Identity Crisis: Gifted

This morning, we continue our “Identity Crisis” message series where we are faced with that question, “When everything else fails, at your core, who are you?”  We’ve been reminded how we were created on purpose and for a purpose.

We learned of our need to be born again and how, at that  moment, we become children of God.  We were also reminded of the worship war raging and how jealous the enemy must be of us.  After all, God chose not only to create us in His image, but also for us to be His temples; filled with His Presence through the Holy Spirit. 

We know that we are loved with an unconditional and eternal love that nothing can separate us from; nothing like the way in which we use the word love.

This morning, we’re focusing on a topic that has stirred up quite a bit of controversy.  However, this controversial subject is surrounding a part of who we are; our identity.  This topic is one that I’ve often warned us about; to actually not form our identity around it or else Heaven will be very disappointing to us.  However, here on the earth, it is a key part of our identity.

What is this controversial identity crisis?  You are gifted!

We spend quite a bit of time throughout our youth determining what our natural gifts and talents are.  We try different things like sports or playing instruments or taking different classes.  All of us can throw a ball or hit a drum, but not all of us are gifted in these areas. 

As we enter our teen years, we begin seeking out what possible career we want to commit ourselves to and then begin to study and train for it.  We find our gifts and then dedicate ourselves to learning more about them, increasing ours skills in them, and seeking out opportunities to put them to use.  This is a significant part of most of our lives taking up most of our resources.

What a shame it would be if a world class sculptor never had the opportunity to touch clay, but was rather taught that art is a waste of time!  What if the most skilled of mechanics, who could fix anything, never touched a wrench, but was taught just to replace things when they break instead?

These people never reach their full potential and they would never truly feel fulfilled in life.  Also, think of all of the people who needed their gift who would be missing out as well.

This is all very good.  This is all a part of determining who God created us to be.  It’s fun and an adventure to learn through trial and error and explore who we were born to be.  Those natural gifts and talents are a part of who God created us to be; part of our identity!

Then, we choose to put our faith in Jesus and to follow Him.  We are born again. 

Added to our natural giftings is also a whole new world of spiritual gifts to explore!  In the same way that we figured out our natural giftings as a youth, we now get to try out the spiritual gifts.  We can all operate in all of the spiritual gifts, but there are some that we will be more gifted in than others.  Just like throwing a ball or hitting a drum.  We can all do it, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is my actual gifting.

Once we figure them out and we mature, we learn more about those gifts and increase our skills in them and seek out opportunities to put them to use.

This all just makes sense, right?  Well, not to everyone.  There is a vast amount of Christians who want nothing to do with spiritual gifts.  They don’t want them and seeing them in operation makes them uncomfortable.

What a shame it is for a Christian to be taught to avoid spiritual gifts.  They would never discover their giftings, they would never experience the true adventure and thrill of following Jesus, and those around them would be left in need of the gift that they are neglecting.

We fully embrace everything else that the word of God teaches us.  We accept it all with gladness.  We say that we need to live like Jesus lived.  However, He moved in the gifts of the Spirit often.  The New Testament lifestyle was a supernatural lifestyle using the gifts of the Spirit inside their gatherings together and out in the community.  In fact, the gifts of the Spirit were active in the Old Testament as well.

Some say that spiritual gifts or demonic, others just say that they ceased when Jesus rose again or when the cannon of the Bible was finalized.  However, God’s word clearly reveals that neither of those are true.  There is no Biblical foundation for these claims at all!

The enemy wants to keep us from understanding our identity when it comes to our giftings.  If we operate in the gifts of the Spirit, we’ll start pushing his kingdom of darkness back as we see God’s kingdom of light come here on the earth even as it is in Heaven.

If we realize our spiritual gifts, we’ll begin to truly live as Jesus lived healing every sickness and disease.  We’ll begin setting the captives free from their demonic bondage.  We’ll begin seeing those who died prematurely raised back to life.  We’ll start seeing words of knowledge and wisdom and prophecy guiding people and encouraging them to reach their full potential. 

We’ll start seeing people’s practical needs being met and being set free from poverty.  We’ll see people being comforted and welcomed into the Kingdom.  We’ll start seeing people understand the word of God and apply it in their own lives. 

These are only the tip of the iceberg of what spiritual gifts equip and enable us to do!  God’s Kingdom will begin to invade and be established here in our community!

The enemy certainly isn’t going to sit around and allow that to happen!  Nope, and the best way to stop this is to make us avoid or neglect our spiritual gifts at all cost.  He’s fine with us having social gatherings and talking about the Bible and being content calling that church.  He’ll leave that grow because it’s no threat to him at all.

However, he must stop a church from actually becoming the church that Jesus desires us to be and gave His life for.  We are called the body of Christ and when we come together, we ought to be a physical representation and manifestation of Him on the earth here and now.  It should be like Jesus is still ministering here because that’s exactly what is happening through us.

As we come together and begin to realize our giftings and grow in them together and increase our skill in how to use them, well…  That church will be unstoppable!  That church will demolish the work that the enemy has been up to.  That church is exactly the one that we see throughout the pages of the New Testament.  Common, ordinary people who have baptized in the Holy Spirit and have therefore been equipped and enabled to do the extraordinary!

Peter’s words are ringing truer every day and leads us through what we’ve covered in this series so far!

1 Peter 4:7-11

7 The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. 8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

As I discover and increase in my spiritual gifts, it’s not so that I can be something special or better than anyone else.  I’m not given spiritual gifts for me, I’m given spiritual gifts for you.  The purpose of spiritual gifts are to serve the needs of others.

Spiritual gifts are not about us, they are a form of God’s grace freely placed into our lives with the intent of having them poured out into the lives of others.  It’s not me, it’s Christ in me moving through me.  I can’t do anything myself, but God can do the miraculous through my life as I allow Him to.

We learned last week about love from 1 Corinthians 13.  Spiritual gifts are a powerful expression of the love of God in and through us.  God’s word does not teach us anywhere that spiritual gifts have ceased or should be avoided; only that they will be unnecessary once we are made complete in Heaven.  Rather, God’s word implores us to eagerly desire the gifts of the Spirit!

1 Corinthians 14:1

Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy.

Now we do see several lists of spiritual gifts throughout the Bible and we’ll cover some today.  However, our God is creative and limitless.  His grace is manifold and so I believe that there are many, many gifts of the Spirit that we can receive and use.  A spiritual gift is simply the ability to do something by the Holy Spirit’s enabling and empowering and not something that we could do on our own.

There is even an overlap sometimes of spiritual and natural giftings.  For example, Peter just mentioned the gifts of hospitality and service to others.  These can be both natural and supernatural giftings.   Sometimes, we fail to realize our giftings because it is just something that comes natural to us.  For that reason, we just think that anyone could do it and really downplay our gifts and even fail to put them to use for others.

The key to receiving and using spiritual gifts is to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit within.  The key is not to focus on the gifts, especially comparing our gifts to the gifts of others, but rather to focus on the gift giver. 

You may receive the gift of healing for a specific time and moment, but not move in that gift often otherwise.  That’s OK.  We must work not on developing a formula and pattern of how to use our spiritual gifts, but rely wholly on our relationship with the Gift Giver to receive and use them appropriately. 

Jesus rarely performed miracles the same way twice.  His success was in doing only what He saw the Father doing.  It was a cooperation through relationship.

For example:

Mark 7:31-35

31 Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis. 32 There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him.

33 After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. 34 He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”). 35 At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.

Now this is what Jesus did to heal a deaf and mute man on one occasion.  I don’t recommend beginning an entire healing ministry around putting your fingers in people’s ears, spitting, touching their tongue, and declaring “Ephphatha!”  You won’t likely have much success in that venture…

Although this is what it took to see this man’s healing come, even Jesus took him aside and away from the crowd to do such an odd thing privately as to not embarrass the man.  Again, the gifts of the Spirit should express the love of God as they are used.

We love to start this chapter on verse 4 and quote it at weddings and place it on the wall over our couch in the living room.  However, the context of the definition of love found in 1 Corinthians 13 that we read last week is about exactly this; how to use the gifts of the Spirit!  Back up just a few verses:

1 Corinthians 13:1-3

13 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

You won’t likely hear a preacher talk about speaking in tongues at your next wedding, but that is exactly what love is patient, love is kind, etc… is referring to!  The gifts of the Spirit must be used to express God’s love to those who need that gift that we have to offer in service to them.

You are gifted!  You may not yet know or understand your spiritual giftings, but if you are saved, then you have been given them.  You are gifted!

We don’t think that it’s odd by any means to drive past a ball field and see coaches teaching basic skills like throwing and catching a ball to a group of kids.  In fact, when they are really bad at it first, fond memories are made that you can look back on and laugh at.

This should be the case with spiritual gifts as well.  We join together here in a safe place to learn about our gifts, try them out, and grow in our skill using them. 

As you are first exploring and trying out this new gifts that you have been given, you won’t use them perfectly.  You will make mistakes and you will even miss it completely at first.  That’s OK.  Give yourself some grace and mercy to discover what your giftings are and time to grow in your skill at using them.

Later, you’ll be able to look back and laugh at the times that you missed it, but also remembering the thrill of the first time that you nailed it!  I remember asking a cashier how their sick mother was doing and their response made it clear to me that I totally missed it. 

I also remember asking a cashier how their first semester classes were going and they were blown away knowing that God cared about their struggles getting started by giving that word of knowledge to a complete stranger.

When you are learning to play ball, you always remember that first home run that you hit.  You remember where it was, who you were playing against, the weather that day, the words of encouragement after.  You never forget that feeling.  You forget about the dozens and dozens of swings, misses, and strikes that you had when you were up at the plate with all eyes on you the other times.

Try taking that approach to spiritual gifts.  At first, you’ll strike out more often than you hit home runs.  You’ll pray for healing, but nothing happens.  That person will be blessed anyways knowing that you took notice of their suffering and cared enough to reach out and do something about it.  So long as they experience the love of God, that’s success.

However, when you pray and see an undeniable, instantaneous miracle?  Well, you’ll never forget it!  It’ll stir up your faith ablaze so much that you’ll want to pray for everyone!  It’s a God-given adrenaline rush that gives you a healthy hunger and thirst for more!    You’ll eagerly desire the gifts of the Spirit so that not only you get to experience God in new ways, but also bring others into a personal and undeniable encounter with the one, true living God!

You are gifted!

The other thing that I love is that even people who have the same giftings will move in them differently.  God gifts you to do something, but you do it within your unique context of your personality and with the other gifts that you have as well. 

Thousands of people may have the gift of singing, but they will all have a unique sound as they sing.  I could hear a hundred people playing the saxophone, but still pick out Kenny G from among them.  Not to mention all of the various styles of music and methods of playing!  How much more unique are our spiritual gifts than these natural gifts!

What are some spiritual gifts, though?  After all, it’s difficult to explore and try these gifts if we don’t even know what they are!

Again, as a reminder:

1 Peter 4:10

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

Here, he listed speaking, hospitality, and serving.

1 Corinthians 12:4-11

4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 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. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

1 Corinthians 12:27-31

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.

1 Corinthians 14:1-6;13-17

1 Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy. 2 For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit. 3 But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort. 4 Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church. 5 I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be edified.

6 Now, brothers and sisters, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction?

13 For this reason the one who speaks in a tongue should pray that they may interpret what they say. 14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. 15 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. 16 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? 17 You are giving thanks well enough, but no one else is edified.

Romans 12:4-9

4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 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; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 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. 9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.

Ephesians 4:11-13

11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

These are often considered offices in the church, but they are also gifts that have been given to those individuals so that they might execute the work and function of that office.

Remaining single can be considered a spiritual gift:

1 Corinthians 7:7-8

7 I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that. 8 Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do.

Voluntary poverty and martyrdom can be considered spiritual gifts:

1 Corinthians 13:3

If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Being a missionary, reaching people of a different culture or nation can be considered a spiritual gift:

Ephesians 3:7-8

7 I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. 8 Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ

Even a whole range of craftsmanship and trade can be considered spiritual gifts.  It was for these reasons that the first people were filled with the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament:

Exodus 35:30-35

30 Then Moses said to the Israelites, “See, the Lord has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 31 and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— 32 to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, 33 to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic crafts. 34 And he has given both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach others. 35 He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as engravers, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers—all of them skilled workers and designers.

This list could go on and on and on, but these are the ones that we find listed in God’s word.

The takeaway here is that you are gifted!  Take time to explore and try out different spiritual gifts.  Find out which ones you are uniquely gifted in and put them to use serving those around you.  Don’t worry about missing it, God’s grace is big enough to cover you.  Follow the lead of the Holy Spirit and see the extraordinary things that He can do through ordinary you! You are gifted and the world out there needs the gifts that God has given you!