Day Two: Cause & Effect
Yesterday we went through the first passage in Romans that opened us up to what the spiritual gifts were first described as, learning that these gifts were given by grace to be graciously given to others. We’ve talked so much about the value in these gifts, but what exactly are the effects of them and what were they intended to do? When we look back at Romans again, we see two major themes regarding the effects of spiritual gifts when rightly shared and they are to both strengthen and encourage the Body.
1 Corinthians 12:4-11 explains, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” You see, as human beings we can tend to get so focused on what the gifts can do for us (even when we’re using them for others) instead of how they can glorify the very one who gave them to us. We can’t help but notice all the differences between one another in regards to how God has gifted each of us, and this quickly turns to bitterness as we begin comparing ourselves to one another. On Sunday we learned that if we don’t have love then none of our giftings matter- in fact they become a very negative thing in our lives and in the lives of others. Comparison, pride and vanity quickly blind us to the pure and good intentions of the spiritual gifts, ultimately resulting in discouragement and pain.
Why? Because when we look at what God’s intentions for the spiritual gifts are, it only makes sense that when twisted into a means for our own selfish ambitions they become the opposite of what they were made for. This is why we constantly see an emphasis on loving God over any other characteristics we are called to imitate in the Bible.
J.D. Greear explains this well when saying, “Without love even the most radical devotion to God is of no value to Him. Let me make sure that sinks in… You can gain all the spiritual gifts in the world. You can take the most radical steps of obedience. You can share every meal with the homeless in your city. You can memorize the book of Leviticus. You can pray each morning for four hours like Martin Luther. But if what you do does not flow out of a heart of love - a heart that does those things because it genuinely desires to do them - it is ultimately worthless to God.” The Father does not force our hand into obedience because He knows that faith-not force- is what brings authentic obedience, true unity and genuine love. And while we’re here, let’s take a moment to thank God for the fact that He desires that we cultivate a pure heart over a clean record! This week let’s begin orienting our minds towards what it would look like for us to share our gifts in a way that strengthens and encourages those around us, trusting that when our cause is Christ the effect will be His glory.
Day One: Joy(full) Gifts
What’s the best gift you’ve ever been given? I think mine was my American Girl Doll I received one magical Christmas morning; all dressed in a green velvet and plaid festive dress. I’ll never forget the wonder and excitement I felt upon opening my incredibly wrapped present! I remember thinking of all the things I could play now that I had my very own doll….I thought of all the joy that gift would bring me. Be it a doll, a framed photograph, or an old family heirloom, really good gifts always leave us with a deep sense of joy don’t they?
The kind of giving God blesses us with through the spiritual gifts goes exceedingly above and beyond the joy any earthly gift could ever provide us. Here’s why: the gifts God gives us are so Heavenly that not only are they a joy to receive, but an even greater joy to give to others.
Romans 1 is the first place we hear of the spiritual gifts being brought up as Paul says, “For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine.” Now we’ll be getting into what the effects of these gifts are later on this week, but today let’s focus on the beauty of giving in this instance. Like we just read in Romans, we come to find the miraculous and mysterious truth that the spiritual gifts are God-given and therefore meant to be given.
We’ve spent so much time this summer discussing community as the Church and what that is meant to look like. Here we can see the spiritual gifts playing a major role in the flourishing of the Body. John Piper explains it well when saying, “To strengthen someone by a spiritual gift means to help their faith not give way as easily when trouble enters their life. We have spiritual gifts in order to help other people keep the faith and maintain an even keel in life’s storms. If there is anybody around you whose faith is being threatened in any way at all, take stock whether you may have a spiritual gift peculiarly suited to strengthen that person.”
What would it look like for you personally to practice giving the gifts God has so graciously given to you? This requires us a Church to be attentive to not only what the Lord is communicating to us in our lives, but an extra awareness to those the Lord has put around us in our day to day lives. In one sense, it can be quicker and easier to give our dollars to others instead of giving them the gifts God has given each one of us. Jesus calls us to be a Church that practices generosity in a way so unique to this world, giving the very gift that’s been so graciously given to us.