with contentment is knowing that the one Holy Spirit is the one who chose to give us our gifts. Those other gifts that others have do not fit us. It’s like having to return shoes to a store because they didn’t fit. They looked nice on the website. They had all the qualities that you wanted in a shoe. But they didn’t fit. It’s the same with the gifts the one Holy Spirit gave you. The one Holy Spirit knows perfectly and exactly what gifts fit you. He chose them for you. He custom tailored them for you.
With all this in mind, when you ask the question, how will I use my gifts, Hear the one Holy Spirit speaking to you from God’s word. Use your gifts for the common good. And use them with contentment. Amen.
1 “ⲇⲓⲁⲕⲟⲛⲓⲱⲛ” (1 Corinthians 12:5 GNT-ALEX)
2 “ⲉⲧⲉⲣⲱⲇⲉⲡⲓⲥⲧⲓⲥ” (1 Corinthians 12:9 GNT-ALEX)