Spiritual gifts are God’s way of giving us a front row seat of His Kingdom Work. From 1 Peter 4:10-11, two things stand out: 1) Spiritual gifts are given for the sake of others. The way to grow spiritually is to serve others, get outside of our own issues, our own lives. I am convinced that in our society we are so self absorbed trying to figure out the answers to our lives.
Nobody is more important than others. Some are more visible than others. Some people with certain spiritual gifts like to remain hidden, like people with the gift for giving, which we’ll talk about in a bit. If you want credit for your generosity you either don’t understand spiritual gifts or you don’t have the gift. If you want recognition for your generosity you aren’t serving others, you are making it more about yourself, and you aren’t pointing the way to God, you are putting yourself in the spotlight.
Nobody is more important than anyone else, but it also goes the other way, nobody is less important. The story is worth repeating of the two hat makers that both presented a hat of their own creation to President Lincoln at the same time. They both gave their gift to the president and then stood back for the president to respond. President Lincoln was in a quandy, for with both hat makes present, how could he show admiration for one more than the other. With his customary wisdom and tact, he said to the two hat makers, “Gentlemen, your hats mutually excel each other.”
That’s the way it is with Spiritual Gifts – mutual excellence. We are to be amazed by every gift, not elevating one person’s gifting above another, but to recognize God’s glory in each one – mutual excellence. Let’s not take anyone for granted, but be amazed by all the people sitting next to you and around you for what God is doing through them. And sometimes what is even harder, don’t take for granted the gift God has given you, be amazed, don’t undersell what God can and is doing through you. You should use whatever gift you have received to serve others…. It’s straight from the bible. Whatever it is…. Mutual excellence – each of you is an incredible person.
This is the last message from this series for now. Next week the first of four messages from Rom. 8… every now a single sermon from a Front Row Seat…
Giving…not the amount, but the generosity…Sally told me the other day she thought I was cheap! I am not cheap, I just know where my money goes. This is a true story: when we lived in San Francisco, we went to visit my grandmother in Boise. This was the end of the Duster I talked about on Thursday…. As we headed over Donner Pass, the car broke down… we found ourselves unexpectedly in Winnemucca, Nevada for the night. As part of the hotel deal, we were each given a role of nickels, obviously expecting us to use the money in the slot machines. Guess what? Sally lost her entire role of nickels. I saved mine. I call that smart, not cheap!
We are all called to give, but some people have an ability to give liberally of their resources with deep satisfaction. The people I know who have this gift don’t even want their name attached to it. I think of one person in the community that is forever picking up the slack for this or that or the other thing to help people out. He isn’t that interested in having people know anything about it. I’ve actually just conflated about half a dozen people I know in this community. Where would we be without the generous givers – remember that mutually excellence thing. But don’t think for a moment it’s about the amount of the gift that is important: This story speaks for itself. READ Mark 12:41-44. some of the most inspiration givers are from those who have limited means, somehow the gift they goes far beyond the amount… God’s math is amazing….
Some people have the gift of giving. Giving generously, cheerfully, beyond what is reasonable, is inspiring, edifying, amazing…
Discerning of spirits…. The gift of discernment is the special gift that God gives to some members of the body of Christ to know with assurance whether certain behavior said to be of God is actually divine, human or Satan. There are people who seem to just know the true heart of people. The world is full of deceivers, and we need people with the gift of discernment to be able to give their insight. I hate to point out people in this room with absolute assurance, but there are a few where I want to know your input on what you think about the sincerity of others, the true spirit of what’s going on in certain situations. You seem to have discernment. The judgment is not based on the how much they like or don’t like the person, not the persons reputation, but they seem to know, a spiritual awareness. Discernment is quite different from being judgmental, in fact, in my experience people with discernment are quite willing to give people a chance to show themselves. There are times I wish I would have listened, and grief and frustration could have been spared.
Here is a dramatic story of discernment in the Bible. The right words are being said, but the Spirit is not of God: READ Acts 16:16-18. The girl was saying the right thing, many people say they are acting in the name of God, but there is a different spirit that was not of God. People with discernment will get an uneasiness. A sense that not is all that it appears to be. Looking at the cover is not enough.
Mercy is an amazing gift. Like so many of the spiritual gifts, mercy is to be practiced by all, but some seem to go the extra mile with mercy, so that it is a way of life for them. Mercy is the ability of some in the body of Christ to feel genuine empathy, those with mercy are constantly looking through the eyes of others to understand what it’s like to be in another person’s shoes. Jesus said in Mark 9:41, “anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.” Mercy, a much needed cup of water. All of you should have the experience of giving a wandering man a sleeping bag to stay warm. Thank God for the Clothesline, a blanket in the name of Christ… I always wish we could do more, but to see the thanks from those who receive… mercy, filling in the gaps to make a bit of difference.
Compassion is part of mercy, too see the physical or emotional need, and to come alongside cheerfully providing a deed. Mercy is best seen in stories… The setting of Acts 16:33-34 Paul and Silas are in prison, an earthquake shakes the jail and the jailer is ready to kill himself because he is sure the prisoners have escaped, but Paul stops him and says they are still there. The jailer is shaken to his boots and his life changes instantly, and the jailer is the one who shows mercy: “What must I do to be saved? “ “Believe in the Lord Jesus” is the answer. And the jailer’s gift of mercy becomes evident: “the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them, and the whole family was filled with joy because they had come to believe in God.” Mercy… shows you spiritual gifts don’t mean the most mature Christians practice them… Mercy is the jailers way of his faith in God expressing itself.
Mercy is best seen in stories. One of my favorite stories I remember my father used to tell decades ago… This story took place in the mountains of Whatcom County, perhaps back in the 1950’s. My father was part of the Mountain Rescue. A Goat hunter and his young son were lost. In those days few people had four wheel drive and no helicopters to search, so a massive search party of several hundred people was organized with the country sherriff as the head of the search. The man’s brother was in the search party. The base camp was quickly found. It appeared the camp was hardly used, but it was decided to leave the camp set up in case the hunter and his son came back. Day after day the searchers fanned out in search of the goathunter and his son. Finally, after perhaps a week, both were found near a creek, almost certainly having died from hypothermia very shortly after setting up camp. The search was over. The little bit of hope that had remained of finding the man and his son alive flickered out. It was time break up the camp and send everyone home. My father said that as they approached the camp, the sheriff had everyone stop and he let the man’s brother go in alone to say goodby, one more time in this most holy of places. He let the man’s brother go in in silence. An act of respect. And my father concluded the story: the sheriff had the gift of mercy.
If you have the gift of mercy, nurture it. Look through the eyes of those around you. We need you to use your gift. One of my concerns is that through the work of Seeds of Hope, SACC, my concern is that while it is good and right to help those who come forward and declare they need help, many in our community will never say a word. We need people with the gift of mercy to help those who are quieter, those who are suffering in silence. If you have this gift you will reach people in the name of Christ that the rest of us may not even notice. Acts of mercy is birthed out of your ability to empathize, to see through the eyes of those who are struggling with physical needs, or emotional needs. The gift of mercy is God’s way of enlarging his kingdom work to make a difference to those who need a little extra help through a cup of cold water, a sleeping bag, washing the wounds.
Back when I was in school I did a hospital chaplaincy. I am impressed with the wisdom of Chaplain Manley. He spent part of each day taking us to see extreme situations, a pre-natal unit with tiny babies… a man with a gunshot wound… an autopsy… cancer... the crematory… He told all the interns: “The reason I want you to see these situations now with people you don’t know is so that someday when you are a pastor and you go to visit people in tough situations you do know, you can look beyond the wounds, the sickness, and see the person.” Chaplain Manley was teaching us something about mercy.
People with the gift of mercy have the ability to see the wonderfulness of people beyond their flaws and brokenness. A person with the gift of mercy does not see a thirsty man. He sees a man that is quenched and satisfied, and then does whatever he can to bring about the reality of what God wants for this wonderful person that he is delighted to serve by bringing him a cup of water. The gift of mercy.
Your spiritual gifts. You have a mix of gifts, personality and interests and opportunities like nobody else. There is a place for you in the front row of God’s kingdom work.